Class of 2020 most selective in UC Berkeley history, preliminary data show

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Pranav Jandhyala, a senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California, was ecstatic when he learned that he had gained admission to UC Berkeley’s class of 2020, the campus’s most selective class in history.

According to preliminary data released Monday, the University of California admitted 8,488 more California residents than last year, which it attributes to both the end of the recession and an increase in state funding for the university. At UC Berkeley, only 12,226 of the 82,558, or 14.8 percent, freshman applicants to the campus received admission this year.

“Cal’s been my dream school for a while,” Jandhyala said. “I jumped up and started running around the house. I told my mom and she started calling all my relatives.”

The university has not yet released data on 2016 transfer admissions, as the transfer admissions process has not concluded, according to a UC press release. Including transfer students, however, UC Berkeley received a record 101,655 applications in 2015.

The release comes after a highly critical audit from the California State Auditor, which alleged that the university disadvantaged qualified California resident applicants by allowing less-qualified nonresidents to gain admission.

Last year, the release of 2015-16 admissions data was delayed until July in the midst of state budget negotiations. According to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein, this year’s numbers were not released in response to the audit.

“These are positive numbers for Californian enrollment (this year),” Klein said. “We wanted to put them out as soon as we got it.”

UC Berkeley’s acceptance rate dropped by about two percentage points from last year’s rate of roughly 17 percent. 18.3 percent of resident students received admission this year, while only 12.9 percent of domestic nonresident students and 7.3 percent of international students were admitted.

In addition, the average unweighted GPA for resident admits was 3.91, while the average for domestic nonresident admits was 3.94. The average SAT score was 2075 for admitted residents and 2237 for domestic nonresidents. Average composite ACT scores were 31 for residents and 34 for domestic nonresidents.

Universitywide, admission of freshman Chicano/Latino students increased to 32 percent of admitted students, up from 28.8 percent last year. The population of admitted African American students jumped 32 percent from last year as well.

In total, underrepresented-minority groups made up 37.2 percent of admitted freshmen. Similarly, students from low-income families composed 37.4 percent of the total number of freshman admits.

In response to the state audit, the university released a detailed rebuke, stating that instead of “watering down” admissions requirements for nonresidents, changes in admissions policy reflected a movement toward a more holistic process.

New for some of this year’s freshman applicants was the chance, at UC Berkeley’s discretion, to send in two letters of recommendation, one from a teacher and another from anyone the student selects. Jandhyala said he didn’t think he would have been admitted without the letters.

“A lot of really, really qualified people from my high school got rejected,” he said. “I think (the letters) improved the process in terms of making it more holistic.”

Jandhyala added, however, that he thought there was some validity in the audit’s assessment that some resident applicants were disadvantaged. But Sylvia Targ, an admit from Palo Alto High School, said she did not believe that the auditor’s report painted a full picture of the university’s enrollment practices.

“I feel like it’s one of those things that’s been blown up by the press and social media. All this speculation is exactly that — speculation,” Targ said. “College admissions are an enigma.”

Austin Weinstein covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @aweinstein5.