UC Berkeley sees record high number of freshman applications for fall 2021

Infographic depicting the increase in 2021 applicants to UC Berkeley
Quynh Truong/Staff

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Both the UC system and UC Berkeley announced a record high number of high school students applying for freshman admission for fall 2021.

In addition to a 28% increase in freshman applications overall, UC Berkeley saw applications from underrepresented minority students increase from 20,494 for fall 2020 to 28,383 for fall 2021, according to a campus press release. The UC system as a whole saw an 18% increase in applications for freshman admission, the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, stated in another press release.

“Our record number of applications is a testament to the resilience of students and their families as well as their undeterred focus on higher education,” said UC President Michael Drake in the UCOP press release. “Californians continue to see us as the pathway for a better future.”

Applications from Chicanx and Latinx students for freshman admission to UC Berkeley increased by 36% from fall 2020 to fall 2021, and the number of Black students applying increased from 4,458 to 6,580 over the same period, according to the campus press release. Freshman applications from Native American students also increased slightly, from 292 in fall 2020 to 365 in fall 2021, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email.

The UC Berkeley press release attributed the rise in applications to the “hard work and new approaches” of campus admissions officials. The shift to virtual outreach and recruitment and a targeted effort to reach underserved students helped campus staff reach additional students, the press release states.

Recruitment efforts for the fall 2021 freshman class included a virtual open house, virtual workshops and advising, application counseling and collaborations with other colleges and universities, Gilmore added in the email.

In an email statement, however, the Latinx Caucus said the increase in applications does not necessarily mean campus has “appropriately engaged” applicants from underrepresented groups.

“Among the many systemic barriers to higher education, a prominent factor that dissuades many underrepresented students from applying to UC Berkeley has been its disappointing diversity statistics,” the statement reads.

According to the statement, UC Berkeley lags behind other UC campuses in Latinx enrollment, six of which have become Hispanic Serving Institutions — universities in which at least 25% of the student body identifies as Chicanx or Latinx.

The statement adds that in order to create an environment that sufficiently supports Latinx students, UC Berkeley needs to invest in additional resources, including a Latinx resource center where students can “see their community on campus” and access needed programs and services.

The UC Berkeley press release noted that Olufemi Ogundele, campus assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions, has been developing strategies to increase diversity in admissions, which has “begun to reap dividends.” This was shown in the 2020 freshman admitted class, which saw the highest numbers of underrepresented students offered admission in more than 30 years, the press release adds.

Final enrollment targets for fall 2021 have not yet been determined, according to Gilmore.

“The record number of freshman applications suggests students continue to recognize the value of a world-class Berkeley education, and that our admissions staff are gaining even more success in telling the Berkeley story and getting more talented underserved students to apply,” Gilmore said in the email.

Contact Alexandra Feldman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.