Berkeley Recommendation Letter Guidelines (Freshmen Only)

Berkeley released a statement today (November 23, 2020) saying the campus will, once again, be requesting letters of recommendation from selected freshman applicants. If you receive a request, know that this is not a sign that your application is strong or weak; the request only indicates that there may be trigger(s) in your application that prompted it.

Background

In the past (back when Berkeley used Supplemental Questionnaires, which is one form of Augmented Review – explanation is in the next paragraph), the campus asked for additional information from 1) students with potential for academic success but appeared to lack support or resources, 2) students who disclosed medical conditions and/or learning differences, and 3) students with extraordinary athletic or other achievements. But when Berkeley replaced the Supplemental Questionnaires with the Optional Recommendation Letters (also a form of Augmented Review) in Fall 2015, a broader population of students seemed to be getting the requests (Berkeley may have been asking for recommendation letters from upwards of almost 40% of the applicants; but I don’t have independent verification of that claim).

Current policy

As of July 12, 2017, the UCs revised the systemwide policy on Augmented Review (you can find my explanation here) and formalized some of the practices certain UC campuses were employing (such as Berkeley with the recommendation letters). This means Berkeley can now only request recommendation letters from up to 15% of its applicant pool and for very specific reasons (listed on page 2 of this document). Note that Berkeley strongly prefers one recommendation letter to come from a teacher.

What to do if you receive a request

Try your best to determine WHY you received the request (by looking at the list of reasons on page 2 of this document) and ask your teacher to write a recommendation letter that addresses the trigger(s). If you are unable to determine the reason(s), take a copy of your UC Application and the list of reasons to your counselor or the teacher from whom you would ask for the recommendation letter for help.

If you want my input, I can review your UC Application and provide an analysis of the possible request trigger(s), as well as areas that may require further clarification. You may give my analysis to your teacher to assist with the recommendation letter writing process (if your teacher is open to that). The service is $280 and you can find more information here.


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