Berkeley Recommendation Letter Guidelines (Freshmen Only)

Sounds like Berkeley is starting to send out requests for recommendation letters 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.


In the past (back when Berkeley used Supplemental Questionnaires, which is one form of Augmented Review), 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). UC Regents revised the Augmented Review policy in 2017 to cap the requests to 15% of the campus applicant pool. Since then Berkeley has further reduced the Augmented Review pool to “first-generation college students, students qualifying for an application fee waiver, and students participating in early academic outreach programs” (source).

Current policy

According to the latest information available (Fall 2022), Berkeley has been focusing on “first-generation college students, students qualifying for an application fee waiver, and students participating in early academic outreach programs” for the recommendation letter requests (source). However, based on the applications I’ve seen that have received recommendation letter requests this cycle, I speculate Berkeley may be going back to the systemwide augmented review criteria this year.

What to do if you receive a request

Try your best to determine WHY you received the request (by looking at the Berkeley augmented review information here and the systemwide list of reasons here) and ask your teacher to write a recommendation letter that addresses the trigger(s), as well as the qualities/questions UC Berkeley listed here (under “Letters of Recommendation”). If you are unable to determine the reason(s), take a copy of your UC Application and the list of triggers/qualities 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) and suggestions on how to address them. You may give my analysis/suggestions to your teacher to assist with the recommendation letter writing process (if your teacher is open to that). Learn more about my service here.

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