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A "Shortcut" to UC Berkeley’s Most Competitive Major

UC Berkeley’s Department of EECS (Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences) at UC Berkeley has enjoyed a wi popularity among students of Computer Science, and the Undergraduate Program at the department is easily one of the most competitive ones in the US. In the 2020-2021 academic year, its freshman admit rate was 5.2%, making it almost as competitive as any Ivy League school. EECS enrolls around 500 undergraduate students every year, and these students are certainly the best among the best of all candidates.

In this article, we present to you two admissions into Berkeley EECS, entering Fall 2022. One of them, who we’ll refer as Student A, was rejected by quite a few prestigious universities with outstanding grades and extracurricular activities; the other one, Student B, has been working with Enlighteens for two years.

Both students were admitted into the most renowned and most competitive program at the Department of EECS at UC Berkeley. But as applicants, their academic performances, test scores, and extracurricular activities are very different. Many believe that the past application season has been the harshest on ethnic Chinese applicants, and we hope to share with you the cases of these two applicants, because we believe their different examples demonstrate a universal logic about planning for applicants.

Basic Information

Student A

● Male, ethnic Chinese US Citizen

● attended a public high school with intense internal competition located in the California Bay Area

Student B

● Male, Chinese international student

● attended a niche private high school with no ranking and attended a community college in California after graduation

Asian male students make up the most part of the student body of top-tier college’s computer science majors. This group also face the most severe internal competition. As applicants, these students almost always have perfect transcripts, computer science related activities such as competitions, research experience, etc.

Student A happens to come from a public high school in the Bay Area with a larger number of such candidates. When applying for colleges, students often have to outcompete other applicants from the same high school before they are compared with other applicants on other aspects.


Student A

Unweighted GPA:3.94

- Grade 9:AP Calculus BC

- Grade 10:AP Chinese, AP Statistics

- Grade 11:AP English Language and Composition, AP Computer Science, AP Chemistry, AP US History

- Grade 12:AP English Literature and Composition, AP Physics

SAT/ACT:SAT 1600 (Full Score)

AP:5 in ten subjects, 4 in three subjects (self studied 6 subjects)

Student B

● transferred frequently during high school, and GPA suffered from different grading scales

●worked hard at community college, and maintained a 4.0 GPA


AP:4 in one subject, 3 in one subject

An SAT score of 1550 isn’t exactly rare among applicants applying to competitive schools and competitive majors, but a score of 1600 is admittedly very uncommon. Combining with scoring 5 in all ten AP subject tests he took, Student A is certainly demonstrating exceptional academic performance in his profile.

Student A has a high school GPA of 3.94, most possibly with only one B on his transcript. Still, taking all of his AP classes into account, his weighted GPA is outstanding among students at public high schools. But is this a competitive GPA at his high school? Not necessarily, since at certain well-known Bay Area public high schools, around 20% of students get straight A’s in all of their classes, and maintain a 4.0 unweighted GPA.

Many may think that Student B’s 4.0 GPA at the community college is an “easy win.” This is certainly a bias, because without strong self-motivation and self=management skills, it is extremely difficult to maintain a perfect GPA at community college.

Extracurricular Activities and Award

Student A

● created a theme-based platform with more than 3 million registered users across 950,000+ communities.

● computer science related research project at University of California.

●developed a math competition platform to be used by the Stanford Math Tournament and the Berkeley Math Tournament that served more than 3000 contestants.

developed a mobile APP for his high school that kept students engaged during the pandemic through online events.

●founded Project Code Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization in 8th grade to teach classes to the community.

● founding member of NanoMath, an organization that runs online math competitions for middle schoolers with 700+ participants.

● placed 9th nationally in The Future Business Leaders of America in E-business in 9th grade, 10th nationally (and State Champion) in Computer Game & Simulation Programming in 11th grade, State Champion in Networking Infrastructures in 11th grade.

● member of the Science Olympiad team A team at his high school, most medals are received after college applications are submitted.

● vice president at his high school Anime Club.

●Eagle Scout at Boy Scouts of America — highest honor that can be awarded by the organization.


● USAPhO Semifinalist (top 400 in nation)

● USACO Platinum Contestant

●3 times AIME Qualifier

● Ranked #34 globally out of 150,000+ people inAdvent of Code 2020, a 25-day programming competition challenge. Ranked #39 out of 200,000+ in2021.

● Pokétwo voted#4 Discord bot worldwide on Top.ggwith 3M+ users

Student B

● participated in an online free Google certificate program

● developed a simple game using C++

● member of the VR club at community college

●volunteer at the Food Bank

● volunteer afterschool tutor

● badminton

Awards: None

Judging by his extracurricular activities, student is no less than an innovative entrepreneur. His accomplishments set him apart from the vast majority of his peers, even surpassing some full-time APP developers and teams. Not to mention, even not many adults can adequately balance such an array of extracurricular activities and at the same time keep up with school work.

He applied to Caltech, Stanford, MIT, but wasn’t offered admission by any of these schools. This is no big surprise. Although he entered USAPhO and USACO, his rankings isn’t top tier among all applicants. These ranking aren’t even nearly as impactful as Pokétwo, the platform he created on his own. Since his competition rankings did not meet the standard of these three schools, he was not offered admission by universities who favor competition awards from students like him.

Compared to Student A, Student B’s profile doesn’t seem to include any eye-catching accomplishments. So, does the outcomes mean “transferring from community colleges is a shortcut?”

Enrolling at community college and planning for transfer applications may not be for everyone. As students are trying to decide where to attend before May 1st, somee students feel that admission results did not meet their expectations. They begin considering enrolling at a community college and transfer into a more prestigious university. However, in most of the cases, our consultants would advise against going to community colleges.

Attending a community college appears a deceptively easy shortcut to a “brighter future,” so why should we caution against it?

Depending on students’ individual backgrounds, attending community college may not be for everyone. We take every student’s learning experience seriously, and whether students will adapt to and benefit from attending a community college depend on a range of personal factors. At Enlighteens, we believe that students’ learning experience and progress are worth more than the name of their college, and we are always devoted to helping every student achieve their long term, personal goals every step of the way.

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