The Berkeley campus will reserve 300 slots in its annual allocation for the admission of students recommended by the IA based on athletic ability.
That is about 7% of their incoming class, a lower percentage than in the Ivy League schools where recruited athletes comprise about 13% of a freshman class.
It has long been admissions policy at the University of California to reserve slots for students of lesser academic achievement in order to meet larger policy ends, most particularly to accommodate The Regents’ policy that each campus should enroll a “student body . . . that encompasses the broad diversity of cultural, racial, geographic, and socio-economic backgrounds characteristic of California.” The campus is fully aware that such policies entail admitting some students at risk.
The Guiding Principles for admission set forth the priority of academic achievement for what is acceptable for acceptance, but it also make clear that the criteria for admission are based on a broad definition of merit, and that can include athletic achievement as well as other kinds of extracurricular activities.
All students at Berkeley are admitted through a process of holistic review. In holistic review, special talents of all sorts play an important role. A nationally recognized musician will get special consideration, for example, because achievement at that level requires dedication and determination, and because having a recognized talent on campus brings value. Similarly, excellence in athletics can tell us about an applicant’s character, dedication, determination, potential for leadership, and the contribution that an applicant can make to the campus. Excellence and achievement in athletics is therefore properly one of the criteria that factors into the holistic review process for undergraduate admissions at Berkeley. A considerable number of students who are not admitted as student athletes do have an athletic background as a significant contributing factor in their admission. Athletic competition over an entire high school career, leadership on a team, or athletic performance (MVP, for example) will count as a plus for general admission. If the student’s team was successful at a regional, state, or national level, it will count even more. One of the less well-understood features of Berkeley admissions is that no one is admitted to Berkeley on academic achievement alone.
It’s nice that Berkeley spells out their policy for admitting athletes in such detail. I haven’t seen any similarly detailed reporting on their quotas for other groups of students that also enhance campus diversity, such as musicians, ethnic minorities, New Yorkers, Mormons, lesbians, left-handed ex-Marines, etc. I suspect for that you have to read between the lines in their Freshman Selection Criteria report.
Berkeley offers athletic scholarships, apparently self-funded by revenue from ticket/media revenues and donations.
Here’s a link for more information about Berkeley’s “policies, and practices affecting the composition of the Berkeley undergraduate student population“.