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UC Berkeley Regents' and Chancellor's scholars reflect on scholarship

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The scholarship is offered to about 150 incoming students each year.


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Deputy Projects Editor

FEBRUARY 20, 2023

When Aryia Dattamajumdar, a campus junior and former Daily Californian staffer, received the news in her senior year of high school that she was accepted into UC Berkeley early with consideration for the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship, she remembers screaming in excitement, hugging her family and wearing a Cal sweatshirt to school the next day.

With early admissions letters and Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship interview offers currently in full swing, the r/berkeley subreddit is filled with questions from prospective scholars.

Berkeley Financial Aid & Scholarships considers the award the most prestigious scholarship offered to undergraduates, its website reads. Every year, about 150 incoming students to UC Berkeley — including freshmen and transfers — are granted the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship.

“Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship candidates are the most sought after students in the world,” said Cruz Grimaldo, associate vice chancellor of financial aid, scholarships and Cal Student Central, in an email.

Acceptance into the scholarship program doubles the likelihood that students choose UC Berkeley for their undergraduate education, according to Grimaldo. This, Grimaldo added, is likely due to the unique perks that come along with the scholarship.

In addition to a minimum monetary award of $2,500 per academic year — total awards vary based on financial need — scholarship recipients benefit from priority class enrollment, guaranteed on-campus housing for the duration of their scholarship’s tenure and a designated faculty mentor, according to the UC Berkeley Financial Aid & Scholarships website.

“Having priority enrollment definitely takes off a lot of the stress, especially if you need to take classes for your major or for fulfilling certain requirements,” said Regents’ and Chancellor’s scholar Iris Chao, a campus sophomore.

Every student that applies to UC Berkeley is automatically considered for the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship, according to Grimaldo. Scholarship selection is need blind, and students are instead evaluated based on the extent to which they reflect the Berkeley principle of “commitment to excellence,” the UC Berkeley Financial Aid & Scholarships website reads.

Due to its selective nature, Gélser Zavala, a campus senior transfer and Regents’ and Chancellor’s scholar, said the scholarship is “partially inaccessible” to all students.

Zavala is the equity and inclusion transfer chair of the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholar Association, or RCSA, which is the student body organization that represents students with the scholarship. While the leadership within the RCSA are all students of color, Zavala noted, there are still “diversity gaps” that need to be addressed, specifically in the selection of underrepresented incoming freshman candidates.

According to Grimaldo, 23% of all Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholars on campus are first-generation college students, 27% are underrepresented and 55% are female.

Chao, who is a coordinator for the RCSA’s committee that pairs scholars with alumni mentors, added that she has noticed a high concentration of students in STEM fields such as computer science and engineering within the scholar population. It can be difficult, Chao added, to pair alumni in non-STEM professions with current students.

“There are a lot of alumni who are interested, but it can be hard to find pre-med or pre-law students to match with alumni who are currently doctors or lawyers because there are not a lot of students that are interested in that career path — most are interested in tech or business,” Chao said.

However, according to Grimaldo, no consideration is given to a student’s intended major or department in the scholarship selection process.

Zavala also said he wished to “demystify” the differences between the scholarship’s selection process for freshmen versus transfer admits.

UC Berkeley is the only UC campus that offers interviews to incoming freshmen and conducts a faculty file review for incoming transfer students, according to Grimaldo. Other UC campuses only conduct a file review for all applicants.

“I know Berkeley gets a reputation for being competitive, especially with breaking into opportunities but I love the vibrant and intellectual community amongst scholars,” Dattamajumdar said in the email. “​​I don’t have anything to criticize.”

Contact Lydia Sidhom at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @SidhomLydia .

FEBRUARY 22, 2023