Established in 1871
Description. A medal and $2,500 are awarded to the most distinguished graduating senior on the Berkeley campus. Three to five finalists each receive a Certificate of Distinction and $500. Prize awards are coordinated with the winner's financial aid package when necessary.* Students identified as meeting the preliminary requirements are contacted during the fall semester to alert them as to their standing and to confirm that they will graduate no later than the following summer. Students who continue to meet the requirements at the end of the fall semester will be contacted again at the beginning of the spring semester. If you believe you meet the qualifications to apply for the University Medal, but you are not contacted by the Prizes Office by February 1, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Acceptance of the University Medal constitutes an agreement with the University to deliver the student graduation speech at commencement.
History. The University Medal was established in 1871 by Henry Huntly Haight, Governor of California (who, on March 23, 1868, signed the Organic Act establishing the University) and other friends of the University. During the early years, an optional senior class examination was offered and the student with the highest score was awarded the Medal. This was soon deemed unsatisfactory, and the selection task passed to various Academic Senate committees—ultimately the Committee on Prizes. In 1881, the first of many frustrated committees attempted to abandon the Medal altogether and instead award a number of "certificates of eminent scholarship." This was rejected by the President of the University, and the awarding of the Medal continued. In 1955 President Sproul approved the Committee on Prizes' suggestion to award "Distinguished Graduate" to selected candidates considered for the Medal. "Certificates of Distinction" were created in 1976.
Criteria. The initial pool of candidates consists of the undergraduates with UC Berkeley grade-point averages (GPAs) of at least 3.96 by the end of the semester preceding the student's graduation date. Candidates graduating in fall will be considered along with those graduating the following spring; candidates graduating in summer will be considered along with those graduating the preceding spring.
Application Process. Students satisfying the criteria above will be contacted. Those who wish to be considered will provide the following:
- A resume.
- A two- or three-page essay, single- or double-spaced.
- Two to three letters of reference.
- An unofficial UC Berkeley transcript including fall semester grades (available on Bear Facts). If you are a transfer student, you may also submit a transcript from your previous Institution(s).
- Applications must be submitted in person to 210-A Sproul Hall.
- Deadline: Friday, March 7, 2014, 4 p.m.
- Letters of reference may be mailed, faxed, or emailed to:
Coordinator of Prizes
210-A Sproul Hall #1964
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1964
Fax: (510) 666-2001
In the resume (and possibly in the essay), candidates are encouraged to describe any accomplishments or activities that lend distinction to their University record or contribute to the wider community. Such accomplishments may include research, other creative work, prizes won in competition, and non-academic activities undertaken as a Berkeley student. Optionally, candidates may also submit a short abstract of any published work. (A copy of the work itself should be submitted only if it is no more than two or three pages long.)
Selection Process. The applications are evaluated by the Committee on Prizes. The most outstanding candidates are selected as finalists and are interviewed. The Committee refers to guidelines initiated under University Presidents Robert Sproul and Clark Kerr. It takes into consideration the following, though it is not required that every one of these be reflected in a candidate's record for him or her to be considered:
- An academically well-rounded transcript.
- Independent scholarly work completed by the candidate outside of regular classwork; e.g., publications or unpublished projects judged worthy by his/her instructors.
- Outstanding extracurricular contributions to the University.
- Evidence of qualities of judgement, ingenuity, initiative, and broad interest.
- Participation or interest in public service.
- Any other evidence of "distinction" in the opinion of the Committee on Prizes.
*Federal financial aid regulations require that all awards received by a student can not exceed their financial aid need as determined by a congressional formula. It is possible, therefore, that the cash award for a prize could reduce some component of a needy student’s package of financial aid awards. In these cases, the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office attempts first to reduce loan or work aid; fellowships, grants, or scholarships are only reduced as a last resort.