The Prizes and Honors Program at UC Berkeley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an important forum for rewarding creative expression and scholarly achievement by Berkeley’s finest students. Winners receive both recognition and a cash prize, which is coordinated with the winner’s financial aid package.
Below you will find the different categories in which you can participate. Please note that each competition has its own criteria for entering, so please be sure to read carefully.
Honors at Berkeley are conferred upon qualified students for academic achievement or outstanding service.
The University Medal
A medal and $2,500 are awarded to the most distinguished graduating senior on the UC 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.*
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 email@example.com. Acceptance of the University Medal constitutes an agreement with the university to deliver the student graduation speech at commencement.
History of the Medal and Award
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.
- The University Medal CriteriaThe initial pool of candidates consists of the undergraduates with 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 ProcessThose who wish to be considered will provide the following:
A personal essay. The essay should be double-spaced with 1-inch margins, Times New Roman 12-point font, and not exceed 3 pages in length. It should highlight aspects of your character or achievements and describe UC Berkeley’s influence on your intellectual, artistic, athletic, or other attainments. Please include your name in the top righthand corner of every page in your essay.
Two or three letters of reference. Maximum. The best letters are from instructors, supervisors, or others who know you well and can speak in detail about your work or other activities that qualify you as a Berkeley Medalist.
A resume. Please include in the resume any accomplishments or activities that lend distinction to your University record or that contribute to the wider community. These may include research, other creative work, prizes won, campus or non-campus service, and extracurricular involvements. You may also submit an abstract of any published work. A copy of the work itself should be submitted only if it is no more than 3 pages in length.
Applications must be submitted through our online submission form: Submit Application Materials
Deadline: Monday March 1st, 2021 – 4 p.m.
Letters of reference must be submitted through our online submission form: Submit Letter(s) of Recommendation
- Selection ProcessThe 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 judgment, ingenuity, initiative, and broad interest.
- Participation or interest in public service.
- Any other evidence of "distinction" in the opinion of the Committee on Prizes.
- The Medalist is an exemplar of the university's highest ideals.
- Media Relations RequirementsUC Berkeley’s top graduating senior is a news story Each year, the University Medalist is announced in the form of an in-depth profile, photos and a brief video on the UC Berkeley website, which may lead to coverage in local print and broadcast news. Here’s how it works: If you are chosen as the University Medalist, your transcripts and application essay are shared confidentially with a writer on the campus’ Media Relations team. That writer will quickly arrange an in-depth interview with you, as well as a shorter video interview, which will be posted on the UC Berkeley website and promoted via the campus’ Facebook and Twitter platforms. It will also be sent out to local media as a press release. It’s an intense and exciting process, but if you’re not comfortable sharing your biographical details, including your struggles and victories, with wider audiences, you may want to reconsider whether the public aspect of being UC Berkeley’s top graduating senior is for you. Here are links to previous medalist profiles so you know what to expect:
- Current University MedalistsRead about the 2020 University Medalist, Anna Boser. Read about the 2020 University Medal finalists. See a complete list of previous winners. *Federal financial aid regulations require that all awards received by a student cannot 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.
- Previous University Medal Winners
Year Name Major 2020 Anna Boser Statistics 2019 Tyler Chen Material Sciences & Bioengineering 2018 Freja Ekman Chemical Biology 2017 Grant Schroeder Integrative Biology 2016 Kaavya Valiveti Mathematics 2015 Radhika Kannan Economics 2014 Rebecca Peters Society and Environment & Interdisciplinary Studies 2013 Ritankar Das Bioengineering & Chemical Biology 2012 Eric Olliff Chinese Language and Literature & Conservation and Resource Studies 2011 Aaron Benavidez Sociology & Rhetoric 2010 Joshua Spencer Biddle Integrative Biology 2009 Emma Shaw Crane Interdisciplinary Studies 2008 Leslie Chung-Lei Sheu Molecular and Cell Biology 2007 Adrian Down Physics & Pure Mathematics 2006 Lane M. Rettig Computer Science & Japanese 2005 Alejandra Dubcovsky History 2004 Margaret Ann-Chia Chow Economics & Molecular and Cell Biology 2003 Ankur Luthra Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and Business 2002 Shayna Parekh Political Science & Interdisciplinary Studies 2001 Christine Ng Civil and Environmental Engineering 2000 Fadia Rafeedie History 1999 Vikram Ramnath Rao Molecular and Cell Biology 1998 Moshiur Mekhail Anwar Physics 1997 Carl Ryanen-Grant History 1996 Dana Russell Wagner Economics & Comparative Literature 1995 Emily Ruth Bender Linguistics 1994 Michael Alan Brodsky English 1993 Saumya Snehal Sutaria Molecular and Cell Biology & Economics 1992 Adam Joaquim Leite Philosophy 1991 Kara Maria Kockelman Civil Engineering 1990 Alfred Chung Kuo Biochemistry 1989 Julian Cummings Physics 1988 Seana Lee Shiffrin Philosophy 1987 Sarah Lee Caldwell Anthropology 1986 Laura Gibbs Classics & Slavic Languages 1985 Frandics Pak Chan Electrical Engineering & Computer Science 1984 David Kin Cheung Nutritional Sciences 1983 Leslie Angnes Brueckner Political Economy of Industrial Societies 1982 Sheila Li Tien Ling Biophysics & Medical Physics 1981 Joshua LaBaer Nutritional Sciences 1980 Joseph Peter Montoya Marine Biology 1979 Linda Spangler Conservation & Natural Resources 1978 Farid Askary Engineering Physics 1977 Peter Dunne Skewes-Cox Physics & Applied Math 1976 Paul Terry Friedman Penelope Preovolos Political Science; Individual: California Environment English 1975 Eric Ellingson Freedman Anthropology 1974 Grace Wong Ju Bacteriology & Immunology 1973 Kenneth Stumpf Forestry 1972 Jack Jue, Jr. Physiology 1971 Peter Black Siegel Engineering Physics 1970 Andrew Meade Miller Greek & Anthropology 1969 William R. Henderson, Jr. Bahram Mashoon Zoology Physics 1968 Ronald Wai-Chun Yeung Mechanical Engineering 1967 Robert Edward Bowen Mathematics 1966 Bruce Allen Wooley Electrical Engineering 1965 Pat LaMar Gordon Mark Reutlinger Electrical Engineering Speech 1964 Thomas John Sargent Economics 1963 Glenn Alan Secor Engineering Science 1962 Thomas Arthur McCready Mathematics 1961 Bandel Bezzerides Physics 1960 William Albert Dillon, Jr. Political Science 1959 (Mr.) Lynn Seaman Civil Engineering 1958 Daniel Warren Hone Physics 1957 Henry Lurie Mechanical Engineering 1956 Brien Edgar O'Neil Philosophy & Political Science 1955 Ronald Webster Brosemer Paul Fong College of Chemistry Mathematics 1954 Patricia Elaine Pothier College of Letters & Science 1953 Edward Anthony Grens, II College of Chemistry 1952 L. Edward Scriven, II College of Chemistry 1951 John Arnold Baldwin, Jr. College of Letters & Science 1950 Kenneth Leslie Babcock College of Agriculture 1949 Donald Wayne Jones College of Engineering 1948 Nancy Jean Eaton College of Letters & Science 1947 Raylene Elizabeth Adams College of Chemistry 1946 Howard Gilbert Parker College of Letters & Science 1945 Mary Frances Gardner College of Letters & Science 1944 Paul Joseph Sanazaro College of Letters & Science 1943 Edward Louis King College of Chemistry 1942 Harvey Akio Itano College of Chemistry 1941 Dale Kenneth Barnes College of Chemistry 1940 John Hexem College of Engineering 1939 Donald Thomas Campbell College of Letters & Science 1938 Newton Willoughby McCready College of Chemistry 1937 John Roy Whinnery College of Engineering 1936 Raymond Constance Martinelli College of Engineering 1935 Florence De Gottardi College of Commerce 1934 Marjorie Jean Young College of Chemistry 1933 John Willard Stout, Jr. College of Chemistry 1932 Jane Anne Russell College of Letters & Science 1931 Morvyth Joyce Gwendolyn St. Clair McQueen-Williams College of Letters & Science 1930 Harold Gould Vesper College of Chemistry 1929 Dorothy May Paschall Elizabeth Baldridge Stevenson College of Letters & Science College of Letters & Science 1928 Ralph Raymond Hultgren College of Mining 1927 Daniel Silverman College of Mechanics 1926 Bernard Sutro Greensfelder College of Chemistry 1925 Milton Joseph Polisser College of Letters & Science 1924 Joseph Olney Halford College of Chemistry 1923 Arthur Edward Murphy College of Letters & Science 1922 Waldo Westwater College of Chemistry 1921 Georgea Tilton Hine College of Letters & Science 1920 Milton Leroy Almquist College of Mechanics 1919 William Ray Dennes College of Letters & Science 1918 Joseph Louis Zimmerman College of Letters & Science 1917 George Lawrence Maxwell College of Letters & Science 1916 Kathleen Harnett College of Mechanics 1915 Rene Guillou College of Mechanics 1914 Clotilde Grunsky College of Social Sciences 1913 John Lowrey Simpson College of Social Sciences 1912 Lester Seward Ready College of Mechanics 1911 Walter Colton Little, Jr. College of Civil Engineering 1910 Clinton C. Conrad College of Mechanics 1909 Mary Louise Phillips College of Social Sciences 1908 Arthur Carl Alvarez College of Civil Engineering 1907 Norman Abraham Eisner College of Social Sciences 1906 Spencer Cochrane Browne, Jr. College of Mining 1905 Dorothea Kern Jewett College of Letters 1904 Max Thelen College of Letters 1903 Mary Edith McGrew College of Letters 1902 Bernard Alfred Etcheverry College of Civil Engineering 1901 Wesley Newcomb Hohfield College of Letters 1900 James Daniel Mortimer College of Mechanics 1899 Lily Hohfeld College of Letters 1898 Rowe Montrose Hathaway College of Natural Sciences 1897 Charles Allen Elston College of Social Sciences 1896 Harry Herbert Jirst College of Civil Engineering 1895 Katherine Conway Felton (declined) College of Social Sciences 1894 Harry Manville Wright College of Letters 1893 Elinor Maude Croudace College of Letters: Letters & Political Science 1892 Joseph Baldwin Garber (declined) College of Letters: Letters & Political Science 1891 Arthur McArthur Seymour (declined) College of Letters: Letters & Political Science 1890 Orrin Kip McMurray College of Letters: Letters & Political Science 1889 Herbert Charles Moffitt College of Chemistry 1888 James Edgar Beard College of Letters: Letters & Political Science 1887 Jacob Samuels College of Letters: Classical Course 1886 Frank Fischer College of Letters: Classical Course 1885 Claude Bachanan Wakefield College of Letters: Classical Course 1884 Charles Adolph Ramm College of Civil Engineering 1883 William White Deamer College of Letters: Classical Course 1882 David Barcroft John Joseph Dwyer Katherine Hermann Hittell College of Civil Engineering College of Letters: Classical Course College of Letters: Classical Course 1881 Alice E. Pratt Douglas Lindley College of Letters: Literary Course College of Mining 1880 Mary A. Hawley College of Letters: Literary Course 1879 Fremont Morse College of Civil Engineering 1878 Joseph Hutchinson College of Mining 1877 Theodore Gray College of Letters: Classical Course 1876 Fred L. Button College of Civil Engineering 1875 Dwight B. Huntley College of Civil Engineering 1874 Thomas F. Barry College of Letters: Classical Course 1873 Frank Otis College of Letters: Classical Course 1872 John Mattthews Whitworth College of Letters 1871 Frederick Harrison Whitworth College of Letters
These awards are given by departments in recognition of distinguished undergraduate work.
The Departmental Citation Plan was initiated in 1955 by the Committee on Prizes with the approval and support of the Chancellor. It is open to all departments wishing to participate. An individual major program within Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies (UGIS) also may participate as if it were a department, if it has sufficiently excellent undergraduates who are unlikely to be awarded the citation from any one department. Participation is purely voluntary; any department is free to take up or drop the plan at any time. It is the responsibility of the department to select its recipient for the Departmental Citation; the Committee on Prizes acts in an advisory and supervisory capacity.
- Departmental Citation CriteriaIn order to establish a reasonable degree of uniformity in the standards that are applied in granting a Departmental Citation, the Committee on Prizes has established the following policies: Only one nominee shall be selected by each department in order that the prestige of the Departmental Citation may be maintained. In the event that the department cannot decide on a single nominee, the chairman of the department should forward the records of the nominees to the Committee on Prizes. The Committee will then make a selection, on the basis of the evidence submitted. This evidence must be submitted at least two weeks before the deadline. In no event shall the size of the undergraduate enrollment of the department be the reason for the selection of more than one nominee. Most recipients will no doubt be majors in the department, but the recipient need not be a major if he or she has done a substantial amount of work in the department and the department wishes to honor him or her in this way. Additionally, recipients of the Departmental Citation need not be in senior standing. Primarily, the citation should indicate excellence in the departmental field of study. Evidence of distinction in work done outside the department may be taken into account, but it should not have decisive weight. Other activity relating to the work of the department, such as writing, experimentation, or creative work in the field, should receive due consideration. The foregoing list is not meant to be comprehensive. A department may take into account any qualities or attainments that it finds relevant. The main consideration is that the award should reflect the judgments of the department that the recipient is, because of unusual talents and promise, worthy of being recognized in this fashion. Recipients need to have maintained a grade point average of 3.5 in the department to be awarded a Departmental Citation.
- Relationship of the Citation to Other AwardsAlthough there are other awards which, in their particular spheres, have features in common with the Departmental Citation, there are few cases of extensive overlapping. Indeed, there is no reason why this award, together with other awards, cannot be given simultaneously to one person. Superficially, it seems most closely to resemble the award of Highest Honors to graduating seniors, but even in this case there are significant differences. Highest Honors is explicitly attached to the student's general GPA; it is usually awarded to all students who meet this single condition, and it is limited to graduating seniors. The Departmental Citation, on the other hand, is awarded primarily for excellence in the work of the department; it issues from the department; and it has no necessary relationship to graduation honors, although some recipients of Highest Honors will also receive a Departmental Citation.
- Previous Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2018–19 Departmental Citation Winners
- 2017–18 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2016–17 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2015–16 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2014–15 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2013–14 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2012–13 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2011–12 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2010–11 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2009–10 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2008–09 Departmental Citation Recipients
- 2007–08 Departmental Citation Recipients
Prestigious Prize Competitions
Prize competitions are open to students of any major. Successful, even prominent, artists and poets in our society found that winning an award at Berkeley was a pivotal experience in their artistic careers.
Prizes are administered under the direction of the Academic Senate Committee on Prizes. Copies of the essays and poetry submissions chosen to receive prizes are archived at the Bancroft Library at the end of each year.
Please note that prize contest entries need to be submitted via our online submission form before 4 p.m. on the contest deadline (listed on the chart below). See the General Rules for Competitive Prizes for complete submission information. Please click on the contest names below for specific details about each prize.
For additional information and guidelines on the various contests currently offered, please visit the Competitive Prize Contests page.
Please type your submission. We do not allow handwritten submissions.
Your submission needs to be anonymous. Please print on only one side of the page. On the front of your manuscript, in the upper-right-hand corner, please include:
- Name of the contest
- The last four digits of your student identification number (SID), found on your UC Berkeley ID card (NOTE: Include the last four digits of SID on every page of the submission)
- The total number of pages you are submitting
- UC Berkeley Prizes and Honors Office Prizes FormPlease download and complete the UC Berkeley Prizes and Honors Office Prizes Form and submit it in person, along with your entry, to 210 Sproul Hall. You will need to show a Cal photo ID card when you submit your entry.
- To be eligible, you need to be enrolled full-time in a degree-granting program for at least one regular semester of the academic year (not including Summer Sessions). Filing for a degree does not constitute enrollment for that academic year. Visiting students are not eligible to apply for prizes.
- Submitting your work to a University prize contest in no way limits your subsequent sale and publication of the work. However, work that you have previously published, with the exception of work that has appeared solely in campus publications, is not eligible.
- We are not responsible for possible loss or damage of your manuscript. Your submission will not be returned; please retain a copy for your records. Winning submissions will be filed in the University Archives, Bancroft Library.
- Any prize may be withheld if, in the opinion of the judges, no entrant or submission merits the award.
- You may enter more than one contest, but may not submit the same manuscript or portions of the same manuscript to more than one contest. If you submit the same manuscript or portions of the same manuscript to more than one contest, those entries will be disqualified.
- Entries to the writing contests, with the exception of the Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prizes in Poetry and Prose, may not include work that has previously won prizes in these or other campus contests.
- You may make only one entry to each contest.
- In the event that two or more contributions of approximately the same merit are submitted for any prize, the Committee on Prizes reserves the right to apportion the award.
- Any specific requirement expressed in connection with any of the prizes prevails over the general rules.
- Current Prize ContestsFind additional information about the prizes listed below on the Competitive Prize Contests page.
Prize Name Category Estimated Amount Requirements Deadline Date Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prizes in Film and Video Film / Video $2,000 minimum Create a film or video Academic Year 19–20: 8/14/2020 Jeanne P. Steager Memorial Prize in Folklore Folklore $50 - $100 Demonstrate originality, excellence, and importance to the field of folklore TBD George Morey Richardson Latin Translation Prize Greek / Latin Translation $500 - $1,500 Translate a classical English passage into Ciceronian Latin TBD Thomas G. Rosenmeyer Greek Translation Prize Greek / Latin Translation $500 Translate an English passage into classical Greek style TBD Anne and Benjamin Goor Prize in Jewish Studies Jewish Studies $1,000 - $2,000 Write a research paper on any area of Jewish Studies. Student may win contest a maximum of two times TBD Nicola De Lorenzo Prize in Music Composition Music $1,000 Create a musical composition TBD Leslie Lipson Program Music The Leslie Lipson Program at UC Berkeley is intended to encourage undergraduate students to study humanistic values and their practical application for individuals, societies, and states; the program consists of the Lipson Essay Prize, the Lipson Scholarship, and the Lipson Research Grant Lipson Essay Prize Music $2,000 Write an essay on one of five topics selected by the Lipson Committee; applicants must be Freshmen or Sophomores with a minimum Berkeley 3.5 GPA March 19th, 2021 Lipson Scholarship Music $10,000 maximum for two years Must have won the Lipson Essay Prize Lipson Research Grant Music up to $3,500 Must be a Lipson Scholar Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller Essay Prize in Philosophy Philosophy $200 Write an essay on a specified topic relating to the work of F.C.S. Schiller (Awarded Biennially) TBD Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prizes in Photo-Imaging Photo Imaging $2,000 minimum Submit 1–3 photographs TBD Academy of American Poets Prize Poetry $100 Write a poem or group of poems TBD Emily Chamberlain Cook Prizes in Poetry Poetry $100 - $800 Write a poem TBD Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize Poetry $100 - $500 Write a poem or group of poems; this is a multicampus contest open to undergraduates only TBD Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prizes in Poetry Poetry $2,000 minimu Create a collection of poetry TBD Dorothy Rosenberg Memorial Prize in Lyric Poetry Poetry $500 - $2,000 Create a lyric poem TBD Joan Lee Yang Memorial Poetry Prizes Poetry $250 - $500 Write a poem TBD Elizabeth Mills Crothers Prize in Literary Composition Poetry $500 - $700 Write a story or play TBD Samuel C. Irving Prize for American Wit and Humor Poetry $600 Write an anecdote, story, poem, drawing, or play illustrative of American wit and humor TBD Philo Sherman Bennett Prize in Political Science Political Science $500-$3,000 Write an essay encompassing some aspect of politics other than international relations March 5th, 2021 Florence Mason Palmer Memorial Prize Political Science $1,000 - $3,000 Write an essay dealing with some aspect of international relations; open to women undergraduates only March 5th, 2021 Owen D. Young Prize in International Relations Political Science $1,400 Write an essay dealing with some aspect of international relations; open to undergraduates only March 5th, 2021 Elizabeth Mills Crothers Prize in Literary Composition Prose $500 - $1000 Write a story or play TBD Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prizes in Prose Prose $2,000 Create a prose submission consisting of a substantial volume of work TBD Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize Prose $200-$1000 Write an essay (500 words or less) on a topic determined by the Committee on Prizes TBD Samuel C. Irving Prize for American Wit and Humor Prose $650 Write an anecdote, story, poem, drawing, or play illustrative of American wit and humor TBD Julia Keith Shrout Short Story Prize Prose $150 Write a short story TBD Matthew M. Lyon Prize in Photography Photography $1,000 Take five photographs on a single theme of your choice and write a short description. TBD Jengyee Prize - Leadership for a Better World Leadership $2,000 Write an essay on a topic chosen by the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR) Department in the College of Engineering. TBD Charlene Conrad Liebau Library Prize for Undergraduate Research Library Research $750 - $1,000 Submit a paper that draws on the library's collection completed for an undergraduate level course (upper or lower division) along with a short essay about your research process. Submissions accepted until 5 PM on April 18th, 2019 The Carmel and Howard Friesen Prize in Oral History Research Library Research $500 Write a paper for a UC Berkeley class that draws upon Oral History Center interviews. Papers can be in any discipline. We have thousands of interviews, mostly focusing on the U.S., on almost any topic imaginable. (See the website for exact due date in April each year) TBD Stephen K. Tollefson Prize for Creative Nonfiction Writing TBD Submit a work of nonfiction after completing a qualifying writing course within the College of Letters and Sciences. TBD Kids First-David L. Kirp Prize Community Involvement $2,500 Submit an application, a resume and an essay of up to 500 words describing their innovation and/or ongoing engagement. Submissions involving apps, models and pilot projects are welcome. All registered undergraduate students at UC Berkeley are eligible to apply. TBD Rita Ross Undergraduate Prize in Canadian Studies Research $250 The prize is awarded annually to the student who has written the best undergraduate research paper or produced the best original project that engages with topics, people or events related to Canada TBD