Interested in applying to the Berkeley MDes?
First, review this page to get information about MDes application requirements and key dates.
Finally, start your application on the Berkeley Graduate Division website and submit it by the application deadline (see below).
Key Dates for Fall 2024 Start
The dates below apply to applicants interested in joining the Berkeley MDes cohort that starts in Fall 2024 and graduates in Fall 2025.
- Wednesday, September 13, 2023: Application opens
- Thursday, January 4, 2024 8:59pm PST: Application closes
- February 2024: Select students may be invited for an interview to explain their qualifications, motivations, and goals for the program
- March 2024: Applicants notified of results
- April 15, 2024: Deadline for admits to submit their Statement of Intent to Register (SIR)
- August 2024: MDes2025 cohort starts at UC Berkeley
The Berkeley Graduate Division requires all graduate program applicants to have an undergraduate degree (bachelor’s or equivalent) from an accredited institution, or have one completed prior to matriculation at Berkeley.
For additional information on basic qualifications for graduate admission to UC Berkeley, please visit the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page.
Beyond the Graduate Division’s minimum requirements, the MDes program welcomes applicants from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences; to learn more, visit our Admissions overview page.
See below for the materials that are required for your MDes application and links to the Graduate Division’s guidance on preparing your materials. Further guidance that is specific to MDes applicants is also provided, when applicable, on this page.
- Academic Records
- Statement of Purpose (also see further guidance below)
- Personal Statement (also see further guidance below)
- Three Letters of Recommendation (also see further guidance below)
- Project Portfolio (see guidance below)
- Evidence of English Language Proficiency (if applicable)
- Resume or Curriculum Vitae (see guidance below)
- Application Fee (see further guidance below)
- Opportunity Grant Essay (see guidance below)
- Audio/Visual Uploads (see guidance below)
- Supporting Materials (see guidance below)
Not Required Materials
- The MDes does not require nor review GRE scores
Application Material Guidance
Statement Of Purpose
Your Statement of Purpose should describe your relevant academic and professional experience and accomplishments, your future professional goals and interests, why you are drawn to the MDes program, and why you believe the MDes would be a good fit for you and your goals.
In particular, the Statement of Purpose should address the question: “What do you want to contribute to the field of design during your time at Berkeley and after?” In answering this, describe how Berkeley will contribute to these goals, and how your experiences and accomplishments thus far will support your aspirations.
There is no specific word limit specified for the Statement of Purpose, but we echo the Graduate Division’s advice on essay length: “An ideal essay should say everything it needs to with brevity. Approximately 500 to 1000 well-selected words (1-2 single space pages in 12 point font) is better than more words with less clarity and poor organization.”
For additional guidance, please see the Graduate Division’s Writing the Statement of Purpose page.
The Personal Statement provides an opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you better on a personal level. Content should not duplicate what has been shared in the Statement of Purpose.
In particular, your personal statement should answer the question “What do the other documents in your application do not fully capture about you?” These “other documents” would include items such as your portfolio, your CV, and your academic transcript. You might describe how your personal background and experiences have influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies and/or any relevant information on the following topics that you wish to share with the admissions committee:
- Defining experiences or challenges that have contributed to your development, your values, etc.
- How you have overcome barriers to access higher education
- How you have come to understand the barriers faced by others
- Your academic service to advance equitable access to high education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education
- Your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality
- Your leadership among such groups
There is no specific word limit specified for the Personal Statement, but we echo the Graduate Division’s advice on essay length: “An ideal essay should say everything it needs to with brevity. Approximately 500 to 1000 well-selected words (1-2 single space pages in 12 point font) is better than more words with less clarity and poor organization.”
For additional guidance, please see the Graduate Division’s Writing the Personal Statement page.
Letters of Recommendation
The MDes accepts letters of recommendation from both academic and professional sources. You should select recommenders who can provide detailed, authentic responses regarding your potential to succeed in the MDes, which may include speaking to your intellectual ability; your design, technical, or professional skills; your character; the quality of your work; and alignment of your interests and goals with the program. We understand that the ideal people to provide such recommendations will be different for each applicant, and do not have a strict requirement or preference for whether recommenders are academic, professional, or a mix of both.
For additional guidance, please see the Graduate Division’s Application Requirements page.
MDes applicants must submit a portfolio that demonstrates their creative and technical proficiency.
As a program open to a broad range of disciplinary practitioners, the admissions committee is interested in understanding the unique strengths and perspectives that you would bring to the cohort. Depending on your individual practice, your portfolio might feature examples of visual design work, software systems, interactive electronics, videos, paintings, 3D models, ceramics, performances, musical compositions, social practices, or any number of other creative or technical pursuits.
Collaborative work is welcome, but please credit all authors and provide clear attribution and explanation about your specific contributions to any collaborative work. Academic, professional, and personal work are all welcome; please provide context in the portfolio about the nature of the project.
A strong portfolio will:
- Describe a limited selection of projects in depth, rather than account for a large breadth of projects superficially. We suggest curating a selection of 3–5 of your most compelling projects.
- Showcase your technical skills, disciplinary strengths, and clearly communicate your experience and perspective.
- Demonstrate your interest and ability to move beyond your “home” discipline (i.e., if you are a mechanical engineer, do you have any projects showing your exploration of other engineering fields, design fields, and/or a synthesis of your skills from different disciplines?).
- Include both images and supporting text.
- Convey the context in which the projects were developed (e.g. did the project come from a class, work, personal exploration, etc.?) and the lens through which to understand and critique the work.
- Present final outcomes, as well as accounts of the design process and samples of earlier design iterations/stages.
- Be legible to a general audience of designers and technologists; remember the admissions committee are an interdisciplinary group from various design and engineering backgrounds.
- Your portfolio must include a title page with your name and some description of the contents of the portfolio, such as a table of contents.
- Portfolios must be formatted as a single PDF.
- Portfolios should be a maximum of 20 pages in length (inclusive of title page) and 20MB in size. Portfolios that are submitted in excess of this page and/or size limit will not be reviewed by the admissions committee.
- While the PDF portfolio will be viewed as the primary document, you may optionally include up to two minutes of supplementary time-based media (audio/video). See the Audio/Visual Uploads section of the page for more detail.
- Any URLs or links to outside materials, whether within your portfolio or elsewhere in your application, may not be reviewed.
Submit your Portfolio on the MDes Materials page of the application.
Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Your resume or CV provides a succinct overview of your relevant academic training, work experience, and skills. Although other parts of your application can and should provide more detail about your relevant experience and skills, your resume or CV can highlight aspects that the admissions committee would be especially interested in.
Submit your resume or CV on the Supporting Materials page of the application, under the “Academic or Professional History” section.
The MDes program has a limited number of application fee waivers available for applicants who are not eligible for the Berkeley Graduate Admission fee waiver program.
Program fee waivers are intended to alleviate demonstrated financial hardships or challenges beyond the applicant’s control, which might otherwise prevent them from applying to the MDes.
To request an application fee waiver, contact the MDes Admissions team at email@example.com by December 18, 2023.
Opportunity Grant Essay (Optional)
The MDes encourages applicants seeking financial assistance to apply for a need-based MDes Opportunity Grant. Applying for an Opportunity Grant is optional, and will in no way affect an applicant’s admission to the program. The amount of funding provided by the Opportunity Grant award varies, but averages around several thousand dollars per recipient.
To apply for the Opportunity Grant, submit a short essay (500 word limit) that describes your financial circumstances and why you are eligible for an Opportunity Grant, given the criteria listed below.
The Opportunity Grant is awarded to applicants:
- whose lives, experiences, and knowledge contribute to the educational diversity of the cohort,
- who have had limited access to educational resources,
- who have persevered over economic disadvantage, and/or
- who bring unique perspectives not widely represented in the program due to their backgrounds, experiences, or geographic locations
Opportunity Grant essays will be reviewed, in conjunction with the Personal History Statements and other application materials, to help the admissions committee assess applicants’ financial need and potential contributions to the cohort.
Submit your Opportunity Grant essay as a PDF on the MDes Materials page of the application. Include a header for the essay that says Opportunity Grant and provides your full name and email.
Audio/Visual Uploads (Optional)
You may optionally use this section to include up to two minutes of time-based media (audio or video). For instance, you could submit a recording of a slide deck presentation with narration or a recording of an interactive piece.
Please note that the admissions committee will focus their attention on the required application materials; a thorough review of any optional audio/visual materials is not guaranteed. As such, we advise that any additional audio/visual materials are kept relevant and succinct.
Supporting Materials (Optional)
Your resume or CV is the only material required on the Support Materials section of the application, but you may choose to upload additional support materials here. For example, you could use this section to upload training certifications that are not reflected on your degree transcript.
Please note that the admissions committee will focus their attention on the required application materials; a thorough review of any optional supporting materials is not guaranteed. As such, we advise that any additional supporting materials are kept relevant and succinct.