How to Apply: Principal Leadership Institute (PLI)

Applicants must submit all materials for PLI by Mon., Dec. 11th, 2023 @ 8:59 p.m. (PST).

Learn more about the PLI from our pre-recorded Information Webinar. Please watch this webinar prior to coming to the live Info Sessions so that we can spend our time together engaging around questions and key information in the video. Download the slide deck here. Attendance at live Info Sessions are highly encouraged.

Register for one of our live Info Sessions below:

Check out our PLI overview brochure for more information.

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Online Application

  • Application deadline: Monday, December 11th, 2023 @ 8:59 p.m. (PST).
  • The online application for admission can be found at the Graduate Division website.
    • Select Term: Summer; Degree objective: Education-Admin Services Credential/MA.
    • All uploaded documents should be in PDF format only.

All materials are due by the application deadline.

Before beginning your online graduate application, download the Principal Leadership Institute Additional Instructions for Graduate Application.

Application Fee

  • When you apply for graduate admission, you will be required to submit the application fee using a major credit card.
  • If you are a U.S. citizen or current permanent resident, the application fee is $135; for all others, the fee is $155.
  • The application fee is non-refundable.
  • You may qualify for an application fee waiver. To check eligibility, visit the Graduate Division website


You are required to submit two essays: a Statement of Purpose, and a Personal History.

Statement of Purpose

This is a key part of your application because it is your opportunity to give us significant insight into your reasons for wanting to be a school leader, your current and past experiences, and your philosophy of education. This should not be an autobiography; that is covered in the Personal History Statement. This essay addresses the following questions in a clear and cogent manner:

  • What is your basic philosophy of education, particularly as it relates to teaching and learning in urban schools?
  • What is your experience working in schools, particularly urban schools? How has that experience prepared you for leadership?
  • Leadership means a position of authority in which you are directly responsible for how other adults perform in their responsibilities and can include academic coach, grade level chair, department chair, leadership teams, SSC, etc. What leadership roles have you held? How did they inform your perspective?
  • Why do you want to be in a leadership position in a school? Why do you want to be in a rigorous master’s program in preparation for leadership?

Write in a narrative style and include concrete examples of how your philosophy translates to your work. You may include references to research/ideas that you rely on to form your philosophy or that have informed your experience. The preferred length is 500-750 words, or 2-3 pages. 

Personal History 

Describe how your personal background and experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree. In this section, you may also include any relevant information:

  • on how you have overcome barriers to access higher education;
  • evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others;
  • evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education;
  • evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality; or
  • evidence of your leadership among such groups.

There is no minimum or maximum length. We recommend 1-3 pages.

GPA Worksheet

You must calculate your Advanced GPA, which is defined as all coursework after the first two years of your bachelor's degree.

For applicants whose undergraduate trajectory was not a standard 4 years at one institution, simply use your last two years of your Undergraduate degree.

If you need a GPA calculator, we recommend this online resource.


  • Scan and upload PDF copies of all transcripts.
    • Unofficial transcripts should include all information an official transcript would:
      • Student information (i.e., first/last name)
      • Institution information
      • Degree conferral date(s) when applicable
      • All coursework information
  • Hard copies are not accepted.
  • Upload ​​transcripts from every post-secondary school you have attended, including community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs.
    • Upload PDF scans of your final transcripts from institutions where you did not receive a degree (e.g., community college) if you received credit that was later applied toward your degree, or if credit from that institution is listed on your bachelor's degree transcript.
  • Official transcripts will be required if you are accepted into our program; please do not send transcripts before official acceptance.

Letters of Recommendation

You are required to submit three (3) letters of recommendation.

  • Recommenders should be persons who can attest to your leadership/academic potential, such as:
    • a recent academic reference or someone who has seen/supervised you in a leadership role;
    • a colleague who can attest to your ability to collaborate/work with peers.
  • To the degree possible, your letters of recommendation should be from a variety of persons who have observed or worked with you in an academic or professional setting. We are specifically interested in reading your recommender’s assessment of your potential for administrative leadership and success as an urban school administrator, interpersonal and inter-group relations, potential for successful performance in graduate work, and unique strengths. You should not submit generic recommendations from previous employers or professors.

You will add the recommenders’ information to the online application. Each recommender is then responsible for uploading their letter directly into the online portal.

Resume/Curriculum Vitae (CV)

You are required to submit a resume that includes education and professional work history; other professional activities (e.g., professional organizations); professional productivity (e.g., professional publications or professional development); and other major professional, vocational, community, or recreational activities, interests, and pursuits.

Submit via the online Graduate Division application, Resume/CV section.

Entrance Exams/Academic Potential (Optional)

The GRE is not required for PLI.

We are interested in your academic potential for rigorous graduate work. In certain situations, candidates who do not meet the 3.0 undergraduate GPA requirement are accepted if they have completed graduate work that demonstrates academic potential. If extenuating circumstances led to an undergraduate GPA below 3.0, candidates are encouraged to explain their situation in their Personal History essay so that we may take all factors into consideration.

English Language Proficiency

  • All applicants who have completed a basic degree in a country/region in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency.
  • Use recipient code 4833 for UC Berkeley.
  • For current information regarding this requirement, visit the Graduate Division website.

Basic Skills Requirement

Applicants for programs that also offer a credential have additional requirements. All applicants are required to upload documentation of fulfillment of the Basic Skills Requirement into the online application. If you are fulfilling the requirement via exam and have not yet received score reports, you may also upload exam registration confirmation(s).

To fulfill the Basic Skills requirement, choose one of the following:

  • Pass the CBEST;
  • Pass the CSET: Multiple Subjects + Writing Skills Exam;
  • Pass the CSU Early Assessment Program or CSU Placement Exams;
  • Achieve qualifying scores on the SAT or ACT;
  • College Board Advanced Placement (AP) exams;
  • Pass a basic skills exam from another state;
  • or Approved coursework.

For more information about options for fulfilling the Basic Skills Requirement, read this handout from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

PLI Supplemental Materials

Be sure to review our PLI Supplemental Materials (PDF), as it contains information and forms that you will also need to submit. Some details from the Supplemental Materials are included below.

Essay Questions
These essays are in addition to your Statement of Purpose and Personal History. You will submit responses for the questions below directly into the online application.

  • Role models serve critical functions in leadership development. Who is one of your educator social justice role models and why? How did this person impact your growth as a leader? (Limit: 1-page response)
  • From your professional experience, describe and analyze two equity dilemmas that you have encountered. What happened? How did you respond? What influenced the choices you made in each situation? (Limit: 1-page response)

Teaching video
A recent 10-20 minute video (posted on a video sharing platform) of yourself teaching in a K-12 classroom, with accompanying lesson plan (PDF).

  • Be sure to retain a copy of your video. If you are accepted into our program, you will need it for course work.
  • Send an email with a link to the video online and the lesson plan to

Two common video sharing platforms are:

Valid credential
Submit a copy of your current valid California Teaching or Services Credential or equivalent (see the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing). Your credential must:

  • Show the document number and all authorizations, not the printable certificate, which doesn’t show all of the necessary information;
  • Include an English learner authorization. See PLI’s FAQs (PLI FAQs » Credentials) for more information; and
  • Be clear or have only one or two outstanding requirements for clearing it. If it is not, please provide your timeline for doing so, as it must be cleared in order to be eligible for an Administrative Services Credential.

Verification of Experience letter(s)

  • Letter(s) verifying a total of five years, full-time classroom teaching or pupil personnel services experience (or 4.5 years experience, plus verification of full-time employment to complete the fifth year prior to start of the PLI term in June). One letter for each position, including dates of employment.
  • Letter(s) must be on district or employing agency letterhead and signed by the superintendent, assistant superintendent, director of personnel, or director of human resources.

Upload verification of experience letter(s) in PDF to the online Graduate Division application. The original, hard copy of the letter(s) with a wet signature will be required upon enrollment. See PLI’s FAQs for more information (PLI FAQs »Work Experience).

Administrative Fieldwork Placement Form
This form is located in PLI’s Supplemental Materials.

  • Obtain signatures from your proposed site supervisor and the district official who is giving approval for fieldwork placement (usually your Principal, and the Assistant Superintendent responsible for your school).
  • If you have not secured a position or will be changing positions prior to the start of classes in June, you can:
    • Acquire the signatures later; and
    • Be sure to submit the form without the signatures, and add a notation of your circumstance.

Statement of Commitment Form
This form is located in PLI’s Supplemental Materials.

What makes a strong PLI candidate

The Principal Leadership Institute seeks candidates with an interest in transforming schools to improve outcomes for underserved populations. Evidence of prior teacher-leadership experience and a commitment to equity and social justice are critical elements to include in your application. Consider how each component of your application highlights your potential to serve as a future site or systems-level leader.

A strong candidate will have a minimum of 5 years full-time teaching experience and possession of a Clear California Teaching Credential or Services Credential. Letters of recommendation should be from individuals who can attest to your leadership experience and potential. Essays should demonstrate your ability to communicate a clear, compelling, and concise argument and should articulate why you have decided to pursue a career in educational leadership.

For more information on the PLI application process, please review the PLI Additional Instructions for the Graduate Division Application; the PLI Application Checklist; and visit our FAQ page

Review Process

A faculty admissions committee will review all completed application files for their relevant area of study. In accordance with students' active participation in School of Education governance, duly appointed students may also participate in reviewing applicant files. In addition to grades and test scores, we will assess your application by noting achievements in graduate study, employment, and extracurricular and other voluntary activities that you describe in your statement of purpose.

Some degree and credential programs require interviews of top-ranked applicants. We will notify all applicants who need to fulfill this requirement. Telephone interviews may be conducted by arrangement with program staff.

Notification of Decision

The School of Education sends recommendations for admission to the Graduate Division between February and April for final approval. Notice from the Graduate Division constitutes official approval of admission. Communication or correspondence with the School of Education or an individual faculty member does not constitute approval of admission.

NOTE: All application materials become property of the University of California. Materials can neither be returned to you nor released to any other party.

Timeline for Fall 2023 Application Cycle

September 13, 2023

  • Online Graduate Division Application opens

December 11, 2023 (8:59 p.m. PST)

  • Application Due: Submit completed online Graduate Application, including PLI Supplemental materials, for admissions and fellowships
  • Share Teaching Video and Lesson Plan with

Early February 2024

  • Notification of Applicant Interviews

February 13 and 15, 2024

  • Daylong Applicant Interviews (invitees will attend one; save both dates)

Early March 2024

Early March 2024

  • Preliminary notification of recommendation​ for acceptance into PLI

April 2024

  • Final notification of recommendation for acceptance by Graduate Division
  • Complete online Statement of Intent to Register (SIR)

May 15, 22, 29, 2024

  • Pre-Seminars (6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.)

June 10, 2024

  • Orientation & Start of Summer Session

June 30, 2024

  • FAFSA Deadline 23/24 (for Summer Session #1)

June 30, 2025

  • FAFSA Deadline 24/25