Understanding UC Admissions & Key Resources

The University of California boasts 9 undergraduate campuses, all now open for applying to as of August 1, 2018 for the Fall 2019 admission cycle. It’s as competitive as ever and record applications continue to roll in each round. What does this mean for you as an applicant? It means getting savvy with the UC system and understanding how you can apply for your best chance of admission. How do you do that? By getting a sense of the academic profiles and where you sit, by utilizing the spaces in the application that tend to get overlooked and getting smart about the majors, campuses you apply to IN ADDITION to using resources that help you crank out memorable personal insight questions. OKAY BREATHE. Did you take a breath? Really. Did you? Okay let’s dive in.

Freshman Admission Profiles 

Understand where you sit academically. You can do this by taking a look at each campus Freshman Admission Profile to find middle 50% averages of SAT/ACT and GPA information. Keep in mind UC is a holistic admission review (meaning they will look contextually at academic factors and qualitative aspects from your activities & awards and personal insight questions) but UC admissions are competitive, so again, helpful to know if you’re in the ball park for the best chance of admission. Find Freshman Class Profiles by clicking HERE.

uc profilesTake a look at selectivity of each of the campuses and understand the percentage of students accepted at each institution (including specific rates for specialty programs). Reach out to specific campuses for in-depth information.

Campus and Major Choice 

Students tend to know which UC campus they’d like to apply to, but not always major choice. Have a clear understanding of what major you are applying to (even if it is undeclared) and know what each individual UC campus offers. When you apply, depending on the campus you may have the ability to choose your first choice major and then an alternate major. It’s important to know specifics such as if you’re applying as an engineering major to choose an alternate major outside of the discipline. Check directly with admissions from your specific UC campus of choice.

Spaces to Maximize and Provide Contextual Information for a Better Chance of Admission 

Admission officers will read your application within context. Within the context of the academic setting that was provided to you, the context of the home and community you grew up in and the context of any additional information you provide that may have affected or added to your experience in a big way. But it’s up to you to provide that information. Admissions only have what’s in front of them. So if they don’t know that you weren’t able to tackle an advanced course due to a major life circumstance that put your academics on the back burner, they may not understand why you didn’t continue on in academically.

There are spaces within your application that allow you to provide contextual information. Take a look at some of the spaces here:

Personal Insight Questions

You have 8 personal insight questions available and you’ll answer 4. These are short answer, 350 words. Check out UCSB’s helpful video on answering the personal insight questions as well as additional resources below in helping you brainstorm.

Activities & Awards Section

How you spend time outside the classroom is a big indicator of the type of experiences you’ll bring and take advantage as a future student. Your activities will be unique to you and that’s okay. You do not need to fill in every section, but do ensure that you’re filling in the spaces that are appropriate to you. You don’t have a ton of space to describe your activities (160 characters to be exact) so ensure that what you write is specific, meaningful and describes your personal experience and role within your activities.

Additional comments

You have space to provide context to academic coursework and any additional information you cannot place elsewhere. If you had a break in your academic record, changed schools and curriculum midway high school, didn’t have access to a class you wanted to take, and/or anything else that has affected your academic work, ensure you are transparent. If you have anything else that has significantly impacted your work, your time outside of the classroom or you personally that needs to be relayed to the admission counselor reading your app in order to better understand you, ensure that you add it! Use your counselor as a helpful guide if you’re unsure of what or how to write you scenario.

Some helpful contextual information in regards to the UC system directly from the UC Conference: 

Enrollment Management and How UC Make Decisions 

The UC system encourages undergraduate applicants to apply broadly within the system. This may feel like a ploy to drive applications up, but when we take a step back and understand how admissions and enrollment management teams strategically approach admission decisions it truly makes sense to apply to more than one campus.

Let’s put your individual UC application aside and talk about the larger picture of admissions. Admissions campus to campus will vary on their decisions with a NUMBER of contextual factors and institutional values that are pretty hard to predict. As a whole they’ll look at past trends with applicant profiles and groups, not individual applicants, but larger groups to try and get a sense of what a typical applicant within a larger sub-group may do. So, for example, if you’re a student within a specific academic profile and applying to an engineering program at one campus, past applicants with similar profiles will provide some insight as to behavior.

UC will not track individual demonstrated interest, meaning they won’t track if you visited, got to know an admission officer, communicated with admissions, etc. to see if you personally will more likely say yes to an admissions offer. So when admissions are predicting yield (the students who will say yes after an admission offer is made), they’ll look at similar past profiles to get a sense of what an applicant group may likely do.

Again, this can be hard to predict for your particular scenario, BUT it is helpful to understand there are institutional methodologies that are unpredictable and may change year-to-year. What does this mean for you? Present your strongest application to the best of your ability and utilize the space throughout the entire application. Use resources, take your time AND take breaks so you feel confident as you complete your applications. Spend the time on your apps, apply broadly and utilize a counselor to help in a balanced college list.

Lastly, use the UCSB YouTube channel to help walk you through the entire application!

Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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