Are you California dreaming? Does the Golden State sound like a wonderful place to spend your undergraduate years?
You probably couldn’t go wrong. In addition to the enviable weather and progressive spirit California is known for, the University of California (UC) campuses have been dubbed “The Public Ivies” for good reason, with outstanding programs and research facilities; and even a choice of locales to please urbanites, beach lovers and college town aficionados alike.
The good news is that California wants you, too!
Fully 20% of freshman starting school this fall at a UC campus will be from out-of-state, up from 18.3% last year and 15.5% the year before. The numbers are even higher at the flagship campuses of UCLA (30%) and UC Berkeley (29%).
What’s behind this upward trend?
University of California spokeswoman Dianne Klein told the LA Times that the UC schools benefit from the fresh perspectives of “a geographically and culturally diverse student body.” Furthermore, Klein added, the additional tuition they pay – almost $23,000 more than California residents – “is crucial to UC’s core academic mission,” given past cutbacks in state funding and a tuition freeze in its third year.
The bottom line for out-of-state students is that the odds for UC admission have never been better. If one or more of the UC campuses is on your short list, here are 12 tips to get you started with your application:
1. One application is used to apply to any or all of the nine University of California undergraduate campuses. You can start filling it out immediately; however, you must file it between November 1st and November 30th.
2. Neither letters of recommendation nor official transcripts are required to apply. You’ll self-report your grades for now. If you receive an offer of admission and choose to accept, your official high school transcript will be required – so report your record accurately and keep those senior grades up!
3. You only need to send an official SAT or ACT standardized test score report to one UC campus, even if you are applying to several. Because the report will be available to all of them, there is no need to waste time or money sending additional copies.
4. Out-of-state applicants must have at least a 3.4 GPA in college preparatory courses to apply – this is higher than the 3.0 minimum GPA required for California residents. The UC system does not weight honors courses the same way as AP and IB courses, so keep that in mind. (For the most selective UC campuses, a truly competitive out-of-state candidate will have a GPA well above 3.4)
5. A minimum prerequisite to admission is completion of a pre-approved course list of 15 year-long college preparatory courses. 11 of these courses must be finished before senior year with a grade of C or better. (Note that Economics counts as a college prep elective.) Refer to the DOORWAYS website to determine whether or not you have met these minimum course requirements. You’ll be able to enter your current high school courses and get a better idea of how they compare.
6. SAT Subject Tests can be used to fulfill the 15 course requirement list; as can college-level courses. (A one semester course taken at the local community college, for example, is equivalent to a year-long high school course.) In unusual circumstances, you may qualify under admission by exception, and have the opportunity to explain “your unique story.”
7. When listing your extra-curriculars, combine similar activities to show depth of involvement. For example, list all of your charity fundraising or all of your softball team participation together, instead of on separate lines. Make certain to highlight your leadership roles.
8. You’ll need to answer two essay prompts. Each one of your responses must be at least 250 words; combined, the two cannot exceed 1000 words. The most important word in each prompt is how. Focus on that word while you write.
- Prompt #1 – Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
- Prompt #2 – Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
9. If you take a break while completing your application, save your work before signing out. When you think you have finished, review your summary for any page that says not started or in progress. Finally, you must click Submit your application for UC admission. From there, you will be taken to the receipt page and given an application ID. Print a copy for your records.
A step-by-step guide to completing the application includes phone and email contacts for the help desk if you need personal support. For assistance specifically geared to out-of-state students applying for the 2015/16 academic year, a PDF file is available with more details.
10. You can continue to update your application after submission. Updates can include, for example, changing your address, inputting new SAT/ACT scores or applying to an additional campus (if they are still taking applications).
11. Apply for financial aid no later than March 2 via the FAFSA (which becomes available Jan 1). Additional financial aid information is available on each campus website.
12. The University of California completes a holistic review of your application, weighing 14 factors to evaluate “your academic achievements in light of the opportunities available to you and your demonstrated capacity to contribute to the intellectual life at UC.” Each of the nine undergraduate campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Irving, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz – applies these 14 factors a bit differently. SInce grades and test scores alone won’t be the determining factor for admission, use that information to strengthen the areas you have some control over, such as your essays.
The standards are high, but California’s door is open wider than ever; take advantage of the opportunity by preparing and submitting your very best application.
Next, all you’ll need to do is wait… you’ll have an answer by March 31. Good luck!