UC Application How-To Guide, Part I: Pick Your Major

This is the first installment of a four-part series. See Part II: Additional Comments for examples of information that should be included in the “Additional information” and “Additional comments” sections of your UC Application, Part III: Personal Insight Questions Tricks for tips on how to quickly shorten and improve readability of your responses, and Part IV: Application Fee Payment for a detailed explanation of the fee payment options and fee waiver.

Wondering how your choice of major will affect your admission to the UC campuses? Here’s how you find out!


Pick a Major for Freshman Admission

The UCs no longer publish an explanation of how choice of major affects freshman admission evaluation. If you need more detailed information on how major choice affects your chance of admission, purchase a back issue of my July 2020 Freshman Newsletter for a complete, campus-by-campus explanation ($25; on the PayPal payment confirmation page, scroll down and click “Return to Merchant” button to access download).

Considering engineering majors? Keep in mind that applying to engineering is all or nothing at Berkeley and UCLA (you either get in with engineering or not at all; for more information about Berkeley EECS vs. L&S CS, see this post) and engineering admission is exceptionally competitive at both UC campuses. The rest of the UCs screen for engineering preparation and that can affect admission (many UCs are starting to move away from considering alternate major).

Here’s a list of campuses that publish freshman admit rates by major if you want to try to guess your chances:

Irvine – Admissions Selectivity and Yield (change the criteria in “School” and “Report Type”) contains admit rates for every major (latest data is from Fall 2019)

UCLA – Admissions Data contains admit rates by College or School (latest data is from Fall 2019)

Merced – Undergraduate Applicants, Admits, and Enrollments (choose “Table: Single Year by Major”) contains admit rates for every major (latest data is from Fall 2019)

Santa Barbara – New Student Profiles (select the “Data Tables – Academics” tab) contains admit rates by College/Division or Discipline (latest data is from Fall 2019)

Santa Cruz – Frosh Application and Admission Summary contains admit rates for every major (latest data is from Fall 2019, starts on page 9 of the PDF file)


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Pick a Major for Transfer Admission

On page 45 of the Quick Reference for Counselors, look at the columns “Does the campus admit students to a specific major or to the campus?” and “Does the campus admit students in an alternate major if they cannot be accommodated in a first-choice major?” Keep in mind that transfer admission is major-specific and the admit rate can vary widely between majors. Understand how competitive your major is and prepare for admission accordingly.

Don’t want to slog through the scattered data? Purchase a back issue of my July 2020 Transfer Newsletter for a complete, campus-by-campus explanation ($25; on the PayPal payment confirmation page, scroll down and click “Return to Merchant” button to access download).

Campuses that publish transfer admit rates by major:

Irvine – Admissions Selectivity and Yield (change the criteria in “Admission Type,” “School,” and “Report Type”) contains admit rates for every major (latest data is from Fall 2019)

UCLA – Profile of Admitted Transfer Students by Major Fall 2020 contains admit rates for every major

Merced – Undergraduate Applicants, Admits, and Enrollments (choose “Table: Single Year by Major” and change “Type” to “Regular Transfer”) contains admit rates for every major (latest data is from Fall 2019)

Santa Barbara – New Student Profiles (select the “Data Tables – Academics” tab) contains admit rates by College/Division or Discipline (latest data is from Fall 2019)

Santa Cruz – Transfer Application and Admission Summary contains admit rates for every major (latest data is from Fall 2019, starts on page 9 of the PDF file)

For other UCs, you can look through the Transfers by Major data table (the page defaults to the “By Major Name” tab) at the UC Information Center, which shows the number of applicants, number of admits, admit GPA range, and admit rate by UC campus and major. You can look at data going back to 2012 to see trends. Choose the UC campus for which you want to see the data, and look at data for all majors or use “Search for Major Name” to locate a specific major. See this post for additional useful data you can find at the UC Information Center.


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