The University of California system has 9 undergraduate campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. There is also a San Francisco campus but only graduate-level degrees are offered there. While all of the campuses use the same set of admission criteria (Comprehensive Review), each campus determines how each criterion weighs in the admission process. Each campus searches for a different set of students and that is why you often hear about “weird” results (getting rejected from Davis but accepted at Berkeley or getting into Berkeley and UCLA but rejected at San Diego). If you are particularly interested in certain UC campuses, make sure you find out what those campuses look for in their applicants. This is tricky because you only fill out one online application for the UCs to apply to all of the campuses. You will need to be flexible in stressing the characteristics that will make you stand out to the campuses you are especially interested in while making sure you still appeal to the rest of the UCs as well.
The UCs evaluate applications in context, meaning that you are compared to your peers (those who attend the same high school as you). Depending on the UC campus (each has its own evaluation process and data set), you may be compared to others from your high school in the current applicant pool of that particular UC campus, others from your high school in the current applicant pool of the UC system in general (any UC campus), and/or others from your high school in the current and previous applicant pool (up to 3 years prior) of the particular UC campus or the UC system in general. This means that you should not compare your achievements to random people in online forums. Talk to your school counselor to find out what a typical UC-bound student at your high school should be expected to achieve and do your best to top that.
When evaluating applications, all UCs (all of them, really!) will look at the different criteria in terms of them being neutral or adding value to the application. Students are never “dinged” for anything on the application. There is never anything “bad” about the application. So stop worrying about things that may look “bad” on your application and start focusing on achieving things that will “add value” to your application.
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Go to UC Admission Information – Campus-Specific and click on the “Freshman Admission Profile” link under each UC campus name to view the detailed breakdown of GPA, SAT, ACT, and other statistics of the admitted students from the previous year.
You can see detailed admission/enrollment data provided by the UCs at the UC Information Center. The most useful data sets are Admissions by source school data table, which shows the number of applicants, number of admits, and number of enrollees from each high school to each UC campus or systemwide, and Freshman admissions summary dashboard, which which includes detailed breakdowns of freshman applicants admitted to each UC campus by GPA range.
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Your high school must participate in the ELC program for you to receive the ELC designation (top 9%). Certain UC campuses may guarantee acceptance to ELC students. In the past few years, Merced has been the only campus guaranteeing acceptance to ELC students. Your ELC designation will be displayed on the confirmation page after you have submitted your UC Application in November.
All seniors graduating from California high schools who meet the Admissions index (top 9% statewide) will be guaranteed acceptance to one UC campus (Merced). You will simply apply to the campuses you are interested in attending, and if you are not accepted at any of those campuses, the UC system will automatically forward your application to Merced.
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Out-of-state and international applicants are at a disadvantage because the UCs generally give preference to California residents. Out-of-state and international applicants should follow the a-g requirements (through regular coursework or other methods) and take the appropriate tests as required. The UC evaluation criteria are the same for in-state, out-of-state, and international applicants.
There isn’t a whole lot of help available from the UCs for out-of-state applicants. You will simply have to do some guesswork when it comes to your a-g requirements. The minimum GPA to meet eligibility for out-of-state applicants is 3.4.
There is quite a bit of help for international applicants from the UCs both at the system and the campus level. Visit the UC International Students portal to get started. Check the websites of the UC campuses you are interested in applying for more information; there is almost always a section devoted to international applicants.
If you are interested in attending the UCs, it is important to indicate somewhere on your application that you intend to enroll if you were accepted (especially for out-of-state applicants because the enrollment rate from accepted students have been low historically) and that you can afford the fees (especially for international applicants because there is no financial aid available).
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Most UCs do not consider majors when making admission decisions. Generally speaking, all majors within a college or school are equally competitive. For example, all majors within the College of Natural Resources at Berkeley are equally competitive and all majors within the College of Letters and Science at UCLA are equally competitive. You are not advantaged or disadvantaged by choosing one major over another within the college. There are some exceptions (UCSD and engineering) but you can generally stop stressing about picking an “easy” major.
Every UC campus offers some form of study in business but not all are Business Administration majors. Many offer business economics, management, and other related majors.
The evaluation focus for engineering majors is on the number and level of math and science courses completed (at a minimum, aim to complete AP Physics and AP Calculus AB or BC, and other AP courses appropriate for your intended engineering major; for example, AP Biology if you intend to apply to bioengineering, AP Chemistry if you intend to apply to chemical engineering, and AP Computer Science if you intend to apply to computer science/engineering), grades in those courses, and test scores in math and science (SAT Subject Tests in Math Level 2 and a science are highly recommended). Strong extracurriculars in the math, science, and engineering fields, especially in selective research programs, are highly desirable.
Each UC campus publishes its own admission guidelines and provides admission, enrollment, and campus data. If you are interested in applying to a particular campus, you should review its guidelines to find out what the campus looks for in the applicants, admission data to see the type of students who get accepted, and campus data to get an idea of what the campus is like, statistically speaking.
Berkeley is general achievement-oriented (both academic and extracurricular achievements) and the campus is especially interested in students who will take advantage of what Berkeley has to offer and become agents of social change.
UCLA is academic achievement-oriented, meaning exceptional grades and stellar test scores are essential to be competitive.