Admission Information for High School Students
General UC Admission Information
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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UC Admission Stats
Go to Campus-Specific Admission Information and click on the “Freshman Admit Data” link under each UC campus name to view the general 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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California Students – Local Path (ELC) and Statewide Path
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 Students
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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UC Admission Information – Major-Specific
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.
- Berkeley – Global Management Program in the Haas School of Business (four-year program; requires a supplemental application). Business Administration in the Haas School of Business (two-year upper-division program); Berkeley students will need to apply for transfer into the major. The admit rate for Berkeley students into the Business Administration major was 35.2% for Fall 2020. Other business-related majors include Economics, Environmental Economics and Policy, Operations Research and Management Science, and Political Economy.
- Davis – Business-related majors include Economics, Managerial Economics, Mathematical Analytics and Operations Research, and Sociology – Organizational Studies.
- Irvine – Business Administration or Business Information Management in the Paul Merage School of Business. The Business Administration and Business Information Management majors are both very competitive, with a Fall 2019 admit rates of 8.8% and 11.8%, respectively. Other business-related majors include Business Economics, Economics, Mathematics (concentration in Mathematical Finance), and Quantitative Economics.
- UCLA – Business-related majors include Business Economics, Economics, Financial Actuarial Mathematics, and Mathematics/Economics.
- Merced – Business-related majors include Economics and Management and Business Economics.
- Riverside – Business Administration in the School of Business Administration. Other business-related majors include Business Economics, Economics, and Economics/Administrative Studies.
- San Diego – Business-related majors include Economics, Mathematics-Economics, International Studies – Economics, International Studies – International Business, and Management Science.
- Santa Barbara – Business-related majors include Actuarial Science, Economics, Economics and Accounting, and Financial Mathematics and Statistics.
- Santa Cruz – Business-related majors include Business Management Economics, Economics, Environmental Studies/Economics, and Global Economics.
- Berkeley offers Legal Studies for students interested in the law and Nutritional Sciences-Toxicology for students interested in forensic sciences (effects of natural and human-made toxic agents).
- Davis has a Forensic Chemistry Emphasis in its Chemistry major which focuses on the “identification and quantitative analysis of scientific evidence,” a Forensic Science & Regulatory Toxicology Emphasis in its Environmental Toxicology major, and a Law and Society Emphasis in its Sociology major that is “designed for students interested in the study of law, politics, and research.”
- Irvine offers a Criminology, Law and Society major that “focuses on the problem of crime and on understanding the social, cultural, political, and economic forces that interact with the law.”
- San Diego has a Public Law Concentration in its Political Science and a Law and Society Concentration in its Sociology major.
- Santa Cruz offers Legal Studies for students who want to “study legal issues and to use the conceptual framework of the law to illuminate empirical and theoretical concerns in the various disciplines.” There is also a 3+3 B.A./J.D. Program with UC Hastings.
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.
- Berkeley College of Engineering publishes a comprehensive Prospective freshman FAQs that should answer most questions you may have regarding admissions.
- UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has detailed admission stats of their freshman applicants available online. UCLA may consider you for an alternate engineering major if you are not accepted to your first choice engineering major.
UCs with undergraduate nursing programs:
- UCLA – Nursing. Fall 2019 freshman admit rate was 2% (typically only about half of those who declare nursing on the UC Application file the required nursing supplemental application and that skews the admit rate) and transfer admit rate was 7%. A supplemental application is REQUIRED for admission consideration. There is a ranked waitlist for the nursing applicants who are not initially accepted. Alternate major is NOT considered.
- Irvine – Nursing Science. Fall 2019 freshman admit rate was 1.7% and transfer admit rate was 12.8%. There is no separate supplemental application required for admission consideration. Alternate major is considered if the student qualified for UCI admission but was not accepted into nursing.
UCs with undergraduate pharmacology programs:
Campus-Specific Admission Information
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.
- San Diego Freshman Admit Data
- San Diego Freshman Selection Criteria
- San Diego Common Data Set
Look at “Basis for Selection” (Section C7) of the most recent data set for the relative importance of each admission criterion.
- “Capped” Majors
Your chance of admission is NOT affected as long as you select an alternate major that is not “capped” (otherwise you may be admitted as undeclared).
- Seven-College System
Each of the seven colleges has its own theme, general education requirements, traditions, and student body; so be sure to rank the colleges based on your preference. How you rank the seven colleges will NOT affect your chance of admission.