August & September
The online application becomes available on August 1st. I recommend that you start on the application as soon as possible so you can fill in the general information and look at what other data you need to gather to complete the application. Make sure you use a respectable sounding email address. Email addresses like “foxylady47” or “deathmetaldude” do not reflect well on you. Whatever email account you use, check it on the regular basis and make sure you have an adequately complex password to prevent your account from being hacked (and thereby losing access). UCs use email as the primary method of communication, so questions about your application, invitations to apply for housing, and other types of notification will come through email.
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I developed this brag sheet to help you think about how to complete your UC Application and respond to the UC Personal Insight Questions. Brag sheet is mandatory if you want me to work with you. Please visit UC Application Service for the service packages I offer.
The UC Personal Insight Questions are meant to help you align your responses to the UC comprehensive review criteria. Although the questions are meant to be broad and flexible, I found that many students quickly develop tunnel vision when looking at the questions. Instead of focusing on highlighting their achievements, students try to find whatever examples they can think of to fit the narrow scope of the questions. This is not the intention of the questions! Instead, start with the big picture. Comb through your achievements (focus on events and experiences that occurred during the high school time frame; that is the time period the UCs are most interested in learning) and determine the pivotal accomplishments of your high school career.
Once you know the defining moments of your recent experiences (essentially the last three years), develop a coherent story for each of your greatest achievements that, together, will give a total stranger a snapshot of who you are. Imagine this as putting together a scrapbook to show off your high school career to a college admission officer (except this scrapbook is full of written words); what experiences or moments do you want to highlight? I also want to remind you that achievements and accomplishments are not just about winning. Sometimes learning from an epic failure or overcoming an extraordinary challenge can be just as crucial as a moment of triumph. Articulate how your motivation, accomplishments, and future aspirations are inspired or shaped by each of your achievements, and this will form a story palette that you can use for every college application. Find ways to adapt different parts of your story palette to the questions to ensure the essence of YOU comes through loud and clear.
Keep in mind that how application readers look at your answers is something akin to an information-gathering expedition (NOT a philosophical pondering or a form of entertainment). Treat these questions as interview questions and answer them as such. Anything you would not do during regular interview, like bursting into song, reciting a poem, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., or acting out a dialogue, you should not do when answering these questions.
Remember that you must take advantage of EVERY section of the UC Application to convey your stories. The list of extracurricular activities, answers to the Personal Insight Questions, and any additional information, should all support your stories. In fact, I would recommend that you complete the various sections of your UC Application first before starting on the Personal Insight Questions, since the response you write should supplement and clarify the information already contained in the various sections of the UC Application.
You can begin submitting your completed online application starting November 1st. The deadline is at the end of the day (before midnight) on November 30th. There is no advantage to submitting your application at the beginning of the application cycle as all applications are thoroughly reviewed before the admission decisions are made. While there is no disadvantage to submitting your application on the last day, the server may become slow or time out periodically due to high volume of users trying to access the online application; the last few days of November can be especially bad. So I suggest trying to complete and submit your application before Thanksgiving weekend.
You only need to complete one online application for all UC campuses; simply check off the campuses you wish to apply in the application. Each UC campus makes its own admission decisions and the campuses do not “compare notes” so you don’t have to worry about one campus not accepting you because you applied to others. The application fee is $70 per campus ($80 for international applicants).
It is extremely important for you to accurately complete the Academic History section. Be sure to have your transcripts in front of you when you fill out this section. Errors and omissions in this section can affect your acceptance when your official, final transcripts are evaluated. Any gaps in education should be explained in detail. Vague or missing explanations can prompt an inquiry from the UCs.
The Activities section has six categories: Awards/Honors, Extracurricular Activities, Community Service, Educational Preparation Programs, Work Experience, and Coursework Other Than A-G. You are limited to five entries per category. Make sure you put your top five activities in each category and you may list other IMPORTANT activities in the Additional Comments section. Any activities you discuss in your response to the Personal Insight Questions should be listed on the application. Inconsistency between activities listed in your UC Application and your response to the Personal Insight Questions may raise red flags.
The UC Application will not submit if you exceed the word limit for any of the Personal Insight Questions. Remember, contractions are your friend; while your response should be well written and presentable, you do not need to use a formal writing style.
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You apply for the UC Application fee waiver at the end of the application before you pay and the system uses the information you enter to determine if you qualify for a fee waiver right on the spot. The fee waiver allows you to apply to four UC campuses for free. Additional campuses are $70 each.
Fee waiver determination is based on income information from the prior year. If you did not qualify for a fee waiver but your family’s income has changed due to job loss or other extenuating circumstances, choose “Bill Later” as the payment option and send a letter with a copy of the bill to appeal the fee waiver decision.
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The Additional Comments section is not an opportunity for you to continue your response to a Personal Insight Question or write a response to an extra question. You should ONLY use this section if you have something you need to tell the admissions office that you didn’t mention anywhere else on the application. Typically this include things like other names you have used (that may be on official records you need to submit), citizenship/visa issues, or anything that does not appear anywhere else on the application. I recommend using the Additional Comments section to describe the following if they are not already mentioned elsewhere in the application:
When you have a bad semester or bad year in terms of grades or extracurricular activities, you need to clarify what happened and explain what actions you took to correct the situation.
Discuss what you did during your gap year if you took one. UCs want to know 1) why you took a gap year, and 2) what you did during the gap year.
If you couldn’t take summer school at your high school or the local community college due to budget cuts and that prevented you from achieving academically (for example, you were unable to repeat a course in which you received a D or your fall schedule was scrambled because you were not able to take a prerequisite course during summer), you need to explain that and include actions you have taken to correct the situation (for example, you tried to enroll at two other community colleges when the first community college you enrolled in canceled the class you needed).
You submitted your application right before the deadline and as you review your receipt, you realized there were some mistakes. Panic sets in and you are not sure what to do. Well, don’t freak out.
You may update your personal information, test scores, or apply to an additional UC campus by logging back into the online application.
There are a few things, such as family size/income or other background information, that you can change over the phone by calling the UC Application Center at (800) 207-1710 (toll free in the U.S.) or (925) 298-6856 (outside the U.S.).
For anything else, you must submit a correction by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your full name, date of birth, application ID, a full description of the mistakes, and your corrections. I recommend including the sections of the application that contain the mistakes and make your corrections on there for easy reference.
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Application evaluation starts in the middle of December. Applications with self-reported December test scores are held until official scores arrive (or they are reviewed in January without the December test scores).
Each confirmation email you receive from a UC campus should include information on how to sign up for an “applicant account” with the campus, which will allow you to update your contact information, send communication to the admissions office, and check your admission decision. Some applicant accounts are easier to set up and navigate than others, so sign up as soon as you receive instructions in order to familiarize yourself with the account features.
The UC system conducts random audits on approximately 10% of the applicants. Each UC campus may also conduct its own random audits and sometimes targeted audits (if the applicant seems a little too perfect or anything on the application raised serious questions). If you receive a request to provide information for an audit, respond promptly; not responding will disqualify you for admission. If you are caught lying on your application, the UCs will ban you from all admission consideration present or future (yes, I do mean you will be banned for life from all UC campuses).
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Most UCs complete application evaluation by the end of January. Competitive UCs use February to conduct further review of some applicants from whom additional information were requested (Supplemental Questionnaire).
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Berkeley, Irvine, UCLA, and San Diego employ an augmented review process for a selected pool of applicants. Berkeley may issue supplemental questionnaires to applicants who have mentioned special talent (including athletics), learning differences, or those applicants who are considered borderline. Irvine, UCLA, and San Diego generally issue a short supplemental questionnaire only to applicants who are considered borderline. If you receive a request to complete a Supplemental Questionnaire between January and February, it means you are selected for the augmented review. Please respond to the request promptly and thoroughly; how you answer these questions can strongly influence whether or not you get into that particular UC. Please visit Supplemental Questionnaire or Free Service for additional service options.
If you added or dropped a-g or AP courses, or received any D or F grades in a-g or AP courses, you need to contact the individual campuses to submit the information for consideration. Where freshman should submit important grade and course changes for each campus:
Each UC campus will release the admission decisions on its own online system and on different dates throughout March (some UCs may release small batches of decisions earlier than March):
The Systemwide Waitlist FAQ contains general information regarding the waitlist policy and process at each UC campus.
Each UC campus handles the waitlist opt-in process a little differently. Most UCs will have an opt-in deadline of April 15th, but some campuses may extend the deadline to a later date. I highly recommend that you take the time to review the waitlist information and/or FAQ before opting in onto the waitlist.
Most UC campuses will not release waitlist decisions until well after the May 1st SIR deadline, so be sure to follow through with a backup plan in case the waitlist decision doesn’t work out in your favor. There is no penalty for you to withdraw the SIR if you are accepted from the waitlist somewhere else (except losing the $250 deposit).
For the campuses that have optional or required waitlist statement, be sure to explain why the campus is right for you. For example, what unique opportunities will the campus offer you that you cannot get anywhere else? How do you intend to take advantage of those opportunities?
You should also reinforce why you are the right student for that campus. For example, what experiences, knowledge, skills, characteristics, personalities, and/or traits do you bring to the campus? How will you contribute to the student body and/or the campus community?
Remember that the UC admission offer is provisional and you must meet ALL requirements specified in your Provisional Admission Contract or Conditions of Admission to remain eligible for admission. The UC campus may cancel your offer of admission for any violation of the contract or conditions.
UCs do not defer acceptance for freshman applicants. Extenuating circumstances are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Contact the campus to find out how to file a request for deferment.
You should try to visit every college that has accepted you. Go while classes are in session so you can see what a normal day looks like on campus. Take a tour and see if you feel at home when you walk around. Go with your gut feeling; you’ll know if the school is right for you. If a personal visit is not feasible, consider viewing college videos or virtual tours to get a feel for the campus environment.
Most UC campuses will not have an answer for your appeal until well after the May 1st SIR deadline, so be sure to follow through with a backup plan in case the appeal doesn’t work out in your favor. There is no penalty for you to withdraw the SIR if you are accepted on appeal somewhere else (except losing the $250 deposit).
Each UC campus offers a set of instructions on how to submit an appeal. You MUST follow the instructions to ensure proper and expedited processing of your appeal submission. Failure to comply with the instructions may result in dismissal of your appeal. Many UCs have an appeal deadline of April 15th, but some campuses may extend the deadline to a later date. I highly recommend that you take the time to review the appeal instructions before pursuing this option.
I want to emphasize that the UCs have become heavily reliant on the waitlist to meet enrollment target and therefore appeals are likely to receive more scrutiny. Students without significant new and compelling information that was not previously available to the admissions office (i.e., not disclosed on the UC Application) may have a harder time being reconsidered (although the admissions office does review every appeal it receives). I do want to point out that whether a particular piece of information is “compelling” is entirely subjective and, ultimately, can only be decided by the admissions office.
For your appeal to have merit, you must prove that you are a much stronger applicant than what was presented in your original UC Application. Keep in mind that when the UCs ask for “new and compelling information,” they are asking for information not previously available to the admissions office (not necessarily information that is recent; in fact, most UCs have stated that recent developments are generally not considered “new and compelling information”).
Your need to stay in a particular geographical area, in itself, does not constitute grounds for an appeal. Any hardship in relocating must be accompanied by other new and compelling information for your appeal to have merit. Similarly, changing your major, in itself, is not sufficient grounds for an appeal; additional new and compelling information must be present for your appeal to have merit.
Examples of new and compelling information may include extraordinary hardship or exceptional talent. You can discuss these things on your appeal as reasons for the UCs to reconsider you. Make sure you describe exactly how the exceptional talent qualifies you for UC admissions or how the hardship prevented you from achieving academically. The objective of your appeal should be why you are an excellent candidate for the UCs and how you expect to excel in college (and what resources at the UCs you intend to utilize in order to succeed). Avoid badmouthing anyone or any institutions (high school, other colleges, etc.) and do NOT brag about the other colleges that have made admission offers (this is not a competition). Be concise and don’t exaggerate or try to be dramatic. Follow through with a backup plan in case the decision is not reversed.
You may download an appeal template to help you structure your appeal letter: online appeal template or postal mail appeal template. Need step-by-step guidance on composing your appeal? Consider my Appeal Service.
You must decide by May 1st which UC campus you wish to attend. Because of budget constraints, most UCs will not accept late SIRs. Submission of multiple SIRs is not tolerated and may affect your acceptance across the UC system. Make sure you visit the campuses and consult your family to reach a decision before the deadline.
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All incoming UC freshmen must take the required Analytical Writing Placement Exam unless they have met the Entry Level Writing Requirement by April 1st. The exam is usually administered on the first Saturday in May following the SIR deadline. Check the UC Entry Level Writing Requirement for exam details, ways to meet the requirement, and other information.
The UCs like to be kept abreast of what is going on with your academic performance. You should always report any changes to your schedule or if you are performing poorly in school. Reporting early allows the UC campus time to evaluate the new information and to work out something with you if necessary. This is much better than getting your acceptance revoked in August when the UC sees your final transcript.
If you changed your schedule or performed poorly in school because of extenuating circumstances (family crisis, medical emergency, death in the family, etc.), make sure you explain the situation to the UCs and indicate how you will make-up for the missing courses or your poor performance.
Final official transcripts from all high schools and/or community colleges you have attended are due at your UC campus on July 1st. All other documents and exam scores (such as official AP/IB exam scores) are due at your UC campus on July 15th. Put in the requests early and check online to make sure the UC campus received your transcripts/scores. Most UCs are flexible if you are a little late as the process of verifying the transcripts against the application of accepted students can take a while. But this also means that the UC may raise questions about your academic record right before school starts. If there is any discrepancy between your application and your transcript, I recommend that you report the change to the UC before final official transcripts are sent.
Follow the advice below to ensure you have a smooth transition:
Take the time to get to know your roommate/floormate/suitemate and make friends with people in your classes; having a good social network is an important part of your college experience. Explore the different extracurricular activities available to you on and off campus to gain new experiences and expand your network.
Show up at your professors’ office hours to talk to them. Find out about what kind of research they are doing or ask questions about the course materials. If you can’t think of anything to say, stick to simple inquiries like 1) recommendations for other reading materials that will help you in your courses (be prepared to actually read whatever the professors recommend so you can have thoughtful discussions of the materials with them the next time you go to office hours), and 2) how to prepare for the midterm or final. Once the professors put your face to your name, you will likely do better in the courses (brownie points for showing up to talk to them during office hours).