7 Things You Must Do in High School to be Competitive for the UCs

Getting excited or anxious about how well you are preparing for the UCs? Here is a list of must-dos to help you gain a competitive edge!

Things You Must Do

  1. Make sure the honors courses you are taking are UC-approved or they won’t be weighted (you can check by looking at your high school’s UC A-G Course List). Sometimes you may need to take honors courses that are not UC-approved in order to qualify for AP courses; check with your counselor to make sure!
  2. Balance your extracurricular activities with your honors/AP courses during the school year so you maintain excellent grades and devote enough time to your extracurricular activities to gain meaningful experiences and develop important skills (such as leadership and collaboration).
  3. Take community college courses (any UC-transferable courses that are at least 3 semester or 4 quarter units will do) during the summer after freshman year, the summer after sophomore year, and the summer after junior year; the course grades are weighted and calculated into your GPA used for admission evaluation.
  4. If you receive a D or F, be sure to repeat the course to replace the bad grade in the GPA calculation and to meet the subject requirement (although you MUST report both the non-passing grade AND the repeated grade on the UC Application when you apply). You may replace the non-passing grade by taking the same course or a more advanced course (i.e., a passing grade from an AP/Honor or community college course can/will replace a non-passing grade in a regular course).
  5. As admissions become more competitive each year, it becomes harder to distinguish yourself from other students. Check out Cappex’s Standout Factor and College Peas’ Non-Teenage Activities for some fresh and crazy ideas to help you stand out from the crowd.
  6. Get your parents involved with your college planning. Ask them to meet with your counselor and teachers to show concern for your college plans. Your counselor and teachers are more likely to pay attention to your schedule and grades if they know your parents will show up at school if anything goes awry.
  7. Be a teacher’s pet. Talk to your teachers before or after class and show some interest in them and the subjects they teach. Ask them how you can improve your performance in the subject and get better grades. The better your teachers know you, the more likely they are willing to help you.

BONUS! Things You Should NOT Worry About

  1. UCs do look at courses you take in freshman year and the rigor/grades in context of your overall schedule/grade trend; but freshman grades are NOT included in the GPA calculation used for admission evaluation.
  2. UCs do look at courses you take in senior year and take the rigor into consideration when evaluating you for admission; but as long as you maintain satisfactory grades (typically an unweighted B average, with no non-passing grades, is sufficient), your actual grades in your senior year courses do not affect your admission.
  3. Only the grades recorded on your high school transcript will count so don’t worry too much about what’s on your progress report.
  4. Despite what your teachers/counselor/principal may say, the stuff on your “permanent record” is not submitted to nor reviewed by the UCs (although the Common App and many private colleges do ask you to report school disciplinary actions and crime convictions); stay out of trouble for the sake of your own sanity, but if you happen to get detention, suspended, or even expelled, it’s not the end of the world.

Additional UC Admission Preparation Resources

Check out My Academic Planner, a worksheet to help you plan and track your UC and CSU eligibility from the UC EAOP office.

Need me to guide you through the college planning process? Sign up for my Admission Preparation Service today!

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

September 8, 2019 at 10:53 am

Ms. Sun,

Thank you for the always helpful information!
In regards to community college courses, for courses you take after junior year, I was under the impression these were not calculated in the UC GPAs as this would be considered to be a course taken after junior year were not calculated in the GPA. Just wanted to clarify my understanding.



Ms. Sunreply
September 8, 2019 at 10:57 am
– In reply to: Sangita

Courses completed before the end of summer (before the start of 12th grade) will be calculated into the GPA used for admission evaluation (source).

Any Questions?