7 Things You Must Do in High School to be Competitive for UC Admission

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 adequate time to your extracurricular activities to gain meaningful experiences and develop important skills (such as leadership and collaboration).
  3. Ask your family and friends to put the word out that you are looking for opportunities, such as job shadowing, internship, or research. UCs like to see active exploration of or involvement in the discipline you intend to declare as your major (or exploration of different disciplines if you are unsure/undeclared) and heavily favor students with research experience.
  4. Take community college courses (any UC-transferable courses that are at least 3 semester or 4 quarter units will work) 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 the GPA used for admission evaluation.
  5. If you receive a D or F grade, be sure to repeat the course BEFORE senior year 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).
  6. Get your parents involved with your college planning. Ask them to contact your counselor and teachers and 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 get in touch if anything goes awry.
  7. Be a teacher’s pet. Communicate with your teachers outside of 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 (so you should provide an explanation if there are anomalies in your schedule or grades); 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 performance in your senior year courses will 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 Resources

Check out Quick Reference Guide to UC Admissions, a comprehensive resource guide put together by the UCs that explains EVERYTHING there is to know about freshman and transfer admissions (if you need something in writing as proof, this is where you’ll find it).

Know someone who can benefit from this information? Share the page with family and friends using a button below!

Help support this blog by making a contribution today! Any amount is greatly appreciated!


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

February 8, 2022 at 3:54 pm

Does it matter which community college courses the students should take? My daughter wants to major in Bio so should she take whatever classes related to bio even though she might take those classes again at the UC?

Ms. Sunreply
February 8, 2022 at 8:30 pm
– In reply to: Anne

If the biology courses she takes are UC-transferable and on the STEM track, then she should just get credit for those and not have to take them again.

February 10, 2022 at 9:13 am

My son has a 4.3 UC average, but doesn’t have a lot of extra curricular except he’s captain of JV tennis rn. He’s already in Junior. Will he have a good chance at UC?

Ms. Sunreply
February 10, 2022 at 11:20 am
– In reply to: Anna

I would recommend taking community college or outside AP courses to raise his GPA and improve his competitive edge.

February 10, 2022 at 10:07 am

Does 2nd semester grades in your senior year have a major impact on college admissions? I’m currently struggling in my honors pre-calc class (D possibly F) and not sure if it’s better to drop the class or stick it through knowing I’ll end up with a horrible grade?!? What is your recommendation.

Ms. Sunreply
February 10, 2022 at 11:21 am
– In reply to: Adele

My recommendation is to get a C or better. The UCs may cancel your admission offer if you drop it or not pass it.

March 12, 2022 at 12:45 pm

I was a straight A student through 10-11 grade and my UC gpa is 4.5 .. In my senior year I’m struggling on my AP Calc BC and and AP Physics that I might have 3Cs in my final senior transcript .. (1 in first semester , 2in second semester) but it is still above 3.0 unweighted gpa. Will I have chances of getting my admission of being rescind?

Ms. Sunreply
March 12, 2022 at 3:24 pm
– In reply to: Hi

You should be ok for most UCs (except UCLA, which requires students to report C’s if there are two or more of them, and may cancel admission offers for that).

Loshani Patelreply
April 27, 2022 at 5:29 pm

Hello if my soon to be hs freshman takes a UC approved DE summer class the summer before her freshman year starts ( ie july 2022 and high school year starts august 2022) will this be approved for gpa and UC credit or is it only summer after freshman year onwards that count?

Ms. Sunreply
April 27, 2022 at 5:47 pm
– In reply to: Loshani Patel

She will get UC credit as long as the course is UC-transferable. The UC Application instructions specifically says to report community college courses taken “while in high school.” But I typically advise students to include all community college courses completed (the application is flexible enough for you to be able to do that correctly with some creative entries).

Loshani Patelreply
April 27, 2022 at 6:22 pm
– In reply to: Ms. Sun

Thank you!

Benjamin Kwokreply
May 22, 2022 at 8:39 am

Do you look better to colleges as a top student at an average high school or an average student at an elite high school?

Ms. Sunreply
May 22, 2022 at 6:05 pm
– In reply to: Benjamin Kwok

Depends on the UC campus … but, generally, for the UCs, it’s better to be top student at any high school.

June 1, 2022 at 9:47 pm

I have As in all subjects except one C in AP Cal BC in Junior Year. How badly will this affect my chances at the top UCs? What about UCB EECS?

Ms. Sunreply
June 1, 2022 at 11:54 pm
– In reply to: Hopeful

I would advise against applying to EECS.

AI Tanreply
June 3, 2022 at 6:26 pm

I have B’s in two of my honors courses (precalc and honor chem) in the sophomore year. Got 5 in AP chem through independent study though! Is it better to change them to pass/no pass that will result in higher GPA (weighted/capped/and unweighted). Not to mention the additional benefit of being able to apply 8 additional points for the 4 junior year AP courses (AB,BC,Phy1,and Bio) that I am taking. Can you suggest if this is a good idea for UCB Enginnering admission?

Ms. Sunreply
June 3, 2022 at 7:02 pm
– In reply to: AI Tan

See my recommendations here.

AI Tanreply
June 3, 2022 at 8:39 pm

Thanks for your reply. I read what’s in the link even before I asked the question 🙂 . I should have been more specific. Wouldn’t my AB/BC this year answer any doubts on precalc P/NP and AP chem answer hons chem pass/NP?

Ms. Sunreply
June 4, 2022 at 8:47 am
– In reply to: AI Tan

Maybe? If you switch, I would suggest pointing out the AB/BC and AP Chem on your UC Application; if you don’t specifically point them out, the application readers will likely miss the correlation.

June 30, 2022 at 11:17 am

If the student takes CC classes the summer prior to UC enrollment as a freshman, are those grades used in calculating the university GPA?

Ms. Sunreply
June 30, 2022 at 11:57 am
– In reply to: Mot2b

UCs generally do not calculate CC course grades into the “UC GPA.” However, graduate programs may include CC grades into the GPA used for admission evaluation.

Questions or Comments?