Are you applying to a University of California school in 2021? You may wonder how you can stand out amongst the other 100,000 students applying. This blog post will go over tips to help your UC application stand out.
UC schools have their own rules and parameters for admissions. We hope this helps give perspective on how the UCs are different from other colleges. Use this knowledge to boost your application and understand your chances of getting in.
Be Smart About Your Major Selection
When you apply to the UCs, you will have to declare your major at every single campus. Unfortunately, all majors are not equal at the University of California. One useful tool for figuring out your probability of admission depending on major is this website. This site shows us data on transfer admission that can help us determine transfer rates into different programs. We can see certain majors have lower admit rates. It also lets us know how popular a major is overall.
If you are trying to decide what major to put down on applications as an incoming freshman, looking at the popularity of majors on this chart may help you. It will not be the equivalent of knowing the precise admit rates of freshman for each major. However, it can help you determine overall popularity trends and competition. Keep in mind, you can also try to change your major once you are enrolled in the school of your choice. Additionally, it is easier to change your desired major. at the school you are already in than if you tried to transfer into a different school.
For example, computer science is a popular major. If you think you may want to major in computer science, look at what school it’s in. For most schools computer science is in the School of Engineering. It may benefit you to apply to another major in the School of Engineering, and then transfer into computer science. Some people may find this process too stressful, and that’s fine. There’s no problem with applying with computer science as your major. If you’re a little nervous about the competition, you can consider applying with a major that has a higher admit rate. You should keep in mind that certain majors will always be difficult to transfer into. This includes film & television, theater, and music.
UCs Love Students who are the Best in their Context
More than any other schools, UCs want to look at students according to how they perform against their peers. So, if you attend public school for example, you have a better shot at UC acceptance if you are well performing. However, if you’re attending a smaller, more competitive private school, and you’re not at the top of your class, then you may have a harder time. This means that students at private schools with lower class ranks will have a tougher time getting admission into some UC schools.
Address your Weaknesses
If you have any weaknesses, you need to address them in your UC application. Brooke has found that the UCs are more forgiving with weaknesses, but only if you explain yourself. If you know you have a hole in your application in some way, make sure to address it in the Additional Information section of your application. Make sure you talk about the elephant in the room, such as a poor grade or no activities. This also applies to waitlist letters for UC schools. If you know your essays were poor quality, you should admit to this.
UCs are Race Blind
While many top schools appreciate underrepresented minorities telling their stories in their applications, it is not as much of an advantage at the UC schools. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your race in your essays if you identify with it. However, we think it’s important to note that you might not get the automatic boost to your application that you may get at another top university. Additionally, other factors, such as low-income or first-generation students, may still be advantageous to write about in your application for UC schools.
UCs are Test Blind
UC schools will not look at your test scores. That being said, there are still a few places you can note that you’re a good test taker on your application. For one, if you are an AP Scholar, then you should definitely mark this on your application in the awards section. Furthermore, if you are a National Merit Scholar, you should add this as well. So if you are really good at tests, there is a way to sneak this into your application. This goes for the National Hispanic Recognition Program as well. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, and you’re an excellent test taker, consider practicing for the PSAT. A good PSAT score will help you gain merit scholar status.
Don’t Ignore Waitlist Letters & Know How Appeals Work
You should know that students absolutely get off the waitlist every year. Additionally, students every year can always appeal their decision. On average, about 30% of freshman on UC Berkeley’s campus were off the waitlist. Of course, this was pre-COVID, and we’re not sure how COVID will impact admissions long-term. As things return to normal, we expect that number to return. Even though it varies from year to year, about 10% of freshman at UCLA are also off the waitlist. There is an official appeals process at many of these universities. If you get rejected, but you still know you want to attend a UC, fight it!
Answer Each Essay Uniquely
Make sure you answer all four UC essays uniquely. We know that most other schools only ask for two or three essays, and it may seem easy to just take one long essay and cut it up into two different UC prompts. It is more important to write four different stories, and make sure that each story shows a new, unique side of you. Each essay should showcase your individual voice, and a different aspect of you.
Check More Boxes!
Take the easy back-up school by checking more boxes! UCs all have the same application. Additionally, the UC schools are the most applied to in the entire country. Even if your top choice is UCLA or UC Berkeley, there are even more UC schools you can check on your application! This is an easy way to apply to more, solid back-up schools without having to write more essays. By doing this, you can help pad your college list with a few more “lottery tickets” to lower your general stress level.
Even if you may think you’re absolutely going to one specific school, you might not get in, and that doesn’t mean your life is over. If you give yourself more opportunities with different schools, you’ll ensure you have a place to land. The most important ingredient in your future success is you, not the college you go to. Each of the UCs has a quality education. No matter which one you end up at, you’ll be able to find a path forward to success.