It looks to be the most competitive year for UC campuses.
Last month, the UCs released detailed enrollment data for last year's high school seniors, the class of 2021. Many high schools saw significant jumps in average admitted GPA to UC campuses that were typically more attainable.
Take University High School in Irvine for example:
Average Admitted GPAs:
UC Santa Cruz: 4.09 (2021) vs. 3.91 (2020)
UC Riverside: 4.03 (2021) vs. 3.9 (2020)
From what I have seen so far with UC decisions, I suspect the average admitted GPA to be even higher for this year's seniors across all campuses, but unfortunately, we most likely won't have that data until early 2023 after next years seniors apply.
I just had a IB diploma student with a 4.7 GPA get waitlisted at UC Santa Cruz. I was shocked. Granted, they probably thought she wouldn't go, waitlisting her only to see if she would opt in. Since she already has great options with strong merit scholarships, she probably won't choose UC Santa Cruz. But I don't recall UC campuses playing these enrollment games in the past.
1. If you have a kid applying to the UCs next fall, make sure they apply broadly, meaning they should apply to as many campuses as they will realistically consider. The UCs do not talk to one another, so applying to one campus does not affect your kid's chances at another campus.
2. Make sure they apply to several favorable schools outside of the UC system.
3. If your kid really has their heart set on a UC campus and doesn't get in, think about doing the TAG (Transfer Admissions Guarantee) at your local CA community campus.
MARCH 2022 University of CA Counselor Bulletin
"Systemwide applications climb to highest number ever in UC's 154-year history
The University of California recently announced that its campuses received a record-breaking number of applications for fall 2022, underscoring UC’s position as one of the most sought-after higher education systems in the world.
“The University of California remains an institution of choice for so many hardworking prospective undergraduates,” said President Michael V. Drake, M.D. “This diverse group of students has shown their commitment to pursuing higher education and we are thrilled they want to join us at UC.”
Systemwide freshman applications rose 3.5 percent, including a 3.3 percent growth for California freshman applicants. The university also saw an increase in the socioeconomic diversity of its California applicant pool for fall 2022. Systemwide, the proportion of California freshman applicants and California Community College (CCC) transfer applicants from low-income families grew to 46 percent and 56 percent respectively for the 2022 application period.
Community college enrollment declined nationally for fall 2021 due to the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This trend was especially true for CCCs, where enrollment declined by roughly 15 percent for fall 2020. That dramatic drop decreased the available pipeline of students applying to transfer to UC from CCCs for fall 2022. Systemwide, transfer applications decreased 12.6 percent. “UC is aware of the decrease in transfer applications and California Community College students across the system and is working to ensure that this critical group is supported in their efforts to apply at our campuses,” said Han Mi Yoon-Wu, executive director of Undergraduate Admissions at UC. “We are committed to having a strong and diverse pipeline of students.”
Chicano/Latino students comprised the largest ethnic group of the pool of California freshman applicants (38.1 percent) for the third year in a row, a 4.1 percent increase over the past year. Similarly, Chicano/Latino students comprised the largest ethnic group of the pool of CCC applicants (31.8 percent) for the fifth year in a row. In addition, important gains were made in systemwide freshman applications for fall 2022 from American Indian students (32.8 percent increase over the past year), African American students (2.8 percent increase over the past year) and Asian American students (5.8 percent increase over the past year).
Additional details about the fall 2022 applicants to the university can be found here, along with preliminary campus-by-campus breakdowns."
The University of CA released its Admission by Source School data for the class of 2021 (last year's seniors). This is an interactive chart that allows users to look up admissions stats for individual high school students applying to specific UC campuses. You can pull data such as the average GPA of students admitted, percentage of each gender admitted and a breakdown of admitted students by ethnicity. For some high schools, the average GPAs across the board went up significantly while with others it said the same. Click HERE to check it out.
In 2017 the University of California shifted from the traditional personal statement--a more creative essay meant to showcase an applicant's personality, writing abilities, and creativity--to the Personal Insight Questions, commonly referred to as the PIQs.
For the past five years, I have attended the UC Counselors Conference session on the PIQs, and the message has remained consistent: these PIQs are not meant to be a personal statement. They are meant to be questions the applicant answers directly, as if they were being asked these questions in an interview.
Below are some tips on how to approach the PIQs and some myths dispelled:
The UC Counselors Conference kicked off today and sessions will take place over a five-day period ending next Wednesday. I will share my insights at the end of the conference, but in the meantime, here are some overall UC announcements and admissions data from each of the campuses.
Announcements that apply to all campuses:
Admissions Number/Info by Campus:
14.5% admit rate
5,876 accepted on the waitlist, and 1,647 admitted off the waitlist
4.25-4.61 was middle 50% GPA
Students are admitted by Major and cannot apply to an alternate major. However, if student applies to a competitive major, they will still be reviewed and can be admitted to another major.
29% Admit Rate
CA admit rate was just under 20%
Average middle 50% GPA not posted
Hardly anyone got off the waitlist; UCI was much more popular than they anticipated
Students are admitted by major and can select alternate major; Students are recommended to not apply to an "easier" major because switching majors is challenging.
87% Admit Rate
Average Middle 50% GPA — 3.4-4.0
Average number of Honors courses—11.64
92% of applicants CA residents
Students are admitted by major, but major does not factor into decision. Undeclared is the most popular major.
UC Santa Barbara
Students are admitted by College. These are the admit rates by college:
Letters and Science—28%
Average Middle 50% GPA — 4.31
Average Middle GPA by College:
Letters and Sciences-4.22
UCSB does NOT admit by major within Letters and Sciences
Admit rate (overall) — 49%
Admit rate in College of Letters and Sciences—52.2%
Average Middle 50% GPA — 3.95-4.25
Davis admitted more CA residents this year than any other year!
Very few students came off the waitlist
Admit Rate — 11%
Crazy increase in apps: 139,489 and 15,084 admits
Weighted Middle 50% GPA --4.36-4.72
Capped Midde 50% GPA -- 4.17-4.32
Average number of AP/Honors/IB Classes — 19-30
Not active on the waitlist at all!
Students admitted by College: No second choice option.
Below are Admit Rate by College:
Letters and Science—13%
Theater, Film, TV—4%
Arts and Architecture—5%
66% Admit Rate
Waitlist Offers: 12,162; Opt Ins: 5997; and number admitted from waitlist: 4992
625 Regent Scholar Offers
Medium GPA: 3.64 to 4.10
Riverside admits by Major, and will consider alternate major choice. Student MUST consider both.
Average GPA by College:
Arts and Social Sciences: 3.57-4.03
Natural and Ag Sciences: 3.7-4.13
Public Police: 3.6-4.0
Graduate School fo Education: 3.58-3.96
34% Admit rate
Middle 50% GPA—4.07-4.29
Average honors/AP/IB courses 15.5
San Diego admits by Major.
Students can go in undeclared but probably can't declare a capped major like engineering.
UC Santa Cruz
58% Admit rate
3.99 Average GPA
19,000 waitlist; 12,000 opted; about 36% received an offer off waitlist
Students can apply undeclared but to a cluster so student’s interest is narrowed
Student can and should put down alternate major if applying to a popular major like computer science
Being based in Irvine, CA and working with many high achieving students each year, I’m accustomed to having students (and often parents) pushing for highly selective colleges. After all, these students have earned all As in rigorous Honors and AP courses, 4's and 5's on AP tests, and near perfect ACT or SAT scores. One would think these students would be a shoe in for any school they apply to.
But the reality is that there are often close to 100 students like that for every spot at the most selective schools.
In fact, with test optional policies due to Covid this year, applications skyrocketed at Ivy League colleges:
Harvard up 42%
Columbia up 51%
Dartmouth up 33%
Yale and Penn up 33%
Brown up 27%
Princeton up 15%
And these increases were not just limited to the Ivys. Other selective colleges saw similar upticks:
Duke up 24%
Rice up 26%
Amherst up 43%
Emory up 19%
Colby up 13%
Tufts up 35%
And so on . . .
Since the majority of students who apply have GPAs well over 4.0, are involved in extracurricular activities, have shown leadership, are engaged in meaningful community service, etc., the question becomes:
WHO GETS IN?
The ANSWER is that students who are competitive for these schools typically have all that is listed above AND have some HOOK that makes them stand out. It could be any of the following:
*Talent (music, performing arts, visual arts, etc.) Selective schools often accept an optional arts supplement for students to showcase a talent. These supplements are typically sent to the faculty of that arts department for review, and colleges caution that students must be exceptional for this supplement to have an impact.
*National/International Award Winner (Robotics, Debate, Poetry, Foreign Language, Math, etc.)
Created something that has produced results and elevated the community or a particular group within the community. The student has started a foundation or company, created a product, jump started a social justice movement, etc.
Student has filed and received a patent, created an original code, designed a successful app, written an and published an award-winning book, etc.
*Endured Tremendous Hardship & Persevered
Student experienced homelessness, suffered the loss of parents, faced an extraordinary medical challenge, came from a war-torn country, etc. Most important for this to have an impact is that the student experienced this hardship and overcame it with success.
*First Generation Student:
Student is the first in their family to go to college
Legacy, Large Donor, Child of Politician/Celebrity, etc.
WITHOUT one or more of these hooks, the chances are slim to none. That is just the reality, and I seek to be transparent with my clients.
I have these conversations every year, and I spend a great deal of time encouraging students/parents to be open to and excited about the favorable and target schools on their list. After all, those are the colleges they are most likely to get into. Applying to more reach schools doesn't make their chances better.
Since most of my students intend to pursue graduate school, I believe that finding the school where they can be a big fish will ultimately make them most competitive for those grad schools. Grad schools look for students who engage in undergraduate research, pursue internships, create meaningful relationships with professors. Highly motivated students can seek and capitalize on those opportunities in a less competitive environment.
Malcolm Gladwell addresses this very point in a Google talk he gave back in 2013:
I know how disheartening this reality can be. After all, these students applying to selective schools have done everything right. They have earned excellent grades, taken rigorous classes, got involved in meaningful activities, shown leadership, and on and on.
I also know from experience that regardless of the odds, students will still pursue these selective schools and will most likely receive much rejection. And for many, this will be the first time they have experienced rejection.
Given that, it's important to note that how students and parents react to this rejection can ultimately shape how successful that student's college experience will be.
Lori Gottleib’s 2019 article in The Atlantic offers some excellent insight and suggestions as to how parents should react when their child doesn’t get into their dream school.
It is well worth the read, as she offers guidance for parents to give their kids key messages that have "the potential to either prepare them for adulthood or hold them back.”