Now that this application season has come to a close, it is a time of reflection and celebration. For us here at Simplify we have been discussing this past year amongst ourselves as it has been quite a year. From private schools across the country to the UC schools here in California the results have often been surprising. This year we saw more students waitlisted at schools across the country and we also saw many students denied at schools they were sure they would get into and then accepted at their reach school. This was the season of anything goes and as it is coming to an end it is time to get serious and offer advice for those getting ready to apply in the fall.
In this post, the first in a 2-part series, I will be discussing the University of California schools and offer advice to homeschoolers who wish to apply. In the second-part I will be discussing trends seen on the national level and offer advice to those homeschoolers who will be applying to schools all across the country in the fall. If you would like to hear all of our thoughts on these topics, head over to our podcasts page and listen to Even More Selective College Admissions and The 2018 UC Admissions Debacle.
So what happened this year with the UC schools? First off, this was another record year of applications. According to the University of California, this year was the 13th consecutive year of “record-breaking highs” with 221,000 students applying for spots at the UC schools, an increase of 5.7% over last year. At specific schools, Berkeley saw an increase of 4.6% while there was a huge increase of 12.4% at UC Riverside. With so many students competing for limited spots the results were sometimes not what students and their families were expecting.
Another issue when it comes to the UC schools is there is just not enough spaces for every qualified student in the state. And sometimes with the UC schools it is hard for parents and teens to know what exactly qualifies a student for a spot. Yes it is spelled out quite nicely on the UC website but even when students meet all the qualifications (including a-g courses, high SAT/ACT scores, SAT subject tests, etc.) they are not guaranteed a spot. If you spent any time on College Confidential this year you will see plenty of high stat students denied at many UC schools only to be admitted to very competitive private schools. How can this be?
To better understand this situation one needs to understand one of the missions of the UC schools and that is to serve first generation, low income, and other disadvantaged students so they can experience economic mobility in California. In 2017, “an estimated 45 percent of California freshmen — about 16,500 students —” were “among the first in their families working to earn a four-year university degree. Across the UC system, some 42 percent of all UC undergraduate students are first-generation college students.” (https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/uc-kicks-systemwide-effort-support-first-generation-students-new-report-website) And in 2014 the UC system remarked on their stance on low-income students stating that “40 percent of the student body — come from low-income households, a number that no other top-tier university comes close to matching. To put that figure in perspective: UC educates eight times as many low-income students as the entire Ivy League combined. (https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/how-uc-serves-low-income-students)
This mission of the UCs cannot be overstated. It is an important mission and one all Californians should be proud of. It also means though that some high stat students from middle to high incomes are going to be overlooked for lower stat students that come from a different background that makes it impossible to compete with the student from a high-income family. That is why in every thread you may see on college confidential about UC admissions there will be such a wide variety of GPAs and SAT/ACT scores of students admitted.
And finally it seems that many of the UC schools this year were reacting to the whole debacle that UC Irvine found itself in last year when more students accepted their offer to attend than they had room for. This put UC Irvine in a tough spot that included some bad press when the campus rescinded acceptances for nearly 500 applicants. No campus wanted to be in that situation this year and it seems their acceptances reflected that. And some, like UC Davis, seemed to pass over many top stat students to protect its yield. Another thing that seems to have come into play.
So what can a homeschool applicant do to up their chance of getting into a UC?
First plan your course load carefully, keeping in mind the a-g requirements. You can read more about this here. If you can’t meet all the a-g requirements don’t sweat it. Instead try to do equivalent courses in your homeschool and show competency by taking APs or SAT subject tests. Second, work on getting your test scores up. The UC schools are some of the most competitive schools in the nation and it is reflected in test scores. Do what you can to get the highest scores you can. Also consider community college courses for some of the high school coursework. The UC schools love community college coursework as it shows outside validation for a homeschooler. And finally work on those essays. The essays are an opportunity for the student to share their experiences and their own voice with admissions. I cannot overstate how important they are to an application.
Something else to keep in mind when applying to the UC schools is it is extremely important to have a good mix of schools to apply to. If your goal is a UC education do not limit yourself to just the top campuses. UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, and UC San Diego have low acceptance rates no matter your stats. You may get into one of these schools but you could just as easily be waitlisted or denied. It will help your UC chances to add some of the other UC schools to your list. UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Riverside are all wonderful institutions where one can get a world-class education. And let’s not forget UC Merced. The newest school in the UC system is not nearly as highly ranked as the other schools but it will be soon. They are always adding to Merced and have plans to put a medical school there. For some students Merced offers the opportunity to have a UC education at a smaller and up-and-coming university.
There is much more that could be said about the UCs and the application process, but that will have to wait for another time. In the meantime if you have a student who will be applying to the UC schools and you feel you need support during the process please reach out to us here at Simplify. In addition to one-on-one support we have also started offering classes for parents and teens going through the application process, and we have one that is just for the University of California. To read more about the course and to enroll head over to our classes page. We look forward to working with you.