Applying to the University of California

On November 1st, the University of California began accepting applications for fall 2014. This column contains a number of frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the application timeline and details, selecting majors, submitting test scores and the UC Personal Statements.  Although many of the answers can be found on the UC Admissions site, most applicants have little time to scour a 45 page PDF to unearth them. I, on the other hand, run into many of these every day.

Application Timeline:

  • As you already know, applications can be submitted electronically November 1-30th. Procrastinators, note that the last days of the filing period produce high traffic that could delay filing your application. Since the UC tells us that ‘late applications are rarely accepted’, file as early as possible to avoid unnecessary anxiety.
  • Notifications of admissions are sent as early as February 1st, though most are released in the month of March.

Application Details:

  • Academic History: Make sure all the grades and courses are accurately reported. All will be verified if you get accepted and enroll at a UC campus. At the end of this school year your complete transcript will be sent to the UC campus from your high school.
  • Don’t list the same activity in multiple areas of your UC application. For example, don’t place Honors Society under both ‘Awards and Honors’ and ‘Extracurricular’
  • Don’t falsify activities: UC does audit certain applications. Err on the side of honesty.

 Selecting Majors:

  • You must declare a major at each campus applied to. If you choose undeclared you are not penalized.
  • Some majors are impacted, meaning they have no current openings, so you must select an alternate.
  • For some majors, such as business at UC Berkeley, or film at UCLA, you cannot gain admission till junior year; if those are your intended majors, apply to the college of Letters and Sciences as undeclared.

Test Scores:

  • December is the last month for taking either the SAT or ACT.
  • If you take the SAT, Subject Tests (though no longer required, some UC schools and departments recommend them. The schools requesting the subject tests can be found: ) or ACT with Writing in December, you must update your scores on the UC Admissions site as soon as you receive your score, or, at the latest, by January 15th.
  • SAT scores: Do not use SAT’s Score Choice. Report all your scores and the UCs will use the highest total score from one test date. Lower scores will not be a disadvantage for you. They are not factored into the admission process.
  • Official SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Tests can be submitted to just one campus. They will then be shared among all the campuses to which you’ve applied.
  • Official AP/IB scores are NOT required until after a student has accepted an enrollment offer. These scores are self-reported. Do not worry about low AP scores —UC Admissions treats them as neutral.

Personal Statements:

  • Prompt 1 the freshman statement, “Describe the world you come from…and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations” According the UC admissions, many applicants use the max, 750 of the 1000 allotted words, for this prompt and it is considered the most informative of the two personal statements. Note: ‘world’ can mean any world, your classroom, home, scout troop, art studio…
  • View this as a ‘personal interview on paper’ in which the admissions officers can get to know you as a person.
  • Prompt 2: “Tell us about a personal quality, talent…that is important to you, and how does it relate to the person you are?” According to UC Admissions, candidates often use the ‘athletic’ or ‘music’ experience with this prompt. Make sure you add how the experience affected you.
  • Read each prompt carefully and respond to the entire prompt, not just a portion of it
  • Try to tell a story, a simple slice of life. Action is character, and character is you.

Mind the details but enjoy the process, and good luck on gaining admission to the UC campus of your choice.