The UC Admissions Process: 2013

The numbers for the fall of 2013 UC Admissions boggle the mind; 82,850 applicants for freshmen admission were admitted out of a pool of just under 140,000, for a system-wide admit rate of 59%.

UCLA led the UC System inundation by garnering over 80,000 applications (99,000 if you add in the transfers from community college). To gain a sense of the size of this application flurry, the total population of Santa Monica is 90,000.    The number of in-state freshmen applying was 55,000, of which 9,539 were admitted. This brought the in-state admit rate to 17.4%, just below  last year’s highly competitive 17.8%. UCLA’s in-state admissions rate is closing in on Cornell’s, 15.5%, and is slightly more competitive than Tufts 18%. UCLA has the further distinction of admitting over 40% of its current class from out-of-state, comparable to last year. Sadly, for upcoming California applicants, this is becoming more pronounced each year.

Gaining admissions to Berkeley also remained challenging. This year the median weighted GPA was 4.37 (un-weighted 3.9) with an average SAT score of 2077. Though the median figures aren’t much different from last year’s, the number of applicants again set record levels, with over 67,600 applications and a final admissions rate of 20.8%. Of the 14,100 admits, more than 4,800 were from out-of-state, or about a third of the admissions pie. Each of these 4800 (though, of course not all of them will attend) amount to an out-of-state tuition premium of $23,000— this amounts to a potential $112,000,000 for the UC coffers. It’s not hard to imagine that the number of out-of –state admits will continue its steady climb.  

UC San Diego, to round out the top three UC campuses, also saw a record 67,400 applications this year, a mere 300 fewer than Berkeley. Of the 24,782 admission offers, 8,216 were out-of-state and international candidates, a third of the total.

Despite these rising numbers, UC admissions decisions continue to be made ‘holistically’ across 14 criteria listed on the UC Admission’s site, some of which include: GPA in all a-g courses completed by the end of junior year; standardized test scores—either SAT or ACT with writing (note the 2 required SAT Subject tests were eliminated with this fall’s classes—though the admissions site does reference that the engineering colleges at UCB, UCLA, UCR, and UCSB still recommend  Math 2C and a science subject test of choice be submitted); number and performance in courses beyond the a-g courses; number of AP and Honors courses taken; outstanding performance in one or two academic areas; ELC identification...

If UCLA begins its application review process on December 1st, and finishes by late March, it has 115-120 days to read 80,000 applications. That means each and every day the admissions department must read between 660-695 applications.  UCSD, which again had over 67,000 applications, claims two readers review every application. Obviously, some late night oil was burned in La Jolla over the last several months.    

Keep in mind that each UC campus has its own formula for how it reviews candidates. For example, UCSD looks for a range of personal qualities beyond what was already mentioned above such as intellectual independence, maturity, and motivation, as well as overcoming hardships and employment experience. You can take a look at how individual campuses evaluate candidates at

 Clearly no calculator can predict admissions to a UC campus. Certainly scores and grades work as a filter, if a candidate is too far outside expected averages. Yet a lot also rides on your activities, talents, intellectual curiosity, and capabilities, likely gleaned from your two personal statements. All this might get you into UCLA, or even Tufts: but it’s a whole lot colder in Medford, Massachusetts.