College Admissions

Archive for September, 2014

College Application Update for California Students

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

At the recent University of California counselor conference, admissions directors from each UC campus provided updates, and the numbers continue to be daunting. It’s easier to understand why admission has become so competitive when you look at a graph showing that applications at Berkeley have more than doubled over the past 10 years. Berkeley received over 73,000 freshman applications last year, and more than 34,000 of those applicants had a grade point average of 4.0 or above. The total number of students admitted to Berkeley was below 13,000, so it’s clear that the vast majority of excellent students were denied. The admit rate to the campus was below 18 percent, but it was even tougher for prospective engineering majors, as the admit rate for Berkeley’s engineering school was just nine percent.

UCLA admitted 16.3% of California freshman applicants. Since UCLA plans to maintain a stable enrollment target and will probably receive more applications next year, admission will be even more competitive. Even campuses that have not been highly selective in the past are becoming much more competitive. At Irvine, the admit rate dropped from 41 percent to 35.4 percent in one year. Santa Cruz had a very high number of students accepting an offer of admission, and the admissions office is predicting a lower admit rate for the next freshman class.

While the UC certainly has become less accessible in recent years, the good news is that more colleges around the country are actively recruiting California students. In the last few weeks, I’ve attended meetings with admissions officers from more than 25 colleges that are eager to increase their enrollment of California students, and that’s a small fraction of the schools looking for California students. Some will even subsidize airfare for admitted students who want to visit the college before making a decision. Many schools offer scholarships that can bring the cost down, so that in some cases, families are paying no more than the cost of attending a UC campus. Even if the cost is a little higher, it can be worth it for smaller classes and more personal attention, along with a guarantee of completing a degree in four years.

You don’t need stellar grades and test scores to get into college. It’s true that competition for admission at schools that are in the top 25 of the US News rankings is intense, but these rankings don’t provide meaningful information about the quality of education or the experience a particular student will have at a college. There are hundreds of colleges that offer strong academic programs, as well as great internship and study abroad opportunities. Since so many strong students are no longer able to access the most selective schools, those students are attending and raising the caliber of other colleges. If you are willing to look beyond the usual suspects, you will find colleges where you can get a good education and have an enjoyable four years on campus.

As college application deadlines approach in the next few months, high school seniors and their parents are vulnerable to extreme admission anxiety. It helps to find at least a couple schools that you like and that would be clear admits. If you have good grades but just don’t do well on standardized tests, be sure to apply to some test-optional colleges. You can find a list of test-optional schools at It is also important to make sure you have colleges that are financially accessible. The net price calculator on each college’s website will give you a preliminary estimate of the cost for your family.