Applying to the UCs

While we work with students all over the country, many of our clients live in California and apply to at least a few of the nine undergraduate UC campuses (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, UCLA, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz).  Some of our out-of-state clients also apply to the UCs as well!

The purpose of this post is to give you some important information about applying to the UCs.

Here are your top 3 “must know” things about applying to the UCs:

  1. uc a-g requirements applying to the UCsThe UCs have a required minimum number of courses in each of the six core areas (math, English, science, social studies/history, foreign language and visual/performing arts). You should know that these are the MINIMUM requirements; most successful applicants to UC campuses exceed these requirements.
  1. The UCs have their own GPA formula. Here are the basics:
    • Only courses taken in 10th and 11th grades count towards the GPA.
    • The only categories of courses that count towards the GPA are math, English, foreign language, science, social studies (history) and visual/performing arts.
    • Seven of the 9 campuses limit the number of semesters of weighted grades for which they give you credit to 8 semesters. UCLA and UC Berkeley do not limit the number of semesters. We call this the “capped weighted” and the “uncapped weighted” GPAs.
    • California students may count approved honors courses (check to see which of the courses your school calls honors are actually approved for honors credit with the UC) as well as AP courses as weighted.
    • Out-of-state students may ONLY count AP courses for the GPA weight “bump.”
  1. The UCs place very high value on who you are outside your coursework. This is measured through your activities and essays.  New for the Class of 2020 was an extended activities section, which allowed applicants to not only list up to 20 activities and awards (that’s twice as many as the Common App allows!), but it also gave applicants the opportunity to share details about each activity, up to 500 characters each.  This is literally three times as much information as you’re allowed to provide in the Common App!  This definitely indicates to us that the UCs are placing significant importance on activities and WHO YOU ARE beyond what your grades and test scores say about you.

What does all this add up to?  If you’re applying to the UCs, you need to work hard, get good grades, take rigorous courses and go beyond the required minimum in each subject.  But you also need to document what you do outside of school!  How and how much you interact with your community is important to the UCs.  Successful students applying to the UCs are aware of the opportunities and needs in their community and feel strongly about participating in something.

  • Here’s a post with a little bit more detail about applying to the UCs.
  • Here’s a post with a little bit more information about the importance of presenting your activities in college applications.

If you have any questions about applying to the UCs, please feel free to reach out to us!




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