Standing Out in a Sea of 121,000: The UC Admissions Game This Year

According to a preliminary January 4th report and subsequent data collected over the past month, the University of California system is reporting receiving 121,005 applications for Fall 2008, breaking its own record for the fourth consecutive year. Applications have increased by 9 percent over 2007.

Most interesting, out-of-state applications increased by 14.4 percent, and international applicants by 25.2 percent. As each UC continues to grow, the nationwide and even worldwide recognition grows along with them. Continuously ranked as the #1 public schools in the country, the Universities of California command a staggering, but very well-deserved growth rate.

With the number of applications so high, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be accepted to a UC. Consider these three tips to help your odds.

  1. Apply to multiple UCs. Though each school is individually ranked by college guides -- with Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego always topping the charts -- all offer a very high quality level of education. The lower ranked UCs like Irvine, Santa Cruz, Riverside, Davis, and Santa Barbara may receive less attention than juggernaut Berkeley, but they are still fantastic schools which carry more prestige than most other public and even private universities. Applicants apply to, on average, 3.6 UCs, so follow the trend to increase your odds.
  2. Consider community college first. The UCs actively recruit students from California community colleges. Most have a program of guaranteed acceptance called TAG or Transfer Admissions Guarantee that will allow you automatic admission if you meet certain minimum criteria. While Berkeley has no such guarantee, UC San Diego offers this TAG program, and UC Los Angeles offers preferred, though not guaranteed, admission through its TAP (Transfer Alliance Program). If you have your heart set on a UC and have been rejected, take advantage of these transfer programs. Not only will you get the same degree as the freshman admits, but you will also save money by paying much less expensive community college tuition for two years.
  3. Establish residency before applying. If you are an out-of-state student, try to establish residency in California. Since UCs strongly favor in-state applicants, you may find yourself accepted with the same exact credentials simply by establishing residency first. For tips on how to do this, read my article about paying in-state tuition as an out-of-state student and scroll down to the heading, "Establish Residency".

While standing out in a sea of 121,000 other applicants is difficult, the UCs work hard to ensure access for any qualified student. For school-specific tips, consult the university you are most interested in and ask for guidance for your particular situation.

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