10 Important Things to Know About the University of California
The University of California is a system of public research universities routinely ranked among the world’s best. Founded in 1869, UC has established a reputation for pioneering research, innovation, and discovery.
Now serving over 238,700 students, the university system offers something for everyone. If you’re interested in applying to the University of California, here are 10 things you should know.
1. The University of California has 10 campuses.
There are ten UC campuses:
- UC Berkeley
- UC Davis
- UC Irvine
- UC Merced
- UC Riverside
- UC San Diego
- UC San Francisco*
- UC Santa Barbara
- UC Santa Cruz
Nine of these campuses offer both undergraduate and graduate education. *UC San Francisco is a graduate and professional school only.
Must-Read: The University of California Schools, Ranked
2. All UC schools use the same application, but decide independently whether to accept you.
You can apply to all UC schools (campuses) using the same application, My UC Application. Keep in mind that you will need to pay a $70 application fee for every school you apply to. This fee can be waived if it represents a financial hardship for your family, however, UC only waives the application fee for up to four campuses.
Each school you apply to considers your application separately. This means that one school’s decision to admit or deny you will not influence any other UC school’s decision. In fact, each campus will review your application without knowing the status of your application at other campuses.
In general, all UC schools consider grades, test scores, course preparation, involvement, and leadership, and your responses to the personal insight questions. Each school has its own evaluation process and may place a different emphasis or value on various pieces of information.
Typically, the filing period at the University of California is November 1-30. This means your application absolutely must be submitted by November 30. You’ll be notified of each school’s decision in March. UC uses email to communicate with students throughout the application process, so be sure to check regularly. The university recommends that you use an email that identifies you, rather than a non-distinct or “cute” name.
UCLA from above. Credit: trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com
3. To apply, you’ll be required to answer four personal insight questions.
When you apply to UC, you’re provided with eight personal insight questions. You must answer four of them in no more than 350 words each. The admissions team has no preference, and all questions are evaluated equally.
UC’s website states that these questions are about “getting to know your personality, background, interests, and achievements in your own voice.” They encourage you to be open and reflective, thinking of these questions as your interview with the admissions team. Plus, says UC, “Don’t be afraid to brag a little.” This portion helps provide context for the rest of your application.
The eight personal insight questions are as follows:
- Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
- Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
- What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
- Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
- Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
- Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
- What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
- Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?
4. There are key differences between the 10 UC campuses.
Although these campuses share many similarities, enrollment, acceptance rates, and prestige vary.
The largest of these schools is UCLA, with an undergraduate enrollment of 31,000. The smallest is also the newest: UC Merced, which opened in 2005, enrolls just around 7,000 undergraduates. Most of the UC schools have 28,000-30,000 undergraduates in attendance. UC Santa Barbara has an enrollment of 22,199, UC Riverside enrolls 19,544, and UC Santa Cruz has an undergraduate enrollment of 16,509.
The most selective and prestigious of the UC schools are UCLA and UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley has an acceptance rate of about 17%, while UCLA’s acceptance rate is 18%. These are followed by UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Davis, and UC Irvine. These schools have acceptance rates around 35-45%.
UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside have somewhat higher acceptance rates, with UC Santa Cruz accepting 58% of applicants and UC Riverside accepting 66%. UC Merced accepts 74% of applicants. Its mission is to make education more accessible, particularly to California students, and it has the highest percentage of underrepresented minorities and low-income students.
Each campus also has its own unique “personality.” For example, UCLA is highly spirited and has competitive sports teams. UC Santa Barbara has a beautiful campus located in a beach town and is known for its laidback beach vibe. UC Davis has a friendly, small-town feel. Talk to current UC students, browse school websites, and read rankings and reviews to determine which UC school might be the best fit for you.
5. The University of California is known for its world-class facilities.
UC offers its students state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories, in addition to dozens of museums, concert halls, art galleries, botanical gardens, observatories, and marine centers.
The university has managed three national labs for the U.S. Department of Energy since 1943. Thirteen Nobel laureates were honored while affiliated with these labs. It also operates multiple billion-dollar, multidisciplinary research centers that leverage public investments to explore the world and address critical issues in society.
In addition, UC boasts five medical centers that support clinical teaching programs, develop new therapies, and provide broad access to quality care.
6. UC is also known for innovative discoveries.
Billions of dollars in revenue, thousands of California jobs, and countless everyday items can be traced back to UC discoveries. (There’s the flu vaccine and wet suit, and the discovery of vitamin E, to name merely a few.) Many of California’s leading businesses are based on UC technology or founded and led by UC faculty and graduates.
In 2014, UC research produced nearly five inventions a day, or 1,727 over the course of the year.
On campus at UC Berkeley. Credit: cdrin / Shutterstock.com
7. Graduates from the University of California join a strong alumni network.
Today, the University of California system has 1.7 million living alumni. UC has also produced 61 Nobel laureates, 63 National Medal of Science winners, and 38 Pulitzer Prize winners. Joining this prestigious alumni network can give your resume a boost and provide you with connections in just about every field imaginable.
8. The University of California offers diverse opportunities.
UC schools are generally considered strong in STEM, the humanities, and social sciences. However, 150 academic disciplines are offered across the university system. Most UC schools have at least 100 undergraduate degree programs. There are 600 graduate degree programs in total. This means that no matter what you’d like to study, it’s likely that UC has a program for you.
9. UC has one of the nation’s strongest financial aid programs.
Don’t let finances stop you from applying to UC. More than two-thirds of undergraduate students receive grants and scholarships, with an average award of around $15,000. Most families pay less than the full price of attending UC, and more than half of UC undergraduates pay no tuition at all. Be sure to complete your FAFSA, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify. You may be surprised!
10. The application opens August 1.
Like what you’ve heard about UC so far? If you’re a senior in high school, you have until the end of November to get your application(s) in, but if not, mark August 1 on your calendar. That’s the date the My UC Application opens, and it never hurts to get an early start. Good luck!
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