top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichele Coleman

Applying to the UC’s: Help Me Understand!

Some of the most frequent questions I’m asked revolve around applying and being accepted into one of the colleges in the University of California System.  To answer some of those questions, and let’s be honest, there are so many I won’t be answering them all, I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts.

FYI, I won’t be addressing acceptance ratings or specific information regarding each college’s majors, opportunities, or locations.  I will be sharing information about what the UC System considers when reviewing applications, and the factors that each specific UC uses in conjunction with the overall factors from the system as a whole.

Intrigued?  Didn’t know each UC looks for different factors as they review applications?  Read on!

As most people know the UC system has 9 universities, 8 of which accept freshman applicants.  Our time will be spent focusing on those 8.

In alphabetical order, they are:

1.     The University of California, Berkeley

2.     The University of California, Davis

3.     The University of California, Irvine

4.     The University of California, Los Angeles

5.     The University of California, Merced

6.     The University of California, San Diego

7.     The University of California, Santa Barbara

8.     The University of California, Santa Cruz

Beyond Just Grades

In the first of this series, we’ll start with the simple stuff.  The UCs use a "comprehensive review" process when considering applications for admissions. This means that they consider more than just grades (I know obviously, right?). 

Below is a list of the factors that all of the UCs may consider when reviewing applications. They are known as “The 13 Factors”. These are directly from the UC website

Take a look:

Key Factors in UC Admissions

  1. Academic grade point average in all completed A-G courses, including additional points for completed UC-certified honors courses.

  2. Number of, content of, and performance in all A-G subject areas beyond the minimum requirements.

  3. Number of and performance in UC-approved honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate Higher Level, and transferable college courses.

  4. Identification by UC as being ranked in the top 9 percent of your high school class at the end of your junior year (Eligible in the Local Context, or ELC).

  5. Quality of your senior-year program as measured by the type and number of academic courses in any A-G subject area in progress or planned.

  6. Quality of your academic performance relative to the educational opportunities available in your high school.

  7. Outstanding performance in one or more specific subject areas.

  8. Outstanding work in one or more special projects in any academic field of study.

  9. Recent, marked improvement in academic performance as demonstrated by academic GPA and the quality of coursework completed or in progress.

  10. Special talents, achievements and awards in a particular field, such as visual and performing arts, communication or athletic endeavors; special skills, such as demonstrated written and oral proficiency in other languages; special interests, such as intensive study and exploration of other cultures; experiences that demonstrate unusual promise for leadership, such as significant community service or significant participation in student government; or other significant experiences or achievements that demonstrate the student's promise for contributing to the intellectual vitality of a campus.

  11. Completion of special projects undertaken in the context of your high school curriculum or in conjunction with special school events, projects, or programs.

  12. Academic accomplishments in light of your life experiences and special circumstances, including but not limited to disabilities, low family income, first generation to attend college, need to work, disadvantaged social or educational environment, difficult personal and family situations or circumstances, refugee status or veteran status.

  13. Location of your secondary school and residence.


When many people read these for the first time, they are a bit surprised, and possibly disappointed by the fact that their student may not be meeting or even, have any control over some of these factors. Starting to prepare early in high school, and knowing what the UCs consider does make the process a bit easier.  It’s difficult if your student is a rising senior and has not taken any advanced courses or participated in any activities that could support their application.  However, knowing these factors in 9th and 10th grade can help prepare your student in the best way possible to have a strong application.

Next time, I’ll begin to break down each category and offer some examples and thoughts on what each factor really means. For now, if you have any comments or questions connect with me for answers.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page