Admissions college admissions University of California

UC Admissions

The Golden State is a mecca for prospective college students, attracted to a big and diverse network of colleges and universities that are among the consistently top-ranked institutions in the U.S. and around the world.

The UC or University of California system includes 10 campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. Additionally, it includes five medical centers, three national laboratories, 150 academic disciplines, 238,000 students, 190,000 faculty and staff, and more than 1.7 million living alumni.


This past year, nearly 137,000 students from around the world were offered spots to at least one of the UC system’s nine undergraduate campuses, out of a total application pool of 221,788. Of that group, a total of 181,419 students applied for first year admission for fall of 2018 and 71,086 were admitted, leading to an overall admit rate of 39%.

This year’s admitted UC class of 71,086 includes a record numbers of California residents, resulting from an intentional shift to admit more in-state students. The UC system projects that the number of incoming California students will increase by 15,000 by next year. Much of the growth has been fueled by increased numbers of transfer students from California community colleges. UC schools have intentionally stepped up efforts to recruit community college transfer students as they have responded to growing pressure from Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature to open access for more California residents.

In order to matriculate more in-state students, UC enacted caps on enrollment of out of state students. Also, as part of UC’s commitment to the California Master Plan for Higher Education, all California residents graduating in the top 9% of their high school or the top 9% of the state are guaranteed freshman admission to a UC campus, though not necessarily to their campus of choice. This is similar to UT Austin’s 6% law, which offers eligible in-state freshman applicants (in the top 6% of their class) auto-admission to Texas public colleges and universities.

A commitment to greater access for in-state residents has driven up application volume at the UCs but out of state students continue to benefit from higher rates of admission, as shown in a snapshot of Class of 2022 admit rates for both California residents and out of state students at a handful of top UC campuses:


Admit Rate – CA Resident Admit Rate – Out of State




Los Angeles



San Diego



Santa Barbara 29%


University of California admissions


Thinking about applying to one or more of the UCs this year? With one application, you can apply to as many of the 9 UC undergraduate campuses as you’d like:

Here are some key deadlines and details to keep in mind:

  • August 1: Application opens for fall 2019
  • November 1-30: Fall 2019 application filing period for all first year applicants (no early admission option at the UCs)
  • March 1: Notification of fall 2019 admissions decisions.


As an applicant to the UC system, you’ll need to answer 4 of 8 personal insight questions. Each response is limited to 350 words, so very doable.

What do you want UC to know about you? Here’s your chance to tell them in your own words. All questions are equal and are given equal consideration in the application review process, which means there is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain questions over others.

This year’s UC essay questions are as follows:

  1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.
  2. 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.
  3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  5. 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?
  6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
  7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  8. 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?

In addition to your personal statement, the UC admissions evaluation process considers the following:

  • Academic grade point average. Residents need a minimum 3.0 GPA; non-residents need a minimum 3.4 GPA with no grade lower than C.
  • The ACT with Writing or the SAT with Essay.
  • Evidence of going above and beyond in required academic courses.
  • Number of and performance in UC-approved honors courses, AP courses, IB Higher Level courses and transferable college courses. UC will grant honors weight to all AP and IB courses on your transcript, but not to other courses your school designates as “honors.”
  • Ranking in the top 9% of CA/your high school class at the end of junior year (in-state).
  • Quality of your senior year program, relative to available opportunities.
  • Outstanding performance in one or more specific area.
  • Special talents, achievements, awards; special interests, special skills; unusual promise for leadership and impact.
  • Location of your secondary school and residence.

Letters of recommendations are not required by the UC schools, so you will not be asked to submit any. Note that some campuses/majors may require letters of recommendation as part of a supplemental application review.

Are you California dreamin’? You’ll find lots more helpful tips and guidance online here.

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