Applying to and Attending the UCs

Archived Responses: 

Questions  

    Less than stellar grades - is UC an option?

    March 2013

    My son, a BHS student, and young for his class, is finally getting better grades now that he is in his junior year. I expect he may end up with a 3.2 or 3.3. A UC is most likely out of reach for him, so he is thinking about business at some of the following CSUs: Fullerton, Northridge & San Diego.

    One of the things that has been consistent from childhood and beyond is that he is a good actor and has been involved in lots of local theatre and has done some film work and voice-overs as well. He would like to keep that up in college. He did like UC Irvine when we visited for a sibling, which does have theatre, but the question is, with his acting, would he have any hope of getting in? Would love any feedback on the above schools as well, and if you have a child attending that would be willing to chat with my son, we would be so grateful. Please mail me directly. Thanks very much!


    Hi there! I was a little confused by your question. Your son is going to have a 3.2/3.3 GPA and you think he will probably end up at a CSU. That's likely, but he should try the UC application process just in case.

    So are you wondering if his acting skills would help him get into a UC? I think you should be checking with the drama departments to see about that. For example, at UCLA, there is an audition process for their drama department. I don't know whether being accepted into the drama department means you can get accepted to the school, however. In other words, the drama department may love you, but I don't know if that means UCLA will automatically let you in the door for a degree. So: ask the departments yourself, to make sure you get the best information. You might also be able to find this out online on the colleges' and departments' websites.

    And as an aside, my daughter is a drama major at SJSU and very happy there


    .CSU's and UC's: really graduate in 4 years?

    April 2011

    My son has been accepted to a variety of schools and we are now wondering which schools of the ones he likes will be the most economical. Does anyone out there know if you can really get your classes and graduate at CalPoly and/or UC Santa Cruz in 4 years? He has been accepted to a few privates with aid but they run a bit over the UC tuition for us, so it wouldn't be worthwhile unless the others really don't let a student get the classes needed to graduate. CalPoly would be the cheapest and he likes it, and he could take some city college classes in the summer. I'm just wondering if it's hype or true or not, and if anyone has experience with these two schools in particular.


    Our well-respected private college counselor told us to expect it to take five years if our son selected a UC or CSU school. I don't have any other experience, but wanted to share her opinion. We are taking it seriously. Remember that much of this worry is due to current and expected budget cuts, so the experience of kids just who graduated, for instance, may not be as relevant. They attended under a different budgetary situation. Best of luck with it. It sure doesn't make the decision any easier! Anne


    YES. Your son can definitely graduate in 4 years from either UC Santa Cruz or Cal Poly SLO. This is a reasonable question given the horrible budget reductions looming at both UC and CSU. But Santa Cruz and Cal Poly are still great deals and the students lucky enough to be admitted will get excellent educations.

    UC has a very good record on graduation rate and time-to-degree. At UC overall, the majority of students graduate in 4 years or 4 year plus one quarter and 80% graduate in 5 years or less. For students who take longer than 4 years, the issue is generally not an inability to get classes but rather a desire to take more classes than the minimum needed--for example because a student is completing a double major, is taking additional courses to help prepare for graduate work, or was away from the campus for a term or more studying abroad or whatever. This is not to say that individual students don't have frustrating moments trying to get into a needed course. (I'm sure at least one UC parent will write in with a horror story.) But students who persevere (register for classes early, put themselves on waiting lists, appeal to professors, and try again if closed out the first time) and are flexible (willing to take an 8:00 a.m class!) can generally get what they need.

    At CSU, the picture is a little different: courses can be tough to get into, graduation rates are much lower, and many people take longer. But Cal Poly is not a typical CSU--its stats look a lot like a UC campus. There are a number of factors at work here: the drive and preparation levels of students matters a lot and they tend to be high at UC and at specialized CSU campuses like Cal Poly; additionally the culture at private institutions and UC/Cal Poly has an expectation that students will graduate in 4 years (less true at many CSUs). And don't forget the price effect: data shows that the more expensive an institution is, the more motivated students (and their parents!) are to finish on time.

    My guess is that unless you are getting great financial aid offers from the private institutions you're looking at, UC or (especially) Cal Poly will be less expensive. And the best way to ensure your son does well in school is to send him to the place he really wants to go. Congratulations on having these options--as budget reductions shrink the size of public education in California, they will be available to fewer and fewer students. Higher Ed expert


    Our student is graduating within 4 years at UCSC. It means being on top of your requirements. If necessary taking summer classes or student abroad options for credit will help add up the necessary credits. But when you consider the difference in tuition at a UC over private ''splurging'' on a summer abroad course may be affordable as well as a great experience.

    Will this get harder? Anyone's guess. But if you read catalogs carefully you will find it is also fairly common to take 5 years at a private school which may also have many requirements and not offer enough sections to cover the demand. At $35 to $50K per year - that is an even bigger ''ouch'' if money is a consideration. Depending on the private school and how rigid the degree you still need to stay on top of the requirements to graduate.

    UCSC students can take classes at any UC in the summer ( unless this changes )- even Berkeley - and there are transfer options within the UC system if Santa Cruz is not his first choice. Though Santa Cruz is a stunning Campus and the Administrators and Staff provide a lot of service. Read over the website carefully for all the options and requirements. Good luck. Banana Slug MOM


    Curious about rankings for the UCs

    April 2010

    Hello, I recently read a letter in the Teens Newsletter that referred to UC San Diego as a ''mid tier UC'' campus. This made me wonder (I've been out of college for *many* years!) - how does one find out about the ''rankings'' of the various UC campuses? Even State colleges? Which UC campuses are ''top tier'', if UCSD is ''mid tier''? What are the other ''mid tier'' UC's? And, mostly, where is this information derived from? Thanks much for the assistance. Curious about UC rankings


    Rankings depend on what the campus is being ranked on. Berkeley and UCLA are usually the hardest to get in to, while Riverside and Merced are the easiest to get into, so UCSD etc are in the middle. That might be one ranking.

    Another way might be some measure of faculty quality, student faculty ratio, social engagement, funding, etc. You can look at various things online for students thinking of applying.

    I think it is best to match the student to the kinds of majors, the atmosphere, whether or not they have friends there, extracurricular opportunities, cost, etc, rather than by some sort of ranking. Also, students will have a very different experience in college and afterwards depending on the major they choose, and that is more important than one UC.

    Here at Cal, the forestry major and other small majors provide more opportunity to interact with faculty and other students, while larger majors could be alienating for some students. Clubs and extracurricular activities can also provide a student with a home. In almost any major you are able, with planning, to fulfill the requirements for the graduate or professional career of your choice, including law and medicine. My undergrad major at UCSD was obscure and had 2 students in it. I am friends with faculty members there to this day, and now I am a professor in an unrelated topic at UCB. My doctor majored in French Literature. Pick the place your kid will like. been there


    It really depends on the department. At some of the less prestigious UCs the departments are higher ranked than at the more prestigious ones. Also, just because a department is ranked top in the UCs doesn't mean it's number one for undergraduates. The faculty might get the most grants and have the most awards, but percentage wise, only a small number of undergraduates may go on to top ranked graduate schools. In fact, it may only be at the graduate level that the department lives up to its rank. Anon