What’s happening with college admissions?

Hello,

My son is a junior. His grades are currently all over the map— online learning is not ideal. He gets pretty decent grades but has skipped to Bs and Cs. He wants to get into a UC school but it’s not looking likely. Can anyone give a definitive answer as to what UC schools are asking for in terms of admissions during COVID? I’m not getting straight answers from admissions counselors as no one seems to know. The SAT is optional, grades are all over the place, clubs are difficult or not meeting, and extracurriculars are lacking. Kids are having a hard enough time with this pandemic—- so what do colleges want? 

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My understanding is that students need a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be admitted to a UC.

I’m not an admissions officer, but I think multiple 11th grade C’s might be difficult to overcome for a UC acceptance straight out of high school, even with the pandemic (except for football recruits and such, who are not held to the same academic standards). He may want to look at some CSU options or consider the community college transfer path. By design, it is much easier to get into UC from community college. It’s not unusual for kids who didn’t get into Merced out of high school to get into UCLA and Berkeley from a community college, if they get good grades there.  It’s a cost-effective path, too.  I’m sure he’d get into many private colleges as well — just not the most selective ones, which tend to also have the most aid dollars to give out.  If money is not an object, I’d consider those as well.  Many of them are very good schools, and he might find the right fit at one. In my opinion, it’s all about fit. Not going to UC straight from high school is not a disaster, and he might find the path he follows instead was the right one for him all along.  

The UC's look at grades, the answers to the personal insight questions, and extracurriculars.   He will more likely get into a UC's if he has a great answers to his personal insight questions and extracurriculars.  There are extracurriculars he can do even during COVID. He could do something related to childcare if both of you are ok with that during COVID.  If not, he could do virtual extracurriculars such as The summer ACLU high school program.  https://www.aclu.org/high-school-program  Many martial art studios and dance studios are giving virtual lessons.  He could create his own website and start a mini business.  He could help a small business with their social media. He could have a side business doing content creation. Here is a job that is a few volunteers hours a week through the United Nations https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en/think-tank-altercontacts/transcrib...  I would recommend that he try to get at least all B's but the schools do look at kids from all backgrounds. It all depends on motivation and how much he wants to make lemonade out of lemons.  Contact me for more information. 

I am not in admissions but it seems to me that the skills that one needs to succeed academically with online learning are similar to the skills one needs to succeed in college (assuming that the quality of instruction for online learning is not the problem). For example, prioritizing going to class and doing homework can be a challenge for a lot of first year college students who have more freedom now that they are on their own. Perhaps you should focus on building up whatever skills he needs to succeed now in his current learning environment. Then focus on finding an academic environment where he will succeed in college.

I don’t think anyone knows the clear answer to this question, as this is such an unprecedented year. This year’s grads/admissions may give you a glimpse of how UCs are prioritizing applications in the times of Covid.

In terms of extracurriculars, your teen could look into volunteer work that would support those hit hardest by Covid in our community. The Berkeley Food Pantry has a volunteer program (outdoor, socially distanced) and Berkeley High has organized a food assistance program, I think called HelpBerkeley. Many Berkeley High clubs are now online. There are letter writing campaigns for nonprofits that can be done from home. There’s social media work that can be done from home for nonprofits. Just some ideas ;)

my daughter is a senior this year and has been working a little with a college advisor, mostly on choosing where to apply and on her essays. The essays are going to count more in these years with no testing. Her essays really focused on the “insight” part of what they call the “personal insight questions”..... apparently they (UC) really wants to get a sense of the person and their character. And then the key is to throw in some information about who you are as a student as well. 
I would encourage you to look beyond the UCs. It is ridiculous what it takes to get in these days.....
But maybe these times of moving beyond test scores will be good for everyone. 

Your guess is as good as mine, but my son, who is a senior at a rigorous high school, has a 3.0 gpa and he did not apply to any UC’s. He felt he had a chance at Merced or maybe even Riverside, and decided he would rather apply to CSUs in locations more appealing to him, as well as less competitive out of state schools. I heard from a college counselor that you need at least a 3.7 to get into any UCs, except *possibly* Santa Cruz, Riverside, and Merced. It’s actually quite difficult to get into some CSUs, too, like San Diego and Long Beach with Cs pulling  down your GPA (my son has several). The good news is Bay Area kids get preference at the local CSUs, top 100 type schools outside of California are much less competitive for admission and community college in CA should be free! There is a school for everyone, and plenty of chances to turn things around along the way. It can’t hurt to apply to UCs, but your son would probably be happier if he broadened his options. 

My son is in community college (DVC in Pleasant Hill), where there is a TAG program.  You can automatically funnel into a UC.  Not Berkeley or UCLA, but maybe Davis or UCSC?  He's building confidence and skills there, while figuring out what he wants to do with his life. 

I work in education and I will tell you we don’t know what’s going on.  We can be told one thing in the morning and be told the exact opposite in the afternoon.  UC said it would no longer require SAT scores.  The issue UC and other schools are struggling with when it comes to grades is a A from one school/district is a C from another school or district.  With the UC and other colleges teaching most classes online and dorms at quarter capacity not as many students are applying which means UC and the other colleges can not be as selective as they were just a few years ago,  Then factor in the value and cost of a college educations.  We are finding high school students aren’t as motivated t attend college.

Having talked to the folks in admissions, the worst thing a parent can do is call the admissions office on behalf of their child. It indicates to the folks in admissions it is the parent, not the student, who wants them to go to college.  Huge red flag for admissions.  I’ve heard stories from admissions of “students” emailing the admissions office expressing their desire to study at the university.  The emails start in the first person and then change to “my daughter” or “my son” indicating it is the parent who is actually writing the email.   If you were in admissions would you accept a student who’s parents are doing all of the admissions work? Other thing to remember is we are still on the heels of the college admissions scandal.  Lori Loughlin going to prison this month.

Bottom line no one knows what’s happening.  And even if they are told, things will change.   I suspect it will be much easier to get into the UCs over then next five years or so as a result of covid.  

Best of luck, wear your mask properly and practice physical distancing not social distancing.