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By Elizabeth LaScala

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About this blog: I post articles to offer timely and substantive college admission guidance on important topics and issues. Originally from New York, I have a B.S. from Hunter College in NYC and advanced professional degrees from the University of...  (More)

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Dramatic Shift in the Way University of California Evaluates Our Students

Uploaded: Mar 8, 2011
The University of California announced major policy and admission requirement changes for students applying next year. These modifications should not change the way our students prepare for college. All college admissions offices are looking for bright and diverse students. Students should work hard in school and actively explore and demonstrate their interests both in and outside of the school environment. Although academic strength is important, each year every college tries to build a well-rounded freshman class that includes budding scientists, talented musicians and athletes, community-minded individuals as well as students hailing from all parts of the nation and the world.

Combined with some old misconceptions that persist around high school corridors, the changes to UC admission requirements can be somewhat confusing. Today's blog is meant to clarify the new UC admission requirements and point out how they affect students in our community.

Students Who Are Entitled to Comprehensive Review

All California high school seniors who fulfill 3 basic requirements will be entitled to a comprehensive review of their applications at each UC campus to which they apply. These requirements are:

Complete 15 UC-required college-preparatory courses (the "a – g" courses) with 11 of these completed prior to the start of 12th grade. Courses taken in summer after junior year will be considered as part of the application.
Maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better (based on a fully weighted academic GPA in these courses)
Submit scores from the ACT (with Writing) or the SAT Reasoning Test

In essence this policy means that all students who meet these 3 eligibility requirements will have their applications reviewed comprehensively by the UC campuses to which they apply; these students will compete with everyone else for available seats. A comprehensive review means each student's academic and personal accomplishments are assessed as well as the educational context in which these accomplishments were achieved.

Students Who Receive Guaranteed Admission

Among the applicants who are eligible for comprehensive review, two groups of students will be guaranteed admission. Students who are in the top 9 percent of their graduating class or students in the top 9 percent of all high school graduates (based on a fully weighted academic GPA) will be guaranteed a place at one of the UC campuses, although not necessarily to their first choice school. This is a substantial change in guaranteed admissions (up from the original 4 percent) and allows students in all high schools to focus on learning and doing well. It is intended to level the playing field and give more California students a greater opportunity to receive an offer of admission to a UC campus.

UC Drops SAT Subject Test Requirement

The UC used to require scores from the SAT or ACT as well as two SAT Subject Tests from different disciplines. The SAT Subject Tests are intensive one hour exams that assess a student's proficiency in a specific content area, such as history, biology or mathematics. The UC still requires students to take the SAT or ACT with Writing, but it has eliminated the SAT Subject Test requirement starting with students applying for fall 2012 admission.

Although our students are not required to take and submit scores from Subject Tests, they can still choose to submit Subject Test scores for consideration as part of the application. It is important to know that the UC may still recommend one or more Subject Tests for certain majors. For example, students who want to major in engineering may need to take the SAT Subject Test in math to demonstrate proficiency. Those who apply should carefully check requirements and recommendations for each major.

Students in our community often take 2 or even 3 SAT Subject Tests in different disciplines. This prepares them for competitive college admissions to both the UC and many other selective universities both nationally and internationally. Although some colleges have reduced or eliminated Subject Test requirements, many selective schools still require or strongly recommend them. For example, Georgetown University strongly recommends three Subject Tests and MIT requires two.

One reason the UC system eliminated the SAT Subject Test requirement is because studies indicate that students from certain backgrounds are less likely to take Subject Tests. The UC decided not to hamper applications from these students. That does not change the fact that Subject Test scores give schools another objective way to make academic assessments. If a student attends a high school where relevant coursework is available (e.g. AP and honors classes in subject areas covered by SAT Subject tests) and the student has the resources (e.g., time, motivation, money) to prepare for and take the exams, good scores will add value to the college application.

For more detailed information on undergraduate admission requirements visit http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/admissions and check under freshman admission.

Elizabeth LaScala, Ph.D. is an educational consultant and certified college admission advisor. Her goal is to help freshman applicants as well as transfer students and their families understand the admissions process, research college and career options, create a balanced college list and submit strong and cohesive applications. She is familiar with local high schools and has guided three daughters through the college admissions process in addition to more than 300 clients. Dr. LaScala is an active member of NACAC, WACAC, and HECA and earned a certification in College Admissions and Career Planning from University of California at Berkeley. Contact her at (925) 891-4491 or elizabeth@doingcollege.com.

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