Tips on Attending a University of California

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Tips on Attending a University of California

Is your kid dreaming of attending a University of California? Is UCLA, Berkeley, or Santa Barbara on the list?  Are you? Well, it might be a good idea to put some other schools on the college list because the challenge persists for students to gain admission to a UC school.

Once again, in the fall of 2016, UCLA and Cal were the hardest schools to get into. Berkeley admitted the lowest number of applicants, 17.5%, and UCLA admitted 18%. Both universities are considered highly selective, a designation given to those that admit less than 25% of their applicants. UC San Diego and Santa Barbara tie for third with an admit rate of 35.9%. The total UC enrollment figures, for fall 2016, show that UC added more than 7,500 additional California resident undergraduates that year.

Additionally, the California State University lists six campuses (Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, San Diego, San Jose and now San Luis Obispo) as impacted campus-wide for all majors, meaning it can take students longer to graduate because they can’t get the classes they need or are unable to declare their major in a timely manner. Similarly, community colleges, while a potential budget friendly option, are good for students who want to transfer in two years, have a clear major in mind, know the school they want to transfer to, and follow the Transfer Agreement to a tee.  Going to community college is not a breeze if you are not prepared academically and find yourself taking remedial classes (that don’t count towards your major) because you couldn’t pass the required English and math placement exams. There are certificate programs that are worth looking into however.

Reading this raises the anxiety and worry level for parents and students determined to go to a four-year university out of high school. So if you’re approaching the college search, take note of these tips:

1) Be honest. Look at your child’s academic ability and be realistic. If your student is taking regular classes, with maybe one or two honors/AP classes and pulling a 3.0-3.5 GPA then she may not destined for a highly selective school (and that may mean a UC)! Meeting the “a-g requirements” only makes a student eligible to apply to a UC. Today, students have to exceed the course curriculum for potential admission. More than ever students need a range of schools—Reach, Competitive, and Good Bet— of where they plan to apply.

2) Get organized, the sooner the better. Be there to help guide your teen but don’t do the work for them. The focus is about helping your teen find a college that will work for them. Two books that can be good to start with are: “The Best 381 Colleges” compiled and published annually by Princeton Review and “Colleges That Change Lives,” by Loren Pope. You can even review the schools on the list at the CTCL website.

3) Discuss finances and establish a budget your family can handle. Share this information with your child so he will know what is in reach financially. No sense applying to a school that costs upwards of $50K/year if the family budget can’t take it, with or without loans, grants or work study aid. However, keep in mind that private schools give merit aid, if your child exceeds the academic norm of students usually admitted but those dollars are finite and are never guaranteed but you won’t know that unless you apply and get accepted. Proverbial catch 22 at work.

4) Relax. At least try to. Living with teens is stressful enough (and I’m sure they’d agree we’re not so fun either). The college search and application process is an added stress but only more so if you listen to the parent gossip and misinformation surrounding college acceptances. Stay away from those conversations and encourage your child to do the same.

The importance of a balanced college list cannot be overstated. There are hundreds of colleges where your child can get an excellent education (and sometimes without knocking themselves out—and the family—with overloaded academic schedules and the stress that goes along with that). The trick is to have an open mind and to be willing to cast a wide net.

Source: University of California Admissions

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