If you have been planning to submit an application to the University of California system, now is the time to submit it. The University of California system accepts applications for freshman and transfer admissions during it’s filing period, a one month window from November 1 until November 30. The application is simpler than the common application in some ways: it doesn’t require recommendations or even transcripts. The responsibility, therefore, for completing the application correctly and in a timely manner rests entirely with the applicant.
Despite its outward ease, there are some challenges, particularly for students who have not attended high school in California. As an out of state student, completing each of the transcript requirements can be confusing and daunting. Does this class count? Does that one? In the end, the University of California system wants to give the student the benefit of the doubt. For some students, the systemwide requirements for world history and art don’t mesh with their high school curriculum. The University of California requires one full year of art. If your high school doesn’t offer such courses, your transcript should show two sequential semester (or three trimester) courses in the same discipline (drawing, painting, music) to fulfill this requirement. If you are struggling to locate the correct courses in your high school, look to a local community college; you can satisfy a full year high school course requirement with a single semester course at community college.
With so many students applying to the system, the personal statements, with a maximum (and enforced) length of 1000 words combined, are important to providing context for your academic achievement.
Prompt #1: Describe the world you come from – for example, your family, community or school – and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Prompt #2: Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
It helps to think about these two prompts in concert with one another. Allow them to highlight and clarify different aspects of your life and your application. In both cases, use specific examples and spend a portion of your essay reflecting on how these environments or experiences have impacted you. A clear concise example will make the strongest impression on the admissions reader.
As an out of state or international applicant, gaining acceptance to the some of the California campuses can be quite difficult. Consider the strengths of each campus and apply broadly.
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as an Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.