Note: a negative number in the last column represents less overall applicants admitted as Freshmen to the UC campus.
Most all of us can recall a story of the 4.0+GPA earning, 2000+SAT scoring, class president for 4 years, started and is running a charity in Ghana, India and Brazil, plus helps little old ladies across the street, while playing 3 Varsity sports a year (of which s/he is a 4 year Captain & MVP of each team) who was NOT admitted to the University of California (UC) campus of her/his choice. While the admissions selectivity at UCLA, Cal Berkeley and even UC San Diego may be expected, when the same previously described “uber-student” is denied admissions to Santa Barbara or Davis or Irvine, more than heads are scratched and shaken side to side, a loud utterance or two may follow–prompting arm-chair college admissions speculation about what qualities are needed to be admitted to the UC. A closer look at what the numbers in the above table represent may shed some light on both acceptances and denials.
Yield is the percentage expected to actually enroll after being accepted. A greater likelihood exists amongst those admitted to UCLA and Cal Berkeley to actually enroll, or what the UC calls the SIR Rate. (SIR stands for “Statement of Intent to Register” which an admitted student returns alongside a deposit to declare their commitment to attend school at the UC campus in the Fall.) For Fall 2012, UCLA reported a yield of 36.9%, while Cal Berkeley reported a 40.4%. By contrast, the next highest yield in the UC system was UC Davis at 24.5% and UC Irvine at 22.6%.
In addition to yield, enrollment numbers from previous years can impact admissions for the incoming class. If a UC campus is overenrolled, then less students may be admitted, due to space limitations. The conversely, if a UC campus is under-enrolled, admissions may admit greater numbers of students.
Each applicant is reviewed by each UC campus separately, based on grades, SAT/ACT scores, types of classes taken during high school (i.e. Advanced Placement, College Prep, Honors), self-reported leadership activities and the essays. Two evaluators read the application in its entirety and independent of each other, before making their own judgement of the applicant’s admissions status–acceptance or denial–at each UC campus, where the student applied. When thousands of applications are being read from December through March, all with similar qualifications for admissions, admissions evaluators may be parsing the minute details between two candidates, who’re both “uber-students” as described in the opening paragraph, leaving room for subjectivity.
Increasing Numbers of Applications
With the exception of UC Davis, every other UC campus experienced a double digit percentage increase in the numbers of applications received for Fall 2013. The UC system as a whole experienced a 19.1% increase in the number of single applications received, before accounting that one application may be sent to multiple UC campuses. With more students applying and more students seeming on paper to look like the “uber-student” described in the opening paragraph, all UC campuses can been more choosey and thus, seem more subjective in admissions decision making.
While the UC system implemented a wait-list several years back, how and if candidates from the wait-list are admitted is a campus by campus, and varies from year to year. Generally, wait-listed candidates are considered when the yield (see above) is not as expected for Fall enrollment.
Berkeley has not implemented a wait-list for applicants; however, offers admissions for spring enrollment to candidates each year, coupled with the opportunity to take UC Berkeley extension classes and live in the residence halls starting in Fall through the Fall Freshman Experience Program.
The decision making for UC admissions can be a multi-layered, complex process, that may seem subjective–to both those accepted and those denied admissions. Woven into the complicated admissions process are the hopes and dreams of the 139,758* UC system-wide applicants and their families and communities. These already charged circumstances and somewhat opaque admissions process are capped off with months of waiting and anxious speculation by each applicant. By March and April when admissions decisions are released, the potential for disappointment and exuberance may be barely contained. No one wants to be told, “No,” and everyone wants to be able to tell a college, “Thanks, but no thanks.” So, the quest for answers, especially when denied, is normal, but may not ultimately be satisfied.
(*Note: 139,758 represents the number of total applications received by the UC system, BEFORE accounting for the number of individual campuses applied to per application.)