The Enigma of the Local Context

For Fall 2021 first year applicants, earning the academic designation, Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) for University of California (UC) admissions, may be more difficult than in past years. Given the Spring 2020 implementation of Pass/No Pass grading systems, thus the loss of a semester’s worth of letter grades for GPA calculations, Class of 2021 seniors’ GPA’s could be lower than the ELC standard set for their high school. 

The UC recognizes the top 9% of graduating seniors in their high school class as ELC. While ELC status does not guarantee admissions to the UC system or a particular UC campus, applicants are recognized for their academic achievements as part of their evaluation. 

One of the 14 Comprehensive Review points specifically cites ELC status:

Identification by UC as being ranked in the top 9 percent of their high school class (“eligible in the local context,” or ELC).

UC Counselors, ELC

Yet, since Grade Point Average (GPA) is a criteria for earning ELC designation:  

To be designated as ELC, a student must have attended an eligible, participating California high school, satisfactorily completed a specific pattern of 11 UC-approved courses prior to the start of senior year, and have a UC-calculated GPA that meets or exceeds the top 9 percent GPA benchmark established by UC for their school.

To maintain the ELC status, the student must satisfy the general admissions requirements including the successful completion of the 15 required “a-g” courses, maintain a 3.0 GPA and submit an official copy of ACT with Writing or SAT Reasoning Test scores.

University of California Office of the President, Eligibility in the Local Context (Bold emphasis added by CMC)

Yet, GPA’s may be lower than expected for Fall 2021 applicants who attend high schools which instituted Pass/No Pass grading policies in Spring 2020 as a response to the COVID-disruption of education. The UC has publicly stated that “Pass” marks cannot be calculated into a GPA.

To give further context, the comparison GPA for individual high schools is:

…a historic, or benchmark, GPA representing the expected GPA for the top 9 percent of the students from each school.

Schools are periodically requested to submit transcripts so that we can monitor — and reset, if necessary — their benchmark GPA.

University of California Office of the President, Eligibility in the Local Context (Bold emphasis added by CMC)

Thus, every Class of 2021 senior’s GPA will compared to previous classes of seniors who had six full semesters of academic grades to formulate their GPA versus the potentially five semesters of grades for Class of 2021 seniors. 

After much research, I have not been able to disprove my working hypothesis, which is that those Class of 2021 high school seniors who were evaluated with Pass/No Pass marks in Spring 2020, may not be designated ELC. Applicants should consult with their high school counselor to better understand if they could be affected by the change to Pass/No Pass marks, or contact the UC ELC program staff directly for their guidance. 

For more information about how Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, a proud University of California alumna, helps families navigate the complex college admissions process, contact her at Creative Marbles Consultancy

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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