Expert tips in completing the UC application

August 19, 2014

Two years ago, one of my students was accepted to UC San Diego with the SAT score of 1470 (out of 2400) and 4 C’s in his transcript. He gladly accepted the offer to attend UCSD and he is entering his junior year this year.

Chungsok Lee graduated from Harvard with Ph.D. degree in physics. He currently runs a college admission consulting company called Ivy Dream.

Chungsok Lee graduated from Harvard with Ph.D. degree in physics. He currently runs a college admission consulting company called Ivy Dream.

His SAT score and GPA were far below the average of those who were accepted to UCSD in any year. His admission success defied the beliefs that UC admission is solely based on academic merits. Although his success is atypical, he is not the only student making what seems improbable possible.

Most people in general believe that University of California (UC) campuses accept students solely based on school academic records commonly referred as GPA (Grade Point Average) and SAT scores.

While it is true that a student with high GPA and high SAT scores has a better chance of getting accepted to a good college including many UC’s, many students with sub par grades and/or lower SAT scores have been and will be accepted to UC campuses thanks to its admission policy called “Comprehensive Review.”

It has been over 10 years since UC adapted such an admission review policy. UC admission website states the following to describe its admission practice: “Using a process called comprehensive review, evaluators look beyond test scores and grades to evaluate applicants’ academic achievements in light of the opportunities available to them and the capacity each student demonstrates to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus.”

Students must realize what factors and qualities a college looks for when it evaluate their applications. By understanding its admission practice, students can better prepare during their high school life and may have an edge against other students when it comes to admission.

What UC’s comprehensive review policy implies is that UC’s will take into account of other factors such as special talents, socioeconomic background, and how the students overcame the challenges they have faced in their respective lives. To put it another way, UC wants to provide admission opportunities to those who have done the most they could under their given circumstances.

More than ever, socioeconomic background is becoming a huge factor in UC admission with the newly implemented Eligibility Local Index a few years ago. For those who are not familiar with this term, it means that California residents who rank in the top 9 percent of each high school are guaranteed a spot in one of the UC campuses. Clearly, the students coming from more competitive school districts get disadvantaged in UC admission because it is more difficult to be ranked top 9 percent in a more competitive school.

Then, what can you possibly do in order to boost your chance of admission at UC’s or any other colleges?

No matter which high school you come from or what background you may have, you can always boost your chance of admission by challenging yourself and by making the most of every opportunity given in your environment. If you have a few more years in high school, don’t take the easy path! Take more challenging classes, find opportunities to get involved in school activities, join clubs, take initiatives to lead others by taking leadership positions, and most importantly find your passion in something that you genuinely care about. Your passion can be shown through an activity or in a school subject. Not only in UC admission, passion is one of the most important student qualities in any college admission, yet most students do not possess or show enough of it when they apply to colleges. As the college guidance counselor, I can confidently say that a student that can demonstrate passion in something will always have a better chance in gaining admission to a college than others who don’t. If you are not applying for a college this year, you still have time to develop this passion. Make sure to find your passion and pursue it until you write your college application in later years.

If you are one of the students who are applying to colleges this year, make sure you carefully answer each question in completing the UC application. Completing the UC application is far from easy because UC asks the students to put in all information by themselves. Because UC’s do not ask for recommendation letters nor official transcripts to be sent from high school, students are required to enter entire high school records correctly by themselves. Because entering false information in grades or test scores may result in revoking of admission, students must carefully enter all required information onto the UC application without making any mistakes. Here are some of the tips in completing the UC application.

1. Don’t boast about your socioeconomic status or excellent living environment. If your parents are successful, admission officers expect more from you.

2. Spend plenty of time completing extracurricular activity section and essays. Along with school grades and SAT scores, these are very important parts of your application. With good activities and well-executed essays, your chance of admission improves.

3. For activities and essay sections, make sure you use all spaces given!

4. If your parents have very high income, you don’t have to write the figure on the application. Entering income is completely optional. You should skip it! Again, the more your parents make, the more they will expect you to do better. On the contrary, if your parents have low income, be sure to enter it!

Visit Ivy Dream at or call 213-245-1662 for more information.

One Comment

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