How California does college admissions for state residents

by Grace

State residents must adhere to very specific requirements to gain admission into the University of California system.

First, they must complete a minimum of 15 specific college-preparatory courses, with at least 11 finished before senior year.  They must have a GPA of 3.0 or better in these courses with no grade below a C.  Additionally, they must take the ACT Plus Writing or the SAT Reasoning Test by December of senior year.

Top students are guaranteed admission to a UC school provided space is availabe.

If you’re a state resident who has met the minimum requirements and aren’t admitted to any UC campus to which you apply, you’ll be offered a spot at another campus if space is available, provided:

  • You rank in the top 9 percent of California high school students, according to our admissions index, or
  • You rank in the top 9 percent of your graduating class at a participating high school. We refer to this as “Eligible in the Local Context” (ELC).

If you click on the links in the two bullet point items above, you will see the details on calculating if a student qualifies under one of the two categories.  On first glance the process seems a bit complicated, but I’m sure most California high school students and their guidance counselors manage to figure it out.

Then there are two exceptions to minimum requirements allowing a student to be considered for admission, although it isn’t completely clear if these apply to state residents as well as out-of-state applicants.

Admission by exam:

If you don’t meet UC’s minimum requirements, you may be considered for admission to UC if you earn high scores on the ACT Plus Writing or SAT Reasoning Test and two SAT Subject Tests.

Admission by exception:

Sometimes even the most creative, focused and intellectually passionate students aren’t able to fulfill our admission requirements. Even these students have a chance to attend UC.

The three most selective UC schools are UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Irvine, in that order.  The number of out-of-state students allowed in the UC system is capped at 10%, recently increased from 6%.

California State Colleges
Admission to California State College schools is presumably less selective, but similarly structured with well-defined guidelines that also appear a bit complicated.  Students and their families can use the CSUMentor , a website designed to help “in  planning for college, in selecting the appropriate CSU campus to attend, in planning how to finance their education, and in applying for admission”.  Students as young as sixth grade can begin using the CSU Mentor to plan for admission to a California state school.

The California process is a sharp contrast to the one in New York, where the applications to state schools are not governed by such well-defined rules.

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