Exploring the University of California

The University of California system is considered one of the best state university systems in the U.S.A. Four out of the ten campuses of the University of California colleges featured in the list of top 25 on Forbes’ 2023 America’s Top Colleges list. At #5 was The University of California Berkeley, at #7 The University of California, Los Angeles, The University of California, San Diego at #21, and the University of California, Santa Barbara at #24.

John A. Douglass, a senior research fellow in public policy and higher education at Berkeley observes, “Historically, California has been viewed as an alternative to the more rigid social world of the East Coast, and its elite private universities, that has brought talent to UC and the state.” According to The State Higher Education Finance report of 2022,  1.6 million Californians attended one of the state’s schools.

The University of California system

The nine UC colleges are UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced. These are large public research universities that include Graduate and Undergraduate students. The total number of students enrolled is more than 295,000 and 24,500 faculty members.UC Merced, opened in 2005 which makes it the newest entrant in the UC system. Its enrollment is around 8,000 undergraduates. In contrast, UCLA has the largest undergraduate enrollment of more than 30,000.

The UC system founded in 1869, scores extremely high marks for its STEM and humanities programs. The proximity to vibrant cities like Los Angeles and San Diego which are beautiful, diverse, and economically important states makes these institutions highly coveted for aspiring scholars. The academic prowess of these institutions is the multi-billion-dollar research centers fostering innovation and discovery across disciplines. Hence it is not surprising that these colleges have a low acceptance rate. In 2023 the University of California announced the number of applications it had received for fall 2023 was a total of 245,768 including 206,405 for freshman admission and 39,363 applications for transfer admission.

The acceptance rate of the 2022-23 admission cycle. 

School Acceptance Rate
UC Los Angeles | UCLA 9%
UC Berkeley 11%
UC Irvine 21%
UC San Diego | UCSD 24%
UC Santa Barbara | UCSB 26%
UC Davis 37%
UC Santa Cruz | UCSC 47%
UC Riverside 69%
UC Merced 89%

SAT/ACT Policy

In May 2020, “The University of California Board of Regents” unanimously voted to stop requiring the ACT and SAT as part of admissions applications. This remains unchanged for the current year. So, the good news is that if you’re applying to a UC school, you won’t have to submit your ACT or SAT scores. As a result, The UC system received a total of 249,855 applications for the fall of 2021, the highest number of applications in its history. This has also contributed to the application process becoming extremely competitive.

Applying to the UC system

The UCs have their application portal where you can apply to all nine campuses. You also have the option to choose which one you would not want to apply to. There is an application fee of  $70 and UC will only waive the application of up to four colleges. The application portal is divided into the following categories

  • Start Your Application
  • Campuses & Majors
  • About You
  • Academic History
  • Activities & Awards
  • Test Scores
  • Personal Insight

It would help if you researched the colleges thoroughly before making any decision. Determining the factors that matter to you the most, will help you rationalize your college list. Whether it is the major you want to study, the campus culture, or the location.  For example, UC Davis and UC Merced are good options if you prefer a rural environment.  For the beach lovers, UCSB, UC Santa Cruz, or UCSD are excellent options. If being in Northern California is your preference, you should consider UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced, and UC Davis. Ivy Central has a host of previous blogs about individual colleges of the UC system. You can make these your starting point for research.

Essay prompts of UCs

There are eight personal insight questions and an applicant has to choose to answer any four. The questions range from understanding if you have undertaken any leadership roles in school, or if you have overcome any educational barrier to a creative and curious side of your personality. These essays form a critical matrix that boosts your admission chances. Crafting these essays helps you paint a picture of your authentic self, your academic aspirations, and your value systems that form a cohesive bond with the community in which you will study. Writing Essays for the University of California | Ivy Central

At Ivy Central, we firmly believe in harnessing the immense power of personalized support by identifying students’ academic strengths, interests, and career goals. Working with us will enhance your chances of getting admitted to top-tier institutions since we prepare you for college admissions throughout your high school years. Start today!

You may also like to read:

University of California, San Diego | Ivy Central

University of California, Irvine | Ivy Central

University of California, Davis | Ivy Central

University of California, Santa Barbara | Ivy Central

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) | Ivy Central

What is University of California UC Berkeley Known for? | Ivy Central


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