Last year, more than 221,000 students applied for admission to the University of California. Proper preparation and solid research can increase students’ chance of being admitted.

The Application: The University of California (UC) system-wide 2018-19 application has been available since August 1, but can only be filed between November 1 and November 30. All nine campuses (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz) share a common application and students can apply by creating an online account at 

The Requirements: California residents must have at least a 3.0 GPA (out-of-state students need a 3.4) in order to be considered for admission. Students must complete the application and show that they have met the A-G academic distribution requirements and also take either the ACT with Writing or the SAT with Essay by December of the senior year.

The Deadlines: The application filing period runs from November 1 through November 30 and applications cannot be submitted once the filing period ends. That doesn’t mean that students should wait until November to get started. The application has many components that need to be carefully completed, and that takes time.

The Research: While the University of California’s campuses share a single online application, the nine institutions differ greatly in terms of location, course offerings and student life, so students need to do the research needed to fully understand their options. For example, UC San Diego is comprised of 6 colleges that students rank in order of preference on the application.  must choose one of six colleges. All UC San Diego students can choose among the full spectrum university’s majors, but their college choices do impact core requirements as well as living and dining locations. Some colleges, programs and majors require additional information, testing and essays, so students do themselves a service by exploring the application as early as possible.

The Insights: The writing requirement for the UC applications is called the Insights, a series of shorter essays limited to 350 words each. Students choose to answer 4 of 8 Insights instead of writing a single longer essay. Each Insight prompt is designed to give the reader a deeper understanding of the student’s accomplishments, priorities, personalities and goals. Unlike the personal statements on the Common Application, the Coalition Application and most traditional college essays which are designed to evaluate how well students “show” their stories, the UC Insights are based on how well students “tell” their stories. Good writing is key to both, but in the UC insights, details win over descriptiveness. When they begin working on this section of the application, students should visit the Insights page of the UC application and download the Insights worksheet. 

The Fees: Even though the UCs share one application, students apply to individual campuses and pay a $70 application fee to each one. Applicants can request fee waivers when they complete the application and qualifying students can use fee waivers to apply to up to 4 UC campuses.

The Payoff: The University of California’s 9 undergraduate campuses offer a broad spectrum of majors and programs in environments that truly reflect the variety and beauty of the state. For California residents, the in-state tuition is an added benefit.  

The Alternative Route: Many students choose to enroll at a two-year college to earn an Associate of Arts (AA) degree before applying to the UC system to complete their Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. The UC system is committed to enrolling transfer students, including those from California’s community colleges — in fact, about 28,750 transfer students were offered admission last year. That’s a new record!

Now is the time for high school seniors to be planning for life after graduation. For many, getting started on all of their college applications is the first step.