California Dreamin': An Update on the UC

California Dreamin': An Update on the UC

Rhody Davis
Director of College Counseling
Viewpoint School

With nine undergraduate campuses throughout the state, the University of California is a higher-ed gem. Founded in 1869, the UC offers 150 academic disciplines and serves nearly 239,000 students. This past year, of the 166,000 or so students who applied, 64% were admitted, making the system accessible to a majority of applicants. 

The application process for the UC has unique requirements. Students will use one application for all nine campuses, self-report high school course work and grades, and file during the November 1-30 application period. New this year are the Personal Insight Questions, which replace the 1,000 word, two-essay Personal Statement that was required in the past. Students now need to submit up to 350 words on four of eight prompts. The UC believes that these more targeted questions will allow admission officers to get to know students better.

While the Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego campuses tend to be the most selective, each campus offers excellent academic and social opportunities. Below are some highlights from each campus:

Berkeley—Incoming freshmen may elect to join the Fall Program for Freshmen, designed to ease the transition to the large university by offering a smaller learning environment with closer connections to faculty, peers, and advisors. They call it “a small, liberal arts college within a larger research university.”

Davis—Although its highly celebrated programs in veterinary science, agriculture, and engineering are world-renowned, UCD will have seven museums after opening the new Manetti Shrem Museum in November 2016. It will house the UC Davis Fine Arts Collection, which includes works by legendary painter and UCD Professor Emeritus Wayne Thiebaud.

Irvine—An innovative program to attract STEM students to the teaching profession, UCI CalTeach leads students to a math or science bachelor’s degree with a secondary teaching credential in four years.

Los Angeles—Last year, UCLA announced a new four-year B.A. in Film, Television, and Digital Media within its School of Theater, Film and Television. Complementing TFT programs is the first-of-its-kind Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment (SIE), “dedicated solely to advancing the power of entertainment and performing arts to inspire social change. 

Merced—The first public research university created in the 21st century, UC Merced is one to watch. Its 2020 Project, a four-year plan to double the physical capacity of the campus, will allow more students to take advantage of brand-new facilities. UC President Janet Napolitano said, “UC Merced, the youngest campus in our system, is poised to become a model for our other campuses as we look for the most efficient ways to construct, operate and maintain facilities that enable us to pursue our teaching, research and public service missions.”

Riverside—Opening California’s first new medical school in 40 years, UCR is a great place for pre-med undergraduates. Programs such as Future Physician Leaders, Medical Scholars Program, and Health Professions Advising Center are pipelines to the UCR School of Medicine.

San Diego—The College System that includes six residential colleges makes UCSD, a larger research university, more community-oriented. Each college differs by educational philosophy and structure, so students need to research them and rank their preferences on the application.

Santa Barbara—The College of Creative Studies is “a graduate school for undergraduates” at UCSB that highlights creativity in arts and sciences interdisciplinary learning. Students major in one of eight areas and take specific CCS classes that are smaller and offer more individualized attention. CCS requires an additional application.

Santa Cruz—Home to the fearsome Banana Slugs, UCSC takes advantage of its location near Silicon Valley to form industry, academia and government partnerships including with NASA, Google, and Cisco Systems.

The UC campuses offer top academic programs that capitalize on location, talented, faculty, and graduate schools. Perhaps most notably, the UC is one of the best values in higher education.  

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