Understanding the UC (University of California) Schools System

Also in: 简中 (Simplified Chinese) 繁中 (Traditional Chinese)

Schools in the University of California (UC) system have always been some of the most popular college choices for high schoolers all over the world. The UC’s also include many prestigious institutions on the annual US News rankings, and are widely regarded as the best public school system in the nation. This post is an overview of the UC system and serves as a directory for those who are interested in applying to any of the UC schools.

How Many UC’s Are There?
There are a total of 10 schools in the UC system, but only 9 of them offer undergraduate admissions. The exception is UC San Francisco, a major center of medical and biological research and one of the top institutions in the biomedical field.

How Big Are the UC’s?
With the exception of UC Merced (est. 2005), the other 8 UC’s each have at least 20,000 undergraduates, with a total of nearly 240,000 students. In 2017, UCLA became the first school in history to have 100,000 applications in a year. The increasing size of the UC’s has led some some problems recently, as students often complain about not being able to sign up for classes or the lack of housing options near the campus. On a positive note, students at the UC’s are generally liberal-minded and open to ideas and diversity, and have a wide variety of classes to choose from.

How Hard Is It To Get In?
The table below shows some basic information about the Class of 2022:

School Name
(by acceptance rate)
Middle 50% SATMiddle 50% ACTAverage GPA (4.0 scale)Acceptance Rate
UC Berkeley1330-153029-343.7715%
UCLA1240-149025-333.7218%
UC Santa Barbara1240-147026-323.6533%
UC San Diego1250-147026-323.7034%
UC Irvine1170-141024-303.6337%
UC Davis1120-136025-313.6744%
UC Santa Cruz1160-137024-303.5651%
UC Riverside1090-130023-293.5057%
UC Merced1020-123018-233.4361%

Reputation, Rankings, and Comparisons
From the table above, it is not difficult to see that both Berkeley and UCLA are considered very competitive to get into. They are top-tier institutions with a strong emphasis on research, and are highly ranked in almost every college ranking. As of 2018, UC Berkeley has 107 Nobel laureates, the third highest in the world behind Harvard and University of Cambridge. Along with its undergraduate training, UCLA has a strong medical school, business school, as well as education graduate school and fine arts programs. Other schools in this tier include Cornell, USC, and Northwestern.

UCSB, UCSD, Irvine, and Davis are very similar to one another in terms of reputation and rankings. In recent years, all of them have attracted more applicants worldwide and, as a result, are having a lower acceptance rate. Some schools that can be compared to these four colleges include NYU, Boston University, University of Washington, and Northeastern.

UCSC, Riverside, and Merced are slightly less competitive to the other UC’s, but still require a decent SAT/ACT score and GPA. They each have popular majors and programs and have attracted a growing applicant pool in the past decade. Similar schools include UMass Amherst, American University, Michigan State, and Indiana University.

Which UC Should I Apply To?
As you fill out your UC Application, you would need to indicate which school(s) to which you are applying. Obviously, this decision varies based on your test scores and high school GPA, but there is certainly no need to apply to every UC “just in case.” One additional school means an additional $70 application fee, so you should set your targets while making sure that you have enough safety schools as well. Use the table above for reference, and do more research on non-academic factors such as the environment, clubs, and internship opportunities. If possible, don’t hesitate to join a campus tour or reach out to alumni for assistance!

Also in: 简中 (Simplified Chinese) 繁中 (Traditional Chinese)

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