PUBLISHED: December 14, 2017 at 11:30 am | UPDATED: March 23, 2018 at 12:47 pm
More than 221,000 students applied for undergraduate admission to the University of California for next fall, shattering records for the 13th straight year and fueling concerns that qualified students won’t have a shot at getting into the campus of their choice.
Five of the campuses received more than 100,000 applications each, as students apply to more and more schools — some more than two dozen — out of fear their top choices won’t say yes.
“A lot of us are scared we’re going to get rejected,” said 17-year-old Melissa Burger, of Hayward, who is applying to about a dozen schools, including six UCs, and that’s typical among her friends.
UC got 119,626 freshman applications from high school seniors in California and 34,347 applications from students hoping to transfer from California community colleges.
The figures, released Thursday by the UC Office of the President, show a 5.7 percent overall increase in applications from last year, with each of the nine campuses that educate undergraduates posting gains — ranging from 4.6 percent at Berkeley to 12.4 percent at Riverside.
The most popular campuses among California residents are UCLA, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara.
UC declined to make an official available for a phone interview.
But Stephen Handel, associate vice president of undergraduate admissions, said in a statement: “Marked increases in California applicants from throughout the state and from a range of backgrounds demonstrate that the university’s efforts to get the word out about the accessibility of a UC education are clearly paying off.”
Yet many of the schools aren’t particularly accessible to students. After rising in 2016 by more than 15 percent, the number of in-state freshmen admitted for this fall dropped 1.7 percent.
It’s unclear what the admission rate will be for next fall, but the rate for in-state students at Berkeley in 2017 was 19.7 percent. At UCLA, it was just 14.6 percent, well below the overall 23.3 percent admission rate for out-of-state students.
“Enrollment is not keeping pace with applications now,” said Wei-Li Sun, a UC Berkeley graduate who now helps students apply for admission to UC. “There’s not enough room for students.”
Sun said some of the students she advise now apply to as many as 25 schools to try to maximize their chances of getting into a highly ranked university. And with the UCs becoming increasingly competitive, some ultimately choose to go out of state, lured by good scholarships and the promise of admission to competitive majors such as engineering.
“I think the competition has definitely gotten much worse,” she said, adding that a 4.2 GPA used to give a student a pretty good shot at UCLA or UC Berkeley. But now those can be “reach” schools, she said.Nithin Ravi, a 17-year-old senior from Glendale, Arizona, has applied to around 20 schools, including several UCs.
“I can maximize my chances” by applying to schools across the country, he said. “Admission rates are so low nowadays.”
While he’d like to go to school in California, he appreciates the challenge of being a California student hoping to go to school in his or her home state.
The acceptance rate at the University of Arizona, he noted, is nearly 80 percent. But not a single UC campus is that accessible to California residents.
After a state audit suggested last year that UC lowered its admission standards for out-of-state students, the UC regents who oversee the system took action. They voted to cap the percentage of out-of-state and overseas students at each campus to 18 percent (with a few exceptions for campuses already above that limit) for the first time in the system’s nearly 150 year history.
And amid pushback from California families who say their students have been pushed out of the competitive system, UC agreed to add 10,000 more California students by 2018-19. The system says it’s on track to meet the overall goal.
In 2017, the middle half of freshmen admitted to UCLA had high school GPAs between 4.13 and 4.31 and ACT composite scores of between 30-34. UC Berkeley’s scores were similarly high.
“I think a lot of kids in high school are really stressing themselves out to the point that it’s not good for their mental health,” said Melissa Burger, who asked to use her middle name because acceptances haven’t been sent out and she doesn’t want to jeopardize her chances. “But they still do it.”