Guide to US Applications • Undergraduate

The Ultimate Guide to the University of California Application Portal

POSTED ON 09/05/2018 BY The Red Pen

The Ultimate Guide to the University of California Application Portal | The Red Pen

Often referred to as one of the best public university systems in the US, The University of California (UC) has nine undergraduate campuses spread out over the state. Located at Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, Davis, Irvine, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Riverside, and Merced, these colleges offer world-class education and research opportunities to their students.

If you want to pursue your undergraduate degree at one of these campuses, you must apply through the UC application form. This application is common to all universities that are a part of the UC system. You can apply to any or all of the campuses through this portal.

The UC application differs from the Common Application form in many ways. First, it doesn’t require letters of recommendation or transcripts to be sent at the time of application. Only after you have been accepted, will your respective college ask you for official records. Second, when you send your official standardised test (SAT/ACT, TOEFL/IELTS) scores to the colleges, you only need to send it to one of the UC campuses to which you are applying. This campus will share your scores with the others. Third, the UC application requires you to provide information on courses you have taken in grades 7 and 8, such as algebra, statistics and language subjects, among others.

The UC system does not offer an early application or early decision round. But the application usually opens on August 1 and the deadline to submit is around November 30.

Below are details on the six sections that make up the UC Application form:

1) General information:

This section covers all your basic information including start term, address, phone number, residency, citizenship etc. In the About You subsection, you must provide your parents’ particulars, family income and other personal details.

2) Campus and majors:

This is the area where you indicate the campuses where you want to study, along with the majors you intend to pursue. When making your college selection, you can choose them in any order or rank, irrespective of your preference. However, If you are applying to UC San Diego, you must rank the individual colleges according to your preference. In terms of major, some campuses allow you to choose only one, whereas others allow you to add an alternate major as well. If you are not sure about your major, you can also apply as undecided.

3) Scholarships:

Here is where you select all the scholarships that relate to you. The UC system offers a lot of options, however, keep in mind that these colleges rarely give scholarships to international students.

4) Academic history and test scores:

This is the portion where you must self-report your grades and scores from grades 9 through 12. Here you should also include courses taken in grades 7 and 8. Include everything from APs and IB subjects to TOEFL/IELTS and External Exams (IGCSE or other grade 10 board results). There is an optional section, where you can explain a drop in grades, your decision to choose a particular subject or the grade boundaries within your school.

When it comes to standardised tests, such as the SAT/ACT, all UC colleges are moving towards a test-blind policy. This means that your standardised test scores will not be considered as a part of the admissions process, even if you choose to submit them.

5) Activities and honors:

This section has six subcategories, each with a maximum limit of five activities. Descriptions are limited to 40 words (160 characters) per activity, so ensure you are brief and to the point.

  • Coursework other than A-G:

Courses A-G refers to the subjects you have taken in grades 9 through 12. If you have taken any courses/classes outside of school, then you can use this section to talk about those that you are doing out of interest and for fun. These can be either academic or non-academic, such as Trinity College music or performance exams and foreign languages you have studied.

  • Educational prep programmes:

Here you can talk about the courses or programmes you have taken that may not fit into other fields. For example, summer programmes, unpaid internships or research projects and JEE exams, among others.

  • Verbal and community service:

This is where you explain any volunteering activities where community service is the focus. For example, you can write about charity events, working with an NGO, blood donation drives and the like. Do remember that number of hours committed is a great way to quantify your work.

  • Work experience:

If you have any paid job experience, this is where you will include details about this. Paid internships, work during a gap year and/or part-time work over the weekends can be included here.

  • Awards & Honors:

All your academic and non-academic achievements are expanded on here. For example, school awards such as honour rolls and best student awards in a subject, along with national and international awards such as Olympiads, competition winners or sporting awards are to be included here.
Note: You should list your most recent awards at the top. Mention the criteria and selectiveness for the award (percentages and scores) and reference important names of organisations or individuals that presented you with the award. Use this space for non-school awards first and if there is space then add school awards.

  • Extracurricular activities:

This section is where you expand on your activities outside of school. For example, creating a website or blog (make sure to include links), MUN/debating experience, being a member of clubs/societies or unpaid internships. Student council, participation on inter-school sports teams and any other school initiatives or positions can also be listed here.
Note: Make sure not to repeat any activities from previous sections, unless there is a different context. Use action verbs and emphasise time commitments, dedication, and difficulty.

6) Personal insight questions:

This is an extremely significant part of the UC application. This section has eight, thought-provoking essay prompts, of which you must respond to only four. Through the essays, you give the admissions officer an insight into the kind of person you are, your passions or certain aspects of your life that are integral to who you are–something a grade sheet will not be able to reflect.

Though the UC application doesn’t charge a fee to create an account, submitting an application costs approximately USD 80 per campus for international students.

The UC system is highly competitive where more than 200,000 applicants apply each year. The majority of its seats go to in-state students, so if you haven’t already started working on your application, start now! Alternatively, if you are thinking about applying to schools outside the UC system, read our blog post on the Common Application or get in touch with us for more information.