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Episode Notes

Episode Title: Segment #1: Applying to University of California. Criteria & Requirements.

Episode summary introduction: Segment #1 of the 3-Segment Podcast Series to help students with their University of California (UC) Applications. This segment covers What the UCs are looking for in their students, Requirements and Help Decide whether to apply to the UCs.

Shveta Bagade leads us through the discussion.

In particular, we discuss the following:

  • Introduction to the UCs
  • What the UCs are looking for in their applicants
  • Criteria to Apply
  • Which UCs to Apply to
  • Timeline Planning

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introduction to Segment #1 [0:38]
  • Overview of the UCs [1:39]
  • What UCs are looking for in their Applicants [7:33]
  • Criteria to Apply [14:11]
  • Choosing UCs to Apply to [16:02]
  • Application Deadlines [21:50]
  • Call 2 Action - Subscribe for Assignments [26:00]

Our Guests: 

  • Shveta Bagade, College Counselor based in Silicon Valley, California.

Memorable Quote: “There's what they call Personal Insight Questions, [the] acronym is PIQs. You know, these are not essays. To quote the UCs, these are interviews on paper.” Shveta Bagade.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

Recommended: Similar Podcasts.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Shveta  0:14

Look at the factors of what is important to you for your college experience, of course, you know, having the major you want if they don't have the major want, even though the reputation of school may be really strong. Why are we attending that school? If it doesn't have what you're interested in pursuing for your future goals?

Venkat  0:38  [Introduction to  Applying to UCs Segment #1]

That was Shveta Bagade!

Hello, I am your host, Venkat Raman.

This is the 1st Segment of our 3-Segment Podcast series - Applying to the University of California.

In this First Segment, we will cover the following:

  • Introduction the UCs
  • What UCs are looking for in their applicants
  • Criteria to Apply
  • Which UCs to Apply to
  • Timelines

To guide us today, we are joined by Shveta Bagade, College Counselor in the San Francisco Bay Area,

Let’s get started.


Venkat Raman  1:24  

Maybe we can kick it off with if you could give us some broad strokes around what are the UCs what do they offer, and, you know, where do they fall under the cost bracket? how expensive is it to attend?

Shveta  1:39  [Overview of the UCs]

Sure. So the University of California system is the undergraduate program, there's nine campuses, if I divide the state in half the San Francisco Northern California area, there's four campuses and that part of the state, the very well known as UC Berkeley, Cal, also known as Cal, and the other three are UC Davis, UC Merced said, and UC Santa Cruz. Those are those four in the Northern California, and then we go down to the more Southern Regional part of the state. Then the other well known as UCLA that's in Los Angeles, UC Irvine, a little bit south of Los Angeles, San Diego, she's another well known city, Santa Barbara, a coastal town, probably about an hour, hour and a half out up outside of LA. And then Riverside is a little bit more inland in the Southern California area. So and that's five campuses. So there's your nine campuses that students can apply to for undergraduate studies.

Venkat Raman  2:54  

So broadly, how different are they? I mean, are they similar in a lot of ways? Or do you think there are some pretty big differences,

Shveta  3:04  

um, I, I think they're pretty big differences, we can start with something as basic as location. Berkeley is a very different campus from Irvine, and Santa Cruz, which is also a coastal town is a very different campus from Santa Barbara. So what's important for a lot of the students is to really kind of look at the campuses, look at the kind of place they want to live in for four, possibly five years and take that into consideration. That's definitely a big piece of this application. We do know that, obviously, the size of the campus is another piece of this, the number of students that attend, we're said is a much smaller number, compared to I believe, UCLA and UC Irvine are two of the bigger campuses, firms of student population size. So those are two factors that really distinguish and of course, the the piece I mentioned earlier, the Northern California weather versus Southern California weather that's going to come into play as well, because it is it is different, even though it's one big giant state. So there's those are some big, major differences. And of course, what they offer are also different, different as well. So it's when students start researching each of these campuses, it's really important to look at what's available in terms of what they want to study. Not every major is available at every campus. And then some campuses have something that's only offered at their campus. It's unique to them. So it's really important to look at that. I will interject one thing the University of California system has a really detailed website. For students, when they're applying whether they live in California, they live outside of California. So I highly recommend the students to check that out. And they list every major by interest and what's available at each campus. So engineering, agricultural psychology, business, computer science, whatever they're looking for. It's, they're listed in those categories. So that's a great way to do a quick search of which campuses have what you want.

Venkat Raman  5:38  

And broadly, how much does it cost is it again, vary by campus by campus, or as there's some

Shveta  5:46  

Yeah, there's, there's a, there's a range. Um, it's important to understand one of the big factors that varies from campus to campus is living on campus, the room and board. So the room and board is a little bit cheaper at some locations that are a little bit older, established. And you look at UC Merced said, is one of the newest campuses. And so that fact is, you know, factored into the room and board cost. So if you're living in California, the tuition is average about $14,000, with room and board adds another $17,000. So you're in the low, you're in about the mid 30s, about 35 to $37,000. Living on campus. If you're outside of California, whether you live in Arizona, neighboring state or you live across the ocean in India, then the tuition goes up to about 43 to $44,000. And so then you're into the basically 67 to $68,000 range. Now, of course, if you live off campus, you can save some money, but a lot of these campuses do have different requirements for first year students for freshmen. So it's important to look at that as well.

Venkat Raman  7:13  

With that sort of your background. What are these UCs looking for in their students? I mean, again, understand they're really nine different colleges, or nine different universities. And so give us a feel for what they might be looking for in their students.

Shveta  7:33  [What UCs are looking for in their Applicants]

Yeah, so the UCs are interesting because they do provide a guide for each of their campuses to follow. But Excuse me, but what happens is each campus can wait different aspects of the guidelines to follow. So there's some things that are definitely standard like the in Cal's in the UC system. And they call these courses A through G requirements, which are different categories of each subject. So math, science, history, foreign language, other than English. There's visual performing arts and college electives, college prep electives. So it's the that one is a pretty number one standard that's consistent at each campus.

Shveta  8:38  

But then what does start to vary is meeting the minimum requirements and kind of going above and beyond. So they'll look at how many courses you've taken in beyond the minimum requirements of those A through G courses. They'll look at, you know, if they're advanced placement or you see approved honors, if you went to an IB program, if you took some qualifying courses at a college, they'll take that into factor.

Shveta  9:06  

The UCS do take into factor for California residents where they live elegant, called eligible in local context. And there's some criteria allow around that that specific and again, that's weighted differently from campus to campus. So you'll see some campuses really feed you know, more regionally and some definitely feed more nationally.

Shveta  9:41  

They'll also look at what you're taking senior year. They're impressed if you have some real strong rigor, but if you drop in rigor, your senior year that's going to come into play as it are that they're Of course looking at your GPA and they're also looking at what's available at your schools. If they have access to that kind of information, if it's a school that they get a lot of students from, they know that this school may or may not be able to offer as many academic, you know, rigorous classes as other schools might be. So you're compared to what's available at your school and what you're taking, that really applies strongly to California residents.

Shveta  10:24  

Then, of course, how you do in subject matters, you know, if you're an outstanding student and math, and you happen to want to major in statistics or engineering that's going to play in your favor.

Shveta  10:41  

Anything you're interested in academically and how, what you've done outside of school to kind of explore that. So maybe it's a part time job, maybe it's a research opportunity, maybe it's taking extra courses just for fun, in something you're interested in studying in. There's, it's a long list, so please be patient, then they're looking at how you're doing, if you maybe struggled freshman and sophomore year, and then you've turned it around junior year, they're going to take that in factor, they're saying, you know, maybe maturity, understanding what you need to do to do well, and you figured it out kind of thing, they give kind of credits for that.

Shveta  11:25  

And of course, your extracurricular activities are a big piece of that they're looking for, you know, things you're interested in, it doesn't always have to be academic, if you enjoy playing tennis at your school, and you've played all four years while you're in high school, or you participate in the theater program, or music, program, speech and debate, all kinds of things that they're looking.

Shveta  11:55  

They're also looking at any thing you've done that's really maybe unique. And being engaged with their school, the UCs are definitely looking for engagement with your school and also gain engagement with your community. That's another piece of that that community service as well.

Shveta  12:16  

They do take in two, factor your circumstances, if you're a low income, you have, you know, maybe some learning disabilities, physical disabilities, first person in your family to go to college, things like that, anything that's really factors into your situation, a big one that's becoming more and more of, I don't wanna be popular, but definitely more visible are refugees and veterans, we have starting to see a lot more veterans, you know, do their service for the country, and then go back to college and get their degree and move on from their service that they've done.

Shveta  13:05  

So those are, those are some of the big, those are the big ones that they really look at. And each campus does way that differently. And so it's really hard to gauge what each campus is going to look at closely. So it's really recommended just to make sure you present yourself in the best way. And if you're a younger student listening, if you're like a freshman and sophomore, even Junior, still opportunity time to really, you know, take advantage of maybe whether it's doing some community service or getting an extra course over the summer in something you're interested in pursuing in college. And so you're able to put that on your application to show that you're really interested or you're engaged in your school and community.

Venkat Raman  13:59  

So now, the big question for a student listening is, you know, should I be applying to the UCs? I mean, how do I evaluate that? How do I sort of test that out?

Shveta  14:11  [Criteria to Apply]

Well, you know, in the pre pandemic, you know, most students would look at the average GPA at the campus and their test scores. As people should know by now, the UCS are test blind, I believe till class of 2023 or 24. So it's their test blind, which means they're not looking at test scores at all for admissions. And it's really hard to gauge but there is a minimum requirement for California residents to have a 3.0 GPA. And for outside of California non residents, it's a 3.4. Now if you're on the bubble of that 3.4 and you have a 3.3, but maybe you have some interesting other aspects that may explain That or show that you're really close to really improving that 3.3, your senior year, that kind of thing, I still encourage you to apply. If you've got some good extracurriculars, you're taking more challenging courses, you're showing your engagement at your school and engagement in your community. They will every there's a small population of students that are, you know, exempt from that requirement. But that is the pretty kind of the standard that they're really trying to push that 3.4 for non California resident to applicants.

Venkat Raman  15:46  

So let's say I, quote unquote, find myself eligible or qualify to apply. So which of these nine UCs should I apply to? I mean, how do I go about making that decision?

Shveta  16:02  [Choosing UCs to Apply to]

Yeah, that's a, that's a good question. I mean, I think this applies to anything you're doing when you're looking at your college application process.

Shveta  16:12  

Look at the factors of what is important to you for your college experience, of course, you know, having the major you want if they don't have the major want, even though the reputation of school may be really strong. Why are we attending that school, if it doesn't have what you're interested in pursuing for your future goals.

Shveta  16:35  

Of course, the type of campus, if you are looking for an urban campus, you see more said may not be your place, but maybe UCLA, Berkeley are definitely more campuses that are in line of what you're looking for. Of course, consider location and proximity to things you want, from your experience.

Shveta  17:01  

And research, each campus of opportunities of what you're looking for, from your college experience. Maybe you're looking for some study abroad opportunities, maybe you're looking for some very specific research, you know, opportunities at the campus for things you're interested in for your major. If you're doing premed look at the support system they have for students applying to medical college, and if they offer those kinds of resources.

Shveta  17:37  

So there's a lot of things and of course, you know, there's the, the what I call the softer parts of college experience. Do you enjoy watching sports? Do you want to be engaged into theater program music, dance, all kinds of or even just physical activities, lots of clubs, those kinds of things. Look at the campuses, they have that information on their website, take a look, look for those things. Because if that's important for you, if you want to be engaged in Taekwondo, you want to find out if they have a club around Taekwondo, or even maybe an intramural type of team or something like that. Find those things and make sure they have it. You don't want to get there and find out, oh, I really wanted to play field hockey and I'm at UC Irvine, UC Irvine doesn't have field hockey opportunities. So it's really important to look those things up. If that's something you want to pursue outside of academics, you're going to get a good education. So what else is it about college you want?

Venkat Raman  18:44  

Now, should a student be clear about what they're applying for? Or is undecided or undeclared? Okay, is it you know, does it make a difference?

Shveta  18:56  

You know, that's uh, I just sat on a webinar with the UCs and they they are saying if you apply undeclared, it is possible for admissions there's, you know, there's perception that you can't apply undeclared. Now there are some colleges that admit by major. So it's important to kind of take that into consideration and maybe contact the admissions office at the campuses that you're looking at, but it is okay to apply by major. They do caution like some of the very selective majors such as engineering, computer science nursing to transfer and is a little bit different if you apply as an undeclared, but they say for a majority of their majors. Coming in undeclared, and then transferring in is usually quite manageable and doable for students. And I didn't mention when you're applying to these campuses Be ready with all your information, your transcripts, the information about your courses, so that you're ready to dive right in.

Venkat Raman  20:14  

Now, just one other related question to the undeclared or undecided? Does it hurt their chances if they show they're not clear or they're undecided?

Shveta  20:29  

No, because I think what, based on what they were saying there's in part of the application, there's what they call personal insight questions. The acronym is p IQs. You know, these are not essays. These are, quote, the UCS. These are interviews on paper. So it's your opportunity to explain your different sides of you in four different questions. And I think if you capture that in one of the questions of like, maybe why you're undecided, then that gives them some context of, you know, maybe that exploration, maybe your application reads like a lot of exploring and trying different new things, then they'll understand that context by using one of those essays to answer that part of you. So it definitely doesn't hurt you not to have a vested interest in a specific major, as long as you take advantage of that opportunity to explain that.

Venkat Raman  21:32  

So you have the student all set to go. You know, what is it we are middle of September, maybe second part of September now. What's what are some key deadlines that the student has to keep in mind?

Shveta  21:50  [Application Deadlines]

Well, the UC applications are already open. So students should already be creating account, start filling out that application, don't try to do it in one sitting, it's, it's a daunting task, especially when you're filling out the extracurricular activities and start working on those PIQs. They have eight, the students use four. So really start working on those essays.

Shveta  22:16  

And then you can submit as early as November one, and the deadline is November 30th. I don't recommend waiting till November between November 27 to November 30. That's when everybody is waiting for because they plastinated, they take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday in the US break to I'll knock out the essays and send it, the sooner you can submit it, the better it is for you in terms of stress level. The reason why I say that is when students are submitting so many at the same time, this system has been known to crash. And that is a very stressful thing for students to have to deal with. So if you can submit it really, you know, my personal opinion is by November 20, to the 23rd in that range. It gives you a little bit of extra few weeks in November. But you're still way ahead of the deadline of November 30.

Shveta  23:22  

The one thing I did forget to mention is it's really important when you're looking at these different majors to make sure that there's nothing additional required, there are a handful of majors at each campus that require additional things outside of the standard UC application. So it's up to the student to do the due diligence on that, because they don't put that on the application. It's up to you to know to go to that college and look. So research the major and make sure that doesn't require any additional maybe additional essay or information that they are looking for, for that specific major. And it tends to be the really selective majors and also really unique majors. So definitely look into that.

Shveta  24:14  

But back to the deadlines. Yeah. Students will be starting now take advantage of school is just starting, it's going to get only, you know, more and more fast paced as you get closer to those to that November 30 deadline. So the more you complete now, the less stress you have later. It's really a great time to take advantage of that. And these are essays about you. Remember, you're not writing to each UC campus there. They don't want to hear about that they know about their campuses. They want to hear about you. So it goes back to that interview on paper. It's your opportunity to kind of talk about yourself so they want to hear this words like I and me and myself because that's what it is. And 350 words, stay right to the point. They don't want a big long descriptive story of the background. dive right into the question if you were in talking to the person and face to face, that's exactly how you would do it. Do it like that on paper.


Venkat Raman  25:24

Hi Again!

In this Segment we introduced the University of California with an eye towards Applying to the UCs for undergraduate study.

We covered: In this First Segment, we will cover the following:

  • Introduction the UCs
  • What UCs are looking for in their applicants
  • Criteria to Apply
  • Which UCs to Apply to
  • Timelines

For this Segment we have an assignment for students in the 11th standard/grade. You can get our Counselors feedback on your assignments.

Venkat  26:00   [Call to Action - Subscribe for Assignments]

Now, You have to Subscribe to get the assignments.

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Just email to podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io] with the Subject: UC Assignments.

We will send you an email with instructions on the assignments.

Venkat  44:36

This series is for high school students who plan to apply to US Colleges at the end of this year.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Thank you again for listening to this podcast.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

University of California, UC, College Admissions, UC College Application, Requirements for UC Application, Filling out the UC Application, How to fill out the UC Application, What do I need to apply to the UCs, International Student

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