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Episode Notes

Episode Title: Segment #2: Applying to University of California. Getting Ready.

Episode summary introduction: Segment #2 of the 3-Segment Podcast Series to help students with their University of California (UC) Applications. This segment outlines the preparatory work that needs to be done to get ready to fill out the UC Application.

Shveta Bagade leads us through the discussion.

In particular, we discuss the following:

  • How to Create an Online Application Account
  • Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) - Drafts and Review
  • Researching UC Campuses and Majors
  • Financial Aid

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introduction to Segment #2 [0:34]
  • Create an Online Application Account [1:37]
  • PIQs’ Drafts [5:58]
  • PIQ Review [13:10]
  • Researching UC Campuses & Majors  [14:54]
  • Financial Aid [18:09]
  • Scores are for Placement [21:22]
  • Call 2 Action - Subscribe for Assignments [23:05]

Our Guests: 

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

Memorable Quote: “...it's really important just to kind of look for what you want from each of the [UC] campuses, and make sure they have the opportunities that you're looking for.” Shveta Bagade.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

Recommended: Similar Podcasts.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Shveta  0:12

So the UCS call them personal insight questions. And there's a reason why they're very specific about that wording. It's because they don't want it to be an essay. They want it to be about you. They, they actually call it like an interview on paper.

Venkat  0:34  [Introduction to  Applying to UCs Segment #2]

That was Shveta Bagade!

Hello, I am your host, Venkat Raman.

This is the 2nd Segment of our 3-Segment Podcast series - Applying to the University of California.

In this, the Second Segment, we will discuss what all you need to Get Ready to apply to the UCs:

  • How to Create an Online Application Account
  • Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) - Drafts and Review
  • Researching UC Campuses and Majors
  • Financial Aid

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  

So maybe you could just kick it off with some particulars about the application at a high level, whether it's, you know, where one finds it, and then we can walk through the different key parts and what you need to prepare?

Shveta  1:37  [Create an Online Application Account]

Sure, sure. So the UCs have a website. I honestly, if you Google UC application, it should come up pretty quickly. And this is just to create a you know an account. So go ahead and create the account to get started.

Shveta  1:59  

And some of the things they definitely need to have ready, kind of before they even really start to fill out the account is they unofficial copies of you know, their transcripts, academic records, things like that of anything that they've done, they've just done only high school courses. Great have that ready, if they took any community college courses that they're looking for the UCS to give them credit for in terms of like at A through G requirements, things of that nature, make sure they have that ready.

Shveta  2:38  

They should also know the scores of tests they've taken, if any, and when I obviously I'm not talking about SAT or ACT, but just a quick reminder that they're not looking at those scores. But they will consider if you've taken advanced placement, the AP courses, if you're part of an IB program, and they have those tests with their scores, they will look at those for sure.

Shveta  3:05  

You know, in an ideal world, most students will have a list of their activities that they've done at the school outside of the school, any awards, they've received honors, they've gotten volunteer work, employment, if they were working at a job, anything that's relatable, there's always those handful of students that have military service also include that, that there's just a nice list of things that if they have that ready to go, filling out the application is a much easier process. So those are some of the things they should, could have ready before they get going.

Venkat Raman  3:50  

You know, a lot of people talk about having a, you know, post profile or some you know, different names for it. Is that something that you're referring to basically having like a cheat sheet of accomplishments, etc.

Shveta  4:05  

Yeah, so it's kind of like that, it's just kind of, you know, their own little reference sheet of things that they've done over the past basically four years. Having that information, the documents from the school if they have, you know, any copies of their grades, they want to make sure they're accurate. So don't go off a memory Oh, I think I got an A minus in that class or a B plus in that class, know exactly what you got so that the information on the transcript is reported accurately. They use these will check that if you end up getting an admissions and decide to attend the UC, they check everything when they get your final transcript after graduation so it's best to make sure that that informations input, input it as accurately as possible. So yes, and then a history of everything they've been doing. Does Doesn't have to be long drawn out details, you know, we're not looking just nice little highlights of things they've done. Yeah, it is kind of a cheat sheet. I don't know if it's a profile, but it's definitely something along those lines for sure.

Venkat Raman  5:17  

Now, so basically, what you're saying is that unless you input all these pieces of information, you really cannot create your account or it's not complete, right? Is that accurate?

Shveta  5:27  

Well, you can, you can open the account, but you're gonna need all this information to fill it out. Section, it has its own needs, from academic to your extracurricular activities, and so on. So you want to have that information kind of ready. You know, I'd be sitting there trying to remember, oh, what did I do two years ago, you want to be ready to write that and fill it out so that you can submit it as soon as possible.

Venkat Raman  5:58  [PIQs’ Drafts]

Now that you have opened an online account for UC applications, let's walk through the components that need preparation. We start with PIQs, or Personal Insight Questions.

Shveta  6:15  

So the UCs these call them personal insight questions. And there's a reason why they're very specific about that wording. It's because they don't want it to be an essay, they want it to be about you. They, they actually call it like an interview on paper. So if you picture yourself in an interview, it's really answering in that kind of style. And not a long background story, you don't get to do that. So only 350 words per each insight question. And you need to jump right to the point, when the admissions folks are reading this, they're reading hundreds of these. So if you tell them a long drawn out story, and then you sum it up with one line about what the answer is really to the prompt, it doesn't give them a lot of information, use those 350 words to talk about you they want the words I mean myself, they want to see words like that.

Shveta  7:19  

It's not like an essay that you would write for class, this is your opportunity to write about you. And work it the way you would like to do it. If you were doing in person, which you don't get to rewind in an in person interview, this is a interview on paper.

Shveta  7:42  

So look at the they have eight to choose from the students are to choose four. So look at the four and use this opportunity to give them different aspects of you. If you're very keen and playing soccer, or playing an instrument, that's great. And I would recommend one of them, one of your answers be related to that, but don't do it in all four. Give them different contexts about you. So from different perspectives so that they can see all the different sides of your kind of character, the kind of person you are the kind of academic, the the academic side, the personality side, those different aspects and those eight questions that they have to choose from let you allow to show that what you allow highlight the best sides of you.

Venkat Raman  8:38  

You know, in your experience, typically, how many iterations does this take, obviously depends on the student. But what do you see as a typical average if there's...

Shveta  8:52  

  1. Oh, I wouldn't even venture a guess. It's just a matter of how strong of a writer you are.
  2. And what I tell a lot of students when I meet them is, if it if the idea for the answer comes up quickly, it's probably the easiest thing for you to write about, which is probably going to be one of the better stories that you're going to be able to put on that paper, though.
  3. Don't try to find the best. What you think is going to be the best answer.
  4. Try to write about the one that's going to give them the most information about you and it's usually the one you're most close to, it's meaningful to you.
  5. Something that you value. It could be that something you treasure, there's a question about your creative side. So if you're a creative person, definitely write about that one.
  6. And it may not always be academic, and they don't want that they don't want all four prompts to have response about academics.
  7. So give them that opportunity to tell [them] about yourself and be genuine.
  8. So you have to spend time on these, these aren't something you just whip out in, you know, 10-15 minutes. But definitely start earlier, don't wait till November 25, to write for these answers, that's too late.
  9. Yeah, take time, read it, take a break from it, go back to it. So if you're starting now, that's awesome. And get going, that gives you over the next few weeks to really spend a little time you know, 15-20 minutes add a shot.
  10. If it's taking you two, three hours to write, you know, 200 words, you're probably not picking the right thing to talk about.

Venkat Raman  10:48  

It sounds like there should be a strategy for these four PIQs, right? So that you are, some what highlighting or showcasing different aspects of your personality or person, right? Is there, are there any tips around that? Or, you know, can you, in other words, can you, can you overlap like two academic stories? Or is it, you know, do you have to kind of make them reasonably diverse?

Shveta  11:17  

You really, you really want to make them diverse because of you.

If you talk about maybe you're the captain of your cross country team, and you use that for the leadership question.

We don't want to keep hearing about cross country. Plus, there's something in that story that's really, completely different.

When it talks about maybe something, you overcame, significant opportunity, things like that.

But it's, it is your opportunity to really hear the different sides of you.

And a lot of these things, people think it has to be something that happened to you during high school, but a lot of things happened to us as younger in high school, like middle school, elementary school, that has a significant impact in the kind of high school student that he's become.

So if you've got that interesting response, but you're like, well, that happened in sixth grade. Think about how that incident or that event that you want to talk about impacted you, as a high school student, maybe how you approach academics, maybe how you approach being a team, part of it in a collaboration type of environment, maybe the just the kind of person you are.

So don't just focus on the, you know, the three and a half years of high school you've already had look at yourself, and look at those histories and see how those impacted you as a student, or as a person you are right now.

Venkat Raman  12:57  

You know, talked about, you know, writing and rewriting it. Who should you ask to review this? I mean, what what might be some good suggestions.

Shveta  13:10  [PIQ Review]

Um, a lot of, of course, a lot of high school teachers offer to review this. Don't ask a lot of people, that's the first thing ask people, if you start, this is still a subjective thing. Some of you might read it and be like, well, that's okay. And somebody else, the same person, or the same documents, somebody else could read, and be like, wow, that's an incredible story you just wrote, what you're looking for, is to make sure you find two people you trust, I would definitely, you know, pick adults.

Because as much as you want to have your friends read it, remember who's reviewing these applications. These are anywhere from 25 to 75 year old people and anywhere in between. And they're all adults that have had already gone through high school gone through college.

So you want somebody who's gonna be able to read and make sure the clarity is there, it flows nicely. Make sense. Don't use a lot of acronyms and things like that, or a lot of short cuts because just because you know what it means doesn't mean the other person, this random person that's going to read it is also going to know what it means.

So I would find two adults in your life. It could be a family friend, it could be a parent, it's really up to your comfort level of somebody you know, that's going to give you some good constructive feedback. That's what you're looking for.

Venkat Raman  14:43  

Next, we discuss researching UC campuses, and the majors each one offers.

Shveta  14:54  [Researching UC Campuses & Majors]

Well, it's, we discussed this earlier, but it's selecting the campuses and then selecting your majors.

A lot of students will pick a major that they think is available at all campuses and not necessarily true.

So it's really important for the students to research the campuses research, the ones they think they want to live at for four, maybe five years depending on their path and make sure they have the majors that they're interested in applying to.

Not every school has finance, for instance, but they may have economics. So if you're willing to make that compromise, that's fine. But understand that.

So the UC has a website where they have the majors that are available at every campus. So it's important to look those up. And one of the things that's also a little bit unique, and it's going to be for some very specific programs is making sure there aren't any additional requirements.

So once you find the majors, you want, be sure to research that they don't have any additional requirements, there's only a handful of majors like that, but they are there. So it's just a quick search on usually on the college specific College website that will say, Oh, we require ABC things, in addition to the general application.

So it's good for the students to research early. So they know these things are coming to be that are going to be needed later, if possible.

And it's really important just to kind of look for what you want from each of the campuses and make sure they have the opportunities that you're looking for. So if you're looking to have accessibility to a major city, you know, maybe couple of the campuses may not be suited for what you're looking for, for your time at college. Or vice versa. If you're looking for more of a, you know, more of a small town feel versus an urban environment. So do that research and kind of take it from there.

Venkat Raman  17:15  

Okay, but what about letters of recommendation?

Shveta  17:22  

Usually this time of year, most of the students are asking for letters of recommendations and things like that. The UCs for the most part don't require that kind of ties into what I just spoke about that additional required documents, things like that. There are a handful of majors that do require a letter of rec, most of them will typically ask for it if they need it. They will not ask for it in advance. But the UCs are the one system that does not need letters of recommendation. So don't worry about making sure that they're filling out the teachers are doing this for you for the UCs, you just don't need them for the UCs.

Venkat Raman  18:09  [Financial Aid]

Next Shveta will talk about the financial aid component.

Venkat Raman  18:17  

So I just wanted to check in on the financial aid. Is that part of the application? Is there a separate app for that? Or how does that work?

Shveta  18:27  

So my understanding is the financial aid piece they really do not ask, they have some basic information about your household and things like that.

So be honest, if you're not sure, speak with your family members that are you know, who bring, have the income, your guardians or your parents, whoever that is, and be sure you have that accurate information.

And then if you are interested in applying for financial aid, then it is my understanding you still have to apply through, in fact, at least for US residents, I'm not sure how this works for international students. But for US residents who apply through FAFSA, which is the free or the financial aid form. I don't remember the acronym to be honest with you.

But it is, it is a free form, you fill it out.

If you, if your family pays taxes in the US, it automatically populates to their tax documents and they can fill it out and then you fill out your form and you list the you see that you're applying to on that application and they'll get your information for that. And it is my understanding I'm not 100% sure, but they the students should research this on the UC websites that the will also have other documentation that they may require to fill out separately, especially for need-based students. Got it? Okay.

Oh, let me add I'm sorry, add one thing. So a lot of the, each of the UCs do have their own specific scholarships.

So once you apply, I would definitely recommend looking up the campuses you apply to and see which ones have scholarships that you qualify to apply to separately. So those are 10.

A lot of them tend to be merit based, or their specific categories, like maybe your specific major things like that. And on the application itself, there's all different kinds of categories and groups and programs that you can check off. And, they, those programs will also send you information as well, about applying to those applications, for scholarships.

Venkat Raman  20:50  

Yeah. Now, do you know if international students can apply for them? Or is it only for US residents?

Shveta  20:56  

Now, I'm pretty sure that's open to anybody who's applying to UC. And if you get admitted to UC, and you're offered the scholarship, then obviously that it would apply to your tuition.

Venkat Raman  21:13  

Lastly, what scores are to be provided, and for what purpose?

Shveta  21:22  [Scores are for Placement]

Just a reminder, remember SATs are not and ACT tests are not being looked at. I do know UCs may use them for placement. So if you do have scores as for like maybe math, or the writing classes that are required at each UC campus, but it does vary from campus to campus, so it's not even necessary to have that. And if you don't have scores, they will use other ways to determine your placement. But in terms for admissions, they're not looking at those scores at all. So even if you submit them, they won't be looking at them. So just focus if you have any advanced placement scores. If you have a three or higher, I recommend placing them on the on the application and let them use that as a little extra data point. In terms of admissions, if you don't have any AP classes, that's okay. They're going to look at your academic record in context of the high school that you went to.


Venkat Raman  22:31

Hi Again!

In this Segment we discussed how to Get Ready to Apply to the UCs for undergraduate study.

In this Segment, we covered the following:

  • How to Create an Online Application Account
  • Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) - Drafts and Review
  • Researching UC Campuses and Majors
  • Financial Aid

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

Venkat  23:05   [Call to Action - Subscribe for Assignments]

Now, You have to Subscribe to get the assignments.

It’s easy To Subscribe.

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  23:22

This series is for high school students who plan to apply to UCs 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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