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What's it Take to Get a California Kid Into a California College?


For years now, UCLA and UC Berkeley have been “reach” schools for everyone. With 2018 acceptance rates in the low double-digits, it was not surprising when we saw even those students with perfect GPAs and test scores receive rejections. This year, however, we noticed a disturbing trend—lots and lots of highly qualified students who failed to get into most or any UCs. This leads us to ask: what does a qualified California student have to do to get into the University of California? Our best guess is to move to Wyoming. Or Hawaii. Or Alabama.

A November 2018 article from Forbes cites the differences in the percentage of admitted California applicants versus out-of-state applicants at three University of California campuses:

  • UCLA-12% vs. 22%

  • UC San Diego- 26% vs. 51%

  • UC Santa Barbara- 29% vs. 47%

This trend holds for the California State University system, as well. If you want to know why these public university systems supported by California tax dollars aren’t taking in more qualified California students, just follow the money. While the cost of attending for an in-state student is about $35,000/year, out-of-state and international students pay about $64,000/year. In short, kids from Pennsylvania are more profitable.

While we share the frustration voiced by many of our students and their parents, the best advice we can offer is to think more about your choices in developing a college list, set realistic expectations, and apply broadly.


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