Posts made in September, 2012

Applying to a UC Campus: Things you should know

Posted by on Sep 25, 2012 in Application Process, UC / CSU | 0 comments

Applying to a UC Campus: Things you should know

On Saturday 9/15/12,  I attended the annual UC counselor conference which updates counselors on the state of admissions for the University of California. Although much of the information is the same from year to year, below are details regarding application preparation, eligible in a local context designation, sending SAT 2s and selecting a major.

When does the UC application go live and what can I do to prepare? The application will go live on October 1, 2012. You will be able to start entering your information into the application at this time. You will not be able to send the application until after November 1, 2012.

There are many things you can do to prepare for the application, including looking at the 2013/14 Freshman Application Tips and Tools which has great information, links and advice.

What is Comprehensive Review? Every UC school is participating in Comprehensive Review this year, which means the admissions offices evaluate students on multiple factors. If you are interested in how each campus reviews applications and the factors they are considering, look on the Comprehensive Review page for campus wide information and then click on each campus on the right-hand-side to see the specific information for each school.

What is ELC and how will I know if I am ELC? ELC stands for “Eligible in a Local Context” which is determined by your self-reported grades on your application. ELC identifies qualified students from among the top 9% of each participating California high school. To be considered for ELC, students must complete a specific pattern of 11 UC-approved “a-g” courses, earn a specific GPA or higher in the 11 courses and complete the full a-g pattern by end of the senior year. Applicants who meet the minimum course requirements and have a GPA that meets or exceeds the benchmark GPA for their high school are ELC. The benchmark GPA is created from the weighted, uncapped 10th & 11th GPAs from the last 3 senior classes. High school counselors send in transcripts every 3 years to determine the benchmark. The benchmarks are not shared with the public.

*** This year, when you submit your UC application, you will receive a message indicating if you are ELC or not.

What does ELC mean? ELC is a positive factor and just one of the factors considered in admissions. This past year all students designated ELC were offered admissions to a UC campus, 92% were admitted to a campus they applied to and 8% were offered admission to UC Merced, even if a student did not apply.

What if I am not ELC? MANY non-ELC students are still competitive for admission, so do not worry. Students may not be ELC, but still be in the top 9% of students state-wide. You can determine if you are eligible in a State-Wide Context using the UC calculator. Students who are neither ELC, nor the top 9% in the state may still be admitted to a UC campus!

A few weeks ago students and families may have received a letter indicating that the student is in the top 15% of their high school class. This letter simply invites students to apply to the UC system, it does not have any bearing on ELC. Students will not know if they are ELC until they complete the UC application.

Should I send my SAT 2 scores to the UC campuses? While SAT Subject Tests are not required, some campuses recommend that students vying for slots in competitive majors take the tests to demonstrate subject proficiency. The message was very clear at the meeting that students, who have SAT 2 scores, should send them in because if the scores are good, they may help the student and if the scores are not so good, they will only be held neutral, meaning they cannot hurt the student. Please make sure we talk about the issue of SAT subject exams when you come to your session and DO NOT SEND any SAT2s until we talk about your options.

Should I designate a major on the UC application? Every year students stress over designating a major or choosing “undecided” on the UC application. The good news is students can choose different majors at each campus to which they apply. The bad news is that each school in the UC system deals with major selection differently. The best thing students can do is go to the website of each individual campus to determine what role major plays in admissions. The school names below are hyperlinked to individual school websites for information. Below I have copied the wording regarding selecting a major from each individual campus.

For applications to the College of Letters and Science, Natural Resources and Environmental Design, no consideration is given to the indicated major in the review process.  However, for the professional colleges of Chemistry and Engineering, demonstrated interest in the major is also taken into consideration.  Furthermore, in the colleges of Chemistry and Engineering, Berkeley faculty in these disciplines have also asked that readers place added emphasis on sustained achievement in mathematics and science, and have indicated a preference that these applicants take the Math Level 2 SAT Subject Test and a science test (Biology, Chemistry or Physics) that is closely related to the applicant’s intended major.

Admission decisions are made based upon the qualifications of the applicant pool and the number of available spaces within each academic area:

  • College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences admits by college
  • College of Biological Sciences admit by college
  • College of Letters and Science admits by division within the college (Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies; Mathematics and Physical Sciences; Social Sciences)
  • College of Engineering admits by academic department


Students applying as “undeclared” or “undeclared/exploratory” are considered within the college/division to which they applied.

We also recommend that applicants indicate first and second choice majors when they apply.  If UC Irvine is unable to offer admission to all qualified applicants in their first-choice major, students who have indicated a valid alternate major may be offered admission in that major.  After enrolling at UC Irvine, students who wish to change their major must submit a Change of Major Petition.

For the College of Letters and Science, the applicant’s major is not considered during the review process. The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science admits students by declared major, with more emphasis on science and math programs. The School of Nursing also places more emphasis on science and math programs and requires the submission of an additional supplemental application. The School of the Arts and Architecture and the School of Theater, Film, and Television admit students by declared major (within the school), and put more emphasis on special talents through a review of portfolios and/or auditions, which are the most significant admission factors for these schools.

Major is not a factor in admissions for UC Merced.

Does not discuss the use of major in the admissions process. The website does mention that students applying to majors in the Bourns College of Engineering and the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences are strongly encouraged to take SAT subject exams in Math Level 2 and either Chemistry or Physics.

The campus does not select students on the basis of academic major or choice of UCSD undergraduate college.

College of Engineering: Students are selected by major for all engineering and computer science majors. Only applicants with a solid background in advanced high school mathematics will be considered for admission to engineering. This includes high grades in all math courses through grade 11 and enrollment in pre-calculus or higher in grade 12. A student not selected for the first choice major will be reviewed for admission to a second choice major or undeclared major.

College of Creative Studies: Applicants to Creative Studies submit a supplementary application in addition to the general UC application, which is reviewed by Creative Studies faculty. Students are selected within Creative Studies majors only. Applicants not selected for Creative Studies will automatically be considered for admission to the general campus.

College of Letters and Science: Choice of major is not considered in selection except for computer science applicants, who are selected using engineering criteria (see above), and dance and music performance, which require an audition.

Admission to Baskin School of Engineering majors.  While all freshman applicants are considered for admission to the UC Santa Cruz campus under the campus selection criteria previously described, acceptance into engineering majors is based on high school GPA, courses completed in mathematics and sciences, scores on standardized tests, and/or the personal statement. Details can be found at

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Should I take the ACT and the SAT?

Posted by on Sep 15, 2012 in SAT & ACT | 0 comments

Should I take the ACT and the SAT?

Every year I get the question of whether a student should take the ACT or the SAT, or both. It can be very hard to determine the best test for a student without having the student take a practice exam. Students DO NOT need to take both exams to be eligible for college admission and all colleges and universities accept either the SAT or ACT. If you are just starting to think about standardized testing, please send me an email if you would like to receive practice materials.

Recently, I attended a seminar presented by Lisa Zimmer-Hatch regarding the ACT. Below are some of the things I found the most interesting.

The ACT has the following sections:

English Section 75 questions 45 minutes
Math Section 60 questions 60 minutes
Reading Section 40 questions 35 minutes
Science Section 40 questions 35 minutes
Writing Section 1 Essay 30 minutes


The ACT is VERY predictable. Every test has the sections mentioned above and the test is in the same order every time. In the English section there will always be 4 passages (prose fiction, social studies, humanities and natural sciences) in the same order. Students who paid attention in English class, but are not avid readers, tend to do well on the ACT. If a student has the ability to focus for longer period of time, they may also do well on the ACT. Students who have a harder time focusing may do better on the SAT because the sections are shorter. The big caveat to this is students who are granted extra time. Students who have extra time on both tests, tend to do better on the ACT.

Although both the ACT and SAT test similar skills, here is breakdown of some of the differences.

Content based Critical thinking and problem-solving based
Fewer, but longer sections More sections, but each section is shorter
No penalty for guessing A fraction of a point is deducted for wrong answers
A science section No official science section (some science questions)
No vocabulary questions (all in context of reading) Vocabulary questions
Trigonometry questions on the test No trigonometry questions on the test


Some schools DO super-score the ACT, meaning they take your highest score in each section, regardless of the test date. Todd at College Admissions Partners has a list of schools that super-score the ACT. So access it simply click here.

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The September Checklist

Posted by on Sep 1, 2012 in Application Process | 0 comments

The September Checklist

Make sure you have established an APPLICATION ACCOUNT online for each college on your list.

  • Finalize your college list and decide if you are going to apply early decision/action to any schools. If you are applying early, update your Naviance and tell your counselor and recommenders of your plan.
  • See which schools on your list have Rolling Admissions. Make a plan to send these applications in early and make sure you request transcripts and test score to be sent so your application is complete.
  • Your high school counselor will give you instructions on how to request transcripts and the part of the application to be completed by the counselor. Be sure to follow all instructions and meet all deadlines.
  • Request an official transcript be sent to each college on your list, except UC and CSU campuses.
  • Begin to complete your college applications usually in the order of the application deadline
  • Applications are accepted by the CSU campuses beginning October 1st.  Go online to  Finish filling out CSU mentor – college planner prior to October 1. The final application filing deadline is November 30th.



  • Look at the TESTING AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS for each school and determine what test scores you need to send and if they participate in score choice. Determine if you need to send any SAT 2 scores. **** Ask me to print out your Testing Requirements Report from Mycca at your next appointment as a place to start.
  • Make a plan to send the appropriate test scores to the schools on your list. This will take longer than you think!!!



  • Schedule an appointment to review all college essays/personal statements with your counselor and/or your English teacher.
  • Create a plan to tackle all private school supplemental essay questions.



  • If you need letters of recommendations, choose the 2 teachers you want to write them.
  • Update your Naviance with your resume information and your current college list. Your recommenders and counselor need this information.
  • Formally ask the teachers you want to write your recommendations and prepare a packet of information for them (resume and essay drafts) and ask them if they want to do their recommendation electronically or on paper. Follow school protocol.



  • Check the website for each college to which you are applying and check your high school college center for the dates that college representatives plan to visit your high school or the Bay area. Mark your calendar for the date and RSVP or sign-up for the visit. ATTEND visits if you can, it shows demonstrated interest.
  • Check for interview policies and procedures for each school on your list. Are there interviews on campus? Alumni interviews locally? What do you need to do to sign up?



  • If you are applying to private schools, you and your family need to fill out the CSS PROFILE. The application will not be ready until October 1, 2012, but you can get all the basic information and the schools that use it from the student guide from last year.



  • If you have not done so already, student athletes must complete the NCAA Clearinghouse form, pay the registration fee, send an official transcript and official SAT / ACT test scores to the NCAA (code is 9999). Go here for forms and more information.
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