For California students: The California Conundrum

There’s not enough room in the UC and CSU systems’ freshman class for all of California’s graduating seniors each year.

This post dates from January 2021 but contains so much relevant information it is being re-posted.

College admissions is more complicated than when we applied 30 years ago, and here in California, our state university systems have, unfortunately, not grown to meet our changing and burgeoning population.

In the video below, I share some statistics with you that help you see the reality of California’s higher education problem:  not enough capacity.  We have half a million graduating high school seniors each  year, and about 150,000 spots in the first-year class for the entire UC and Cal State systems combined.  COMBINED.

This year the problem is compounded: most colleges, including both the UC and CSU systems, removed the SAT/ACT testing requirement this year, which opened the floodgates for students with strong grades to apply to in-state colleges.  We believe that applications to most of the CSU campuses are down for the Class of 2021, but we know that the UC system received 15% more applications than last year.  Literally half of all graduating high school seniors in the Class of 2021 applied to at least one UC campus.  And the nine undergraduate UC campuses won’t be expanding their mostly-impacted classes to accommodate this new reality.  So that means UC admit rates will decline, at least for most of the campuses, which will disappoint thousands of California families in the next few months.

One solution to this problem is this: look beyond California.  We realize you’ve lived here all of your adult life.  We realize you’ve been paying taxes and contributing financially to the health and reputations of the UC and Cal State systems.  We realize you’ve sent your kids to public schools throughout their childhood.  It’s reasonable for you to expect your children to continue to receive a public education through the university level.  We validate all of these feelings and frustrations.

At the same time, we challenge your assumption that staying in-state is actually the most cost-effective higher education option for your child.  In many cases, it’s actually not!  Though you hear constantly in the media that out-of-state and private colleges cost $50k, $60k, $70k or more – this is not true for all out-of-state and private college choices!  In fact, our team has hundreds of former clients all over the country, attending both public and private colleges, their parents paying about what they would have paid if they had stayed in California and attended a UC.  Sometimes even less!

You’ll see, in fact, in this article, that California students have finally begun looking out of state more over the past decade.  The WUE programmakes it easier for West Coast families to send their kids out of state without breaking the bank.  Many private colleges offer fabulous merit-based (not need-based!) scholarships – CTCL schools are great at this.

We always encourage families to start early.  One of the more stressful parts of the college admissions journey is the fear of not getting in “somewhere good.”  Our challenge to you is to redefine “good” (for example, here’s why you shouldn’t build your list based on college rankings) and consider more what would work well for your child – focus on finding the environment where they will be happy and successful.  The earlier you start, the more time and effort your teenager can put into really doing the research and finding those colleges that fit them best.

College admissions is all we think about all day, every day.  We’re not here to tell you where you’ll get in and where you won’t – the colleges can do that themselves.  We’re not here to tell you to go to St. Olaf instead of UC Santa Barbara, if you are admitted – although I did have a student go to Southwestern University [a CTCL school] over Cal Poly SLO a few years back and her dad said it was the best decision their family ever made and a perfect fit for their daughter!  But we are here to help you walk through this process if you need some help.  Our team has visited over 400 colleges in the last ten years, many of them hidden gems that California families may not consider.

If you’d like a little extra guidance on your college admissions journey, we’re happy to be your trusted experts.  You can reach out to us here!

Evelyn Jerome-Alexander is the founder of Magellan College Counseling.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins, a Master’s degree from George Washington University, and a Certificate in College Counseling (with distinction) from UCLA.  Evelyn was asked in 2019 to serve as an instructor for UC Berkeley’s online College Admissions Advising courses and is a member of educational professional associations such as IECA (professional member), HECA and WACAC.

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