Understanding the University of California Admission Review Process

As we inch toward March, and thus the release of admission decisions from the University of California (UC) institutions, many students are wondering how they evaluate applications. After all, UCLA received a whopping 139,485 applications from the class of 2021, but could only admit 15,004, which is a 10.8% acceptance rate–so who’s getting in and how?

While academic achievement is the most important piece of the evaluation, the UCs actually utilize a 13-point system of factors they consider in determining an applicant’s admission status:

  1. The student’s GPA in all A-G courses (with additional points awarded for the completion of UC-certified honors courses).
  2. Number of academic courses beyond the minimum A-G requirements and performance in those courses.
  3. Number of UC-approved honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses and performance in those courses.
  4. For CA residents, being eligible in the local context (ELC), which requires being ranked in the top 9% of the student’s high school graduating class.
  5. The quality of the student’s senior year coursework, including the type and quantity of academic courses in progress/planned.
  6. Academic performance quality in the context of the educational opportunities available at the student’s high school.
  7. Outstanding performance in one or more academic subjects.
  8. Outstanding work in one (or more) special projects in any academic field of study.
  9. Recent, marked improvement in academic performance (demonstrated by GPA improvement and the quality of coursework completed or in progress).
  10. Special talents, achievements, and awards in a particular field (for example: athletic endeavors, visual and performing arts, special interests, significant leadership and/or community service, etc.). In other words, any experiences or achievements that demonstrate the student’s promise for contributing to the intellectual vitality of the campus.
  11. Completion of special projects within or in conjunction with the high school’s curriculum, special school events, special programs, or special projects.
  12. Academic accomplishments in light of a student’s life experiences and special circumstances.
  13. Location of the student’s secondary school and residence.

In general, the UCs are far more transparent about their admission evaluation process than most colleges and universities in the USA. Students who are still navigating their high school coursework can use this information to their advantage and be sure to maximize as much as possible their presentation of each of the points listed above.

At the end of the day, though, it’s important to remember that many impressive and outstanding applicants are still not offered admission. There is no guarantee or step-by-step instructions to guarantee admission to any particular college or university, but doing well in school will best set you up for success in the admissions process.


The co-Founder of Virtual College Counselors, Jessica Chermak provides stress-free, personalized, and professional one-on-one college guidance around the globe from the comfort of a student’s own home. Jessica is a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and Professional Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). Jessica is also a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling, and serves on the board of the College Consultants of Colorado. 

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