top of page

UC Admissions 2021 Clarified

The good news.

The University of California campuses recently announced they will remain test blind for this year’s admission cycle for the entering class of fall 2022!

The bad news.

Students can expect another year of record-breaking application numbers being sent to UC campuses.

Photo from

UCLA Breaks All Records

UCLA led the entire nation drawing a record 140,000 freshman applicants for just over 6,200 seats for the class of 2021. The sharp increase in applications was experienced by most UC campuses:

UC San Diego 18%

UC Santa Barbara 16%

UC Santa Cruz 11%

UC Irvine 10%

UC Riverside 7%.

Historic numbers of applications are a result of the UCs announcing last fall they would not take the SAT or ACT into consideration in any way for admission. Eliminating this barrier for many students resulted in the huge surge of applications, and the ensuing heartbreak from a rejection letter felt by so many students this year.

What DOES It Take?

So just what does it take to earn an acceptance letter from one or more of the UC campuses?

In an article written by Los Angeles Times’s staff writer Teresa Watanabe, the gatekeepers to becoming a UC student, Admissions Office staff, shared just what they do look for in candidates.

Here is what some of the dedicated staff that did holistic reviews of the 200,000+ applications this year shared.

Majors Matter

UC Irvine’s executive director of undergraduate admissions, Dale Leaman, explained to Ms. Watanabe that half of all 108,000 applicants applied to just 6 out of the 85 majors UCI boasts: biological sciences, business administration, nursing science, computer science, and psychology.

Students need to invest in their future before applying to college by spending time career planning. By knowing what careers are best suited to their interests and strengths, students will be able to choose a major that will lead them to a career where they will thrive. There are usually multiple paths to that career which don’t always require a student to major in a university’s most popular area of study.

Math Progression

A-G requirements state that only three years of college-preparatory mathematics, that include the topics covered in elementary and advanced algebra and two- and three-dimensional geometry are required, keep in mind that this a minimum requirement to qualify for admission.

The majority of successful UC admits have taken 4 years of increasingly challenging math classes, including college-level AP courses.

Sustained Passion

In the LA Times interview, Lisa Przekop, UC Santa Barbara’s director of admissions, said her team also looked for evidence of sustained passion. If students expressed a love of science in their Personal Insight Question responses, did they take four years of the subject rather than the required two? Did they join any related clubs or summer programs?

Admission team’s look for patterns that support the student’s stated interests.

Engaged Learners

Admissions officers admit students that will contribute to the campus community inside and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, university faculty want active, engaged learners who have involved themselves in their school and community.

What might that look like?

  • Seek out opportunities to learn through TED Talks

  • Take community college or Coursera courses to learn about a subject beyond what a student’s high school offers

  • Participate in summer enrichment learning opportunities

  • Volunteer for tutoring, in-person or online

  • Help family members stricken with COVID-19


UC application readers also look for persistence, resilience, and grit — students who have a learning disability for instance, and still excelled in a rigorous curriculum. Did the student do something that took them out of their comfort zone and stretched them beyond their boundaries? Or maybe the student who comes from a low-income family must work multiple jobs to support their family and is still able to earn high grades in a rigorous curriculum.

GPA and Curriculum

Highly selective universities are looking at the strength of applicant’s curriculum and the grades they earned. Student’s choices are measured in context of the courses offered by the high school they attend. If a student’s high school offers many Honors, AP, or IB courses, selective universities are going to admit students who have availed themselves of these academic opportunities by taking a significant number of them and earning top grades.

Consider last year’s (pretest-optional) range of admitted student’s fully weighted GPAs at some UCs:

A UC education can be within reach for many students with the proper planning. Royal College Consulting would love to assist you on your admissions path – whether to a UC or another university. Reach out to us for a complimentary consultation.


Be in the know! Subscribe to Royal College Consulting’s weekly blog.

If you want to be informed and learn more about college planning, financial aid, scholarships, ACT / SAT testing, college essays, and more, subscribe to my blog, and you will get all future articles delivered directly to your inbox.


This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.

Let's get started! Click here to book a complimentary discovery call with Janice.


Phone: (714) 319-0399


bottom of page