The Fall 2018 admissions decisions are in. While the Laura Ingraham - David Hogg controversy following Hogg's UC rejections may be taking up the national headlines, this year's results across California are baffling even veteran counselors.
"Had a student accepted to Stanford who was waitlisted at UC Davis. Huh."
"My student who was waitlisted at UC Davis and Cal Poly was accepted at UC Berkeley."
"And a student admitted to UC Berkeley who was waitlisted at Cal Poly SLO, Santa Clara and Pepperdine."
"Have a student admitted EA to Stanford, denied at UCSD."
These are some of the comments bouncing around the national listserve for college admissions counselors -- experts who have assisted students of every background, year after year, in determining the probability of successful college admissions outcomes. When they're caught off-balance, you know that major change is happening.
Why? It's all about the numbers.
- The University of California system overall received more than 181,000 freshman applications this year, which is nearly 6% more than last year. Five UC campuses had more than 100,000 total applicants (both freshman and transfer), which is why schools like UCSD and UC Davis are frequently at the center of the upset. California students, in particular, felt the crunch continue from last year after a brief reprieve during the 2016 admissions cycle.
- Outside of the UC system, Cal Poly SLO, the most competitive of the Cal State Universities, saw a 12% increase in applicants from last year.
- USC's total number of applicants jumped to more than 64,000, bringing its acceptance rate to an all-time low of 13%.
Here's what to remember:
- California probably hasn't seen peak numbers of freshman applicants yet. Acceptance rates will not be getting any more generous or predictable, so diversify your options.
- Unless you have a top-notch academic record and you're considering UC campuses that still accept around 50% or more students (Santa Cruz, Riverside and/or Merced), no school in the UC system can be considered a "safety."
- Start your responses to the UC Personal Insight questions early, and make sure you're loading them with all the information a reader can take in a 5-7 minute review.
- If you're planning to apply to the Cal State University system, make sure you do your homework on which campuses and individual academic programs are impacted.
- Include a range of out-of-state colleges among your applications. For Californians considering college cost, that might mean exploring the Western Undergraduate Exchange for options of universities in other states that offer tuition breaks that more closely resemble in-state rates.
- Remember, too, that many mostly smaller liberal arts colleges offer merit aid as an incentive to attract out-of-state students -- consider opening your search to some lesser-known names that are known for their generosity.