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4.0 GPA,1900 SAT,Rejection Letter from UCLA: “WTF?” Posted on:Saturday, April 16th, 2016


Excuse my French, but this is exactly what some students are saying right now who received rejection letters from their top pick schools.

One student of mine in particular had a 4.2 GPA, was involved in loads of activities, but still did not get accepted to UCLA.

Why does this happen?

Let’s first start with the odds.  UCLA had over 80,000 applications come in this year with only 5,000 students seeing acceptance letters.  Record breaking numbers of students are applying to top public universities like the UC’s, but the number of available seats remain constant. Naturally, we’re going to see sharp declines in acceptance rates.  Check out the graph below, which reflects Berkeley’s application cycle since 2004:

See it’s not you.  It’s simply the dilemma of supply and demand and colleges are running out of supply.

So how does one compete against the masses of students flashing the same academic six packs and bulging brag sheets?  I can’t offer any guarantees, but I can tell you exactly what Susan Pendo, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at UC Berkeley had to say about it.

At a recent conference Pendo spoke about the Holistic Review process that all UC’s use.  They consider 14 review factors when reviewing applications and they’re primarily looking at factors that reflect the “intellectual vitality,” of the student.  Here are the 14 factors below in order of priority:

  1. GPA
  2. Test scores
  3. Number of & performance in courses beyond A-G
  4. Number of & performance in UC approved honors/AP/IB courses
  5. ELC
  6. Quality of senior year
  7. Academic performance relative to educational opportunities available in the high school
  8. Outstanding performance in a particular subject area
  9. Special projects in any academic field of study
  10. Recent, marked improvement in academic performance
  11. Special talents, achievements, and awards
  12. Special projects undertaken in high school or during special events, projects, or programs
  13. Academic accomplishment in light of life experiences and special circumstances
  14. Location of secondary school and residence

Pendo stressed that the UC’s really try to “understand the student in context.” So rather than admitting an entire class of 4.0, perfect score, high resource students, they weigh a range of factors when making a decision.

She offered two real cases studies from applicants this year. They both had impressive GPA’s and test scores. However, the decision in this case came down to the essay.

One student focused entirely on the accomplishments of his dad, acquiesced about possible future careers, and spoke nothing about his individual passions and interests.  He failed to bring life to the numbers, and left evaluators guessing, something you don’t want to do.

So if you’re planning to apply to UC’s in the fall, remember to:

1)  Apply broadly because as you can see, sometimes it simply comes down to               numbers, and you don’t want to be left without options.

2) Offer every detail of information that can speak to the 14 factors. Don’t make                       evaluators guess. Context is super important.

3) All colleges are looking for students who are engaged, who show not just participation but leadership, who are demonstrating innovation and sustained (ongoing) involvement in their school and community.

We want to hear your acceptance story!  Comment below to share what schools you got into and how you’re feeling.

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