Everything You Need to Know About UC Eligibility

Find out whether you meet the requirements to apply to a University of California school.

By Ashley Henshaw | February 17, 2017

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The University of California (UC) system contains ten campuses spread throughout the state. A popular choice among California students, UC colleges are also open to students from all over the country and the world. But what does it take to get in? Learn more about the eligibility requirements for applying to a UC school.

If you rank among the top 9 percent of students throughout the state or in your graduating class, you are guaranteed admission (space permitting).

Course Requirements

One of the key admission guidelines for all UC colleges is high school course completion. To be eligible, you must complete a minimum of 15 college prep courses, with at least 11 of these finished prior to the beginning of your senior year. The courses are as follows:

  • History/social science | 2 years
  • English | 4 years
  • Mathematics | 3 years
  • Laboratory science | 2 years
  • Foreign language | 2 years
  • Visual and performing arts | 1 year
  • College-prep elective | 1 year

In order for each course to count, you must earn a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better in all courses with no individual grade lower than a C. Non-residents must earn a GPA of 3.4 or better.

You may also satisfy these requirements by completing a college course or by earning sufficiently high scores on the SAT, Advanced Placement (AP) tests or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams.

Testing Requirements

Students applying to UC must take the ACT Plus Writing or the SAT Reasoning Test by December of their senior year. Taking an SAT Subject Test may be recommended if you’re applying to a specific program at one of the UC campuses. Students who don’t meet UC’s other eligibility requirements may be considered for admission if they earn high scores on the ACT Plus Writing, SAT Reasoning Test and two SAT Subject Tests.

In addition to reporting your scores on your UC application, you should also request that an official copy be sent to one of the UC campuses to which you are applying. If you send your scores to one UC campus, all the campuses to which you apply will be able to access that information for admission purposes.

Students should report their AP and IB scores to UC as well. To receive credit, make sure an official copy is sent to your UC campus directly from the testing agency.

Students applying to the University of California must take the ACT Plus Writing or the SAT Reasoning Test by December of their senior year.
Photo: Thinkstock

In-State Residents

Over 90 percent of undergraduate students in the UC system are California residents. However, there’s still plenty of competition for in-state students to get into these schools. If you rank among the top 9 percent of students throughout the state or in your graduating class, you are guaranteed admission (space permitting). If you’re not admitted to any of the UC campuses to which you applied, you’ll be offered admission at one of the other UC campuses.

Out-of-State Residents

The competition is high among out-of-state applicants because UC prioritizes California residents. And, as mentioned above, out-of-state applicants must earn higher grades in their college prep classes in order to be eligible for admission. Keep these factors in mind when applying to a UC school from another state.

Transfer and International Students

For transfer students, priority is given to California community college students. However, students from four-year universities are also accepted, and it is possible to transfer from one UC campus to another. See the Transfer Admission Requirements page on UC’s website for more information.

International students will need to apply for a visa from the U.S. government and have a valid passport from their government.

Students whose native language is not English must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination and have the scores sent to each campus to which they are applying.

For transfer students, priority is given to California community college students.
Photo: Thinkstock

Exceptions

If you don’t meet the requirements for eligibility at the University of California, there’s still a chance you could be accepted. Each campus is permitted to offer admission to a few students who don’t meet all of the admission requirements. If you don’t meet the requirements but still want to apply, use the personal statement or the additional comments section on the application to explain why you should be accepted.

Other Factors to Consider

When a UC campus reviews your application, they’ll look for more than just the requirements listed above. In addition to your grades in college prep courses, your standardized test scores and your class rank, the following factors will be considered, according to the University of California’s website:

  • Classes taken beyond the 15 required courses
  • Classes taken that qualify as honors, AP, IB or college courses
  • Quality of your senior-year program (according to the courses in progress or planned)
  • Quality of your academic performance (relative to the educational opportunities in your high school)
  • Outstanding performance in one or more specific subject areas
  • Outstanding work in one or more special academic projects
  • Recent, marked improvement in academic performance
  • Special talents, achievements and awards in a particular field, special skills, special interests, leadership roles, etc.
  • Completion of special academic or other school-related projects
  • Academic accomplishments in light of your life experiences (i.e. family income, disabilities, etc.)

Note that each campus may weigh these factors differently in admissions decisions.

UC schools have high standards for their students, so be sure to put a lot of effort into your academics and extracurricular activities if you hope to apply. To help gauge your chances of getting in, you can check out UC’s freshman admission profiles for each campus.

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