The UC freshman admissions numbers just released for this fall, and the competitiveness is evident at every campus except UCSD, whose admit rate stayed about the same. But don’t treat these numbers at face value. To accurately gauge how competitive the UCs are becoming for in-state students, it’s necessary to subtract the admissions offers to out-of-state and international students. At UCLA, for example, the actual number of admission slots for in-state students is 15,455 – 6,192 (number of admitted non-Californian freshmen) = 9,263. The number of in-state applicants was 52,231, which translates to a 17.7% admissions rate. This is comparable to the admission rate at Cornell, which, for the class of 2015, was 17.9%. UCLA is now more competitive, in-state, than an Ivy League school. Sadly, for upcoming Californian applicants, this is going to become even more pronounced over the next years. Consequently, gaining admissions to a campus such as Berkeley is becoming ever more challenging. Last year, the median weighted GPA at Berkeley was 4.14. This year it’s 4.36, though, the composite SAT median actually decreased slightly to 2,068 from 2,073 (statistically insignificant). On top of the increased level of competitiveness at the UC campuses, a number of changes within the UC admissions process were introduced with this fall’s freshman class. These changes need clarification, as they’ve caused confusion. The new UC Admissions website for freshmen includes the “2012 Admissions Index” calculator that determines whether applicants are in the top 9% of California high school students. This 9% of the collective California high school class is tagged ELC (eligibility local content) and all are guaranteed a place somewhere on one of the UC campuses (which could be Merced; there are no guarantees as to which campus). What’s confusing is when students, or counselors, go to what, in effect, is the ELC calculator, and input GPA, standardized test scores — and follow such rules as “give yourself an extra point for each honors level course, up to eight semesters for 10th and 11th grade courses.” Many think this calculator is actually determining admissions chances and that the ELC scales pertain to the actual admissions process at individual UC campuses. ELC status is just one component of the actual UC campus admissions process. Furthermore, according to the new UC admissions guidelines, another 3.5% of the admissions spots are being allocated to students who are “entitled to review” (ETR): these are students who have taken 11a-g courses and have talents and qualities warranting consideration. (Under the original UC admissions plan, the top 12.5% of each high school class was considered ELC). UC admissions decisions are made ‘holistically’ across 14 criteria listed on the UC Admission’s site, some of which include: GPA in all a-g courses completed by the end of junior year; standardized test scores — either SAT or ACT with writing (note the two required SAT subject tests were eliminated with this fall’s classes) — though the admissions site does reference that the engineering colleges at UCB, UCLA, UCR and UCSB still recommend Math 2C and a science subject test of choice be submitted); number and performance in courses beyond the a-g courses; number of AP and Honors courses taken; outstanding performance in one or two academic areas; ELC identification; quality of senior year course load; special talents; outside academic accomplishments; quality of academic performance in relation to educational opportunities available in your high school; experiences that demonstrate leadership potential; and projects indicating strong intellectual vitality. No calculator predicts admissions to a UC campus. The battle for a spot on UC campuses is becoming ever more contested with each ensuing year. To be successful, you need to be informed and to attain test scores and grades that are close to or above the medians of the campuses to which you’re applying. You also need to present yourself in the personal statements and the general application, as an applicant who has solid talents, leadership capabilities and strong intellectual curiosity and vitality. All this might get you into UCLA, or even Cornell: but it’s a whole lot colder there.