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  • Writer's pictureMarcia Farias

Applying to the University of California

The University of California is comprised of 10 campuses, 9 of which offer undergraduate studies. With 6 academic health centers and 3 national laboratories, the university is a powerhouse of scholarly research in all fields of knowledge.

If you are applying to one or more UC campuses this application season as a freshman, here is what you need to know.

The UC has its own application platform. You can apply to one or to all campuses, and each campus will not read your application to the others. Application fees are steep: $80 for international students, per campus, and there are no fee waivers for international students.

Keep in mind also that "International students are generally ineligible for student loans and are eligible for very few scholarships." Most international students will pay full tuition during the entire time they are enrolled at UC.

The application platform is already open, and you can submit your application between October 1 and November 30.

Admissions rates and class profiles vary among the different campuses, as do campus culture and majors and opportunities offered. You must do your research to understand which campus is the best fit for you.

Although the entire UC system offers academic excellence, the campuses are usually defined in four tiers, according to selectivity, although this is a very relative exercise:

1- UCLA and UC Berkeley - similar schools in terms of selectivity would be: University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, USC, and the University of Virginia.

4- UC Merced - the newest and smallest campus of the University of California.

The table below has preliminary data of applications on total and international applications to each of the UC campuses for the past three admissions cycles.

Download PDF • 92KB

The application to the UC is test-blind. This means the university will not consider test scores for admissions (SATs and ACTs). Teacher recommendations are also not submitted with the application, but internationally-recognized exam scores, such as the IBDP, the AP exams, Abitur, Bac, A levels etc must be officially submitted to the university if the student is enrolled in one of these programs.

Who must submit English proficiency exam scores? "If all of your high school/secondary school education was completed in English, you are considered proficient and do not need to satisfy this requirement.

However, if you have completed all or some high school or secondary school in a country where English was not the language of instruction, you will be required to demonstrate English proficiency if you have had less than 3 years of instruction in English."

You can demonstrate your proficiency in a variety of ways, including the Duoling test.


The application is divided into seven parts:

1) About You: biographical information;

2) Campuses and Majors: indicate your desired major(s) at each campus you are applying to;

3) Academic History: all the courses you have taken in high school, and high-school level courses taken in math or languages while in the 7th or 8th grades;

4) Test Scores: indicate international programs and English-language proficiency exams;

5) Activities and Awards: this is your chance to demonstrate what activities you have dedicated yourself to, both in and out of school, and to list your most relevant awards;

6) Scholarships and Programs: indicate any scholarships and programs you may be eligible to apply to (generally not applicable to international students);

6) Personal Insight: answer 4 of the 8 personal insight questions. This is your chance to show your qualities, values and skills, and to offer admissions a 3-D view of yourself.

Once you have reviewed and submitted your application, the platform will provide you with an Application ID number, which you will use to access the different campus pages.

Prepare in advance your activities list and PIQs! When October 1 comes, you want to be ready to hit that submission button!

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