Help narrow down college list and chance me

UCSD does consider alternate majors while UCLA does not but CS at UCSD is probably a High Reach but OP did not specify if they are applying to CS or Engineering at each campus. Either way, these top schools will be tough admits.

CS at UCSD has been a Capped major for several years and the new admission policy does make it an extremely difficult admit.

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Yes, I meant the new admission process. Thanks for the clarification.

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Not sure if I agree with this, because:

  1. The automatic UCM offer for ELC students can occur only if shut out of all other UC applications. If UCM is or can become a more preferred choice over other UCs applied to, it would be better to apply there specifically.
  2. “If space is available” could mean that if UCM or the desired major there does get filled up with those who specifically applied there, that could leave shut out ELC students without a UCM offer.

So I’m not interested in UCM at all, and since I’m top 9%, I don’t need to apply

Since it seems capped at UCSD, what major should I apply to then? Or should I list my backup as an uncapped major?

Apply for your actual first and second choice majors.

If you get admitted to UCSD but not into your desired majors, consider very carefully whether there is a non-capped major there that you are willing to do (capped majors are listed at Capped Majors ), since trying to change into a capped major after enrolling will be difficult. Note that this also applies to some other schools like UCSB, UIUC, and UT Austin.

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UCSD recommends if applying to a Capped major to select a Non-Capped major as your alternate choice. All Engineering majors along with Data Science are capped so one alternative would be Math-CS. UCSD rarely admits into a Capped Alternate major but it is possible.
UCSD admits into the University first and then into the major so it is possible to be accepted into your 1st choice major, alternate major and many times Undeclared. If accepted as Undeclared, the change of major process for switching into the Capped majors can be difficult so something to consider.

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More information on Alternate majors at the UC campuses:

UCB: Alternate majors are not considered.

UCD: Applicants are encouraged to list an alternate major, but not in the same area as the primary major (e.g., Computer Science Engineering with alternate Computer Science in the College of L&S). Occasionally, they admit to the alternate major.

UCI: UCI admits into the University first and then into the major. In the case that UCI is unable to accommodate all qualified applicants in their first-choice major, those students who indicate a valid alternate major may be offered admission in that major or Undeclared.

UCLA: UCLA only guarantees review of an applicant’s first-choice major.

UCSD: The campus does not admit students on the basis of academic major or choice of UC San Diego undergraduate college. Alternate majors are considered and capped majors are highly competitive. Also note: Capped majors require additional pre-req courses and specific GPA to be able to qualify if changing majors. Also if applying to a capped major, select an non-capped major as an alternate.

UCSB: College of Engineering: Students are selected by major for all engineering and computer science majors. Only applicants with a solid background in advanced high school mathematics will be considered for admission to engineering. This includes high grades in all math courses through grade 11 and enrollment in pre-calculus or higher in grade 12. A student not selected for their first choice major will be reviewed for admission to an alternate major outside of the College of Engineering if one was selected.

UCSC: Important Note for Prospective Engineering Students: Choice of major does not influence the selection of first-year students, except for those applicants interested in a major offered by the Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE). Freshmen who are interested in a BSOE program should be sure to indicate a BSOE proposed major. Students who do not indicate a BSOE program or who apply as undeclared might not be able to pursue a BSOE program.

UCR and UCM: Admission by major but alternate/2nd choice major will be considered if applicant does not need their first choice admission standards.

The Cal states admit by major. Cal Poly Pomona will consider an alternate major. SJSU will consider an alternate major if there is room. SLO rarely considers an alternate major if it is outside the College of Engineering.

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Ok, so it seems like for cs/engineering getting into most schools will be very tough, what are good safeties for me? Since I’m 9%, i guess I don’t need to apply to UCM, and it would be a safety. Would a CSU like northridge be a good safety?
And what are my odds at UCSC/UCR for cs?

UC Merced would be a safety if you are ELC eligible but as noted by @ucbalumnus, your application will get referred to the campus if you do not get an admission offer by the other UC’s if they have room. If you are willing to attend UCM over other safety schools, other than paying the application fee, there is no harm in applying.

If you are local to Cal State Northridge, then it should be a Safety since CS is not impacted.

Here is the impaction matrix for the CSU’s so you can see where CS is impacted vs. non-impacted.

Regarding UCR and UCSC: I believe you are in range for an acceptance at both schools based on your posted information but there are no guarantees especially for CS.

First priority is to find at least 2 safety schools: Guaranteed acceptance, affordable and you are willing to attend no matter the outcome.

CS is impacted at all the UC’s so the competition is fierce. I would browse through the Class of 2026 discussion threads to see the stats of admitted, waitlisted and denied students to get an idea of where you stand.

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Cal Poly Pomona and SDSU can be good alternatives/safeties for CS. For CS, safety is hard to chance as there are too many well qualified applicants.
If OOS is okay, add Oregon St to the list.

I would put SDSU, CSULB and CPP as Match/Target schools but not Safety schools. Even if you are local to these campuses, CS is impacted so the admission process will be at a higher level with an emphasis on your Math coursework.

My younger son attended SDSU for CS, was happy with their program and had no issues in finding internships while in school nor a job post grad. I can try to answer any questions you may have about SDSU and some of the other CSU’s or UC’s.

CPP determines a CPP index and then factors in other criteria to determine a MFA score.

Admission Category Attribute Scoring
CPP Applicant Points (“A-G” GPA X 1000) + 450
Math Coursework Impacted STEM majors only

CS had a 4429 Threshold for 2021.

SDSU does not list their index calculation however they state:

  • Computer Science and Engineering Majors: Preference is given to applicants who have taken and earned strong grades in science and mathematics courses.

CSULB has a STEM index they calculate to rank applicants.
The STEM Index is a result of a formula that combines your achievement in your high school college preparatory courses in the subjects of Math and Science. The STEM Index is used by CSULB for admission to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors. The purpose of the STEM Index is to place additional weight on quantitative skills required for success in these majors.

The STEM Index for CSULB ranking in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) majors is calculated as follows:

  • (600 x HS Math Subject GPA) + (600 x HS Science Subject GPA).
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You have a great GPA, however your rigor is a bit light for the top schools for CS and EE/ME. Where you have Calc A/B and Physics 1, your competition will have Calc B/C or higher and AP Physics Mechanics, if not also AP Physics Electromechanics and AP Chemistry. If you can and your school offers it, I’d switch into Calc B/C and AP Physics C: Mechanics and add AP Chemistry to up your rigor. Physics 1 will not be much use to you as an engineering major - you need calculus based physics and it will help as a freshman to have seen the material before. Both my kids took AP Physics Mechanics without having seen any physics before and came out fine (one a math whiz and one more shaky in his math).

For SLO (I have one kid who graduated EE there recently and another who is starting there in another major this fall), for CS you are a reach. CS has a single digit acceptance rate. Probably the same for ME, which has a 15% acceptance rate. Your best bet there is EE. Also, as an EE you can take CS/CPE electives or add a CS minor and still get a job in the CS industry. It’s also easier to add a CS masters to an engineering degree than do it the other way.

If you are unsure as to major, EE might be the way to go since it’s become less popular because of CS but many companies looking for CS grads will accept an EE degree with coursework, experience, and/or projects - Something to think about since you are not set on a major and it’s advice you don’t see often. EE coursework is very difficult but having the hardware background might be useful. Keep in mind many schools make switching into CS from other engineering majors very very hard - definitely research this on the school’s reddit sub.

You also want to research schools that direct admit into major vs. those who make you go through two years of foundational courses and will allow you into your major of choice provided you meet a certain GPA requirement.

CPP might be a match. SJSU may also be a match. CSULB is probably a match but all three of these schools have become much harder to get into in the last few years. SDSU accepts 50% of the people who apply to the engineering majors so you’re likely ok there but I wouldn’t call it a “top” program. As for the UCs, the top 6 are reaches for sure. I don’t really know about the lesser UCs.

I don’t think you have a shot at Cal Tech or Stanford and shouldn’t bother applying. USC is probably a waste of money, too. U of A and ASU are safeties. Oregon State is T100 for engineering and will give you some $ for your GPA. I’d also look into Iowa State. They’re T50 for engineering, on the preferred engineering recruiting lists for Boeing and Lockheed due to ex-CEOs being ISU grads, and have a generous acceptance policy (which means they weed out freshman year). They’re also rather inexpensive as far as out of state schools go.

Overall, your list is full of reaches and you need more safeties, unless you know you’re ok with going to ASU or U of Az if you don’t get into a college you like in CA. You might want to add CU Boulder to your list. If money is not an object, add in RPI. Also, from what I understand, Santa Clara University has a pretty good pipeline to Silicon Valley. Also, many companies hire locally so if there is an area of the country you think you’d like to live in after graduation then I’d look at colleges in that area and forget about rankings.

Take the SATs. Cal Poly SLO uses it for math placement. It will also help when it comes to getting OOS scholarship money.

— an EE mom

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As long the Engineering/CS programs are ABET accredited, you will be fine in pursing these majors at any of these CSU’s.

Just more CSU information regarding acceptance rates for Engineering/CS below:
CSULB 2021 Admit rates:
CS was 49%, ME/Aero was 56% and EE was 58%.

SDSU 2021 Admit rates:
CS was 48%, ME was 48% and EE was 41%.

CPP 2021 Admit rates were not disclosed but historically CS was 41%, ME 34% and EE was 40%.

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Since you mention ASU, if you mean Arizona State University, if you can afford it, it should be a safety.

First-year admission requirements | Admission | ASU says that you need to meet the course requirements and have one of top 25% rank, 3.00 GPA in core competency courses, 24 ACT, 1180 SAT to be admitted. Going to the degree search indicates that the following are required for the majors you mention:

  • Computer science: 1210 SAT or 24 ACT or 3.00 GPA or top 25% rank, and no high school math or science competency deficiencies.
  • Electrical engineering: 1210 SAT or 24 ACT or 3.00 GPA or top 25% rank, and no high school math or science competency deficiencies.
  • Mechanical engineering: 1210 SAT or 24 ACT or 3.00 GPA or top 25% rank, and no high school math or science competency deficiencies. indicates that a high SAT or ACT score may increase the scholarship amount available there above what you may get for a high GPA and/or rank.

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Great thanks! I’ll definitely apply to ASU/UofA safety? Is it worth to apply to texas schools: UT, UTD, and TAMU?
In addition, I’m still uncertain about majors, I’m slightly more inclined to CS/software over hardware but I’m not fully certain on anything. Any help?

When you say money is no object but in state is preferable, than U of A is your top OOS choice…about $11k tuition after $30k off assuming your GPA for them is 3.9+. No test score required.

Unless you love the Texas schools so much (UT likely a no go and A&M is not direct admit) and you are ok spending far more $, I see no reason to apply. UTD for NMFs but not otherwise.

If U of A and ASU work for you and U of A will be cheap and has the nicest Honors complex…then stick with them. ASU …run the net price calculator to estimate your scholarship.

Good luck.

Correct me if I am wrong but my understanding is that if one is admitted to a UC undeclared instead of their major of choice, their application will not be redirected to UCM for ELC consideration.

Correct. If an ELC eligible applicant is offered admission at any other UC regardless of admitted major, their application will not be referred to the default campus.

In other words, a UC applicant who prefers UCM over getting into other UCs but not in the desired major that is hard to get into later should apply specifically to UCM rather than rely on ELC.