High School Junior Going to Apply for T25 and UCs


  • CA, US Resident
  • Type of high school: Public
  • Asian-American Female
  • Other special factors (first generation, legacy, athlete, etc.): bisexual, but that’s like it and I don’t know if I want to go into sob story-ish stuff

Intended Major(s)
Communications (if available), Sociology, Gender studies, Philosophy, maybe Business

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores

  • Unweighted HS GPA: 3.8
  • Weighted HS GPA: 4.6 out of 5.0
  • Class Rank: none
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 35 on ACT, not planning on taking SAT and I didn’t get a chance to take any SAT 2s before Collegeboard shut them all down

*Current (junior year) courseload: AP World, AP Lang, AP Calc AB, AP Psych, AP CSP, Orch (I’m in the top orchestra my school has to offer), Latin 3
*4 on Music Theory, 5 on APUSH

National Ethics Bowl Champion
Regional Ethics Bowl Champion
NHD CA Runner Up
Scholastic Silver Key
Published research paper on communication in the workplace, and how that affects women

*Co-pres. of Girl Up Chapter at my high school – we mostly do regular volunteer opportunities and such, but we did get on the news for a successful collaboration with a local business
*Co-founder, CMO of an organization that helps new Chinese immigrants find a community in our city
*Board of our high school’s Ethics Bowl club
*Technology officer on board of another organization helping high schoolers learn life skills not taught in schools (ie. insurance)
*Teen advisory board of our city’s vice mayor
*Summer research internship at UCI (will publish another research paper as first author once internship is done)
*Outside orchestra (I had a shot at concertmaster but then I missed a rehearsal… and got moved all the way to the back)

*Counselor LOR: Don’t really talk to her, she seemed to dislike me fresh and sophomore year because I was taking a lot of APs for a sophomore (two, most kids were taking one). Our public school is highly competitive and the suicide/ depression rate is alarming the counselors to the point they are trying to dissuade us from taking as many APs.
*Latin teacher: He literally writes LORs for all of the kids planning on taking AP Latin or Latin 4, as in he will come to you and ask for your resume and all that to write the LOR. He’s been teaching at our school for almost 40 years now and insists on writing us all LORs. Most likely, it’ll be pretty strong because we all have a strong relationship with him.
*Freshman year history teacher: I had her freshman year, but known her all four years. She is the club advisor for Ethics Bowl and NHD, so I know her fairly well. Considering we won nationals, she has a very high opinion of all of us, and I’m taking her new semester course (non weighted) senior year. Hopefully I can get a good LOR from her, but that is questionable.

Cost Constraints / Budget
*UCs would be preferable, but considering that I am Asian and coming from a stable middle-class household and all that, I don’t think I have much of a shot
*Too poor for college, too rich for financial aid kind of tagline
*If I get into a really, really good private school, we’ll probably figure out a way, but otherwise, my family and I don’t see the worth of paying for a mid-tier private school when I could be attending a UC.
*Good private school with enough financial aid would be amazing, otherwise I’m headed to a UC.

*ED possibilities: Brown (don’t know feasibility), JHU, Wellesley
*EA: don’t know yet, will pick some out of others
*Others: UCs, UMich, NYU, BU, Barnard, Notre Dame, Scripps, USC, Pitzer, BC
*Safeties: Pepperdine, UIUC, U Washington

@skieurope Extremely similar post a few days ago… Lots of the same wording from a different account.

Wait this isn’t spam or anything… I literally made this account like yesterday for the purpose of posting this, I’ve never posted anything on CC before…

Thank you for the detailed info, which is helpful. One piece is missing. Just because your school doesn’t assign a class rank, surely you have some idea in which percentile of your class you stand? My kids’ public high sends out a table with a bar graph stating that X percent fall within this GPA range, Y percent within that range, Z within this lower range, etc. This divides the class into perhaps ten sections for GPA.

If your GPA puts you in the top 5-10%, or the 25th%, of the 90th% of your class, this is very relevant information.

I think your ECs look very good. With CA going test blind, the only way to get recognized is if you are Nat’l merit semi/final or commendation, and can list it on your awards. For this reason ONLY, if it’s not too late, I would prep like crazy and take SAT, if it can be put toward National Merit for your class. That way, your excellent standardized test score can come to the attention of the admissions committees for UC’s. Ugh, never mind, you had to have tested by April 1st, 2021.

They’re not supposed to take into account race, so they cannot hold your race against you.

Top 15% of my class, but no further information. I might be in ELAC, if that adds anything.

Your “safeties” are expensive. If they are too expensive, then they are not safeties.

Pepperdine is a strongly religious school – does it match your religious beliefs?

Having gone through this process twice, the second time just now with my college senior, here’s my advice:

A 3.8 GPA with good rigor, 35 ACT, top 15% and a range of ECs including one where you have achieved national recognition are fantastic. However, I know many such students, including my own kids, and when you are reaching high, there is no way to predict. You might get lucky and get into several. You might get shut out from all.

The only admissions safety I see here (perhaps) is Pepperdine. Would it be a financial safety?

UIUC and U Washington are matches/low reaches for OOS (out of state). They will also be expensive. The maximum OOS merit from U Dub is about $10K (purple & gold scholarship)

Are there any Cal States you would consider?

As a California resident, you are eligible for Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), which offers reduced OOS tuition at many western state public universities. Some of the better ones are Washington State, Western Washington, U of Arizona, Arizona State, U of Utah, and U of New Mexico. Even without WUE, your chances of getting significant merit money are pretty good at all of these (minus Washington State). Many of these have fine honors colleges, especially the Arizona schools.

What are you looking for in a school? You have everything from small women’s colleges to church affiliated schools (both Catholic and Church of Christ) very large state flagship universities and everything in between. This is not a bad strategy. Your needs and preferences may change from the time you apply to the time you enroll at a college. Aside from urban/suburban location, I don’t see a unifying theme.

I hope this does not seem harsh. You have impressive accomplishments. However, elite college admissions is more competitive than you can imagine, especially given the surge in applications due to COVID-19 and test optional policies. This year, the acceptance rate at many top schools was in the single digits. Do not underestimate the effect on your morale if you were to get a string of rejections because your list was reach heavy. Apply to some that you particularly like, maybe your ED possibilities as they are probably your favorites. But be sure to have plenty of true matches and safeties that your family is willing to pay for.

1 Like

Yeah I’m aware that my “safeties” are considerably more expensive… My best plan was to go to a lower or mid tier UC should all else fail (UC Berkeley or UCLA would be a dream) and I don’t receive good enough financial aid (I honestly haven’t looked into financial aid packages enough), but UCs are rocky right now.

Financial safety is definitely something to consider, I will for sure look into more financial aid-type stuff. Thank you for the advice!

As for religious preference, Pepperdine is honestly not my top choice at all (not even sure if I want to apply there to begin with because of the religious aspect, I just know that it’s a for certain “admissions safety”).

I was wondering, since you’re obviously familiar with this year’s admissions process, because so many students took gaps years during the 2019-2020 admissions cycle because of COVID, did that have any impact on the admission rates for the highly competitive schools (ie. UCB, UCLA, Ivys, etc.)? Thanks!

Not a Californian but I think you have a fair shot for some schools like UMich, NYU, BU, Scripps, Pitzer, and BC and a good one for your safeties. As for UCs I think the only real reaches would be for UCLA and Berkeley but both are not impossible. UCI has gotten difficult recently so that might be challenging, same with UCSD, but neither are unlikely I’d say. I think in general you are a very good applicant and you should do well next year.

Gap year students made some impact on T-20s but the main shift is test optional. If you are interested, google Jeff Selingo, who is an education writer, who recently published a book, Who Gets in and Why? Due to TO, which is likely to continue at many schools next year, the top schools were flooded with applications, which made it even more difficult to predict outcomes. During this season some matches became reaches, and reaches became uber reaches. While many students could not test this year, others who didn’t test as well as they would have liked did not submit. The data isn’t yet available but I’d bet that test submitters at top schools were probably 1500/34+

You seem to be open to smaller/Catholic/women’s schools. Some where your stats have a decent chance of yielding merit scholarships would be Santa Clara, LMU, Occidental, University of Puget Sound, Willamette, and Lewis & Clark. Also as I mentioned above, there are many students from California at the flagship universities in Arizona where strong stats yield merit scholarships that can make them less expensive than the UC system. Those would be good safeties to have in your back pocket. I am not sure if they still have rolling admission but in the past they did. It’s reassuring to go through this process with a viable offer in hand early on. Both have very good honors colleges.

@lebron13, respectfully, admissions was very tough this year at U Mich, NYU, and BC.

Each college has a net price calculator on its web site with which you can estimate financial aid for that college. You and your parents should use them to check affordability before finalizing your application list.

For humanities and social studies, UCs are not as competitive for admission as for engineering and computer science (many of the unpleasant surprises occur with applicants for engineering or computer science). Calculate your HS GPA as UC would recalculate it here: GPA Calculator for the University of California – RogerHub . Most UC web sites refer to the weighted-capped version of the HS GPA unless specified otherwise.

Fall 2020 admission rates by campus and HS GPA range from Freshman fall admissions summary | University of California :

Campus 4.20+ 3.80-4.19 3.40-3.79 3.00-3.39
Berkeley 37% 14% 2% 1%
Davis 86% 55% 16% 7%
Irvine 60% 38% 9% 1%
Los Angeles 38% 8% 1% 1%
Merced 98% 97% 95% 88%
Riverside 97% 90% 65% 30%
San Diego 78% 39% 8% 1%
Santa Barbara 81% 40% 9% 2%
Santa Cruz 92% 82% 59% 26%

These are for the whole campus. Different divisions or majors may have different levels selectivity (usually, engineering and computer science majors are more selective).

1 Like

It is not a safety if you do not want to attend.

1 Like

With how competitive this year as been (possibly because of test-optional), I would be pretty happy with UCSD… Hopefully I’ll do well, thanks!

I haven’t taken the shift into test-optional into consideration, definitely something to think about, thanks! My school generally gets around 30 acceptances into UCLA and 40 acceptances into UC Berkeley yearly, but those have definitely dropped this admissions cycle. I know affirmative action is technically not in place in UCs, but it’s undeniable that the proposal has had some impact when over half of my school’s population is Asian-American and the acceptances into UCLA and UCB have been cut by over a half.

For the UC system, my family would be willing to pay full tuition into a mid or high tier UC (if absolutely necessary and that is my best acceptance overall for mid-tier; if I get into Berkeley or UCLA, I’ll probably end up committing). From this year’s results, UCSD is looking pretty nice but I do feel like it would be a waste of my effort in high school…

As for the other colleges you mentioned, I haven’t looked into them yet, but I definitely will.

What is your recalculated weighted-capped HS GPA? For most students who took many courses with UC honors weighting, the weighted-capped HS GPA tends to be about 0.3-0.4 higher than unweighted HS GPA. Do not use the weighted HS GPA provided by your high school to compare with (weighted-capped) HS GPA found on UC web sites.

Also, please drop the idea that attending a non-reach college is a “waste of effort in high school”.

My unweighted HS GPA (is that what weight-capped means?) is 3.8. My UC GPA is 4.8.

Not necessarily a waste of effort, just disappointing I guess.

That seems unlikely. UC weighted-capped HS GPAs are unlikely to be over 4.3-4.4. Weighted-capped means that up to 8 semesters of honors courses can be given +1 weighting points.

Recalculate your three UC HS GPAs at GPA Calculator for the University of California – RogerHub . It will calculate unweighted, weighted-capped, and fully weighted versions.

My bad, weighted and capped is 4.35. I tried to calculate it myself and that might’ve messed it up. UW: 3.88. W: 4.47

If your weighted-capped HS GPA is 4.35, then you are in a pretty good position with UCs. Be sure to write good essays, and do not limit your UC campuses to just a few of the most selective ones (i.e. drop the “disappointment mentality” if you do not get into UCB or UCLA).