Match me – CA Resident applying for UCs and beyond with merit aid [4.0 UW, 4.0/4.32/4.88 UC GPA, 1590 SAT, NMSF, <$50k except for elite; criminology, economics, pre-law]

• Demographics (location, residency, HS type, legacy, US or Int’l, gender, etc)
CA resident, public school, Asian male
• Intended Major(s)
Undecided, with interests in criminology, economics, and laws (we understand that’s a graduate school thing) also interested in Chinese language as minor
Intend to go with criminology for UCI, economics for Berkeley, and College of Letters and Sciences/College of Arts and Sciences/Undecided for other schools
• UW GPA, Rank, and Test Scores (also weighted GPA for systems like UC/CSU)
GPA: 4.0, UC 4.88 weighted/4.32 weighted & capped
SAT 1590
School rank: top 10% (should be top 3 but school does not give that information).
• Coursework
Hon. English II, AP Language/Composition(5), AP American History(4), AP Psychology(5), Hon. Precalculus, AP Calculus(5), AP Physics 1(5), Hon. Chemistry, Video Production, Newspaper, Engineering, CSI, AP Chinese (5)
12th grade: IB Literature, AP Economics, AP Calculus B/C, AP Physics C, AP Computer Science A
• Awards
NMS semifinalist
• Extracurriculars (incl. summer activities, competitions, volunteering, and work experience)
presidents of two clubs at school, started debating team
1st place regionally then top 20 nationally of an engineering competition
assistant coach for kids at a nonprofit
tutoring/mentoring other students at school
Total volunteering work at about 200 hrs
• Essays/LORs/Other
Expect good recommendation letters from teachers and the counselor
Math teacher is very enthusiastic about him
Likely the principal will write a recommendation letter too (is it going to a supplemental one?)
• Cost Constraints / Budget
Will consider a non-flagship UC as the baseline.
for private schools we will pay $50k/yr, therefore merit aids are desired, unless it’s one of the long shot elite schools (UChicago for example), for which we will pay full cost. We do not expect to be eligible for need-based aid.
• Schools including Safety, Match, Reach (include ED/EA when applicable)
Safety: Alabama
Match: UCI, UCD, UCSD, UCSB, BU, UT Austin
Reach: Berkeley, UCLA, USC(EA, legacy), Emory, Vanderbilt, UChicago (EA)
• Additional Notes:
Since my son is undecided on major I’d like him to go to a college with good options in case he changes his mind. Mid to mid-large size schools are preferred, also for student life activities. He prefers a location that’s reasonably close to a large city (say in an hour), with good Asian food.
He is reluctant to go to a school with overly competitive culture and/or is politically too liberal. I don’t know if that should matter at all.
He probably needs another safety other than Alabama since he is not fond of party schools, but I think that at least one of the mid-tier UCs should admit him. There are 13 schools now including 6 UCs (one application) and 6 private schools. We will apply to UCI, UCLA, USC, Vandy, and UChicago, and are open to replacing Alabama, UT Austin, Emory, and BU. Also, most of them have a deadline before December (for EA, merit aid, etc), so he may be able to handle a couple of schools in December.

For UCs, you can consider the following admission rates by weighted-capped GPA.

However, note that UCB economics is now a high demand major, which may mean that it is more selective than general frosh L&S admission, and changing into it or declaring it later involves another admission process. Note that this is a change from current procedure, which is no direct admission to major in L&S, and those wanting to declare economics must earn a 3.0 college GPA in prerequisite courses (it is likely that the admission criteria will be more difficult once the major is mostly filled with frosh direct admits).

Also note that UCs do not use recommendations (except sometimes UCB applicants are invited to send optional recommendations) or SAT/ACT scores.

Recalculate your HS GPA with GPA Calculator for the University of California – RogerHub . Use the weighted capped version for the table below.

Fall 2022 admission rates by campus and HS GPA range from Freshman fall admissions summary | University of California :

Campus 4.00+ 3.70-3.99 3.30-3.69 3.00-3.29
Berkeley 17% 3% 1% 0%
Davis 58% 20% 5% 2%
Irvine 35% 10% 3% 0%
Los Angeles 13% 2% 1% 0%
Merced 97% 97% 95% 85%
Riverside 95% 83% 42% 17%
San Diego 37% 8% 1% 0%
Santa Barbara 41% 8% 3% 0%
Santa Cruz 69% 45% 16% 4%

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

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I don’t think he needs another safety unless he truly hates Alabama. Alabama has a lot of opportunities for NMFs and the honors students are much more serious and less prone to partying than the general population. Also I agree that it would be extremely unlikely for him to get shut out of all the UCs.

I suspect UChicago will defer him EA, with an offer to switch his application to EDII.

Best of luck!

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Competitive culture may have more to do with majors and career goals – specifically whether the student is trying for a highly competitive path (e.g. pre-med, elite finance / consulting employment) or is at a college where the desired major requires a highly competitive secondary admission process (e.g. nursing at many non-direct-admit nursing majors, CS and some engineering majors at Texas A&M). While pre-law can be a highly competitive path (for aiming at a top ranked law school that has better law job prospects after graduation – law employment has a relatively high level of school prestige consciousness with respect to one’s law school), pre-law students are not as concentrated in specific majors and courses as pre-med students.

Regarding “politically too liberal”, the meaning of that may differ for someone in California versus someone in (for example) Alabama.


Also, UT Austin should be considered a reach for any applicant who does not meet the automatic admission criteria (Texas resident with top 6% class rank).


Thank you for the insights. Will have him to read the comments. Hope that it makes him feel more comfortable in picking the schools to apply.

That 's what I’m thinking about the party school culture. He will be surrounded by similar students in the honor college.
Your comment about UChicago is very interesting. Do you mind sharing a little more about your understanding of UChicago’s admission process?

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If there were two stereotypes about Berkeley, these would be them. Not saying that he should avoid Berkeley, but he should definitely visit if he hasn’t and consider whether or not it would really be a good fit for him.

Although it does check both of those boxes.

Please arrange a visit if you haven’t. There’s a lot to like about Berkeley, but it’s not for everyone’s taste.


Thanks. I tried to reserve a campus visit during the summer but was not successful. We definitely will visit/revisit schools before making the decision.

My understanding of UChicago’s admit process is that they are very focused on attaining both a low admit rate and a high yield (percentage of admitted students who matriculate.) One way they can attain both simultaneously is to admit a very high percentage of their freshman class through binding ED. They will not release numbers, but it is thought that a very high percentage (some estimate 75%+) are being admitted in binding ED. When students apply EA rather than ED, UChicago takes that as a signal that they are being used as a back-up to a preferred school (e.g. waiting to hear from an Ivy or Berkeley first.) So UChicago typically defers students who apply EA, and encourages them to switch their application to EDII status. If they don’t do this, and just allow their deferred application to roll into the RD round, they are often rejected or at best wait-listed.

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Are you willing to pay over $80,000 a year for Boston University?

I think your student has a good and varied list. There are some reaches on there…and some that might not come in at your $50,000 a year price point, in my opinion.

But if this student is happy with Alabama, you don’t need additional sure things.

Has he considered any of the other colleges that give excellent merit aid to NMF?


Just some additional information about admit rates for the UC’s and specific majors if available:

UCLA: College of L&S admit rate was 10%
UCB: College of L&S admit rate was 12.9%. Economics which is a high demand major admit rate 5.3%
UCSD: Estimated <25% for Economics
UCI: 22.4 % Criminology
UCSB: 27% College of Letters and Sciencs
UCD: 37.9% for College of Letters and Sciences.

Best of luck to your son.


So I have a few thoughts:

The major choice is interesting - because while ECs don’t need to match a major, normally you don’t see such an accomplished STEM person in the social sciences.

So two different schools - econ and criminology. I’d say - which is preferred because if they don’t have criminology, then maybe sociology works. I’m not sure if the UCs fill in by major or college.

So you want merit - but cost really matters. So UCs without merit - but will still be less than others.

So while I’ve pushed Alabama before and the NMS and likely NMF say - wow, it’s an ureal deal with 5 years of school and four years of housing. Would you choose it over a UC - because if so, then why bother with a UC - or any other school. BU full pay or even $25K off vs. Bama at - $20K over four years? You can start eliminating. I don’t think you get BU at $$50K - but let’s say Bama is $20K (you pay food) and BU is $200K - which are you choosing? You can do that with each school. At least Vandy has full rides and Emory as the Scholars.

Now - what you won’t have at Bama as others have pointed out - many Asians and while food is in the eye of the beholder, good Chinese food in the south is Pei Wei or PF Changs :slight_smile: But you’d have to decide.

I think at any college you are looking at - they’ll have an array of majors.

You might look at Arizona (a lot more diversity and $32K off the $40K or so tuition) + another $1500 for NMF. The diversity isn’t Asian (it’s more than Bama) but overall. Also, and not saying I’d do the major - but they are the only in the country with Law as an undergrad major (I believe they are the only one). I linked it below.

Florida schools such as FSU - which says - Florida State University’s Out-of-State National Merit Award scholarship package has a total value of approximately $76,776 distributed across four years. It includes a 100 percent out-of-state tuition waiver, a $16,000 Vires scholarship, and a $2000 NMSC stipend (if college sponsored). This scholarship guarantees admission into FSU’s distinguished University Honors Program once National Merit Finalist standing has been confirmed. In addition, all National Merit Finalists who apply to the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) during the first-year, which connects high-achieving students with distinguished research mentors to work as research assistants, will be guaranteed admission to UROP.

btw - FSU is very highly rated in criminal justice.

Schools like U Denver are an Emory / Vandy sub - and would be better cost. But a U Tulsa - very respected with 25% of the class NMFs and in an athletic conference with SMU and Rice - they have good company - it’s a bit smaller - but would be full ride.

So you certainly have options - really any school in America but your budget does limit you. Another school is Fordham that @fiftyfifty1 child attends .

If your son’s goals are law school- you can do that from any major…so you have lots of options.

I’d consider removing BU but I would remove UT Austin. I don’t see NMF money - unless I’m missing and I don’t see $50K as possible - but someone can correct me. It shows $61K with only $5K potentially in merit.

I’d also consider - you want to be near a large city. Bama is an hour from a mid size city that’s not vibrant. UT is in a vibrant city - but it’s in the heart of the city - and it’s a big city. Then you have an Emory and Vandy which are within proximity of the city (Vandy is really in the heart of the city) and are much smaller schools. I’d wonder - is there a preference?

Best of luck to your son - tons of options here.

Bachelor of Arts in Law | University of Arizona Law


Economics at the PhD level requires strength in math and statistics. Granted, this does not describe most economics majors using it as a business substitute, but those who want to go into cutting edge economic research need to be good at math and statistics.

Other social sciences including criminology or sociology (that criminology is often a subarea of) would be subjects where skill at statistics is helpful.


Here is the Boston University scholarship part of their website. The Trustee Scholarship is a full tuition award. It is not guaranteed but this student is certainly competitive for it.

Make sure you do all the application materials for this scholarship…on time!

The National Merit and Presidential Scholarships are also not guaranteed but are $25,000 a year each.

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Just an observation - it was the engineering part I found interesting - but it’s wonderful that the student pursues their interests.

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Something else worth considering is the emphasis of the departments of criminology (or sociology) and economics at each school.

For example, Alabama’s department is “Criminology and Criminal Justice”, and the web pages appear to emphasize pre-professional preparation for careers in law enforcement and adjacent areas of employment. In contrast, UCI’s department is “Criminology, Law and Society”, and the web pages appear to emphasize policy and research career paths afterward.

Economics may have a similar divergence of emphasis. At Alabama, the economics department is within the business division. UCI’s economics department offers three variants of the major: business economics (for those with a more pre-professional business emphasis), economics (general liberal arts emphasis), and quantitative economics (for pre-PhD students and those who prefer more math and statistics).


No I’m not willing to pay $80k for Boston University.
BU is on the list for two reasons: he likes Boston, and the school gives decent scholarships to NMF students. With a half tuition scholarship, the cost will come down to $50k level.
Alabama, BU, and USC are the schools we are trying to leverage his NMF (currently semifinalist) award.

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Thanks. The data is very helpful.

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BU offers a $25K National Merit scholarship. Tuition is $64K. Plus you need to factor in transportation costs from CA. BU is one of the few schools that has a March 1 deadline to declare they are your first choice with NMSC.

USC offers a half tuition National Merit scholarship. Tuition is $67K. Deadline to declare USC as your first choice with NMSC is May 31.

Fordham has a full-tuition NMSF scholarship. My understanding is that it is competitive and isn’t awarded to every NMSF that is admitted.