Questions about UC’s and other California schools as a prospective student

I just deleted my post here because I looked up capped weighted

I had no idea that existed, so I am glad I found this post. We are over in the Northeast, but D has definite interest in Cal schools. Not quite sure how it works for out of state with the capped weighted thing. She basically has a 4.0 UW GPA (I think it’s probably a 3.98 or something). Her weighted was already at a 4.23 after freshman year, and she is trending toward around a 5.0 weighted since she takes AP and honors classes for all classes. I presume they will throw out her PE type classes and only look at the primary courses, and it sounds like they may limit her on the “weight”. So if she graduates with a 3.98, they might add 2 points max to that, giving her a 4.18, which doesn’t even make the cutoff you mention here. It may be looked at differently outside of California for out of state kids, no idea.

That’s the capped weighted GPA, calculated in the UCs’ specific manner, see here: GPA Calculator for the University of California – RogerHub

Ahh thank you. The calculator confuses me.

If I enter 11 of A, and 1 of B, and 12 honors (using semesters), it says her capped is a 4.58
However, if I change it to 22 of A, 2 of B, and 24 honors, it drops down to a 4.19 or something
If I enter 11 of A (using years), 1 of B, and 12 honors, it says 4.28

Not quite sure what to make of it.
Our school uses year for grades. So if your final grade for a year long grade is an A, thats all that counts. However, some classes are half year classes (electives).

In either case, so far all of her grades have been between A+ and A-. She takes honors and AP for everything possible (there is no honors gym, or honors electives like Intro to Business). But math, science, English, history, language, she takes honors for all of those. This year as a sophomore her electives are AP (like AP Computer Science and AP Human Geography)

Keep in mind that UC schools often do not grant weighted honors credit to honors courses from out-of-state schools. To be safe, calculate the UC GPA by weighting only AP and IB and dual-enrollment courses.

Good to know. The honors classes in our school can be harder than the AP classes (or easier), but generally they are very high level here. But that does not mean UC would count them as such. If I had to guess, I presume she will end up with about 8 or so AP classes (3 this year, none are allowed for us as freshman, and maybe 4-6 more over the next two years), but if they only look at sophomore and junior years, then it would be more like 4-5 of them. IB isn’t an option here. There are some UCONN courses, but you have to be in a special program like Agriscience or Aqua (Marine), which are very niche, and come with their own downsides.

Well, we have an amount we can afford, and it would be up to our daughter if she felt so compelled to borrow the difference. I believe by that point our out of pocket budget would be about 35-40k as a max. She would have to take on the rest.

She will also apply to other colleges, and so it may end up being relative to the offers. For example, if her best offer is a solid school (let’s say Virginia Tech) on a full tuition scholarship versus full price at UCB, I would presume she would take the VT option. However, if her best merit offer elsewhere is closer in total cost, then borrowing the extra X per year may pay off for the right majors from a school like UCB. In any scenario, it’s a long shot anyway, but just trying to learn about the options.

UC’s do not recognize OOS Honors classes so only AP/IB or DE classes that are UC transferable are considered Honors for the extra weighting. Maximum capped weighted is 4.4 with 8 semesters or 4 year long qualified Honors courses. Maximum Fully weighted is 5.0 with Unlimited Qualified Honors courses. UC’s consider all 3 UC GPA’s in their application review.

Federal student loan maximum is $27K total for the 4 years ($5500 Freshman, $6500 Sophomore, $7500 Junior/Senior year) so she would have to rely on the bank of Mom and Dad to take out any remaining loans to cover the costs.


@hankct on your other post - you mentioned she may be interested in CA schools if she can afford it.

You need to afford it (not her)- because she can only get the extra $30K a you (from $35 you can afford to $65K from you) - because on average you can borrow less than $7K a year federally.

Oh, and college always costs more than people say - you have travel from CT, etc.

In other words, if she wants OOS and she’s tech/engineering, etc. then it’s San Diego State.

From a monetary POV, if your daughter wants to end up out West at a large school, it’s more likely U of Arizona or Arizona State for cost - and if she wants a Medium school, U of Denver or U of Pacific are solid and especially Denver will come into the mid-40s with merit. U of A has some of the best merit in the country - as does the other U of A (Alabama). They both also have geographic diversity, fine honors colleges (the dorm at Az is awesome with a dining hall at the bottom and neighboring gym and counseling center).

Don’t forget annual inflation increases, if a student studies engineering professional school fees, travel - it all costs more than they say.

But I think it’s time to really look at the #s. In what you’re saying, the UCs won’t work.

1 Like

Sorry, to be clear, I’m familiar with the loan in the child’s name versus the parent co-sign options. With my first in, we took out a private loan (super low rate fortunately with good credit) that we co-signed with our daughter. We’ve since paid that off entirely, but with the third, if she really really wanted a UC school, and it was for a program that was tops in the US that she had a passion about, we would consider co-signing with her for that extra amount (especially with her work ethic). It’s also possible things go very well and we can add more to the college savings than we already have allocated between now and several years from now when she starts.

On Arizona/Alabama - I don’t think they would be her preferred choice. I know both are fine schools, but their reputation for partying (being the #1 priority) isn’t appealing to her. I know as a young guy I would have love to have gone there myself. I also really appreciate the facilities those sort of schools have.

Denver is an option as well. Our oldest got merit from there, but in the end it was still going to be 50+ per year so we never visited as it was 20-30 year cheaper for her to go with merit to Binghamton.

Thanks for the additional info on the max cap being 4.4, and how they consider all three. That makes a lot of sense, because different schools and regions have a lot of range and variety in what they mean. The California school system may be more unified than other parts of the country, but I know you can travel 15 miles around here and the school difference between honors classes, or an A, can be night and day. Different universe entirely really.

1 Like

I quickly scanned the thread and I didn’t find a desired major. There is a very well respected CSU that will come in well under the UCs in price. Depending on major and what else she wants out of a CA school, it may be a fit. I would strongly recommend against leverage though. It’s one of the heaviest drags on wealth building.

I would disagree with assessing a party rep at a school. They all party. Tulane, Penn, Vandy are amongst the biggest.

Yet you can find your group anywhere.

My son chose Alabama engineering over Purdue with merit…which on its face is nuts. Yet at the Honors dorm Ridgecrest he got his own room (they’re all singles) and it was so quiet he was bored. They also have the Randall Research Scholars. Oh and Alabama has more NMFs than any school in the country. For a student like your daughter, it would be $40k less than a UC….each year. Is that worth it for top programs (as an undergrad)? Not all UCLA / UCB students are employed or in top grad schools. That’s an individual call…a value judgement etc but as you know college costs more than they say and even if rates are low, they still add interest. Not homering in on Bama or Arizona or other huge merit publics….I’m simply saying they are definitely worth a look based on the economics and offerings…U of SC and Miami Ohio might be two more as well as FSU. Financial strain can be real but of course if you deem it worthy then it’s all good.

The top UCs (La, Berkeley, SB) all have party reps.

Whether you are at UMASS, Nebraska, Arizona or UCLA, you’ll find partiers as well as kids who play board games or book clubs. You’ll also find top notch academics….it’s why they created the Honors Colleges…and kids who can get into any college in the country.

Yes I’m strongly anti debt :slight_smile:


And this is a wise place to be!

Some of the schools you mentioned we had in the running for our second (Miami Ohio, Purdue, Michigan State she was accepted and visited all. In the end she chose WPI with enough merit that it was the same as those were at net cost).

I can’t argue with your points, those schools are certainly more than worth a look.

1 Like

We’re too far away for a major, she just started grade 10 in HS. She does believe at this point it will be science related, and potentially something like finance, but I would guess based on her interests something ranging from biology to genetic engineering to medical sciences. But still fairly wide open.

She may want to put Cal Poly on her list of schools to investigate then too. It’s in an idyllic location, has small classes, with minimal to no use of TAs. It’s a nice campus, and they are constantly updating their facilities. There’s a $125M research facility being constructed right now, and it will be used almost exclusively by undergrads. They don’t offer PhDs. You’d be in under $200K full pay.

It’s best known for engineering, but their math and physical sciences departments are strong too. I’m biased, because our son is an alum. He applied from OOS for engineering, and had no interest in the UCs.

1 Like

Since your daughter is looking at the UC’s, she needs to be aware that these are very PUBLIC universities and come with public issues.

-They are large and funded mostly by state taxpayers and the State of California which means that some GE courses are large. The UC’s were developed for instate residents to provide affordable educations for its residents. They weren’t predicted to become the world-wide leaders that have evolved. Competition is fierce and hence, the schools have to be large to accommodate as many qualifying residents as possible.

It was not uncommon for my daughter to be in large math and science classes and labs (think ~300+ students).

-UCLA is on the quarter system which goes very fast and is intense.
A number of California High Schools have changed and adapted their school schedules to quarter systems in order to prepare the students for possible attendance at the UC’s. This was the case at my children’s high school (in 2008). They had 10 weeks to prove themselves. The students liked the change, the staff was slow to adapt, but now currently love it!

UCB is on the semester system but is equally rapid and uber competitive.
If your daughter feels that she will be able to thrive in a fast-paced environment, within large classes, then she will do well.

Right now, costs are at ~$67K per year and are estimated to rise. That doesn’t include her health insurance, travel and personal expenses. Scholarships, are almost non-existent, for non-residents typically run about $2500 per year (not semester). My daughter received a $300 book grant. That was it!
As a sophomore, her grades “count”. The UC’s use 10th-11th grades for admission purposes. Eleventh grade is very tough on these kids.
If you’re willing to take out loans to pay for her tuition, it’s going to get really pricey.

All good info, thanks. The quarter system - by this do you mean an entire class is taught in one quarter? My middle attends WPI, and they have courses that are only 7 weeks, 4 “quarters” per year where each quarter they take 3 full classes. So if you are in Calc II, it’s only 7 weeks long.

The kids of course love and hate it. They love the fresh new courses every 7 weeks, but of course it gets stressful quickly in those shorter terms. Especially if the first assessment doesn’t go well.

10 weeks for quarter grades. When you are taking 4-5 classes at the uber competitive UC’s, this adds up fiercely.

Cal Poly SLO is a great school and the CSU system doesn’t ask for essays or a list of extra-curriculars. I could be getting people mixed up but I though OP’s daughter wanted to be in a big city. If so, then SLO might not be the best fit.

1 Like

It means that the year is divided into four 10-week quarters with the academic year being three of them (fall, winter, spring), rather than two 15-week semesters and a (usually) 8-week summer session.

Some courses, like one year of single variable calculus, may be the same, but divided into three pieces instead of two pieces. Others may compress a semester into a heavier quarter course, or divide a semester into two lighter quarter courses. 1 quarter credit unit = 2/3 semester credit unit. 180 quarter credits = 120 semester credits needed to graduate.


  • Single variable calculus: three 4 credit quarter courses (12 quarter credits) or two 4 credit semester courses (8 semester credits)
  • First year foreign language: three 5 credit quarter courses (15 quarter credits) or two 5 credit semester courses (10 semester credits).
  • 6 credit quarter course = 4 credit semester course
  • Sequence of two 3 credit quarter courses = one 4 credit semester course.