What did you do in freshman year high school to get you into UCLA or any top school

@parentologist wow your advice is 10 times solid vs the school counselor. Thank you so much!

Definitely we’ll practice and PSAT, hopefully with focus he’ll make the National Merit (or Commendation) How do you know this is for bypass “test-blind” policy ? Golden advice!

The music suggestion is very helpful. As a non native English speaker, I will have to google those names :slight_smile: This is his 3rd years in band, percussion, so he is jumping from one instrument to another. For his 8-9 years in piano, I know he only wants music for fun. 2 of his piano teacher mentions he is doing extremely well but never has the patient to master it. But I can see he enjoy playing any song he picks out of the internet, or can play classic music really well (if he wants to which is rare :smiley: ) @parentologist If you know a rare instrument in percussion, please let me know. I am clueless! thank you .

No, we are in Northern CA. I might make a stupid mistake, moving him out of a competive private middle school at 8th grade. We brought a house in a ‘10’ high school because I heard it is a better experience to go to good public high school and it is also easier to get into good college. The school is super easy for him (for now), most of his friends are in private and I think he is worried because his best friends can take 2 AP in 9th grade.

For the innovation extracurriculars, I have no idea. Don’t want my kid to ever has to ‘survive’ anything :slight_smile: For now he rejoins scouting (after a break and covid), having fun. Hopefully he’ll make an Eagle, both my husband and I don’t pressure him to earn this. Surprising we also make new friends so I am happy that he joins scouting.

I also saw my role as ‘facilitator’ but we’ve jumping from sport to sport, activity to activity. Always had fun but never that good or want to follow-up. Did well on robotics, don’t want to do it again. Did ok on AMC, don’t want to do it again. Like karate, stay for 4 years. Like baseball, stay for couple seasons …

Thanks again. Keep reminding myself that I’ll find the advices somewhere, you and the parents in the forum are the best !!!

@Eeyore123 my son attends many clubs to get a feel of it. I don’t get involve but I am not sure if it is the best as you said, club meets 1/month or with an uncertain schedule. One club he plays egame, another he learns pingpong, he wants a biology club but it never has any meeting! I am sure I have 3 more clubs to add to the list next month but I don’t stop him, I just don’t feel this a very good idea!

I am not a California resident so I don’t have any inside scoop on the UCs or CSUs, but I thought I remembered reading here that the California publics don’t consider 9th grade grades? They just look at 10th-12th for your GPA? Maybe someone who is in CA can confirm or correct me. That’s not to say that he shouldn’t try his hardest because he will surely apply to some other schools too, but just something to keep in mind.

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That’s now…as a 14 ear old. Please encourage this young student to think more broadly about college applications. As @Gumbymom will attest to…UCLA admissions are not guaranteed even for the very strongest students. If given the encouragement to look more broadly, my guess is he will do so. He needs to have an open mind.

When one of my kids was his age, that kid insisted SMU was the college choice and we didn’t have to look any further. The kid stuck with that fr a few years. When college application time came the kid said “I’m not going to college in Texas”. Good thing we had looked at a number of other colleges because we insisted this happen.

We made a list of characteristics in colleges our kids wanted…then looked for colleges that fulfilled those. I would suggest that this might be a good task for this 9th grader to do. Make that list of characteristics and find 10 colleges that meet most of those characteristics.

My final piece of advice…make sure you parents check college costs. Set a budget annually and make sure your student understands it.

Then first up…find a sure thing for admission that is affordable and that this student would be happy to attend. Build your list up from there.

UCLA is a reach school for most applicants.

Re: courses….your school counselor should know what courses are required for admission to the UCs. Perhaps @Gumbymom or @ucbalumnus can list those here.


It is ok and likely good to do some clubs for purely the social aspect. Your son does do scouting, so that could be his one in-depth thing if he likes it and goes for Eagle Scout.

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The California UC’s do look at 9th grades for the completion of the UC a-g course requirements but they do not include these grades in the UC GPA calculations (Unweighted, Capped Weighted and Fully Weighted).

When the time comes to calculate the UC GPA’s, I like to use the RogerHub calculator. If you are not a California resident, then only AP/IB or UC transferable DE courses will be given extra weighting in the calculation. If he is a CA HS student, then some UC approved Honors courses get the extra weighting which can be found here by HS name: University of California A-G Course List


Regarding course requirements, all the UC’s have a 15 minimum course requirement to be taken known as the a-g courses (core courses) however for a school like UCLA, any student needs to far exceed this minimum.

I have linked the 15 minimum a-g course requirements here:

For a school like UCLA, you want the following with the highest rigor possible which would include AP/IB and DE courses:
4 years Math preferably up to the minimum of Calculus
4 years English
3-4 years Foreign Language
4 years Science which includes Biology/Chemistry and Physics
3 years History/Social Science
1 year Visual Performing Arts (common core class missed by OOS applicants).
1-2 years College Prep Electives which could include courses from any of the above areas.

As a Freshman, this is a great time to explore EC’s as noted by @lkg4answers. Community service, volunteering in medically related areas or even a part-time job starting the summer after Freshman year can help him determine if “pre-med” is a good path for him. Just let him lead the way in what are his interests and I am sure he will succeed no matter what he ends up doing and what school he ends up attending.

Additional information regarding Freshman application review (which could change by the time he applies):

  • Very important: Academic GPA, Application essay, Rigor of secondary school record
  • Important: Character/personal qualities, Extracurricular activities, Talent/ability, Volunteer work, Work experience
  • Considered: First generation college student, Geographical residence, AP/IBHL exam scores
  • Note: GPA, course work, number of and performance in honors and AP courses most important. Essay considered. Strong senior program important. Extracurricular activities, honors and awards also reviewed.
    • For the College of Letters and Science, the applicant’s major is not considered during the review process.
    • The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science admits students by declared major, with more emphasis on science and math programs.
    • The School of Nursing also places more emphasis on science and math programs and requires the submission of an additional supplemental application.
    • The School of the Arts and Architecture; Herb Alpert School of Music; and the School of Theater, Film and Television admit students by declared major (within the school), and put more emphasis on special talents through a review of portfolios and/or auditions, which are the most significant admission factors for these schools.

I don’t think more than 3 years of social science is required for the UCs/CSUs, so all top (private OOS) schools will know that public schools in California don’t necessarily offer it.

You may want him to take a history or social science class later on but unless he’s really unchallenged and bored, wait a bit.

Typically this is what would be expected by top colleges, over 4 years of high school

  • 4 years each of English and History/social science (typically including US history and world or European history + others according to requirements or interests).
  • Math through precalculus or calculus.
  • Foreign language through level 3 or 4.
  • 4 years of science, including Bio, chem, physics + 1 AP
  • art, art history, orchestra, etc. (1 class, often in the 9th grade)
  • some classes indicating personal interests or graduation requirements
  • a total of 6-8 AP’s, judiciously chosen (which typically means AP English Lang, 1 AP history or Econ/gov, 1 AP Math, 1 AP Science, and the rest reflecting what field the student is interested in BUT there is leeway as long as the curriculum shows increasing rigor and consistency - for instance, a “consistent” and “rigorous” progression in science would be 9th: bio H, 10th: chem H, 11th: AP Physics 1, 12th: AP Chem or AP Bio -or APES for a non-STEM student- whereas 9th: bio, 10th:chem, 11th:AP chem, 12th APES future STEM major, would not be as good because Physics is missing+AP Chem is a “senior” level AP science whereas APES is an elective-level AP Science which implies the student is letting up in science, not a problem if nonstem but a real problem if future STEM. I hope these examples help you make sense of what’s expected.

His application will be judged in comparison to his on HS class and he won’t be compared to his friends in private school.
He needs to be in the top 10% at his school if he’s aiming for UCs, CalPoly SLO, any university or LAC in the top 50.

Kids tend to judge their curriculum with the easy metric of “how many AP’s” but that’s not how it works.
Remember the Stanford adcom saying: “it’s not a game of who has the most AP’s, wins.” Always keep that in mind when you hear crazy talk about number of AP’s.
For all you know, the kids at the private schools will be judged as “padding” their classes as 9th graders :).
9th graders aren’t supposed to be taking AP’s (since APs emulate college level classes), except for Human Geography which is specifically designed to be a “gateway” course to teach 9-10th graders about what “solid” APs require.

If you think he’s not challenged enough, make sure he reads (fiction, non fiction, good graphic novels, it’s all good. If you want recommendations, his English teacher probably has lots of them, or the school librarian, and they’ll love telling him what he can read if he liked such-and-such novel or author or topic.)

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Another good thing to do is to start planning when you are going to visit schools. We are in So Cal so visited UCLA, UCSD and UCI when we could fit them in. We also visited Chapman, USC and LMU so our kids could see the difference between public vs private, small vs large schools. We took a spring break trip in 10th grade and visited UCM, UCD, UCB, Stanford, Santa Clara, UCSC, SLO and UCSB. Our thought was that our kids needed to see schools they were guaranteed to get into (UCM) and schools that they most likely would never get into (Stanford). We tried to find someone from our HS who went to each school and met them for lunch or coffee on campus. It was nice to get perspective about what it was like coming from our community to that college environment. If we didn’t know anyone, we ate on campus and people watched. We drove/walked around the surrounding communities looking for where the students spent their time when they weren’t in class.

My oldest was self conscious taking college tours so early but when he got back, he had a better perspective of what he liked and what he didn’t. He learned about dorms and dining commons and saw just how large lectures can be. He saw that some campuses were very social and others were somewhat anonymous. He narrowed it down to his top 2-3 campuses and, call us crazy, but we took a trip back to those schools when he was a junior just to confirm that he felt that he could see himself there.

If you are planning a trip, try to make sure that school is in session. Campuses are pretty empty over holidays and breaks. Everyone has a different opinion about info sessions but we attended them all. It may be similar info because it is the same application but each school gave us a different nugget that helped with the activities list and/or PIQ.


Our son did get into UCLA, into CS.

What he did in Freshman year of high school:
(in order of priority)
Two sports
Boy Scouts
Spent time with friends

That’s all he had time to do.


Agreed! The info sessions that my daughter found the most helpful in how to fill out the UC application was the UCSB info sessions.

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At a HS orientation prior to our oldest starting there, the principal said to only take the APs you were really interested in, so he ended up taking about 6-7 over his time in HS. As it turned out, in the context of that HS, 6-7 seemed not enough to be highest rigor for the top schools. If you look at the stats for incoming UCLA students, the average number of APs is in the teens. After a post mortem of his college admission results, we had our younger one take several more APs and he got into UCLA vs the older one being waitlisted. APs are not always more work either - regular classes can be a lot of busy work. The AP classes also had the better teachers. 6-7 APs might have been just right for our son and got him into a school that was a good fit for him with a merit scholarship, but I believe you do need to consider what the norm is for top students in your school as to what will be considered highest rigor if you are trying to get into UCLA, Berkeley, or an Ivy caliber school.

Sent you a message. Look for the blue B circle in the upper right hand corner of your screen. You will see a little green circle. Click on it.

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Since he is only a HS frosh there is no rush to make firm decisions. I recommend reading a book or two about college admissions to understand the whole process, not just the details of how to apply and what colleges look for but the flip side of the student looking for the right fit (socially, financially, etc). One such book is “Admission Matters” by Springer/Reider/Morgan. And during junior year start some low-key campus visits. Go to colleges of various types in your area so he can get a sense of what each is like. A large public, a LAC, a college in a rural area, a college in a city, etc

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Not all schools have the same priorities and values. @Gumbymom, as usual, supplied some great info. My D22 is very interested in community activism and volunteering so she has crafted a college list where those things are highly valued. UCLA is one of those schools. When your son starts developing his list, this analysis of fit will be very important.

I completely agree about pursuing scouting, if that continues to interest him. I would look to combine that with public health, medical interests. My opinion is that working with an established organization is a much better alternative to forming your own nonprofit, etc.

Also look at UC Riverside, where there is a med school.


This is absolutely true and contributes to the madness and high stress of many of our neighborhood schools. If so and so is taking 6APs and 3 concurrent enrollment community college classes per year then that’s what everyone else needs to be doing if they want to even have a chance. The “local context” factor. At least you used to be able to qualify for a spot in the UCs if you were top 10% statewide even if you weren’t top 10% at your school (or 9% I don’t remember what it is now) but without SAT scores I’m not sure that avenue is open any more?

The 9% Statewide still exists, here are the rules:

The madness is only true for UCs that use uncapped GPAs, even if uncapped GPAs are visible to all admission readers (ie., rigor matters). Capped GPAs limit the numbers to 8 “honors” (AP, IB, and state-approved honors).
At “tippy top” private universities, the rule is that once you’ve met the rigor that indicates that you can succeed academically in their rigorous environment (and 8 APs* with A’s - perhaps a string of 5s- definitely shows that) then you’re judged on other factors, most importantly your essays and significant EC’s.
Becoming Eagle Scout and having an interesting project would matter that you can discuss coherently+ 8 APs > just being a scout with 14 APs.
*which APs also matters. Lookingforward used to ask questions like “What about AP Foreign Language? AP Euro?” Some AP’s “denote” more than others.

"If so and so is taking 6APs and 3 concurrent enrollment community college classes per year then that’s what everyone else needs to be doing if they want to even have a chance. The “local context” factor. "
That’s really not what “context” means, typically.
At many tippytop school, that many incredibly rigorous courses could be quickly analyzed as “intellectual powerhouse” but also as a “keeping up with the Jones” situation or “padding” depending on what they are. They may not view “Precalculus in 12th grade” the way they would at other schools, but they certainly don’t go “Oh, that kid has been taking 9 college-level classes, let’s cull anyone who took 6 or fewer.”
@teleia : I am sorry kids at your school are under so much pressure, especially since in many (if not most) cases it’s not warranted. :frowning: “More AP’s” is almost never the answer as to why someone got into a tippy top school and someone else didn’t.
Caveat I don’t know if that’s how UCB/UCLA have been doing it since uncapped GPA derives from number of AP’s but even there, once the rigor threshold has been met I doubt the deciding factor is “more AP’s”… but I may well be wrong there so I’ll defer to specialists.
@ucbalumnus @gumbymom @NCalRent do you have any insight?

@beyeu107: Top 9% of your California HS class still qualifies the student for Local ELC which is part of the 13 areas of criteria used by the UC’s for their Freshman admission review. Statewide ELC has been revised since test scores are no longer used. Have provided links for both:



ELC however does not guarantee any UC campus and the current default campus is UC Merced if room is available.

UCLA nor any other UC campus does not specify the # of AP’s, IB or DE courses that need to be taken to be a competitive other than taking a rigorous HS course load within the context of the applicants HS as part of the application review.

On the UCLA Freshman profile, it shows the 25th and 75th percentile of the # of Honors classes taken for domestic admitted students in 2020. These are the # of semesters which are 19-30 so anywhere from 9-15 UC approved Honors/AP/IB or DE courses.

Again, rigorous is defined by what is offered at each HS.

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Thanks :+1:
Have there been years when there was no space at UCM? Or is UCM so unloved among UCs that applicants admitted to “non top tier”* CSUs would rather attend than go to Merced?
Just checking, but this schedule would be top 25% for UCLA at a competitive HS if 6+ of the 10 honors classes are UC-approved, or would there be too many “regular” classes?
9th grade: 3 non UC honors, 3 regular classes
10th grade: 3 UC Honors, 1 AP, 2 regular classes
11th grade: 4 APs, 2 UC honors
12th grade: 4 APs, 2 UC honors
This is what I found about the UC Honors classes
but it sounds a bit nebulous.

*I mean CalPoly SLO, SDSU etc. Or perhaps people would rather commute to their local CSU than pay R&B at UCM?
The relation UCM/CSUs for high school students in CA isn’t clear, too. I know that CPP has greatly increased its statewide reputation, but have UCM/UCR/UCSC’s reputation and relative campus space changed?

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Thanks for the link. From what I understand you can qualify if you take more honors, AP etc. classes that other students in the state? And do well on them? It’s not clear how that would help someone that is not taking a bunch (bunch being a very scientific measure) of APs etc.

And thank you for your kind words. My kid did only take the APs that interested her, but I guess they were the APs that counted? All the science and math APs that she could take. She did well but did not have a fully weighted GPA within the middle 50% of those published by her school. I really don’t understand and I feel like admissions officers sometimes talk out both sides of their mouth.

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I suspect very few, if any, high schools have that many UC approved Honors classes. Our local schools are very highly ranked and have just a few UC approved Honors courses that give an extra GPA point like AP classes do. Pre-calc is the only one that I remember gave that GPA boost. Other things like Honors English, Honors Geometry etc were just considered regular courses. That number of APs is just about exactly what our son had, and in the same grades, and he was on the low end of accepted students to UCLA. But a 4.0 UW GPA has a strong correlation of getting in, but you probably need to meet that minimum number of APs (about 9-10 total).

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