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UC Admissions - Observations on 2016-17 and a Modest Proposal - long post!

PadreDeTresPadreDeTres Registered User Posts: 141 Junior Member
It should be apparent to most that the arms race for UC admission has gotten out of hand. Each kid can only attend one school. Every UC (and CSU) campus experienced a marked increase in applications in the 2016-17 admissions cycle. The UC system overall received 111,600 in-state applications for fall 2017 according to a press release on the UC website. Compare that with 93,460 in-state applications received for 2012 per the UC website. Top students get multiple acceptances. The next tier get some, though perhaps not the ones they would prefer. Those immediately below get waitlisted or rejected. There is a better way.

The increase in applications is likely due to demographics, unaffordable private tuition, a race for reputation, and an increasing recognition that the competitiveness of the UC/CSU admission process has gotten out of control. More safeties = more applications. Unfortunately, the higher number of applications at each campus just worsens the situation, as the admissions officers can pay less attention to each application and can no longer estimate yield correctly. In turn, the applicants apply to more and more schools that they would prefer not to attend. Read on. I have a proposed solution.

As an aside--the extreme emphasis on GPA in admissions formulas is troubling, as unlike standardized tests, grades can be gamed. It unfairly penalizes students at uber-competitive high schools and washes out any students who experience temporary medical or academic issues. It encourages grade inflation. It promotes cheating. It robs teenagers of the chance to just be kids. SAT and ACT do have their own issues, yet they are in fact standardized. Grades are not.

The UC policy of offering more spots for OOS and international admission has bumped the admission bar from the top 12% of California HS students up to the top 9%. IMHO, that is unacceptable, as it limits the publicly-funded opportunities for highly qualified California residents. See the UC website and search "freshman admissions summary." In fall 2009, 95% of enrolled UC freshmen were California residents. In fall 2015, 79% were in-state. Freshman enrollment averages 33,000. So there has been a net reduction of just over 5,000 freshman spots for California kids.

Admission by major seems a necessary evil. That said, the UCs and CSUs need to be far more transparent with applicants as to how their choice of major affects their opportunities to gain entrance. A few clicks can make all the difference in the world. Let's look at one example, Computer Science. Based on CPSLO's published data, I estimate that between 4,500 and 5,000 students are attempting to gain freshman admission this year to top California CS programs at the 9 UCs and the 2 Cal Polys. A forum member has attempted to ferret out the actual number of spots. It's challenging, as that information is closely held at many schools. So let's take CPSLO and its 130 freshman CS positions as the median. Multiply by 11 top schools and you get 1,430. Divide that by 5,000 applicants. The result is 28.6%. Typical acceptance rates for that major appear to be far lower than that--one informal estimate of UCSB acceptance for Comp Sci this year was 6%. We are seeing a mismatch of supply and demand.

Transfer from CCCs has been effectively blocked for many students by exclusion of certain majors from guaranteed transfer (TAG) and incomplete articulation agreements that do not provide a path. See assist dot org to check some examples that pertain to your kids. CS and other STEM majors, as well as Nursing, are severely impacted. UCLA, UCB and UCSD no longer participate in TAG at all. It is a mess.

Medical residencies experienced similar issues in previous decades, ending up in complete chaos. The solution was the National Resident Matching Program, introduced in 1952. See nrmp dot org. The 2017 Match was just completed, matching almost 36,000 applicants with 32,000 positions. About 28,000 of these were for first year positions. U.S. M.D. degree graduates numbered 19,000. No affiliation other than the fact that I went through it many years ago, and currently participate in ranking graduating med students for our residency positions.

Consider what a California Match might look like. According the California Department of Education website, there are about 500,000 high school seniors in our state. The top 12% equal 60,000 while the top quartile (25%) would number 125,000. Total college-bound seniors might be 40% or 200,000. The UC overall yield rate was 53% in 2015 (103,259 applications, 61,181 admissions, 32,630 enrollments). Hidden in these data are that many students get multiple admissions, some get one or two, and the schools have to guess at their individual yields. Yields by major are even trickier.

So, for the half of qualified seniors who definitely want UC (or UC + CSU), the Match would do the following:

- Each student would rank their preferred campuses, colleges and majors from 1 to 50, or even 1 to 100. Undeclared OK.
- The student rank list would be known only to the student and would be submitted electronically to the Match.
- Campuses, colleges and departments would rank the applicants for each major to which they have applied from 1 up to a large number that is sufficient to fill the major. The rank list would be known only to the campus.
- The matching algorithm would be controlled by student preference and limited only by space availability.
- The Match would be binding on both parties. One spot per student.
- A student rank list might look like:

1. UCLA - College of Engineering - EECS
2. UCSD - Warren College - Electrical Engineering
3. UCSD - Revelle College - Computer Science
4. Cal Poly SLO - College of Engineering - Computer Engineering
99. CSU Hogwarts - College of Arts and Crafts - Basketweaving (no offense intended to any basketweavers!!)
100. CSU any - Undeclared

- The algorithm would run iteratively - here's an example:
- The first choice of each student would be compared against the schools' rankings. If the student's first choice is also the school's first choice, a Match occurs. That student and that spot are matched. For example, each student whose first choice falls within the rank of 1 - 130 at CPSLO for CS would be instantly assigned a spot and removed from the Match. Matched students would no longer be competing for spaces elsewhere as the algorithm continues to run. The algorithm would run again and again with one less student and one less spot, moving down the students' and schools' rank lists until all available spots are filled in order, according to the highest possible preference of each student.

Students would get their most-preferred available campus and major without all the drama. Schools would get students who really want to go there.

Given the numbers involved, this is entirely feasible. We should insist that it happen. Thoughts? Flames? :)


Replies to: UC Admissions - Observations on 2016-17 and a Modest Proposal - long post!

  • socalmom007socalmom007 Registered User Posts: 1,017 Senior Member
    I like it in theory. :D I think they're going to have to do something. The sheer number of applications each school received this year was insane. Kids who looked at naviance and felt they were a good match to a school by last year's data were shut out this year. My daughter is a top 9% applicant who was shut out at the 5 UC's she applied to, she did not apply to LA, B, R, or M, just mids. I assume she'll be offered Merced, thankfully she did get in at Cal Poly. I know extremely high stat kids, like 2250 sat and 4.3 + gpa's shut out or admitted to just one campus. If you read through the boards you'll see plenty of kids who wanted one campus for proximity to home, yet got others. One I saw was admitted to LA and SD but denied at UCI 10 minutes from home which will now require dorming. I've heard lots of kids joke, I'll trade you my Irvine for your Santa Barbara... I'll give you San Diego for your Davis... if only they could do that!
  • PadreDeTresPadreDeTres Registered User Posts: 141 Junior Member
    edited March 2017
    I feel for your D. My son is a top 9% applicant who is praying for a CS spot anywhere. It should be feasible. You'd think. So far, one acceptance to pre-major status at CSULB. Rejected from UCLA, UCSD, UCI, UCD, UCSB, CPSLO. Hoping for UCR or CPP. May wind up in CC along with a ton of kids from his former magnet HS, hoping to get his classes so he can transfer to the right program to set him up for a PhD. Except that transfer into CS is blocked by UCLA, UCSD and UCB for the reasons cited in my first post. It's an abomination.
  • socalmom007socalmom007 Registered User Posts: 1,017 Senior Member
    My daughter's boyfriend is CS, he got into one CA school, Irvine. He's top 5% of his high school class, probably top 3 or 4% for the state.
  • randomkid98randomkid98 Registered User Posts: 118 Junior Member
    @socalmom007 haha want to trade UCs? I got waitlisted at UCSD although I live 10min away. I'll trade you Davis! :))
  • socalmom007socalmom007 Registered User Posts: 1,017 Senior Member
    @randomkid98 I've only got Cal Poly, I need an Irvine!
  • angelkitty247angelkitty247 Registered User Posts: 96 Junior Member
    Interesting concept. Not sure if I understand it completely... So grades would be disregarded? Because while it admittedly has problems, grades are still important to demonstrate the effort of students amongst other things. Also, how would the algorithm account for scores? Or this just for major/campus choices?
  • PadreDeTresPadreDeTres Registered User Posts: 141 Junior Member
    Schools would apply whatever criteria they see fit. I'd be happier if they weighted grades a little less. But the main concept is a binding, computerized match that maximizes student choice for major and campus.
  • randomkid98randomkid98 Registered User Posts: 118 Junior Member
    @socalmom007 This is truly how the system should work :))
  • treschicostreschicos Registered User Posts: 138 Junior Member
    That's how the lottery system works for most DC district and charter public schools for PK-12. It seems to work well. Selective schools still can use admissions criteria within it. And kids only get one acceptance so the top kids don't hog all of the slots with multiple offers.
  • Fishnlines29Fishnlines29 Registered User Posts: 1,544 Senior Member
    Many kids are also applying outside the UC system also, so how does that work?
  • PadreDeTresPadreDeTres Registered User Posts: 141 Junior Member
    Figuring in privates is tricky. I can think of a couple of ways. One would be to run the Match again after giving students some time to decide private vs public. A second chance for those unmatched in the initial round. (Of course, a student who decided to accept a private offer EA or ED would be required to withdraw from the Match before the first round.) Another way would be to use the Match for most but not all of the spots. I like that less, as it could promote an even worse feeding frenzy for the fewer spots remaining.

    I imagine the schools would want to hold back some spots for OOS and international applicants. I'd prefer that slice be no more than 5% of spots until such time as they don't have enough top 12% kids to fill the other 95%. And impacted majors should be 100% in state IMHO.

    Other ideas anyone?
  • coolweathercoolweather Registered User Posts: 5,530 Senior Member
    Stop the holistic admission practice. The UC does not use teacher recommendation in the holistic admission process. The only thing used is the essay. But I don't think the UC has enough good essay readers and the readers sometimes are biased. Only outstanding ECs should be considered for extra points.
  • PadreDeTresPadreDeTres Registered User Posts: 141 Junior Member
    @coolweather Respectfully, I think that essays are important too. Despite their problems, standardized tests are probably a better measure of intelligence and accumulated knowledge than GPA . Grades can be gamed or inflated. That said, high GPA does correlate with work ethic so long as academic integrity is maintained. Extracurriculars can be overstated, misstated, or missed entirely in the rush to complete applications. I don't think there is a perfect system of evaluation. I do think that the current system of winner-take-all needs to change when we have gross inequities across various majors and lots of highly qualified kids getting shut out entirely from UC admission. Hence, a Match.
  • rocket88rocket88 Registered User Posts: 220 Junior Member
    I agree with your proposal. It's a travesty that there isn't already a match system of some sort. What a waste of evaluation time and a misuse of resources. Implicit in this is the need to coordinate better between UC, CSU, and CCC. Also, the more competitive CSU schools need to step up their application process so they can make better decisions--SLO, SDSU, etc--and I've heard that this is in fact in the works--supplemental questions and/or essays, etc.

    I think you should try to get your proposal published as a guest editorial in the LA Times. At least email it to Janet Napolitano (contact via the University of California website), as well as Chancellor Timothy P. White of CSU (csu-chancellor at calstate dot edu).

    Oh, and there's no need to include privates. Just make it inclusive of all public colleges in California. You can elect not to take your awarded spot, and then it just goes to the next in line. Yes, this means a waiting list of some sort, but it could be worked out.

    One big question: If a kid lists 50 choices, does that mean s/he needs to be evaluated by 50 separate committees? I think this then leads to whether there would be centralized evaluations, e.g. for all UC CS schools. Another way of doing it might be to run a computer algorithm using only stats to get tentative "match" slots, and then do the initial full evaluation on e.g. five slots/programs. If no match results from that, then you go to the next five, etc.
  • coolweathercoolweather Registered User Posts: 5,530 Senior Member
    @PadreDeTres The UC itself was not happy about with the old essays either. And they gave 8 short essays this year. We need to wait and see if they work.
    The old essay prompts asked students to describe how a particular experience and the world around them shaped who they are. But that style of broad question has fallen out of favor with college admissions offices, said UC spokesperson Claire Doan.

    “We’ve had a lot of people say that [the old prompt was] too general, it doesn’t allow students to have a more focused platform, it doesn’t allow them to express themselves," Doan said. "In certain ways, it felt like it was more of a struggle."

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