UCs and the Common App

When applying for college, students will use the Common or Coalition Application to apply to most of their college list. These application systems house most of the private schools in the US, making the application process more streamlined and allowing you to apply to up to 20 schools (with the Common App) with only one login. Even a majority of state or land-grant universities are on the common app, especially with many Texas state schools joining the Common app in the last few years.

Unfortunately for applicants, the University of California does not host applications on the Common App or the Coalition App. California has always done things its own way, like going test blind for the foreseeable future, so it isn’t surprising that the California state schools have a different application system.

UCs and the Common App

Is this a good thing?

The Pros and Cons

As the application pool for US colleges has become more competitive, there are pros and cons to the UCs being on a separate application system. The Common app restricts your applications to only 20 schools, if you had to apply to every UC through the Common app, that could theoretically take up 9 slots out of 20. That’s a lot! Since it is on its own system, you don’t have that restriction, and the 9 campuses are not counting against your maximum for the Common App. The UC application also has 20 slots for honors and activities (vs the Common App’s 15), and the word count is higher on the UC app. That’s helpful, as the campuses don’t evaluate test scores, so having more characters to describe your activities is meaningful in this competitive landscape.

On the other hand, the process of setting up your UC application is definitely arduous. Many things you already entered into the Common App now have to be re-entered, and the word counts are all different. It’s also tough to track all the different accounts for your college applications. You have your Common App account, the UC account, and if you are applying to one of the few schools with their own systems (like MIT or Georgetown), it starts to get confusing.

And don’t get me started on having to enter your course list in the UC app as an out-of-state student. Not. Fun.

Applying to the UCs

So, is UC Berkeley calling your name? How about UCLA or UCSD? Do you want to apply to one of the 9 UC campuses – all of which are in the top 100 universities in the nation? The Common App is not an option. UC Berkeley will be waiting for you on the ApplyUC application! The other campuses are there as well, but with UC Berkeley pulling the #1 Public University in the US ranking from USNWR, it’s a very enticing campus for soon-to-be undergraduates.

Applications for the UCs typically open August 1st of every year and are due December 1st, but DON’T WAIT! The UC app has a history of crashing on November 30th, punishing all the application procrastinators. Apply a few days before the deadline to avoid this.

Other California State schools

While the UC campuses are extremely exciting, they have become increasingly competitive over the last decade or so. If California is calling and the UCs are intimidating, consider one of the more than 20 California State College campuses. You can apply (with no essays, might I add) to these campuses via the Cal State Apply app.

You Won’t Find UC Berkeley on the Common App

Or any other UC. California is a great place to attend college, and each UC campus is now one of the top 100 schools in the country, but you need to apply via the UC-specific app if you want to be considered.

Did you learn something new about the UCs or other California state schools? Our consultants can help you navigate everything from strategy to application – even the UC app. Contact us today to learn more.

Former Undergraduate Admissions Reader at Stanford University
MA in Higher Education Administration at Stanford University
Director Of Education at ICOHS College

Jessica is a graduate of Chapman University with a BA in higher education and received her MA from Stanford University in higher education administration. Her research focused on women and students of color in STEM fields. At Stanford, she contributed as an admissions reader and has volunteered to assist low-income students with their college applications.

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