Seniors Face Competitive College Admissions

Sophia Acevedo, Staff Writer

After writing endless college essays and waterboarding themselves with caffeine, the exhausted student is finally done with their college applications. Countless weeks, long nights, and tiresome college tour Zooms have led to this moment and all the student can think of is an acceptance letter to University of California, Santa Barbara. Despite the years of effort poured into their application, the student can’t help but feel weary about applying to one of the most popular universities in the country. 

The University of California (UC), which includes the nine UC schools in the state, announced Jan. 28 that the system had received the highest number of undergraduate applicants in its history for fall 2021 admission, even amidst the pandemic. Preliminary data showed UC received a total of 249,855 applications, a 16.1 percent leap from the past year: 203,700 from freshman applicants and 46,155 from aspiring transfer students. College admissions direct the large increase to the elimination of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT) as an admission requirement for UC schools. This shift in application criteria meant that test scores were not a requirement and UC schools wouldn’t be considering the scores, prompting students to feel more confident in applying. Another factor could be the shift to virtual college recruitments, which may have increased access to more people. 

Increased competition for fall 2021 admission has taken a toll on the already sleep deprived, stressed out seniors. A little sense of hope spurred from the UC’s announcement that they would be going “test blind”, meaning that students could not send in their SAT and ACT scores, however, the hopefulness dwindled as students awaited admission letters. “Waiting for the acceptance letters was pretty stressful and I started getting impatient. I ended up applying to a lot more schools than I would have if it weren’t for the pandemic and some schools being ‘test-blind’ because I wanted to make sure I had safety schools in case it would be difficult to get into UC and California State University (CSU) schools. That being said, I was really happy about my acceptance to Cal Poly since the UCs have been so competitive this year,” senior Kinsey Dunne said. 

According to the UC’s official website, in total, applications for freshman admission, from both in-state, non-residents, and international applicants shot up by 31,601, or 18.4 percent. Some of the student favorite UC campuses, such as UC Los Angeles saw a 28 percent increase in freshman applicants. UC Irvine received applicants from 107,939 freshmen, an increase of more than ten percent from 2020. The school also has received 25,936 applications from transfer students, the second-largest number in the UC system, according to the Orange County Register.

With UC schools going test blind, different parts of student’s college applications were prioritized. The Crimson Education blog states that if you choose to omit your standardized test scores, it is almost guaranteed that admissions officers will look more closely at your grades, extracurricular experience, and your college essays. “As much as I was happy to see that the UC schools were going test blind, I knew that that also meant there’d be a lot more applicants this year. It’s been pretty stressful, honestly, since the UC schools were already hard to get into to begin with and now it’s just even harder,” senior Adrien Argast said.

As more students applied to the UC schools in the last decade, UC campuses have become more selective as a whole and the pandemic hasn’t helped. A large reason for their already low acceptance rates is that UC schools are popular with out-of-state students, including international enrollees, who pay much higher tuition than residents. The San Francisco Chronicle states that enrollment of domestic and international nonresident students has grown to 21 percent of the class of 2018 from just 5 percent of the class of 2009. 

While students stress about the statistics and acceptance letters to UC schools, Stephanie Brady, head of the college and career center, reminds students to take risks in the process. “In all honesty, I expect our students to get rejected because if they don’t then they probably sold themselves short and didn’t reach high enough out of fear of rejection. That’s not to say I want them to receive an inbox of ‘no’s’ but I do want them to be willing to take a risk because you never know how it might turn out in the end,” Brady said. 

With eyes glued to the computer screen, awaiting the letter that determines their next few years, the student’s mind continues to race. After the 500th time refreshing the page, a simple email notification peers back at the student from the top of the screen. With one click, the student is overjoyed as electronic confetti explodes on their screen. Years of hard work has paid off as an acceptance letter beams back at the proud student.