Do you have any tips for the UC app due on Nov. 30?

By Maxine Seya

“Do you have any tips for the UC app that’s due on November 30th?”

– Jemima, a parent of a UC applicant

Yes! We were lucky to get the inside scoop on UC admissions that really isn’t published anywhere else. Here are our best highlights from our 2-hour long conversation with a UC admissions officer. By understanding what evaluators experience when they review applications, you’ll be better equipped to help your kid craft an authentic application while truly moving her intended audience.

5 Little-Known Ways to Truly Stand Out on Your UC Application, from a UC admissions officer

1. Write explicitly.

Ria Jagasia, a senior evaluator at UC Santa Cruz, shared that UC admissions officers are not allowed to read between the lines. So if your child has had any sort of disadvantage that caused a slump in grades, lack of course rigor, or lower-than-average GPA, she’ll need to talk about that explicitly. One of the biggest mistakes that students make is assuming that the admissions officer will infer that from the application and give them a “pass.” Ria explains that admissions officers can’t boost an applicant’s initial score of 1 to 5 without an explicit explanation of her circumstance:

“I think in their essay, a student will be like, “Oh, my application reader will assume XYZ about me.” We could, but we’re not allowed to use that in the scoring. We are not allowed to read between the lines, so that’s where it becomes tricky. I can only go off of exactly what you say, so even if I think something about you but you haven’t written it, then I can’t use that in the factoring of your score. That’s where I think PIQs, our essay questions, become really important, because I could give you maybe a 4 or a 5, but then if you don’t tell me that your family had issues in ninth grade and XYZ happened and you couldn’t be in school for a year and that’s why your grades are low in 10th grade, then I have no clue and I can’t help you.”

2. Use punctuation in your PIQs.

Does it sound obvious? That’s good, because it apparently isn’t to some applicants. Ria explains what frustrates her, so have your student keep this in mind as she’s writing:

“I’ve seen so many blank lines. I’m like, “Why bother?” They give me nothing. I’ve seen applications where it’s not even a complete sentence in the PIQ, it’s literally one sentence for a question, or the formatting is weird and I can’t read it because they haven’t spellchecked. That is your application to the rest of your life.”

3. Input your grades accurately.

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.