Public Universities

Information about the University of California system, the California State system, and out-of-state public universities
University of California
The UC system is designed to accept the top 12.5% of high school graduates in the state. There are ten campuses throughout California, nine of which accept those just graduating from high school. (UC San Francisco only offers upper division and graduate courses.) The newest University campus is UC Merced which opened in 2005. To be eligible (being eligible only means that your file will be read, it does not mean that you will be admitted) for admission, a student must meet the following UC subject, test, and scholarship requirements:
  1. Subject Requirements: The UC has minimum course requirements referred to as the "A-G subject requirements." An MA student cannot graduate without meeting these requirements as long as you have earned all “C” grades or higher. If you have a “D,” speak with your counselor about what you might need to do to ensure your eligibility.
  2. Test Requirements: The UC system requires that all applicants take either the SAT or the ACT. The SAT includes a writing sample; if you choose to take the ACT, you must also take the writing sample test that is offered with the ACT.
Competitiveness of the UC System
The UC campuses are becoming more competitive each year as the numbers of eligible high school students increases. Be aware that the campus of your choice may not always be possible even though you are “eligible” for admission. In the past, if you were determined to go to a UC campus, UC Riverside and Merced have been the only campuses that have been able take all those eligible students who apply. However, this is changing due to budget reductions and increased enrollment demands. Talk to your counselor about this topic.
Some factors that UC campuses use:
  • Course load: how many years of language, math, science, etc., that the student has taken. This has become an increasingly important factor. The minimum subject requirements simply are not enough to gain admission to most campuses.
  • The written essays (two are required, no more than 1,000 words total)
  • High SAT scores, high GPA
  • Number of honors and AP courses taken
  • Special talents
  • Evidence of hardship
California State Colleges and Universities
This system is designed to accept the top 1/3 of high school graduates. There are 23 CSU campuses throughout the state. The CSU campuses often have programs not offered at UC campuses (i.e., business administration, nursing, physical therapy, telecommunications). They also tend to have an undergraduate focus, which is beneficial to all students.
For most CSU campuses it is very objective and based simply on the student's grade point average for sophomore and junior years, the SAT or ACT scores, and the completion of required subjects. Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, San Diego State, Long Beach State, and Sonoma State are, however, using supplemental criteria as part of their admission process.
Required Subjects
The CSU’s require the same A-G course pattern as the UC system. A Marin Academy student cannot graduate without meeting these requirements (and more)—with one exception. The CSUs require that a grade of "C" or above be achieved each semester in required courses. If you have a “D,” speak with your counselor about what you might need to do to ensure your eligibility.
If a student achieves a 3.0 or above, he/she is automatically eligible for admission. If a student achieves below 2.0 he/she is not eligible for admission. Between a 2.0 and 3.0, SAT scores or ACT scores determine eligibility.
These are the only criteria that most campuses and programs use for admission. However, if a program is oversubscribed or “impacted” (there are too many applicants for the number of spaces available), admission will be more competitive and/or other factors will be considered. In oversubscribed programs, simply being eligible does not guarantee admission. Programs vary with respect to what criteria they will use beyond the eligibility index. CSU sends out periodic lists of criteria: it is important to check with a college counselor for updates.
Other criteria often used:
  • Number of courses you have taken relating to the major to which you are applying
  • Overall quality of academic profile
  • High SAT or ACT scores; high GPA
Out-of-State Public Institutions
It is difficult to categorize state funded schools in states other than California because they vary tremendously in their admissions requirements and their policies toward out-of-state applicants. Some have eligibility indexes similar to California's. Some look at applicants just like competitive private schools do. Some have stricter requirements for out-of-state applicants, some do not. Generally speaking, however, most of our nation's public universities are under considerable pressure to increase their admissions standards and to give priority to in-state students. If interested in a non-California public institution, find out early what their policies are by consulting with your college counselor.
It is imperative that if you are applying to out-of-state public schools, you apply early. Your chances are greatly increased if you apply as soon as possible. These schools include University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Washington, University of Oregon, and University of Arizona. Other schools such as the University of Virginia, University of Michigan, College of William and Mary, and UNC Chapel Hill have set deadlines.