UC Acceptance Rates Fall Further, Students’ Stress Levels Rise


Jack Davison, Contributor

As students scan the internet for a sign of their dream college, many are intimidated by the low admission numbers associated with the names of the UCs this year. This is no new phenomenon, as acceptance rates have been steadily decreasing for years. Now, they’re the worst they’ve been in years.

Multiple circumstances have come into play over the last few years that are making students’ chances of getting into UCs plummet. For the last couple years, the pandemic has caused an abnormally high number of students to take a gap year or go to community college. Many of those students are now applying to go to a four year college, often including the UCs on their lists. This, along with the new policy of being test-optional, has caused a crash in acceptance rates. 

“The UCs are looking at so many more people and a lot less information,” said Kenyon Graham, a 2021 SRHS graduate. Kenyon applied to all nine UCs, but was only accepted into three. That being said, he was accepted into, and is now attending Brown University, a college with an 8% acceptance rate. 

Ms. Cifuentes, a counselor at the SRHS College and Career Center, stated that the biggest issue was that, “the application pool is a lot bigger.” Similar to Kenyon, she emphasized that on a national scale, most schools’ acceptance rates have dropped recently due to how many students are applying. 

UC Santa Barbara received close to 82,000 applications in 2017. In 2022, this number has increased to almost 130,000 applications. 

“A lot of students chose to work or go to COM,” said Ms. Cifuentes, explaining this phenomenon. Many graduates from the past couple years are now competing against this years’ grads for one of the few spots at these prestigious four year universities.

On top of the rise of applicants, the fact that schools have gone test blind is affecting students. Standardized tests have been controversial in applications for a long time, and recently, UCs, along with many other schools, have decided to go test blind. This is yet another problem with the current application process, as less information for each student causes a more inaccurate selection.

With UC applications opening on October 1st, many SR seniors are feeling the pressure. The knowledge that chances are getting slim is well advertised.

Sarah Mardesich, a senior at SRHS, plans to apply to multiple UCs with a Marine Biology major, her top school being UC San Diego. “It’s a pretty tough program, so it’s stressful trying to get into that,” she said, just seconds into an interview. Stress was the first thing that was associated with questions about her plans to apply.

In 2017, the acceptance rates of UCs were relatively reasonable for how selective the schools are. UC San Diego accepted 34.1% of students. In 2022, they accepted just 24%, a decrease of 10% over the last five years.

“There are a lot of harder schools people are being able to get into and they still don’t get into UCs,” said Max Brode, an SRHS senior. Max stated that this fact made applying to these schools more intimidating. Many students feel the same way, with lack of confidence about their chances in the UC system.

Luckily, there is an upside to some of these problems. Kenyon says that one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting into UCs is to carefully pick which essay prompts you want to respond to. If you know what you want to write and why you want to write it, you will have an easier time writing a good essay. These essays are meant to show the school how you would advance their community and campus.

Kenyon and Ms. Cifuentes both argue that telling a story in your essays is the best way to show authenticity while still showing yourself off.

“You don’t want to say ‘I’m a dedicated worker,’ you want to tell them a story that shows why you are,” said Kenyon.

Another important aspect to many students is the positive side of schools going test-blind. While some students would love to show off their high scores, others didn’t do as well, and wouldn’t want to display their lower test scores. Some even skip taking the test at all, taking advantage of the new policy.

“I think it will increase my chances because I’m really bad at testing,” said Max. Many students see the bright side of this problem, and feel better about their applications because of it. 

With all this in mind, it’s important to keep a positive mindset towards college applications. Although things are stressful, you never know what might happen.

On a final note, Sarah stated, “I’m intimidated, but I’ll apply no matter what and try to do the best that I can.”