Brace Yourselves: Winter (and Read Season) is Here

Spending a day at the beach with friends is the perfect way to spend a winter day in Southern California!

Ah, winter is Los Angeles: curling up by a fire, watching the snow fall, sipping on hot chocolate… wait a minute… that’s not Los Angeles. I am sure for many of you, that may be the winter you are experiencing. As for me, I was at the beach this past weekend since temperatures were in the high 70’s!

Although we are blessed with amazing weather year round (sorry for making anyone riding out winter storms jealous!), that doesn’t mean the admission office isn’t hard at work. This past year we received over 113,000 applications for freshman admission. That’s a new record and a lot of applications for us to read through.

I am sure you just stopped and thought: “113,000 applications? Wow.” Now, you probably just asked yourself: “Do they actually read through all of those applications?” We get that question a lot. The answer? Yes! My blog post will give you a little more insight in our freshman (first-year entry) review process and some tips and what we’re looking out for as we review applications.

First, what is our philosophy when it comes to application review? One of the things I enjoy about our review process is that even though we receive so many applications, we treat every application that we receive individually and uniquely. Each application that we receive is read at least two times by two different trained readers. Contrary to popular belief, there are no minimums, quotas, or cutoffs that we have that would automatically result in someone’s application being read! Now, how are we actually reading applications? Two important words for you to remember: holistic and individual.

  • We utilize what we call a holistic review process, which essentially means we care about who you are as a person. As a recruiter who visits high schools around the country, I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked what our average GPA is. While your grades andthe rigor of your coursework are of course important (I will get into what we’re looking for in a minute); however, so are the things you are doing outside of the classroom. We are looking at everything you decide to tell us about in the UC Application and evaluate everything you’ve chosen to tell us about. From your grades, to the clubs and organizations you are involved with, to responsibilities within your family you may have, to your responses to your personal insight questions. It’s all important!
  • Individual is the second key word to keep in mind when you are thinking about how we are reviewing applications. It is important to note that we do not compare applicants side by side and we do not compare applicants from different high schools together. Each application is reviewed independently of other applicants and reviewed within the context of your high school environment.

Second, what are we looking for as we are reviewing your application?

  1. First, we are going to be looking at the rigor of your coursework and the grades you made in your courses in the context of your high school. Remember, we are looking at you individually. Our review is based off of how you are performing based off of the peers from your high school.
  2. Second, we will be looking at your test scores. All students must take an SAT or ACT exam with writing (if applying as a first-year student out of high school). Many students get worried about test scores. Remember, holistic review! Your test score is just one part of the application puzzle.
  3. Third, we are going to be looking through your activities and achievements while in high school. This includesany clubs/organizations you were a part of, community service, or any responsibilities you may have within your family. We are looking for consistency, passion, and leadership within whatever it is you chose to be involved in. There is no golden rule for involvement. Find things you love to do and tell us about them!
  4. Fourth, we are reading through your personal insight questions. Students will ask me if we actually read personal insight questions responses and of course we do! The personal insight questions are such an important part of our review because it helps us to get to know you better in your own words. My top tip for writing an insight question? Tell us a story in your true, authentic voice. No one knows your story better than you. Be as open with us as you feel comfortable and tell us about the things that have made you who you are today! Whether those be successes or challenges, there’s no “correct way” to write an insight question.

Finally, you submitted your UC Application in November. What should you do now?

  • In the admission office, we do not accept portfolios, conduct interviews, or read through letters of recommendation. These things are not required nor requested parts of the application to UCLA and are not reviewed. Only for those of you applying to our specialty programs (majors outside of the College of Letters and Sciences) is additional information requested or required. That supplemental material is sent directly to the school you are applying to!
  • We do not require midyear reports. When we review applications, we are looking solely at what you have provided in the UC Application. Additional material, whether sent via email or via snail mail, that is not included in your UC Application is not considered in the review! If we need or request additional information from you after you’ve submitted the UC Application, you will get an email from us and can update via your admission portal.
  • Relax! It takes time to carefully read through all of our freshman applicants. The time between submission of your application and decision release is only a few months, but it can feel like a lifetime.

As an application reader, it is such a privilege to read through your applications and get a sense of not only your accomplishments in and outside of your school, but to also get a sense of your character, your determination and drive, and your passion for achieving your dreams. After what I am sure was a very busy fall of applying to colleges, I wish you all the best of luck and well deserved relaxation. Now, back to reading applications in this totally horrible Los Angeles winter!

Scott Wilson is an Assistant Director on the Freshman Recruitment team at UCLA Undergraduate Admission.