Getting into the Top University of California Campuses

Between my daughter’s sophomore and junior year in high school about 40 of her classmates disappeared.

The students ditched the private girls’ school for one chief reason:  It was going to be impossible to gain admission to UCLA, the UC Berkeley or another top UC campus. The girls, and more likely their parents, decided that their best hope to earn a spot at one of these coveted schools was to transfer to public schools where they thought the odds of getting high grades were better.

Grades are most important in the UC admissions system and Caitlin’s school continues to be notorious for bucking the rampant grade inflation trend that long ago caught fire at many public and private high schools. While grades are key, the UC system deemphasized SAT scores years ago, which has also hurt kids at Caitlin’s high school.

I understand why the UC system has embraced its current system. Grades are more reflective of how students from all backgrounds will fare in college.  What’s more, less fortunate students are handicapped when taking the SAT because they can’t spend the ridiculous $1,000 or more that it takes to pay for a spot in a prep class.

For those who would like to know more about the UC admissions policy and its history, I’d urge you to read an enlightening article written by Saul Geiser, one of the architects of the policy. His research on the predictive validity of achievement tests was influential in persuading the College Board to revise the SAT in 2005.

His article is in the latest issue of Change Magazine, which is overseen by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she writes a college blog for

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  1. I think you’ve got it mixed up. I go to an all girls school that is extremely difficult, and out GPAS are weighted much higher than the students at public schools. So we are much more appealing to colleges.For example, a “B” in a CP class at our school is like having and “A” in and honors class at public school.

  2. I think you are misinterpreting Eligibility in the Local Contxt (ELC) which does apply to the top 4% of students at a school, but which only applies to certain low performing schools. In general, the 3.0 weighted GPA is intended to cover approximately the top 12 1/2% of students in the state.