Guaranteed admission to some UCs brings little comfort to top 4 percent of seniors

November 17, 2009 — by Anna Shen and Karen Yang

The top 4 percent of seniors who have been academically consistent and successful throughout their sophomore and junior years of high school received a letter in the beginning of the school year that congratulated their automatic admittance into a few UCs, including UC Davis, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine, for certain majors. Despite the success, however, this has brought little comfort to these students.

Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC), which is calculated from a student’s GPA, guarantees students who have been ranked as the top 4 percent of their class admission to at least one of the nine UC schools. More prestigious UCs such as UCLA, Berkeley and San Diego, however, do not participate in ELC.

“I think [making ELC] is a major accomplishment and a nice reward for the work I’ve done,” said senior Ashwin Siripurapu, who was accepted by UC Davis. “That is a relief for me; it feels good to know that I’m going to go to college.”

Despite an automatic admission, many seniors find that ELC brings them little comfort in college applications and decisions, mainly because they are hopeful of attending private colleges instead of UCs.

“[Davis] is not where I really want to go,” said Siripurapu. “I prefer to go to a private school, but I’d rather go to a first-rate UC than a second-rate private.”

Although ELC offers little help to students seeking a prestigious education in the Ivy League, ELC offers at least one safety school for eligible students.

“If you know you’re going to get into a UC, it’s comforting [knowing that] despite all the budget cuts and tuition increases, you have a spot,” said senior Priyanka Hardikar, who was accepted into UC Davis, Irvine, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.

Compared to last year, the guidance department has seen a trend of more broad applications, more early applications and more private school applications, according to Brian Safine, the assistance principal in charge of guidance. He said 74 seniors have applied early this year compared with 59 last year, and he anticipates that roughly 230 seniors out of the 330 in the class will apply to private universities, up from 215 last year.

“Students were initially concerned from ’08-’09 because there were cuts at the UCs; [however], we increased the number of students at private schools and UC [acceptance rates] stayed the same,” said Safine. “If this year is anything like last year, our students are going to have many choices for schools to attend.” Safine said that 39 percent of last year’s class ended up attending a UC, while 28 percent went off to a private school.

Despite the UC budget cuts, tuition and fee hikes, reduced acceptance rates and the short deadline for UC applications, many seniors are still applying to UCs, especially those eligible for ELC.

Letters from the UC offices were sent at the end of last year informing then prospective seniors whether they belong within the top 15 percent of their class. In the beginning of senior year, students were informed whether they made the top four percent, automatically making ELC. Despite having been guaranteed admission, ELC seniors were still required to submit a full application to those UC schools.

“I’m not sure how carefully [Davis’ admissions office] will scrutinize my essay. They said I was guaranteed admission in my first choice major, so I suppose I could just smash the keyboard on my essays, and they’ll still accept me,” said Siripurapu. “I’m not going to take that chance though.”