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Applying to the UC System - Tests and the Rest Podcast Transcript

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

Josefine Borrmann decided to do the podcast Tests and the Rest: College Admissions Industry Podcast when she discussed the 13 criteria the UC uses when admitting students, the differences between the campuses, and excellent degree programs. Listen to the show by clicking on the play button and make sure to give them a shoutout or read the full transcript for this episode below.







Transcript


Amy Seeley

Welcome, everyone. I'm Amy Seeley, president of Seeley Test Pros. Helping students succeed on all kinds of tasks from eighth grade to grad school in Cleveland, Ohio.


Mike Bergin

And I'm Mike Bergin, president of Chariot Learning, helping students with tests, school and life, based out of Rochester, New York.


Amy Seeley

Between the two of us today, we have over 50 years of experience at the highest levels of the test, preparation, and supplemental education industries.


Mike Bergin

We both love to talk and learn about the latest issues in education, testing, and admissions. So let's get down to tests and the rest. The fascinating topic we want to explore today is applying to a college in the UC system. But first, let's meet our special guest, Josefine Borrmann.


Amy Seeley

Josefine Borrmann is the founder of Strive to Learn tutoring, test prep, and college admissions consulting company based in Southern California. A native German, Josephine came to the U.S. as an international student 15 years ago. As she navigated this foreign educational system, she realized she would love to help other students figure out how to gain an affordable and rewarding college education.


Josefine's unique background in psychology, anthropology and documentary filmmaking allows her to connect with many students of different backgrounds and help them figure out how to tell their stories in unique ways. Josephine is currently based in Southern California and has helped over 100 students apply to their dream universities, many of which are in the UC system. She was also a professor at Chapman University teaching research methods and Anthropology.


Amy Seeley

Welcome.


Josefine Borrmann

Thank you. Good to be here.


Mike Bergin

Josefine, it's good to have you here. This is a really interesting topic, especially for individuals in a certain part of the U.S. Your history, though, I'm sure everyone can relate to. You started studying lots of very interesting topics. Eventually found yourself doing something that maybe you didn't prepare for in college. Can you tell us a bit about how you got to where you are today?


Josefine Borrmann

Yeah, I mean, when I was 19 starting to go to college, if anyone had told me, "hey, you're going to be an educational consultant someday". I would have said "Yeah, no way, you're looking into the wrong crystal ball." I always thought, I will never do anything with business or with education. Those were the two things I told my parents I'm definitely not majoring in and here I am with an educational business. You know, I always tell my students, life just kind of takes you where it wants to take you. And if you don't know where you're going, that's okay. As long as you're following your heart and doing something you're really passionate about because it will lead you to where you're supposed to be going. And it all makes sense once you get out there. So that's kind of how I feel about my trajectory.


Mike Bergin

It's a powerful lesson. Speaking as one psychology major to another who also studied anthropology, you can tell at the moment that what you're doing might not have commercial application, but it's certainly fascinating and then hope that each passion project will lead to the next.


Josefine Borrmann

Yeah, I mean, it's all about humans, right? Psychology is understanding the individual and motivation and decision-making. Anthropology is really understanding someone's culture. So if you are going to work with humans at all, those are really great fields to study!

Mike Bergin

Okay. Well, you know what? You set me up with a segue way there, because when you say it's all about humans, I look at the University of California system, and sometimes I'm not so sure. So let's focus on this topic of the sprawling and notorious University of California system. How do the UC system and applying to University of California schools differ from all other college admissions concerns?


Josefine Borrmann

It's a big question. It's a very big question, Mike.

Mike Bergin

We have time.


Josefine Borrmann

Okay, great. So let me now just so one thing, one way that it's different from other big university systems, like, for example, from the University of Arizona system, is that the UC system is nine different campuses and they really are separate from each other. They use the same application.


So if you are applied to one, you could send it to the others. But you do have to pay an application fee per campus and they are very different institutions. They have a completely different campus culture, different setting. You can't just go from one to the next and just dabble in all their classes. You can do a little bit of that, but there's a process to it once you're there.


So in that sense, you really, you know, you really can't always look at it as a system. You really need to look at every single institution and see which one are you excited about attending. Don't just throw out an application at all of them because they are very different. And someone who would be a great fit for UC Merced might not be a great fit for UC Riverside. They're very different institutions. They're very different sizes. So that's that's one difference. The other difference, I would say, is the earlier deadline. I just want to point that out, because a lot of people miss that, especially if they're not from California. They don't know that November 30th is a big day here.


Mike Bergin

That's November 30th is the regular admissions deadline.


Josefine Borrmann

It's the regular one.


Mike Bergin

So that...is accelerated. Okay.


Josefine Borrmann

Yeah. And there's no early deadline. There's no late deadline. Sometimes they push it out a little later, especially if we have a lot of fires here. And they know that Californians are impacted by such things. And some of them leave it open a little bit longer till January 7th, but November 30th, just get it in then and don't get it in that day. Get it in a week before because the app tends to crash. I mean.


Mike Bergin

That's another good thing to know. Right.


Josefine Borrmann

Because, you know, when everyone does it right? I mean, the app is open for two months, [laughs] able to like sorry for one month able to submit the submission period. It's November 1st through 30th. You can start filling out the application though in August. So you have time to get all your ducks in a row. Don't submit the day of, I mean there were 251,000 applicants for the 2022 applicant cycle.


Amy Seeley

Wow.


Mike Bergin

And that's out of how many available seats approximately? Josefine?


Josefine Borrmann

I actually don't have that answer.


Mike Bergin

Okay.


Josefine Borrmann

Yeah.


Mike Bergin

But you imagine there are many more applications than available seats. Yes. And even in a sprawling system, like UC.


Josefine Borrmann

Yes, absolutely. And the number that I said is system-wide and the application and the acceptance rates across the UCs range dramatically from around 11% to in the eighties. So it is really quite different per institution, and I would have to go into those stats instead.


Mike Bergin

Could you help those of us who are not fortunate enough to live in the Golden State at the moment, how you might differentiate some of these schools because you're describing that students might be looking at different schools, not just based on geography? And I know that in many state university systems, there are a couple of flagship schools and then everything else is a much lower tier.


Is that the same in the UC system or are there is there a constellation of different schools for different kinds of emphases?


Josefine Borrmann

So I would say both statements are true. I think that for people who are looking for prestige and for the lowest admission rate possible, of course, you can find your flagships, right? Being from Germany, the ones I had heard of were Berkeley and UCLA. Those are just the ones that you know about when you're overseas. You've never heard of Merced or Riverside.


Josefine Borrmann

Does that mean they are not excellent institutions? No, not at all. They're fantastic. So that's why I encourage really visiting the campuses because you'll really feel that difference in culture. I think it's really important to think about fit, how selective of a university do you want to attend? Where? Where is the student really going to thrive? Right? At a school where all they do is hustle, hustle, hustle.


Or at a university where they're more in the middle of the applicant field rather than at the bottom of it and can start shining. And so I think that question is kind of the same question as in general, any counselor working with any student trying to figure out where to apply and trying to counteract that idea of the more prestige surrounding the name, the better the school.


I think that's just a big myth overall, and I do think that is also a myth when it comes to the UC's. Some of the newer UCs that are maybe less known have wonderful opportunities. So I was mentioning UC Merced it's actually one of the smallest UCs and it has one of the highest admit rates because it is also growing a lot every year. New buildings like fantastic facilities and really, really great for pre-med, especially if you are looking to be in a smaller or pre-med program and school that isn't as cutthroat as, for example, a UCI or something like that.


Amy Seeley

I want to ask when you mention there are certain uses like more notable for certain programs. So for example, you know, I think of UCLA and I think of like filmmaking, you know, or I think of UC Berkeley and I think of like the sciences. And that's just me out here on the East Coast. But are there certain UCs that might be more known for particular programs then?


Josefine Borrmann

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we have our UCS that is more known for engineering, for pre-med. We have here's an example. In our area, a lot of students want to go to UC Santa Barbara. It's on the beach. It's beautiful, right? You could really live that life.


Amy Seeley

I know a student who goes there.


Josefine Borrmann

The party scene is, you know, there's a lot of ragers. It's fun. It's. It's definitely a work hard play hard kind of institution. And it's gotten much harder to get into just in the last 3 to 5 years. It's incredible. I mean, a lot of my students that have now graduated from UCSB say, "wow, if I were to apply here now, I think I would get in."


So so I get a lot of students who say, I want to go to UC Santa Barbara and I'm going to study business. And I'm like, well, UC Santa Barbara doesn't have a business school or program. All they have is communications or economics. And economics is very math-oriented there, and communications is very theoretical there. So I don't think that you're even going to be able to build yourself anything close to a business major there, you know, so that would be something that should deter someone from wanting to apply there.


So they definitely have their their different ones.

Some, like UC Berkeley, have a really, really interesting major that combines business, technology, and entrepreneurship. For example. So someone who doesn't want to go into only computer science or only business might really thrive there. So digging into the majors is a really great idea, or at least knowing which professional schools they have on campus so that if you do want to go into that option, you can but also know you can apply on undeclared and at the UC Counselor Conference this past September - September 2021, they were actually making a pretty big deal about how people, students really don't need to worry about applying undeclared and should really see that the overall university is the best fit for them culturally.


Mike Bergin

That's fantastic.


Amy Seeley

So in terms of like admissions, what are some of the factors that you would say that the UC's really consider in admissions? And are there factors that they do not consider in admissions?


Josefine Borrmann

Yeah, should I start with the ones they do, or don't?


Amy Seeley

Is there a shorter list?


Josefine Borrmann

Well, there are 13 factors that they do consider.


Amy Seeley

And then let's start with what they don't consider.


Josefine Borrmann

Not on there. Exactly. Let me tell you, it used to be 14 factors for the longest time, and then in 2021, they dropped one of the factors. You guys know what it is. I'm sure you do.


Mike Bergin

I know we do.


Amy Seeley

It's very famous among our industry, right, that there are no test scores. Correct.


Mike Bergin

And, in fact, it's fair to say that the UC system is completely test-blind. They won't even look at the scores if you submit them. Is that correct?


Josefine Borrmann

That is correct. Neither for admissions purposes nor for scholarship purposes.


Amy Seeley

Although I did hear something recently about them looking at AP scores, that was something that came under my nose.


Josefine Borrmann

Yes.


Amy Seeley

So they will look at AP scores.


Josefine Borrmann

Yes. Yes. But it's more about the AP class and and the grades you get in it. But they will still take AP scores and then, you know, to place you in the correct class to see whether you get to the credit.


Amy Seeley

So for placement, then, not for admissions purposes, you're saying. Okay.


Josefine Borrmann

And and the SAT and A.C.T., they so they got rid of that for the 2021 applicants. But you will still see in the application. They're still asking for it. You can put your scores on there. So a lot of students, parents, counselors might be really confused, like, why are they asking me for this? I get students saying, I thought you said they're test free.


Josefine Borrmann

That's what you are officially calling it is a.


Mike Bergin

Test-free


Josefine Borrmann

Another term. Yes. And the reason they it say test free and not test blind is because they will consider your scores only if they could be used as an alternate way of fulfilling a minimum requirement for eligibility or course placement. So for example, if you had some medical emergency and missed 60 days of school in your junior year and therefore got a D in Algebra two, you now no longer are meeting one of their A-G requirements in math.


Josefine Borrmann

But if you got a good score on the math on the SAT or ACT o your act, that could replace that A-G requirement so that you would still have all the requirements fulfilled for admission. So they don't factor in what your score is as far as you getting in. But if you have an issue on your transcript, then you can, you know, balance that out with it.


Mike Bergin

Is that the only thing they're using scores for?


Josefine Borrmann

Yes. Yes. And it's very rare. Only if you have something weird going on on your transcript or got a bad grade somewhere.


Amy Seeley

So you're mentioning some letters, you're saying A through G. So is there like an alphabet of factors that admissions that you can share with us?


Josefine Borrmann

Yes. Yes. So there are 13 factors. I'm just going to run through them really quickly. The first one is the the GPA and the A-G courses. So the eighth G courses are kind of your your regular courses like your your English, your foreign language, your math, your science, your history, and then some electives. So those are the six categories of A-G.


Josefine Borrmann

Not not quite in that order. I may have messed that up, but so that GPA is very important. Then aside from that, they also look at the academics beyond those A-G courses. So if you've had a lot of arts courses or anything like that. They look at how many honors, AP, and IB classes, any weighted courses. so some students don't have that opportunity at their school.


Note that on our application you can add notes to your educational history. You can say, my school doesn't offer this. The also see that in your school profile, but it's always great to just let them know again that you still maxed out what you were able to do at your school, even though you don't have any weighted courses.


Josefine Borrmann

They also check for Californians whether you rank in the top 9% of your high school class at the end of junior year. That's an important factor for in-state students. They look at the quality of your senior year program. So any seniors who are like, Oh, I can finally relax. I don't need to take many classes. I get students who say, "Oh, I've already done all the math and all the science, so I don't need to take that. I only need to take one class in my senior year." I'm like, No, no, no.


Mike Bergin

But that's at least for the first half of senior year, because by the time you enter the second half, applications end, right? That's not as important.


Josefine Borrmann

It's quite important.


Mike Bergin

Oh, it's quite important?


Josefine Borrmann

Application for admission can be rescinded if you change what you say you will be doing, they might get your transcripts.


Mike Bergin

Oh, so they're asking you to project your entire or full senior year. That's fantastic.


Josefine Borrmann

And that's most college applications. They ask you for your entire senior year course curriculum. Yes. And then they will check


Mike Bergin

And yet we say students are succumbing to Senioritis all the time.


Josefine Borrmann

Yes.


Mike Bergin

Yes, they're dropping right now.


Josefine Borrmann

I get it. I get it. I have senioritis on a Tuesday sometimes.


Josefine Borrmann

But yeah. So, so, right. Like keep up your rigor, maintain your rigor, and don't let your grades drop below a C. That's kind of their official cutoff to be able to actually rescind their their application for admission. Sorry... you know...words they're hard. Yeah, they're offer of admission. They also look at your academic performance relative to the opportunities available at your high school.


So if you are in a very rural part of the country and there's just not that many courses that you can take and you've maxed out that will really show that you're working hard versus if you have 100 APs and you've never taken a single one and you've never used that opportunity, they take a look at whether you have an outstanding performance in one or more specific areas.


I know I'm rattling these off. Should I?


Amy Seeley

No? No. So when you say like in a particular area, like if someone were to have taken all of the histories or social studies that were offered, meaning you you've maxed out your AP US, AP World Econ, something like that. Like you're, you're mastering like a particular domain of education.


Josefine Borrmann

Yeah, exactly. Or I've had a student who ran out of math at his school and started in his junior year taking calculus two and then three at a community college. You know, there are some some crazy high fliers like that. And that was his area of expertise where he really shines. That was really challenging himself in the math there.


Mm hmm. Another thing they look at is outstanding work in one or more special projects in an academic field. So that could be anything like a research project and something like that. So that's a big one where it's like, well, how would they know that? Because here's the thing that is different: They do not take letters of recommendation.


Mike Bergin

Oh, no letters of recommendation. That's very interesting as well.


Josefine Borrmann

Yeah. Neither from your counselor nor from your teachers right now. Some uses for example, UC Berkeley will ask you for a letter of recommendation after you've applied around January. They'll get back to you and say, hey, actually, you know, could you get us a letter of rec? We kind of need a little more information about you. And I have students freaking out about that and saying, Oh, my God, this means I'm not getting in or, oh, my God, does this mean that I am getting in?

And I just tell them it doesn't mean anything except that they are still considering you and want to know more about you. So go and get them that letter, right? Yeah. So, so that then it's like, well, how can I tell them about these special things I might or might not be doing? Right. And that's where the essays come in.


So it's really important. The essays and the activities list, and I'm kind of reaching forward. I know we're going to go, No, no, no, that's good.


Mike Bergin

Let's talk about it, because I know that there are distinctions in both of those areas.


Josefine Borrmann

And it has to be linked to those factors. Right. Because these factors, these 13 factors that I'm rattling off here, they really are what UCs are looking for in an applicant. So how do you show that to them? So this is one of the ones that you can really show on your activities list. If you did research with with someone and help them, that would be an outstanding performance or work in a special project in an academic field.


Now they also look at special projects that are just part of your maybe your school's curriculum. It doesn't necessarily have to be academic, so maybe you start at a club or something like that. Also very essay-worthy topic right there.


Mike Bergin

So that would also go on the activities list, right?


Josefine Borrmann

Yes, also. Exactly. So on the activities list, you can put a lot of different stuff, which is great. You have 20 slots and they actually ask for the most varied information that I've ever seen any colleges ask for on an application. They don't only ask for like the topic, your role and you know, a little like two-liner about it, they give you a bit more, they give you 250 to 500 characters and for example, if you've had a job, they will ask you, they will give you a separate box to actually describe where you work because they want to see that context.


Josefine Borrmann

Right. Is it a restaurant? Is it this at that? So that's really cool. You can show a lot, but if you have something where you really created something, it's still not enough to really bring that across. So that's why I would allude to it, but they.


Mike Bergin

Would allude to it in the list, but then you would explore it in one of your is there a primary essay? And then a lot of supplementals.


Josefine Borrmann

So the UCs have eight personal insight questions so they do not call them essays. If there were someone from a you see on this call with us here, they would say stop calling them essays.


Mike Bergin

PIQ responses.


Josefine Borrmann

Yes, exactly. That's perfect. Yeah. PIQ responses. So the reason they say that is because they want to deter students from writing incredibly creative things. They don't want them to submit poetry. They say over and over again when they talk to us counselors, we don't need a hook. We don't need an intro, we don't need a conclusion. We don't care.


It doesn't have to be flowery. Just want to know what.


Amy Seeley

So it sounds like more direct or pragmatic. Like just tell it like it is, right? Sort of. That's the impression I'm getting.


Josefine Borrmann

Yes. And that's what makes it quite different. So of those eight PIQs that you can choose from, you have to choose four, and each one you can write up to 350 words. So I always recommend try to try to break the 300 if you have that space because you can show so much about yourself. And what they really care about is, you know, it's like, what would you tell them if you had a conversation with them?


So I always tell my students if, if you're not sure what to say about this one, like there's one about leadership, how have you shown leadership? Why don't you voice record your response to it? As if like, let me just ask you and let me just, like.


Amy Seeley

Have a conversation.


Josefine Borrmann

Yeah, yeah. And then let's see what came out with that and let's write that down, then transcribe it.


Amy Seeley

That's an interesting way of doing it, right? Just vocalize it and then go back and see what you what you want to pull from that. That's a great idea.


Josefine Borrmann

You get more of the meets then because I get students who get so stuck on, how am I going to write this and how, how, how, how? And it's like just let's just say it and then we'll figure out if you need to reorder it or go deeper somewhere. But that's why they shy away from calling them essays because they don't want that to hold students back. Now, don't write bullet points, don't don't write.


Amy Seeley

Has to be a narrative or a full set flow to it.


Josefine Borrmann

Should have excellent grammar, very - your vocabulary. It is still a measure of your writing. Right? But. But just know you don't have to dress it up really pretty.


Amy Seeley

And as far as this activity goes, is there is what is unique or different about their activity list compared to maybe other institutions?


Josefine Borrmann

So definitely the character count, you do have quite a bit more space oftentimes double the space, for example, than on the common app. And you have the extra box of being able to not on everything, but on things like when you work for a different organization or something like that of being able to explain and.


Amy Seeley

You just said something important, you said, as opposed to a common app. So presumably the UC application is not on the common app.


Josefine Borrmann

No, they have their own application portal. Yeah. You just type in, you see application and you will find it. There is no doubt about it.


Amy Seeley

And so as far as the you see go, like Mike and I can certainly attest in the last couple of years, you know, in terms of changes at UC seems to be sort of leading the way of change in college admissions. How would students keep up with whatever changes may be occurring in college admissions in the U.S.?


Josefine Borrmann

So there are many ways to stay up to date on on the UC changes, which is great. So they are definitely very transparent about it. So there is a newsletter, there's one that parents and students can sign up for and then there's also one for counselors. So any counselors out there listening, it's a really great, great source of information.


You get it every month and it has all the updated information in there. Now linked in that newsletter where you can also just find it on the UC website are webinars as well for students or for counselors that will tell you more about them. They also all offer virtual visits, so check those out. So, and like I said, going to a campus, if you somehow can is is a really good idea.


And then taking a look at the open house days that they have in fall and for admitted students they have a lot of admitted student events in April.


Amy Seeley

So Mike and I, of course, are obviously on the East Coast. I'm just curious for someone who's on the other coast or part of the country, what does admissions look like for those students? And you may or may not be able to speak to that because I'm curious, like, do these students have a greater advantage in admissions there?


What kind of are they subject to? The same kind of criteria? I'm just curious if you have a take there on, you know, kind of what how does admissions bode for students who are do not live in California?


Josefine Borrmann

It's definitely harder. So it's definitely tougher. The admit rate is lower. We don't have the admit rates yet for the incoming freshmen of 2022, but we do know who applied. So only 22% of applicants were out of state, 63% were in-state, and 15% were international. And you can definitely see the GPAs do tend to be a bit higher and more competitive for the out-of-state.


Josefine Borrmann

So there is higher competition, I think, and I have seen in all the past years of out-of-state students. Now remember that also one of the criteria that I listed off was ranking in the top 9% of your high school at the end of junior year. That's for California schools. That's part of the eligibility in the local context. So so, you know, it makes sense.


Josefine Borrmann

It's just a little bit harder. But the application process is no different. It's all the same. So anything, you know, we're talking about here goes for that as well. Now, one of the changes is that they are going to take less out-of-state and more in-state in the coming year. So there is I think it's a 7% difference from before.

Josefine Borrmann

So there are some changes like that coming up. And it makes sense. I mean, you know, it is California is the cheapest way to go to college at institutions that have a lot to offer in the state, especially if you are middle class or have lower socioeconomic status. They have so much help, especially financially in scholarships, grants and things like that.


So actually half of the students who attend, you see, I think are paying almost nothing in tuition. Yeah. So it makes sense that they are they.


Amy Seeley

Have a great system and they're trying to really keep it in California. Right.


Josefine Borrmann

And just looking at that, I mean, over 200,000 applicants, right? Like how do you create the seats for that? It's it's hard. It's such a big animal. And I think sometimes we look at it and see, like, why this, why that? But I think they have to deal with a very real reality in a pretty densely populated state, especially when you're looking at UC Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, they're all in highly populated areas.


Where are they going to go? Right. They can't just keep growing, growing and growing. And we don't want those classes to turn into a thousand people in a freshman class or anything like that. So you have to draw the line somewhere. And I think that's those are some of the tough enrollment management decisions that the UCs need to be facing every year.


Mike Bergin

So that is fantastic. You know, really interesting stuff. Josefine, I feel like we could talk about the UC system all day. Unfortunately, we are out of time. Thank you so much for joining us today.


Josefine Borrmann

Thank you for having me. This was a great refresher for me as well. And, you know, I'm just waiting for all my students to tell me where they got in. It's mid-March now. So this is the time.


Mike Bergin

Our fingers are crossed for you. If listeners want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?


Josefine Borrmann

So definitely check out our Web site www.strivetolearn.com. We have a great blog on there. We also have a podcast, if it's okay to mention that here called Mindful Admissions. So really going in-depth on topics like these, anything that is future oriented and how to stay balanced and mindful and not succumb to the craziness.


Or you can just shoot us an email to info@strivetolearn.com. We do a free consultation. You know, I'd be happy to chat with anyone who has any more questions about all this.


Amy Seeley

Awesome. We hope you enjoy this discussion as much as we did. Be sure to join us for another fascinating topic and guests on the next Tasks and the Rest.


Mike Bergin

Did you enjoy this episode? As much as we did find expanded links and more for this and all of our episodes at our show page tests and the rest of that comment. While you're there, be sure to explore everything the larger test Bright Site has to offer, including real expert, unbiased answers to the toughest admissions testing questions. Of course, we'd love for you to rate, review and subscribe to test and the rest on your favorite podcast platform.


Mike Bergin

If there's a topic or guess you'd like us to feature, just let us know and spread the word.



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