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"Likely," "Best Fit" or "Reach"- Where do the UCs fit for you?



If you attended a public high school most of your life or live in California, applying to a UC seems like a natural step when putting together your college list. The UCs are public, and have tuition costs that feel manageable relative to many other schools. They offer a breadth of courses and activities, with a short car, train or plane ride home. These qualities are helpful to "jump-start" building your college list, but how they ultimately impact whether a school is in the “likely,” “best fit,” or “reach” category needs to be weighed out if you are trying to achieve a balanced college list and manage your application workload.

Two places that will help you determine where the UCs, or any other school, fit as you balance your college list are College Data and Naviance (if your school has that). Each offers a range of information, but in terms of assessing where you fit for admissions, these will provide you with a reliable comparison between you and all admitted students and between you and admitted students from your school. The other tool that you will want to utilize is the UC eligibility index to determine if you are UC eligible.




With some of the UCs receiving over 100,000 applications each application cycle, there is no indication that the demand to attend from California students, students outside of the state, and international students will be diminishing anytime soon. In the article,Hey UC grads: Could you get into your alma mater today? underscores how the UCs have emerged as formidable, highly selective universities and can no longer be considered safety schools. While the UC system is comprised of nine large public schools that offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, (UCSF offers graduate and professional studies), like all universities, they have capacity limitations, so when including them on a college list, a better approach is to think of them individually and assess if they meet your criteria for college. Too often the question of “What does it take to get in?” comes up when starting the college search. Flipping that question to “What schools will support what I want for my college experience?” will lead to a more successful college search and application process.

What you can do as a student to build a balanced list is to think broadly while prioritizing key components you want in your college, whether those are driven by wanting a: public university, specific location, curriculum, study abroad, internships, honors program, or any other criteria specific to you.

Knowing where each of the UC schools fit for you, whether you’re looking to stay in California, wanting a large public university, or factoring in college affordability, should be part of the steps you take to achieve a balanced college list.

Working on building your list that includes California and West Coast schools, and cost affordability is essential?


Here are a few websites that will help.


The University of California Schools


The California State University


California Community Colleges

Western Undergraduate Exchange




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