Images provided by University of California, San Diego. Top: UCSD’s Geisel Library.
College is the focus of the lives of many high schoolers, especially in an area as competitive as the Bay Area. Every spring, students hear the same dreadful news: college admissions rates are falling. The news this spring is no different, leaving seniors asking why and juniors asking what they will have to do to earn admission into their top schools.
Many of the reasons for this year’s tough admissions cycle have been out of the control of students. An example of this is the fact that more students than ever are applying to popular universities, especially those in the UC system. 210,840 freshman applicants applied to a school in the UC system in the fall of 2021, compared to 203,700 in 2020. Mrs. Ponssen, Washington’s College and Career Specialist, also attributes the issue to the disruptions caused by COVID-19: “COVID-19 affected the students’ abilities to do extracurricular activities and other types of things that would involve in-person involvement.” Since the UC system stopped using standardized tests for admissions, extracurricular activities have gained even more value as a way for students to separate themselves. The disruption of the ability to participate in these activities which are so crucial to college admissions was another hurdle the Class of 2022 had to deal with. To add to the stress seniors have experienced, waitlists have been growing for not only UCs, but also out of state universities, further complicating the decision of where to commit this spring.
The many attempts by both current and prospective lawmakers to solve the UC admissions crisis reflects the public’s frustration with the issues regarding education that both California and the nation as a whole face.
Seniors study for over a decade before applying to college, with admissions gradually growing in importance as students progress through middle and high school. Thus, when the entire process comes to an end, it can make seniors think deeply about their futures. Adrian Liang, a senior, reflected on what the decisions process and results meant to him: “Although it is disheartening to get waitlisted or rejected from dream schools, it allowed me to realize these decisions don’t affect who I am as a person.” Although Rathang Pandit was disappointed with this year’s admissions cycle, he is using it as motivation for his future endeavors: “Now I am just planning to make the best out of whichever college I go to and work harder.”
Amid the falling acceptance rates into the UC system, California parents have been demanding that the UC system give priority to California applicants, as they pay the taxes that support these universities. This concern has affected both policy in the UC system and Sacramento. Last June, UCLA, UCB, and UCSD (some of the most popular UC schools) cut their out-of-state enrollment by 5%. In addition, California lawmakers such as Kevin McCarty have introduced legislation (AB 1602) to expand student housing, another reason UC schools have needed to turn away many qualified applicants. In addition, candidates for state office such as Fremont city councilwoman Teresa Keng have made campaign promises to introduce legislation to create a new UC Silicon Valley. The many attempts by both current and prospective lawmakers to solve the UC admissions crisis reflects the public’s frustration with the issues regarding education that both California and the nation as a whole face.
Regardless of how this admissions cycle goes, the Class of 2023 has many opportunities to improve their chances at admission to competitive universities. Mrs. Ponssen recommends that by maintaining a high GPA, participating in extracurricular activities this summer, writing strong application essays, and creating a diverse college list, students can raise their chances of success this coming fall.
Trinidad Hellman is a junior at Washington High School who was born in Fremont, California. This is his first year as a reporter for the Hatchet. He is interested in both domestic and international political issues as well as the economy. Trinidad is a varsity runner for Washington’s cross country and track team, president of Washington’s Martial Arts Club, head of outreach for the robotics non-profit “We Love Pi”, and the outreach officer for Washington’s Student’s for Change club. His hobbies include flying drones and building computers. Trinidad hopes to major in international relations and subsequently go to law school.