Fall 2010 freshman applicants top 57,000, transfers surge
A record number of aspiring freshmen — 57,613 — have applied for Fall 2010 admission to UCLA, and measures of high academic quality, from GPAs to SAT scores, continue to climb.
Applicants included more underrepresented African American, Chicano, Latino and Native American students than in recent previous years. Notably, freshman applications grew even as state demographic data show that the number of students graduating from California public high schools has slightly dropped, said Vu Tran, director of undergraduate admissions and relations with schools (UARS).
Tran also noted a dramatic increase in transfer student applicants. This year’s applicant pool includes 18,743 transfer students, compared to 16,587 in 2009 and 15,075 in 2008, increases of 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively. These increases, Tran speculated, result in part from UCLA’s increasing competitiveness.
“I have talked with many parents and students who recognize more and more how difficult it is to get into UCLA at the freshman level,” Tran said. “Therefore, more and more students consider transfer admissions as a better possibility by attending community colleges for their first two years.” The majority of this year’s transfer applicants are, in fact, from California community colleges.
Not only UCLA but all UC campuses have seen a notable increase in transfer applications, according to Susan Wilbur, UC director of undergraduate admissions. She attributed much of the systemwide increase of 30.6 percent to Cal State University’s budget-driven decision to not accept transfer students mid-year, for spring 2010 — a move that prompted more students to apply to UC campuses. Tran added that several UC campuses (not UCLA) that normally admit transfer students mid-year also eliminated the practice.
International applicants for freshman admission also grew at a modest rate, both systemwide and at UCLA, which received 4,200 international applications this year, compared to 3,573 last year. “I expect this trend will probably continue for the next few years,” said Tran, “primarily because many countries — particularly China and India — have a national strategy to send as many of their own students abroad as possible. UCLA and other elite universities are definitely attractive to them.”
The academic excellence of UCLA’s applicant pool remains very strong and continues to improve, Tran said. Freshman applicants’ average GPA is 3.91, compared to 3.89 last year and 3.87 in 2008. Nearly 48 percent — 27,550 applicants — have a GPA of 4.0 or higher. SAT scores are also on the rise. While this year’s average composite test score is not yet final (scores from several thousand students who took the test in December are not yet included), Tran estimates that the final average will be about 1830 — more than 15 points above last year’s SAT average. Applicants have also completed more honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses than ever before: an average of 15.2 classes for current applicants, compared to 14.9 for 2009’s applicants, and 14.4 for 2008.
Also on the rise among underrepresented ethnic groups are: 3,194 African American applicants this year, compared to 2,770 for 2009 and 2,173 just five years ago; 8,438 Chicano applicants, compared to 7,913 last year and 5,552 five years ago; 2,980 Latino applicants, compared to 2,759 last year and 2,098 five years ago; and 393 Native American applicants, compared to 318 last year and 274 five years ago.
Also significant, noted Tran, is an increase in freshman student applicants from low- and modest-income families, which UC describes, for financial aid purposes, as those earning below $70,000 annually. This increase has occurred despite student fee increases recently instituted by the UC regents to cope with dwindling state funding. Nevertheless, said Tran, “in California, the UCs offer one of the best deals in combination of cost and program quality.”
Also driving this, he added, is UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, a financial aid program that guarantees that fees for Californian students from families with incomes of $70,000 or less will be covered 100 percent by financial aid. “This is a trend we want to pay attention to,” Tran said, “because it’s important as a system that we continue to make sure we support students and families from all income brackets.”
Tran’s office is working double-time to work its way through the mountain of applications to notify freshman admits in mid-March and transfers by the end of April. This year, 154 trained readers, cut back from 189 last year due to budget cuts, are conducting UCLA’s comprehensive review process, which includes a minimum of two complete reads for each application. UARS has increased efficiency while cutting costs by moving to a completely online review process and hiring only experienced readers.
While UCLA enrolled 4,442 freshmen last fall, the 2010 enrollment target has not yet been finalized. Given continuing uncertainty over state funding, UC currently anticipates reducing freshman enrollment by about 2,300 students, or 6 percent, systemwide. UC has requested that its campuses establish waiting lists for freshman admission in the face of as-yet-undetermined targets. Currently, however, UCLA has no plans to use waiting lists.