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Win The UC Appeal

You Got in Once. Six Reasons You Got Rejected When Reapplying

I recently had a new student reach out to me because she wanted to write an appeal letter to UC Berkeley.

She had been accepted the year before as a transfer student but for reasons not yet clear to me, did not attend, but instead re-applied. She was rejected the second time.

The reason was not because she reapplied.

A reapplication, in theory, is not an issue. I saw fairly quickly that she made a lengthy series of tactical errors. It did not help her case that she was a borderline student with a GPA of 3.37, who had miraculously got accepted into Molecular and Cell Biology, a notoriously selective major.

Below are six things a student should consider when reapplying.

1. Do not assume a re-admittance is a slam dunk.

No matter how strong your GPA, there’s never a guarantee you will get readmitted simply by being a stellar student. I cannot tell you the number of students who come to me wanting to appeal and I discover they had a 4.0 GPA or thereabouts. There are many factors the UCs take into consideration, and a few include:  (1) how much room is available in the upcoming cycle within the major/department;  (2) how many students with similar stats are you competing against; and even (3)  the lead person now reviewing your application has a different mindset. Always work to see how you might improve whatever you are offering, even if your GPA is at 4.0. As regards the student who came to me, she had a 3.37 GPA but made no attempt to raise it over the following year.

2. Take an extra course. Or two. Or three.

One thing the UCs like to see is passion for learning. In fact, one of the Four Defining Principles at Haas Business School is Student Always. I believe this applies to all the UCs, especially the top tier. Show a passion for learning and that you are not one to sit on your laurels. I suggest all students when re-applying try and get in one or two courses each semester. These can be easy courses, maybe try something new, or even take some non-transferable vocational courses. Examples of this might be a marketing or entrepreneurial course at a CCC that will not transfer but show passion for your econ or business major. A graphic design class will not transfer but shows passion for design. Just include something. In the case of the student who came to me, she did not take one extra course. What made it worse in her situation was Berkeley’s Molecular and Cell Biology major strongly recommended the physics series be completed (a three course sequence). She had only taken one course but still got in. Why in the world did she not take the following year to finish the physics sequence– one course each semester?

3. Consider an extra-curricular activity that enhances your major or helps the community.

Another Haas Defining Principle is Beyond Yourself. This means stewardship, helping the community and giving back. In fact, every top university, including the Ivies, put huge weight on community involvement. Show your pro-active stance with leadership, community outreach, or career-building internships. Nothing’s worse than doing nothing during that gap year before you reapply. Yes, I understand you might be working full-time, but you can still wedge something in. Guess what the student who wanted to appeal did during that year?

4. Upgrade some Personal Insight essays.

The admissions office has access to your transfer application from the year before and will definitely look at it, mainly to verify that dates align. They also have access to the essays. While you do not necessarily need to update them, I always suggest one or two be changed. A whole year will have gone by and admissions likes seeing things from the last year or so. One might hope you have a new insight to impart, which shows growth.

5. If you got rejected due to a failing grade last term be extra vigilante.

I hate to keep bringing up my student but after telling me she got into Berkeley and a couple other UCs and I asked for clarification as to why she didn’t go to any of them, it eventually came out that she got an F in a major required course last term. Not only would an F get you rescinded at all the UCs, this was a major course requirement in a selective major. Additionally, in her case, most of her major course grades were in the B range with a couple of Cs. Let’s not go into how she even got in. I looked over her essays and found nothing that might elevate her due to hardship, etc. Just another incident of the UCs, especially Berkeley, using its own criteria. That aside, it boggles the mind that the student felt there was no need to improve on the situation. She did retake the course in summer, but I urge anyone who has mid-range grades in most major courses, and then gets a failing grade last term, to go that extra mile to prove you have what it takes.

6. Show you can take on a challenge.

The UCs will naturally give more weight to a student who has taken full course loads most semesters — although, obviously, work might curtail that — so don’t take that as a given. But if you look over your transcript and see that most of your semesters were eight units and you applied to a selective major with a lot of competition, and you have a borderline GPA, then maybe you need to take that under consideration and plan some sort of remedy when reapplying.

Any borderline student that got in did so because the UC, for whatever reason, decided to take a chance because they saw potential.

If you need to re-apply, you need to show the UC that they did not make an error in judgment.  If your choice is to spend the next year not improving a mediocre GPA, not adding any classes, not doing any extra-curricular activities, and not updating any essays, put yourself in the position of the UC. Are they going to re-evaluate? Maybe this person doesn’t have what it takes. Maybe we made a mistake?  Remember at the end of the day the UC has one main goal:  That you graduate in a.timely manner.  Sure, they want leaders, and they love seeing students excel in the real world, but the UC wants you to graduate, ideally, in a two year time frame. That means a full load with passing grades.

If you were the UC admissions office that took a chance  on a borderline student (or possibly any student) how would you calibrate the lack of initiative when considering a second admittance?

Regarding the student who came to me, I helped draft an appeal that checks off all the concerns Berkeley might have — a year where nothing changed regarding borderline GPA, recommended course work still missing, no initiative taken, and no giving back. I definitely felt the letter was as powerful as it could possibly be and in my opinion, believe it or not, it has merit. But let’s face it, it is what it is.

Please don’t let yourself fall into this trap.

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Lindy is an independent UC admissions consultant, who works with both transfers and freshmen. She also has just completed her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in San Francisco.

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