Town Square

Post a New Topic

Student with 3.85 GPA gets rejection letters from UCs

Original post made by Parent on May 28, 2012

My friend's daughter got 3.85 GPA, had 5 AP classes in high school, was on competitive swimming team, volunteered 100+ hours, was active in school activities, yet she got rejected by all 4 UCs that she applied to. And these were not even the highest tier of UCs, not Berkeley. She did not apply for more schools and thought that UC San Diego and UC Santa Cruz were her safe choices. The whole family is devastated. She is the girl that always did everything right, she did not party, she studied hard, she volunteereed, she played sports. The family is incredibly upset. Of course, she can go to De Anza and Foothill, but this girl was looking forward to student life, to living on campus, to be in a real college.... Sentiments aside, but shouldn't there some sort of mechanism by which schools in UC system would look at such cases individually and determine if after all she can be admitted in one of them?

Comments (307)

Posted by A for Asian, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 28, 2012 at 7:40 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Public colleges may use sports and volunteering as tie-breakers, but they don't help much if all the accepted students have significantly better GPAs and grades. With the economy still recovering, a lot more top students are picking local public schools instead of the Ivy League this year. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Shame on your friend's guidance counselors for not managing their expectations and pushing them to consider some less competitive schools. Maybe they can consider taking a semester or year off to travel or intern and then try again next year?

Posted by another anonymnous, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I'm sorry for your friend's daughter, that is a hard blow. Was her GPA 3.85 weighted or unweighted? In any case, the UC's are getting harder and harder to get into as California continues in its budget crisis. The UC's are admitting fewer in-state students because those from out of state pay more.

That said, only applying to 4 UC's, of which the lowest caliber is UC Santa Cruz, is very risky for nay student these days. UC San Diego is one of the top tier ones these days. It's so easy to put down a couple more campuses - my very bright daughter (currently at UCLA) made sure to include Merced and Riverside so she'd be sure to get in somewhere.

Your friend's daughter can appeal the decision (though it's possible the deadline for that has already passed). That occasionally will work.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2012 at 8:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Jayce, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2012 at 8:48 pm

3.85 GPA is relatively low. You need around a 4.0 to have a good bet.

Posted by Mom of a 2005 Paly grad, a resident of Community Center
on May 28, 2012 at 8:53 pm

UC San Diego has long required a GPA of 4 + for admission... It's not new. Only getting worse.

Posted by Berkeley alum, a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm

3.85 is low these days, hmmm. So you have mostly As and a few Bs and it is low these days to get into UC. Either there is grade inflation going on or perpetual study madness. I meet many UC Berkeley grads through alum work I do. They are hard working kids, but intellectually, emotionally and culturally they are quite primitive and most have bland personalities. There are exceptions, of course, but overall the impression I got is that Berkeley students of 20 years ago had much brighter personalities.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm

You don't say what her SAT was but the UCs use a complex formula comprised of SAT and grades. My guess is that her SAT was not sufficiently high, since a strong SAT could render a 3.85 sufficient for Santa Cruz. She could also have failed to get all her a-g requirements and thus not even been considered. There are many factors that can lead to a student not being accepted to any particular school. Maybe she received too much help on her essay or wrote a poor essay -- that can matter as well. You don't have enough information to assume that the admission process misfired or was unfair.

However, I agree with the poster who said that a guidance counselor or TA should have suggested some less competitive safeties -- no one can use Santa Cruz as a safety. It takes only checking an additional couple of boxes to include Riverside and Irvine and SB on that application. In addition, she could have applied to San Diego State as a safety as well. It is possible however, that she got appropriate advice but she did not take it and overestimated her chances. It happens. There are plenty of kids who just overestimate their odds at competitive schools and plenty of parents who support those misperceptions, only taking their kids to tour colleges that their kids have very little chance of getting into, for example. Then the child feels like a failure because they "only" got into Barnard and not Williams or Brown when in reality they should feel like a success. People need to know that times have changed - it is much harder than it was when we were applying.

Posted by wow, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm

"...but this girl was looking forward to student life, to living on campus, to be [sic] in a real college..."

And we wonder why students feel pressure, and why they don't think that community COLLEGES are good enough; it's not that surprising when adults talk about CCs this way. One of the smartest students that I've known (and being a high school teachers, I've encountered 1000+) is currently a student at a local CC. He sacrificed his admission to a top-tier UC to stay home and support his family financially, and you can bet that he is learning perseverance and determination because of it.

Posted by Mom of a 2005 Paly grad, a resident of Community Center
on May 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm

UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara are not any easier to get in than UC Santa Cruz, they may even be harder to get in.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2012 at 5:56 am

She has plenty of other choices available to her, even at this point in the year. She could look at the NACAC Space Available survey for colleges that are still accepting applications for this fall. Her high school counselor should be able to help her with exploring other options.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2012 at 8:54 am

Unfortunately this is not unique and has been happening for years.

High school seniors are applying to upwards of 20 schools and the cream of the crop (top 2%?) get multiple offers from schools. Since each school will not accept more than a very small number from each high school, it lowers the chances of anyone applying who is not in the top 2%.

It is very hard for all the excellent students we have to get into the top 2%. In fact, only 2% manage it.

Posted by pamom, a resident of Barron Park
on May 29, 2012 at 9:22 am

It sounds like maybe her SAT scores were too low.

When my student applied to UC San Diego, he did not get admission to the fall quarter but was given acceptance to start winter quarter. This was about six years ago and it was something new they were doing. When he saw that UCSD letter he was very upset. He had very high grades, high SAT (700's) and activities/volunteer hours (but not 100). I called the admission officer at UCSD to find out why he was deferred and they didn't really want to tell me, but finally mentioned that maybe some students don't mention their volunteer experiences or show passion for them. Since my student was more math/science oriented he did not write about that in his UC essays. The thing is that he did do volunteer hours, it just didn't shine through.

The good news: he did get into UCLA!

I think it is wrong to expect students to be dedicated to extremes in volunteer work in their teens to get into the UC's.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Los Altos
on May 29, 2012 at 10:38 am

Her GPA is 3.85, weighted 4.28. She took ACT, not SAT, and her score was 32 out of 34. The problem why she was not accepted was because she applied for highly sought after major - "biology engineering". Had she applied for "undecided" she would have got in. College counsellor advised her to go for "biology engineering" thinking that since she is a girl it would give her advantage. Not a very good advice apparently.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Los Altos
on May 29, 2012 at 10:43 am

And she is in top 13% of her class. If she had made it in top 12% she would have been guaranteed admission in UC, at least in UC Merced.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2012 at 11:19 am

You know a lot of data for being the "friend". . .

Anyhow, this student should have applied to more colleges. Applying to only 4 and now having to attend community college is just plain naive.

Plus, if biology engineering is her field, she couldn't necessarily be accepted as undecided and then expect to transfer in. Certain majors require acceptance into their program freshman year, I believe. I'm sure someone will correct me if I am wrong.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2012 at 11:31 am

I would have recommended applying to more UCs than just 4. Especially if a public school was a financially mandated path to follow:

And why not throw in UCR and UCM as absolute back ups?

For a few extra dollars, you cover your downside risk.

Cal Poly & SDSU should have been in the mix as well.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on May 29, 2012 at 11:33 am

Community college with transfer to UC after 2 years is not a bad option. However, it is a bummer that a hard working student with her credentials did not get in. Right now the family needs to support the student morally and not let the feeling of rejection overwhelm her.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Maybe the counselor suggested she apply to more but the student did not agree.

Maybe the student thought if she checked Merced, they might accept her, then she is out of the running for her desired schools. How does the system work? Do applicants rank the campuses?

Posted by Tran, a resident of Green Acres
on May 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

So college counselling is yet another prerequisite to application process? It looks like the whole system of tutors, SAT prep courses, college planning counsellors, agencies that organize volunteering and life enrichment trips for college applicants is just a mechanism of syphoning more and more money out of families. The more colleges demand from their applicants, the more of these special services proliferate. And don't get me started on student loans bubble!

Posted by Mom of a 2005 Paly grad, a resident of Community Center
on May 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Colleges don't demand more of the applicants nowadays. The problem is there is more competition for a restricted number of spots. The UCs are also increasingly recruiting from out-of-state (including overseas) to collect higher tuition and fees. Hence extra competition. Blame the state's budget woes for this.

The competition is what drives this whole counseling/tutor/SAT prep/etc. system, not the colleges per se.

I might add that colleges are more and more likely to try and detect applications that are "fabricated", where students put what they think will look good rather than what they did out of actual interest or passion. This is detectable. Also, colleges can apparently tell when the applicant did not write their own essay...

I am not saying that it is what this unlucky person did by the way.

Posted by Another mom, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Actually ACT is out of 36 not 34, so her score is around 2130 for SAT ( Web Link ) which is not considered very high anymore.

Posted by Smells funny, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm

32 on the act is 98th percentile. That plus a 3.85 unweighted gpa? If she had all her a-g and wrote a decent essay she would get into SC. We aren't getting the full story from "friend."

Posted by Parent, a resident of Los Altos
on May 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Correction, just found out more from her mom - she applied to UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Davis. Did not get into any. She won school awards, she had good grades, she alwsy wrote great essays, she did AP English and was known to be a good writer, she was an athlete, wrote in school paper, was active in school clubs, so she thought UCSD and UC Davis were her safe bets. The problem is the major she chose is highly competitive and she "overshot". Yes, she made a mistake, but shouldn't there be a chance for such great students to be considered for other majors if the 1st choice is not available? Don't think schools like UC Merced or SJSU be a good fit for her.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

I wish I had words of wisdom to share, but it's been some time since I was at Uni. It was competitive back then, but not at the insane level it is now w/the budget woes. I'm very sorry that she's experienced this. I truly hope that all of her hard work & the evidence of her good character will out to her advantage in the very near future.

Posted by whiney, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Thems the breaks kid. Maybe the childs sense of entitlement and greatness came through in the essay and the school wanted someone who would appreciate the spot more.

Also, what was her major? If she chose a compacted major, then she screwed herself.

Advice to kids, get into the least used school, then switch majors once your GE is done.

And, be smarter than a 3>85 GPA. Or go to a better high school

Posted by Parent, a resident of Los Altos
on May 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

She is the sweetest, kindest and modest kid I know. Perhaps, its her modesty that did not let her shine in her resume. People can be so shameless these days "marketing themselves", but aggressive self promotion seems to work these days better.

Posted by parent, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Why does it seem that a UC is the only answer? Education will most likely be the largest single purchase our children make next to buying a house. One can't make an uninformed decision or file an application and hope for the best. Research, talk to friends, parents, recent grads, seek out a counselor and start doing this as a freshman in high school. That way, the applicant will be prepared and informed. Unfortunately UC is becoming like the General Motors of education, me-too and mediocre. Professors are leaving, classes are crowded, and it's resting on a reputation that was great 20-30 years ago. There are many other and better alternatives and with financial aid, come close enough to truly ask does an in-state tuition make up for what for many will be a second rate, assembly line-like, impersonal educational and maturational experience. I used to believe in the UC system and was fortunate enough to attend when it was truly guided by a mission to educate, but that's not the case any more.

Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm

There are a greater number of wealthy applicants with hand-holding parents who really dot every i and cross every t for their kids on things like apps (or provide a paid,multi-year college counselor who makes everything look "perfect" for the applicant), and a bright, self-starter kid can actually be a little naive or overlooked or just not quite make the cut. Having the foresight to build a multi-year, clever paper record takes adult skills and doesn't happen serendipitously.
Extensive ultra-prepping goes WAY beyond what was done by high intellect UC Berkeley students I knew a couple decades ago (I did not go there, but have known quite a few who have proven high achieving records in Silcon Valley); these persons did NOT have Tiger Moms, yet they did deserve Berkeley, did well there, and have done well subsequently. They were not ultra-high-income kids like we see with the handholding now. Yet now these latter ones are the type to "win" the race. It is not a level playing field and snarky comments about entitled kids are way off mark and aiming at the wrong persons. "The childs (sic) sense of entitlement..." -- wow, my sense is this is not the kid to aim that comment at....

It is outrageous that UCs (top campuses, naturally) are bullying the CA taxpapers by accepting wealthy full-pay out of country applicants over high achieving and medium-high achieving instate taxpapers. It is a tactic, I believe, to build insult so we will "have" to have our taxes raised. Nobody in my immediate family went to UCs, yet we value it as a state asset, and the state's children should have reasonable access.

Posted by Paly mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 29, 2012 at 4:16 pm

In a recent article "Let's be less productive" in the New York Times Web Link, author and professor of sustainable development Tim Jackson suggests we change the way we work. He writes that we should work less, focus our work on helping others and care less about productivity and more about making sure everyone gets a chance to work. It should apply to college system too. "Let's be less focused on breeding overachievers", let colleges be what they used to in the 60ies.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Was this 3.85 on a 4 point scale?

The competition to get into California's public universities -- the University of California system in particular -- is shocking.

It may be an advantage to consider schools outside of California. Some states, including flagship public universities in Florida and Texas, are highly ranked and cost a fraction of what tuition, fees, room and board cost in California.

In fact, it actually costs less to attend some of those schools as an out-of-state tuition than it does paying in-state tuition at many California schools. Some University of Texas and Texas A&M campuses cost less than $6000 per year (tuition and fees) for in-state students.

The best part is that out-of-state students qualify as state residents after just a year (if they can prove their residency). Under certain circumstances (such as marriage, recipients of competitive scholarships, employment, etc...), a student can have immediate in-state status when it comes to tuition.

Sadly, the cost of attending public universities in California is approaching the cost of attending private schools.

I would urge the original poster to recommend that the friend and daughter broaden their horizons and look out of state for education. While it would be great to get into schools here in California, there are some fantastic educational opportunities elsewhere.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I suggest trying San Jose State and then transferring to a UC after two years. This was the student gets the going away to college feel, meets 2 different types of student atmosphere, but still gets the degree from the UC.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Los Altos
on May 29, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Yes, 3.85 unweighted on a 4 point scale (4.28 weighted for AP classes) does not get you into UC program of your choice. I agree with the poster above who said that state's children should have reasonable access to UC system. Sad thing is that even if we raise taxes and get colleges to accept more instate kids I don't think the competitive hysteria around college admission process will ever subside. The times have changed, cutthroat competition rules the world.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I think colleges are tiring of the doing-too-much-to-impress-colleges-applicants. It's the same old template and they are realizing the students have no personalities because they are working too hard. Choosing UCSD and UC Davis for back-ups was her mistake. Most people know those are not back-up schools. By applying to only 4 schools, it is clear that this child may have academic smarts but not necessarily common sense or street smarts. To work so hard in high school and not do her research on admissions indicates a lack of judgement. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Parent, a resident of Los Altos
on May 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Well, she was in top 13% of her class (not to mention everything else she did) in a top school district and would have got into both UCSD and UC Davis, had it not been for the biology major she chose. That said, it would have been fair if the schools had offered her admission for a related, but less popular major.

Posted by asian, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm

In asian, there are fierce competition in selecting schools, they also count high level achievement scores from outside school activities, such as sports and any subject scores in countrywide or international comppetition. They even admit kids without college entrance exams.they have three tier systems in college admission process. at each level,you could select three of your choice, such as harvard,stanford,cal tech the second level you can choose three such as uc berkeley, uc la,usd... the third level you can choose another set of three such as uc davis,usc....i had seen numberous kids who failed to fill ot right and fall through just like this girl.

Posted by Go Army, a resident of Meadow Park
on May 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I joined the Army out of high school and got into UC Berkeley three years later. It's about more than good grades, 100+ hours of volunteering and AP classes.

Posted by Engineer, a resident of Barron Park
on May 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm

What were her AP scores for Science and Math subjects?

I suspect that getting into bio-engineering (or any hot engineering major) would require strong AP scores in Science and Math.

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2012 at 6:01 pm

My son had a 4.0 GPA, 4 AP's and two part-time jobs. He didn't get into UC Santa Barbara or UC San Diego and ended up going to Davis. A good alternative is Arizona State or U. of Oregon. One can graduate on time and will even get financial aid so the cost is similar to a UC.

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Community Center
on May 29, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Oh my goodness, I had no idea that it is getting so hard! So UC system admits 168,000 of freshmen every year, how many US high school students apply for college admission every year? How many from California?

Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2012 at 7:39 pm

I am very sorry for your friends daughter, UC system is REALLY hard to gain entry into these days. I wonder if she was an out of state applicant (pays higher fee's) if she would have been accepted? I've spoken to other students with 3.9 and 4.0 GPA's good SATs, sports, student gov, etc who also were rejected from UC system.
Population keeps growing and the UC system really has not kept pace relative to pop.

Posted by Mom of a 2005 Paly grad, a resident of Community Center
on May 29, 2012 at 8:15 pm

That's what we get when we allow the state to go bankrupt, I guess...

Posted by Moira , a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2012 at 9:08 pm

I knew my son would most likely not get into any UC's since didn't do APs and Gunn class standings too competitive. We're sending him to an out of state Public University, which isn't significantly higher than UCs, even with out of state tuition fees. Also, if he graduates in 4 years and many UCs take longer, it will be less.

What about the students who can't afford to go to out of state schools or their parents don't want them that far away? UCs were the flagship public universities of the entire country and they're becoming unaffordable and serving a fraction of the population. Not a good omen for the future of this state. This is true of the state university also, not enough spaces and too hard to get classes. A shame. Who will buy all of Silicon Valleys gizmos if not enough educated people to pay for them?

Posted by UCSB alum, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm

When I applied for college some 20 years ago, I applied to Berkeley and UCLA and was rejected. I was preparing to go to a school in New York and got a mail from UCSB to ask if I want to go there. The mail included a postcard of the beautiful campus and my major was top 20 of the nation. Eventually I went to the school that I never applied. So UC campuses did exchange information about their applicants back then. Hope they still do it now.

Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm

A few words from a Paly grad and current UC Berkeley student.

Blame it on the competitiveness of PAUSD. I can assure you that if this applicant came from any other school district, she would have gotten into at least one of those UCs.

The data show that the 25-75 SAT range for UC Santa Cruz is 1540-1980 and 22-27 for the ACT. The applicant's score of 32 (approx. 2130 on the SAT) is well above the 75%ile for admitted UC Santa Cruz students.

The problem lies in the fact that Palo Alto schools — Paly more so than Gunn for AP classes — have been rather successful in avoiding the astronomical grade inflation that has occurred at almost every school in the East Bay, the Central Velley, and Southern California.

At Berkeley, almost everyone I meet who did not attend a Palo Alto or Cupertino school (or East coast private/magnet school) has a ridiculously high HS GPA. High school GPAs as high as 4.78 or even 4.95 are more common than my "measly" 4.2-weighted Paly GPA. Most of the Berkeley students I've met, however, are not very bright by Paly standards. Consider that the average SAT at Berkeley is around 2030 (far far lower than the 75%ile at Paly of nearly 2175) and you can appreciate that most of the people I meet simply do not perform as well as those I worked/hung around with in HS. I can assure you that if any of my HS friends went to the schools most Berkeley students went to, he/she would have been valedictorian and gradated with a 4.7+.

To get into a good UC from Paly/Gunn (or a competitive East Coast school) therefore requires a very high SAT. Because GPAs at Paly/Gunn can only be so high — (Honors/AP classes involve much more work so fewer can be taken than at other schools; grading is harsher; Not every class is an "honors" class as it often is at other schools) — Paly/Gunn students need high SAT scores to compensate. From what I remember, the average SAT score of a Paly student admitted to UC Berkeley was in the mid-2200s my year (compared to 2030 overall). Every person I personally know attending Berkeley from Paly/Gunn had a SAT score in the 2300-2400 range.

This is a problem that I believe needs to be addressed by the School Board and our community. I am, however, not certain how/if it could be addressed. Palo Alto students, although disadvantaged in the admission process, learn far more than their peers do at other schools. Every Paly student I know of at Berkeley is doing extremely well. They read and write far better than other students, many of whom got through HS with straight As but 2s and 3s on their AP tests. Consider that my year I had to read over 20 books for AP English while my Berkeley friends had anywhere from 1-5. The same is true of almost any other class.

It is a shame that the lack of grade inflation in Palo Alto — although school profiles show that Gunn has succumbed to this phenomenon over the past few years — is preventing admission for many of our qualified students. At the same time, we should be careful to indulge in too much grade inflation for fear that it would erode the excellence of a Palo Alto HS education.

What I can say for this applicant is as follows: If he/she scored a 32/36 and received a 3.85 unweighted GPA from Paly/Gunn she will do great in college. I would recommend he/she immediately apply to SJSU or even a community college. I understand that this is might be far from desirable for the applicant and his/her family, but there is not much choice. I am confident she will perform at the top of her class at either SJSU or at a community college. If this is the case (which I am fairly certain it will be), she can easily transfer to any UC of her choice after two years, Berkeley and UCLA included. (She might want to retake the SAT and aim for a 2200 to solidify her chances).

The applicant could also consider taking a gap year and re-applying for freshman admission in the fall. If he/she chooses to do so, retakes the SAT, and applies herself to a certain job or extracurricular (and with good reason), she will have a far greater chance of gaining admission come Spring of 2013. She might not have to spend two years at a community college and could directly go to UC Berkeley or UCLA after spending a year doing what she enjoys. This might sound uncommon, but it really isn't. The Harvard College Admissions Office, for one, personally recommends this to its admitted students: Web Link.

Posted by counselor, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Several points:
1. The UC changed its policy to guarantee admission to the top 9% of high school graduates, effective with the class of 2012
2. It is NOT a good idea to try to transfer from a CSU to a UC. The UC gives priority to community college transfer students first, then other UC students, and then other colleges (CSU or other).
3. In addition to the NACAC Space Availability list mentioned above, several out of state public universities have rolling admission and are also still accepting applications.
4. Taking a Gap Year and reapplying to the same colleges is highly unlikely to change admission results.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I know several kids who had 4.0s, played on soccer teams, volunteered etc and didn't get accepted to UC Davis.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of Southgate
on May 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm

UC guarantees admission to the top 9% of high school graduates, but they don't guarantee Berkeley or UCLA, they can offer lower tier UC Merced. Schools on the list on NACAC have low admission standards, so the calibre of students will not be up to par. It may sound snobbish, but it can be very frustrating to be in a class with students of much lower level of education. I think CC is her best bet, and she will save money for her family.

Posted by Sue, a resident of Stanford
on May 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I feel badly for your friend's daughter. I think she could put in an appeal to her top choice--she may be accepted that way. Alternatively if she takes a year off and decides to reapply, she should consult an independent college counselor and select a variety of schools that will offer her the major she wants, one or two of which are safe bets.

Posted by Sally, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Yes, Engineering is an impacted major, so it was the major she chose. With that major one would need GPA 4.0 + very high SAT scores. I just hope the UC system gets fixed by the time my 2.5 yr old gets to high school.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2012 at 10:42 pm

"UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Davis". Why only top UC schools? The prudent thing to do would be to apply to a mid-level (UCSB, UCI, UCSC) and lower-level (UCM, UCR) as well. They are still UC, and, "A" students can usually transfer to the school of their choice -- depending on major. And, is it really too late to get on the UC Merced waiting list?

Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2012 at 11:05 pm

I thought San Jose State is highly impacted nowadays (?!) so whoever suggested that as an easy route to waltz into and then on to a desired UC may be incorrect. They didn't have room on campus for all the students this year - some lived in hotel rooms.
Another thing, the two systems aren't entirely compatible -- I mean, SJSU is on semester system, UCLA on quarter system, and I know enough to know some of the courses of study/specialties do vary between UC campuses and state U campuses, and between the UC system and state college system.

However, if my memory is correct, Dr. Bill Wattenburg went to Chico State and then on to Berkeley, where he became a member of the faculty at an extremely young age. He was on KGO radio for years, holds a lot of patents, is considered highly intelligent, and ALWAYS spoke highly of BOTH Chico State and Berkeley.

It IS true our local community colleges are better quality than many such institutions and should be considered.

Posted by momomeow, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2012 at 12:08 am

Info from UC Merced site:
"....If you would like to apply and missed the Fall 2012 application deadline, the next possible available term is Spring 2013. Please check back with us in May for more information."

At UC Merced, there is a School of Engineering - Biological Engineering and Small Scale Technologies (BEST). And a School of Engineering - BioEngineering Institute of California (BIC) Web Link

Faculty and administrators I know who transferred from other UC campuses to UC Merced, are dedicated to teaching and research, want to connect in a meaningful way with students, and want to develop a cohesive campus culture.

If you learned about the research interests of a faculty member who is doing research of interest and contact that faculty, a faculty may be open to meeting with the Paly student briefly.

UC Merced has good opportunities for bright undergrads.

Posted by long view, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2012 at 12:53 am

Best argument I've heard yet for why young people should start taking voting more seriously. Elections are won by turnout, not by opinion. It's still amazing to me that with what young people face, they don't demand more investment in education, which pays back in their taxes and we are better able to maintain our middle class and our place in the first world! When I was young, if you worked hard, you could get a scholarship, an education, and you didn't have to worry about lifelong loans. No other advanced nation does anything like this.

Occupy only gets anywhere if those kids vote.

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2012 at 4:13 am

San Jose State is severely overcrowded and the CSU system has suffered the biggest budget cuts. Parking is almost impossiible whiich means takiing the train is an option but only within certain hours. Crime is a problem in the area, too. Certain majors are closed. It is a sad state of affairs when our taxes are so high yet our children must go out of state to attend a decent college. "Long view" is right on about voting. But with the new fiscal austerity it won't be fixed soon or at all.

Posted by Anon, a resident of another community
on May 30, 2012 at 8:15 am

This is sad. I think the young lady got poor advice from that college counselor. She seems to be a good candidate for college, but not that very demanding program she applied for. Students who choose bio- engineering majors tend to have more than just a perfect academic record. They also have experiences, like high level internships, that show their passion and commitment to the field. (However, outside of those programs, I find it hard to believe that every student in the UC system came in with a 4.0! ) I think this young lady is better suited for a small liberal arts college where she can take those 101 courses then decide in a year or so on a major. Choosing a major (and your whole future) because some counselor thinks it will give you an edge seems to reflect some immaturity on her part. I bet the UC admissions departments may have suspected the same thing. They don't want to place students in demanding programs only to have them drop out and switch to art history or whatever spark kicks in later on.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 30, 2012 at 8:53 am

She sounds like a great kid. She should feel proud of her accomplishments in High School.

It is natural for her to feel disappointed. What defines us more than how we react to success, though, is how we respond to adversity. What I would suggest is that she take a deep breath, and then broaden her strategy.

1.) Develop a conservative strategy that is likely to succeed to get her into the best school experience she can for the Fall. This might involve applying to out-of-state schools, State Schools, Junior colleges, out-of-country schools.

2.) Simultaneously, start a campaign to get into those schools that turned her down, as well as other top tier schools that support her major. (Sometimes it's easier to start at the top.) She has nothing to lose, so she might as well 'go for broke'. Visit the heads of the department she is interested in, the dean, the president of the University. Take her case to the top. Persevere even when they try to beat down her hopes and aspirations. Find influential alumni from Silicon Valley to support her. Go to the newspaper. Organize events. Start a bioengineering company, herrself, become the CEO, start making products. Claim the future she desires one way or another. Take out full page ads. Find and organize wealthy donors so she can buy the school a gymnasium in exchange for admission. Organize a teddy bear march on the admissions office. Take no prisoners. short,-- show her passion. Reclaim her life. Let the schools know her as an individual. Take charge. Be flexible. Adapt. Find different paths. But always move forward and never give up. They may not let her into the school of her choice, but they don't have to define her. She is from Silicon Valley, where *we* make the dreams and change the world on a daily basis.

And, of course, have fun with it.

No one is guaranteed success in all of their endeavors. (Believe me, I know.) But everyone has the ability to show what they are made of in how they respond to adversity.

She can think of this as her first test.

Best wishes and good luck to her!

Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on May 30, 2012 at 9:12 am

I would hasve thought UC Santa Cruz would be a good bet as well,sadly many out of state applicants are being admitted at much higher rates than in state applicants, UCLA for example in 2012 admitted 17.7% of in state applicants but admitted 28.8% of out of state and 32.0% of international applicants.
Over 30% of admissions to UC system are non CA state applicants. Out of state students pay over $30,000 a year for tuition so big chunk of UC $$ are on the backs of non residents.

Posted by local gurl, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 30, 2012 at 9:28 am

She did not apply to enough schools. And she should have considered a good private school (or two or four) as well since financial aid packages can balance out the cost in the right circumstances. The UC system is in shambles and the CSU system is even worse.

Posted by Old UC Alum, a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2012 at 9:33 am

Historic selection criteria and anecdotes are no longer relevant. Universities have no idea of how high the academic bar is set in Palo Alto. The high school counselors are overworked and are using old data that is no longer useful. While grades are inflating all around us, Palo Alto's academic standards remain firm. Bright families and students are flocking here from all over so the caliber of the student body as a whole is rising. Our high school graduates have a strike against them at college admissions time because they lack breathtaking GPAs that they would earn anywhere else. Even a 3.0 GPA here would be 4.0+ at almost any other high school in California.

It doesn't take Einstein to figure out why we have so much student stress. Students here have to work harder and harder for that "A" while balancing all the other activities they need to get into a "good" college. Got a B? Forget Berkeley or UCLA -- now UCD, UCSD, UCSB, UCSC, the list will go on.

Posted by sue, a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2012 at 10:20 am

My neighbor's daughter applied to 27 schools and ended up attending American University in DC and was very happy there. It sounds ridiculous but applying to this many schools is the way to go these days in such competitive times.

Posted by voter, a resident of Professorville
on May 30, 2012 at 10:35 am

It has been a few years since my kids applied to college, but I was told by college counseling then that if your student didn't get into a particular UC that they really wanted, there is an appeal process - - and that it is often successful! Good luck and best wishes to the student.

Posted by CSU parent, a resident of Barron Park School
on May 30, 2012 at 10:36 am

This kid should have looked at the literature the UC's put out. It explains the numbers you need to hit. Why didn't she consider the CSU system? Not good enough for her? Or didn't her advisors at Los Altos High know about them?

Posted by Mom of 2 Paly grads, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2012 at 11:00 am

My kids both went to Paly and ended up choosing out-of-state public universities. My younger child was wait-listed at UC Irvine, but was sent an acceptance from both Riverside and Merced even though she did not apply to either. She chose to head out of state, and ended up in at a great school -- really a perfect fit for her.

Both of my kids, and almost every other Paly/Gunn grad I have had the pleasure to know, have said that the rigorous work they did in high school put them in a great place for college. While everyone around them panicked and pull all-nighters to get their work done, they were able to plan things out to complete their assignments without a lot of stress.

Some of these Paly/Gunn grads went to Ivy League schools and some to great public and private universities all over the U.S. Almost every one has said that they were well-prepared for college-level work because of how they were treated here.

Through my work, I've managed to meet quite a few college admissions officers. They all *KNOW* the reputation of PAUSD and are aware of the (relative) lack of grade inflation. For instance, one of my kids got a B in an AP science class -- but got a 5 on the exam. That kid ended up earning money as a tutor in that subject during college.

I'm sad to hear that one of our local kids was so badly advised during the college application process though. Applying only to 4 UCs just isn't realistic. To me, six is a minimum and 10-12 is a reasonable number of applications.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2012 at 11:09 am

Justin Combs scored a merit-based $54,000 scholarship from UCLA. The son of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs was a talented high school football star and studied like crazy, finishing school with a 3.75 GPA. Now one of California's best colleges is rewarding him with a spot on its football team and a sweet sum of money.

Web Link

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

"Posted by Paly mom, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, 18 hours ago

In a recent article "Let's be less productive" in the New York Times Web Link, author and professor of sustainable development Tim Jackson suggests we change the way we work. He writes that we should work less, focus our work on helping others and care less about productivity and more about making sure everyone gets a chance to work. It should apply to college system too. "Let's be less focused on breeding overachievers", let colleges be what they used to in the 60ies."

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a liberal arts education. We need English majors, teachers, thinkers, artists, musicians, etc. However there's no way our country can succeed long term if the entire collegiate system rolled over and did as suggested above.

No offense --- do that and you can watch China (and few other countries) not only just pass us by - they'll "gap" the US and never look back.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2012 at 11:20 am

To the person who asked about ranking UC campuses...

That process was eliminated many years ago. These days you can apply to as many UC campuses as you'd like. Each campus admits students as they see fit - they don't look at where your kid has been admitted within the UC system.

Same goes for CSU.

BTW - Univ. of Ariz. is another great alternative.

Posted by ElemParent, a resident of Community Center
on May 30, 2012 at 11:28 am

I'm surprised she did not apply to any of the small, elite liberal arts colleges such as the Claremont Colleges, Occidental, Oberlin, Seven Sisters, Williams, Vassar, etc.. Many of these, including mine and my husband's alma maters at Claremont, are rated Most Competitive by U.S. News and World Report and considered equal to or even better than any of the UCs. And since they are private schools they look at much more than just test scores and GPAs but also REALLY look at the personal statement, extracurricular activities, etc... Many, many people who were rejected by UCs have gotten into one or more of these elite colleges then gotten accepted to a UC for post graduate programs. Me for example! And more good news is that many of these colleges, including the Claremont Colleges, have generous financial aid packages and will consider qualified students from lower income families (Stanford will not - husband found that out when he applied there as an undergrad). And many of these colleges also have very competitive engineering, science and math programs. My husband went to Harvey Mudd, one of the top engineering colleges in the country (on the par with CalTech and MIT) and I attended Scripps, where the number one major is now Math and number two is I think bio-chemistry (used to be literature and classics or other traditional liberal arts majors).

I will have to admit that something still does not sound right about the story. A student that bright and qualified would have applied to more of a range of colleges, including some of the above mentioned elite, private colleges. If the story is accurate then I am even more concerned about my bright but dyslexic kids!

Posted by noname, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 30, 2012 at 11:45 am

On the international scale, those schools have no names,plus not every hiring managers know those schools.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 30, 2012 at 11:55 am

Old UC Alum has it right, although I disagree that a 3.0 in PAUSD is a 4.0+ elsewhere. But I do agree that the gene pool in Palo Alto is outrageous. Only nerds can afford the mortgages, so their children have the smart genes. But when I have called for grade inflation, people on this forum scoff. Only parents who have experienced high school at PAUSD can understand. Students can still work hard for an "A" and learn without being tortured. Grade inflation doesn't imply attaining free "A"s. But when everyone is smart and dilligent, teachers end up creating more difficult tests to create a curve. Many of the high school classes are teaching college-level material, which is fine, but PAUSD students have 6-7 classes (and need to work on extracurriculars for college apps), not 4 classes as college students have.

I do believe that lack of grade inflation is affecting college admissions for our students. See where the Paly 2011 graduates went, and it's not impressive: Web Link

I know a student who was accepted to Harvard and MIT and the student worked insanely hard, chose leadership positions, created clubs, etc., all to pad the resume, scoffed at the "easier" teachers, and this student never seemed happy and had the worst communication skills, speaking mostly in tweets. The parent said the student "worked too hard all the time and wouldn't relax."

Our children should not have to sacrifice their childhoods to be admitted into top colleges (and I'm talking about schools other than Ivy Leagues). Again, only parents who have experienced PAUSD high school will understand this statement.

Posted by The Answer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Michele, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm

First of all, I hope your friend's daughter is proud of her accomplishments, because she should be very proud of them. At this point, she can't beat herself up about why she didn't get in. The whole college admission process is beyond ridiculous. She needs a plan. I would recommend going to Foothill or DeAnza for the two years, signing up for the TAG (transfer admission guarantee) which guarantees admissions to various schools if the student keeps her grades up.
As to the parent of the dylexic but bright student, you should be worried. It is very hard for these kids. Push for the accommodations needed. Apply to the universities that have good support for kids with disabilities (not the UCs). And when you are there for orientation, go to the disability department and make yourselves known.

Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on May 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Biology Engineering:

Try for U of Northern Colorado. I'll wager they will welcome you with open arms...

If you want to go to a " party campus ",U of Colorado Boulder could probably fit you in.

I was the usual " Gates & Jobs " wunderkind. I DID go back to Foothill to get my AS after I finished up with the team working on the design of the Y-MP supercomputer. I was too busy ( and having fun ) to go to UW- Eau Claire, but I took a couple of courses at Chippewa Vo-Tech. The majority of my coursework at Foothill College was " broadening my horizons ", and was useful in jobs outside my field ( Alternative Energy BEFORE it became a household word ) in IC Design & Testing ( I was also working a full shift at AMD at that time ).

I held a high " B " average until I hit the POLITICS at SJSU. I learned very quickly that POLITICS and BROWN-NOSING was almost as important as academic ability. Heck, I was good enough in my chosen field to get snapped up by Data General & later Cray Research, WITHOUT A DEGREE!

When I finished up, I went back to finish my AS & I was informed that I had already qualified and it was a matter of finishing up the paperwork...

My " broadened horizons " developed at Foothill got me some very unusual job offers once I left Cray with several of their " certs " in hand that I had earned.( that new-fangled something called the World Wide Web used TCP/IP and Ethernet. I installed and configured it for Cray ). I was paid to go & interview at WHOI ( wanna play with subs? I don't mean SUBWAY..) because I learned SCUBA at Foothill.

Later on, I ran the Test Lab at Bolder Technologies ( alternative energy ) and interviewed at NREL...

The thread of this comment is that having a certain goal in your employment future does not mean that " broadening your horizons " by starting out at a two year college is a bad idea for your future...

It wasn't for my future... It got me my 3000 sq ft house in the Rockies and my Jaguars....

Posted by Ann, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm

It woudl be interesting to compare stats of college admissions of Paly grads to those of Menlo and Castilleja. Anyone has it?

Posted by Cindy, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I hope the young lady will consider applying to out of state schools. There's nothing like being far from your parents to make you take on responsibility, fast. I traveled halfway across the country to college and was miserable for a couple of years; but in hindsight, that distance from comfort prepared me for the hard knocks. And yes, declare an Undecided major. Who knows where any young person will end up professionally these days ?

Posted by Paly alum, a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

PA Schools should do more to market their reputation and build connections with the best colleges, just like private schools do.

Posted by pamom, a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm

@mom -- your statement "I do believe that lack of grade inflation is affecting college admissions for our students." makes many people think you advocate dumbing down and capriciously want to inflate grades. Instead of calling for "grade inflation", I think our high schools need to correct "grade deflation." When difficult courses are curved, and only a few are allowed to earn the A's and B's, that is grade deflation. Compared to other high schools, our grading system is ridiculously difficult. For example, I know some students who took AP English in Mountain View that received an "A" for the class but made only a 2 or 3 on the AP test.

Grade deflation of very hard working and able students by curving the test scores is a problem in our AP classes.

Posted by TimH, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm

This discussion thread should be captured, edited and published as a chapbook for insider college application tips! Great job. Overall, hand it to Paly Grad for the top call. Be advised that regional data is crucial in the selection process. Don't get caught up thinking about out-of-state applicants promising big tuition; while that is a real factor, it's more differential than regional competition. Your children are competing head-to-head with others from Paly, Gunn, Los Altos, etc., the "Bubble Games". Only so many will be accepted from even what we regard as "the best" schools and cities, as schools cannot become too regional in focus, from anywhere in the world. This also applies to private schools as well in many cases.

Other tips about majors, safety schools, broader scope, SAT/ACT scores, GPA, extracurricular activities, and yes, the world beyond California borders(!) are all excellent as well - but wherever you choose, you are competing with your former classmates or very close. Good luck! :)

Posted by Gunnmom, a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2012 at 7:09 pm

How will UC's accept the top 9% from Paly/Gunn given that PAUSD is doing away with deciles/rankings starting with the class graduating in 2013??

Posted by Mom of a 2005 Paly grad, a resident of Community Center
on May 30, 2012 at 8:54 pm

@ Gunnmom

They don't need the decile. Here is how they proceed:

Reviewing transcript information collected over the last three years for ELC, UC has determined a GPA cutoff for the top 9 percent of the rising senior class for each participating high school. This benchmark GPA will be recalculated for one-third of the high schools each year.

More info at

Web Link

Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm

"Grade deflation of very hard working and able students by curving the test scores is a problem in our AP classes."
I don't know if you're talking about Palo Alto, but -- though this may be true for certain classes, it's not true for all. I asked my chem teacher what the average score on the AP test was and she said 5. According to her, the last class she had only had 2 4's. In APUSH (AP US History) something like 50% of the class scores a 5 on the AP test and the majority of the remainder score a 4. I don't know statistics for the English department or Math department, but I can guarantee that the AP Calculus exam scores are up with the Science department's.

Also, to Resident ("Unfortunately this is not unique and has been happening for years.
High school seniors are applying to upwards of 20 schools and the cream of the crop (top 2%?) get multiple offers from schools. Since each school will not accept more than a very small number from each high school, it lowers the chances of anyone applying who is not in the top 2%.
It is very hard for all the excellent students we have to get into the top 2%. In fact, only 2% manage it.")
In all fairness, the top 2% aren't trying to steal spaces from other students. They are in the exact same position: If they apply to too few and get rejected it can be a catastrophe, but if they apply to too many they could steal spaces from other students. But the spaces will eventually go to deferred students anyway -- given this choice, what would you do? It's not just the top 2% that is applying to as many colleges as possible, it's everyone. Unfortunately, that's just how the system works right now.
And Paly grad ("PA Schools should do more to market their reputation and build connections with the best colleges, just like private schools do.")
Paly is actually working on that right now. The college fair, hosted this year at Paly, featured many high-quality colleges. I don't remember all the names, but Whitman and Vanderbilt were there. Also, the college representatives have been coming from higher and higher quality schools. I believe UChicago was here in August?

Posted by c-z, a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm

I have two kids 10 years apart. Both through Gunn. The second one is more academic than the older. The elder went to Berkeley. We dont know where the younger one will go next year.

Berkeley cost 3200 per year!

How things have changed.

Its not just the budget cuts.

California has become an immigration magnet for the whole of Asia because of the UC system which was, up until now, a sure fire bet.
Asians who value education above all else immigrated for that reason alone.

Now it worked for the last 10 years - look at Cupertino which is a UC factory, but now the budget and the sheer numbers are causing the whole thing to become some sort of random crap shoot.

You can buy your multi-million dollar house, pump, train, coach and drive your kids crazy and they STILL MAY NOT GET INTO A UC!

The whole system just doesnt work anymore.

So very sad.

There are just way way too many people in this world shoving and jostling for a piece of the pie.

Posted by c-z, a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2012 at 11:48 pm

And, I should add,
A friends kid just got to YALE from Sequoia high school in Redwood City!
They have an International Baccalaureate program which is more rigorous than the AP and the admission results this year blow Gunn out of the water!

So there are other routes than Gunn and Paly.

The IB gives you an edge apparently.

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2012 at 4:07 am

Palo Altans are at a disadvantage even though our education system is superior to many other districts. For example - UC Davis may take only 40 students from the graduating class at Gunn (all good students with top GPA's) but 25 from a Central Valley high school who may not be prepared at all for college and who will flunk out by Thanksgiving. It's all in the numbers. Schools have a quota on how many students they can take due to space limitations and now due to budget cuts they are accepting way more out of state students to make up the difference.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 31, 2012 at 6:20 am

I am glad that "laula" (above) brought that up, which many people probably know.
Maybe the poster's daughter was not told by her school, but a private college counseling service would have said that she needed to move to a high school in rural part of California where high school Algebra was the highest lane if she wants to go to one of UC so badly.
Usually students would not do it because of their friends, though, and they will flunk at UC later.
Anyway, all the problems in California is one thing, but the lack of information of this parent was another thing. I don't blame her daughter because the whole situation is too complicated for a high school students with very busy school life would comprehend.
I would suggest her to go to a local community college and later transfer to UC after some of the students from high schools with lower academic levels drop out of college if none of the strategies which other postings suggested above didn't work.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2012 at 8:25 am

As a taxpayer, I find it quite peculiar the way people dismiss UC Merced and UC Riverside in these discussions. These schools are good schools with high standards, are part of the UC system, their credits are transferable to other UC campuses if the student transfers, and so on. There is no reason why someone who wants to attend the University of California should dismiss them. And it is very, very strange that anyone should feel entitled to attend one of UCB, UCD, UCLA, or UCSD.

Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on May 31, 2012 at 8:45 am

"c-z" your comment "a friends kid just got to YALE from Sequoia high school in Redwood City!"
Your comment appears to look down on Redwood City and or Sequoia HS or implies surprise that a kid from RWC could get into an Ivy school. There are bright, talented and hardworking students EVERYWHERE, not just in Palo Alto. Stanford has students from every walk of life and background who were schooled in poor rural areas at schools without half the resources PA schools or even RWC schools who worked hard and earned their slot in a university.
Living in PA and sending your children to good schools does not make kids a shoe in for admission into a good university of their choice. Some people in PA honestly look down on other parts of the peninsula and promote the TPAR attitude.

Posted by east coast schooled, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 9:38 am

Unfortunately, as good as the PA school system is - it is still quite uncalibrated in producing students desired for elite universities. Every time I bring this up with local Palo Altans, I am surprised at their incredible defense of the how fantastic the schools are, how rigorous, how hard their kids work etc. I believe it. But the numbers do not lie. Earlier, someone posted the college destinations of Paly students.

Look at this link below to see the destinations of an east coast, public, magnet school. Class size is 450. These are mind boggling numbers compared to Palo Alto schools.

Are Palo Alto schools really up to par?

CalTech - 3
Carnegie Mellon - 9
Harvard - 3
MIT - 15
Stanford - 8
Princeton - 10
Yale - 10

Web Link

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 31, 2012 at 10:50 am

@east coast, maybe you are just being provocative, but the comparison is off on a few dimensions.

First of all, this is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology in Alexandria, VA, which is generally rated the top rated public high school in the nation on top-end performance. So pretty much no public high school is going to have better results for high-end college admission - this isn't "par" as you put it, this is Tiger Woods.

Second, TJ is a magnet school, which is hard to compare to all-comer schools like in Palo Alto, with more diverse and non self-selecting students. Not many TJ students are choosing community college - plenty are from ours. That's not a shortcoming of our schools, that's the profile of our kids.

Third, it is hard to compare east coast schools generally to California schools because of the strong UC (and CSU, such as Cal Poly) system, which provides a compelling offer for many families based on quality, cost, and location. There are many PA kids who do not look beyond California for their schooling (just as their are plenty of kids choosing UVA from TJ).

Fourth, even given all the above, I'm not sure how poorly Gunn and Paly actually compare. I believe Gunn is sending 15-20 to Stanford and 6 to Harvard, and a number to CMU, MIT, and Cal Tech - and of course, we're not a math/science magnet, like TJ is.

Posted by east coast schooled, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm


Yes – purposely being provocative – but the comparison is apt - we live next door to a world class University and among the founders, investors and employees of world class companies – why aren't our public high schools #1 AND #2 on every list? It can't be that hard. There are tremendously intelligent parents and bright students here. There are incredible resources in our community.

The comparison to Tiger Woods is misleading – TJ is just a public school. There is no inherent magic within its walls. A magnet does benefit by skimming the cream of the crop in its admissions. But even discounting for that, the best schools like TJ do things differently.

When I read on this board about students grinding away on multiple AP classes, reading 20 books per year, participating in multiple extra-curricular activities, it is clear that some critical components are probably being under-nourished: curiosity, creativity, personal initiative and deep dives driven entirely by students.

I don't have a student at Gunn or Paly yet – so I can't speak to high school. But I have been around PA elementary schools and I've also seen upclose the Nueva school in Hillsborough. There is a world of difference in the way kids are educated in these two environments. It isn't just a difference of resources; it is about emphasizing social emotional components along with kid-driven project based learning. Nueva is in the process of launching a high school that carries forward their philosophy.

Why don't we have an innovative and world leading high school program here in Palo Alto? We can and we should.

Posted by rick, a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm

rick is a registered user.

We alumni spell it Caltech, not CalTech or Cal Tech. And I had no trouble being accepted from Cubberley of all places. At the insistence of my counselor I did apply to one other school, UCSD. I don't even remember opening that envelope. Obviously times have changed, or more accurately we have changed the times, in our perhaps misguided efforts to make the world a better place by unlocking wonderful opportunities to a much greater proportion of the global population.

Posted by Kathy, a resident of Los Altos
on May 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm

If the 3.85 GPA you've described is the accurate UC GPA, it does seem rather surprising that your friend's daughter wasn't admitted to UC Santa Cruz. Granted, admissions is not an exact science, but I wonder if there was a mistake made on the application. The self-entered transcript gives many students trouble, and I've seen critical errors that result in students being deemed UC-ineligible.

At this point in the year, the official window for UC admissions appeals has passed, but it could still be worth calling the campus admissions offices to ask them to walk your friend's daughter through her file and the reasons why she wasn't admitted. If it's an error that can still be corrected, there might be a chance.

Otherwise, I would recommend looking into the guaranteed transfer programs that the local community colleges offer. If she has a solid set of AP scores and takes hefty courseloads, she might be able to transfer surprisingly quickly. Depending on the family's budget, a private college might be worthwhile to consider as well, as they often take transfers even sooner.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Here's some interesting data - from the Paly Campanile, here are some numbers about some of the 2012 seniors and where they are heading:

Berkeley 16
Davis 9
Merced 1
Santa Cruz 14
Santa Barbara 11
Los Angeles 5
Riverside 3
Irvine 2
San Diego 2
Total: 63 of approx. 450

Comparing to the post above - the anonymous east coast magnet school:
CalTech 3 / 1 Paly
Carnegie Mellon - 9 / 4 Paly
Harvard - 3 / 4 Paly
MIT - 15 / 2 Paly
Stanford - 8 / 9 Paly
Princeton - 10 / 4 Paly
Yale - 10 / 2 Paly

Other "elite" schools for Paly seniors:
USC 10
Mudd 1
Scripps 2
Pomona 1
Claremont 3
Cal Poly SLO 7
Rice 1
Chicago 1
Michigan 5
Oberlin 2
Purdue 2
Wash U/St L. 5
Cornell 3
Penn 1
Virginia 1
Duke 1
Vanderbilt 5
Rensselaer 3
Middlebury 1
Skidmore 1
Wellesley 1
Tufts 6
Emerson 1
Amherst 1
Mt. Holyoke 1
Brown 2
Wesleyan 1
Pratt 1
Columbia 1
Swarthmore 1
Johns Hopkins 1
Georgetown 4
Annapolis/Navy 1

There are many, many more schools beyond this list.

This is the list of commitments - there's no data on what schools accepted the Paly kids, but were turned down by the students.

IMHO, I think the Paly education is doing just fine.

Posted by pamom, a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm

@ Posted by C, "I don't know if you're talking about Palo Alto, but -- though this may be true for certain classes, it's not true for all. I asked my chem teacher what the average score on the AP test was and she said 5." You made this comment in regards to my observation that I believe we have grade deflation in our AP's. Your statement proves my point: our students are mastering the material in the AP's and getting high scores. Then the get dinged on curved tests and only so many are allowed to earn A's and B's.

Posted by east coast schooled, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm

@crescent park dad

Thanks for Paly 2012 numbers and I agree they are very good. But they can be better.

In the 2010 data, the east coast magnet school (TJHSST) sent 91 out of 450 or so kids to the University of Virginia - an exceptional instate school for graduates with instate tuition benefits. A further 60 went to the College of William and Mary (an exceptional school) - but I believe without an instate tuition benefits for TJ kids. This isn't quite a fair comparison, but it would be the equivalent of 151 kids from Paly going to Berkeley and UCLA.

On this board are a number of descriptions of the intensity of the Paly & Gunn programs - it appears from the graduating class destinations that perhaps this intensity is misdirected. That the programs are not producing a large pool of graduates coveted by elite colleges & universities.

Posted by pamom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm


Private High Schools maintain open communication channels with the admissions departments of Universities. They "market" themselves and their students. They explain in detail the grading policies and what the GPA from their high school will mean. It is a symbiotic relationship between students/parents/high schools/colleges.

Grade Inflation or lack thereof becomes an issue if other school districts are not following the same principles. It becomes a bigger issue if colleges don't know what your school is doing. It is the responsibility of the school to ensure its graduates are not artificially undermined.

My kid is not in high school yet - what sort of support are students applying to college given at Paly or Gunn? Is there a dedicated college admissions counselor?

Posted by east coast schooled, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm

The previous post is by "east coast schooled" - I accidentally wrote "pamom" in the name because I was replying to her.

Posted by Engineer, a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm

east coast schooled - you're comparing apples to oranges.

TJHSST is a magnet school that pulls in the best math/science students from 6 counties (Arlington County Fairfax County (includes City of Fairfax), Falls Church City, Fauquier County, Loudoun County, Prince William County).

If you filled Paly or Gunn with the best math/science students from just 1 Silicon Valley county (Santa Clara county) the matriculation rates to the elite colleges would far exceed TJHSST. Of course, this doesn't exist because our county's (and Palo Alto's ) best students are spread out across many public and private schools.

Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm

PAmom: "Posted by C, "I don't know if you're talking about Palo Alto, but -- though this may be true for certain classes, it's not true for all. I asked my chem teacher what the average score on the AP test was and she said 5." You made this comment in regards to my observation that I believe we have grade deflation in our AP's. Your statement proves my point: our students are mastering the material in the AP's and getting high scores. Then the get dinged on curved tests and only so many are allowed to earn A's and B's."
My statement was made mainly to confirm that we're not inflated at all. I just threw in what I knew of Paly's AP scores so everyone would know what competition there is in PA. Also, remember that some AP's are notoriously hard. The curve they are given changes per AP -- for chem it's something like if you answer 41% or 51%, I can't remember, of the answers correctly you will receive a 5. For APUSH, I think it's nearer to 60%.
I said nothing about the grades the received in the classes. Paly tests are not curved that way. AP Chem does not put a limit on the number of A's and B's given, although they do try to prevent students from getting over 100%. Sometimes they only curve the bottom percentage (I think) to achieve this. AP Calc does the same thing. As does every other class I know. My math class currently is not graded on a bell curve -- when students say they 'curved' the test, it means that the number of points on the total of the test has been reduced (70 point test going to 65, for example).
Also, I think the AP's do match up with scores fairly well. Quoting Mr. Bungarden's letter to incoming APUSH students, "For the past several years 40-50% of the students have earned A's and the rest B's or C's." The average grade changes year to year, but if ~50% receive 5's and ~45% have A's in the class, it seems balanced enough for me. I apologize for not knowing more about average grade distributions, otherwise I would give more examples.

If you ask me, rather than PAUSD inflating grades, everyone should just deflate theirs. It provides a false image for colleges anyway. This will never happen though.

Also, to east coast educated, I cannot find my 2010 or 2011 campanile, but the graduating class listed there is quite impressive. Then, we were sending something like 34 seniors to Berkeley (the online version isn't working for me either). And consider your east coast school's statistics as if we removed the top students at Paly, Gunn, Castilleja, and any other private schools Palo Altans are going to, and threw them into one school. I'm sure that if you summed the college attendance, ours would outdo theirs. I can't find Gunn's school listings online, but I assume it's near the quality of Paly's. If you sum those....

Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm

"My kid is not in high school yet - what sort of support are students applying to college given at Paly or Gunn? Is there a dedicated college admissions counselor?"
There is currently a huge war over counseling being waged -- I'm sure you've seen some of the posts about it. At Paly, Freshmen have a teacher assigned to them who may or may not be with them for the next three years during advisory. At the end of sophomore year, students request teachers to be their advisers -- TA's, teacher advisers -- and are assigned to one of their top choices (if possible). The TA's traditionally write college recommendation letters and recommendation letters for camp and whatnot. It's hard to change TA's once you're assigned to one -- very hard. Because of this, try to get a notoriously 'good' TA. Although many TA's may be fine, many are preferred due to their talents at writing rec letters. Also, it's not good if your child has a TA who will never have a class with your child. This makes it hard for a college rec letter to be written.
I think we also have 2 college counselors. I hear they're helpful, although I've never visited them myself. I prefer to spend time on College Board and university webpages looking at application standards .
There is also a college festival hosted at one of the local schools -- sometimes Paly, sometimes Gunn, sometimes even Castilleja (I think) where you can ask questions to college reps. I don't remember all the names, but I do remember that Whitman and Vanderbilt were there. Also, college reps come periodicity throughout the fall months to speak to students. I didn't attend any of the talks, but I glanced at the schedule once and I think I saw UChicago on the list. I'm sure there is a schedule of who comes when online and you can look at what universities visit Paly.

Posted by east coast schooled, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 4:51 pm


I understand the magnet vs non-magnet effect. My point isn't to suggest that Paly or Gunn's students can be directly compared to a selective school. It is instead to use a comparison (however contrived) between Paly & Gunn with TJHSST to ask the following question: Why aren't Paly & Gunn widely recognized as the best #1 and #2 public non-magnet high schools in the country?

As an outsider (without a high school age student yet), I hear and read about immense pressure upon students to perform in the traditional path (APs, extracurriculars, leadership, sports). What I don't hear and read sufficiently about is innovative teaching, project based learning, private/public partnerships, and deep support for curiosity and self-learning.

I mentioned earlier that Nueva up in Hillsborough is planning on opening a high school.

For those who have been involved with PAUSD longer, has there been community interest in the past in innovating the high school curriculum?

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 31, 2012 at 6:58 pm

@east coast - you're making an interesting point, but I think mixing up a couple of things. There's a reasonable discussion to be had about pedagogy, curriculum, workloads, intellectual curious, etc. I'm not sure TJ is the gold-standard in that regard, but there's still a valid discussion.

I'm very sure that comparing elite college admissions between TJ and PAUSD is not that illuminating. Our kids are much more diverse than TJ's, in terms of both motivation and ability. They are a six-county magnet; our schools each take all comers from a ~30K total population (60K / 2 schools).

There was a benchmarking study done a few years ago by PIE on 6 comparable districts (Wellesley, New Trier, Scarsdale, etc.) that looked at many things, including curriculum. That was influential in some ways. I'm sure it is still posted on their web site.

Most of the discussion in town has focused on whether our schools serve the less-high-performing students well, those who are not planning on attending elite schools - both students in the middle and the so-called "achievement gap" students.

So I'd say there is not been much discussion about innovation in high school pedagogy - but there's no reason you should start it off. Start a thread!

Posted by pamom, a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2012 at 7:22 pm

@east coast your comment to me @pamom was:

"Private High Schools maintain open communication channels with the admissions departments of Universities. They "market" themselves and their students. They explain in detail the grading policies and what the GPA from their high school will mean. It is a symbiotic relationship between students/parents/high schools/colleges."

College admission officers know our high schools very well, so that is not the problem (that they don't know the rigor of our curriculum -- they do as they visit our high schools). It's been pointed out that colleges do not want to overload their incoming classes from one high school ore on area and that is true. It means our very large group of students are competing with each other for those coveted spots.


@C -- I do believe that in some of the AP's the "A" and "B" grades are limited, sometimes with esoteric tests, unless there has been a big change lately (my children graduated not too long ago).

To ask for grade inflation makes no sense to me -- it is like asking to pad your resume (which is wrong) because everyone else is doing it. No, my point is to correct grade deflation in AP/honors classes that are graded way beyond what is comparable to other high schools.

Posted by east coast schooled, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 8:12 pm


TJ is just a useful foil. I don't think it is the gold standard by any means. There is a valid point of debate about who a school serves: the most challenged, the middle, or the most advanced students.

I cringed when I read the Berkeley/Paly student above describing the requirements to get in Berkeley from Paly. There has got to be a better way of identifying, challenging and nourishing such highly capable students without grinding them through a grueling and competitive high school environment.

Thanks for the pointer to the PIE study. It is here in PDF form: Web Link

WOW - it is illuminating. My takeaway is that funding for public school is a limiting factor to being the best among the 6 sample school districts. Forget about being the best in the country.

How is it possible that Palo Alto, one of the most expensive group of zip codes in the country , cannot support one of the best public school systems in the country?

Posted by Linore, a resident of Southgate
on May 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Absolutely, there is an interest to innovate the high school system! Maybe via "a school within school" for exceptionally creative and talented students who might not necessarily be straight As. Sort of incubator concept.

Posted by be careful, a resident of another community
on May 31, 2012 at 8:27 pm

College matriculation isn't the same as college admission. Students make choices about which colleges to attend based on a number of factors that are personal. And, they also choose a list of colleges for personal factors. Just because a counselors suggests a safety or a reach school doesn't mean the student actually applies there.

Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm

"@C -- I do believe that in some of the AP's the "A" and "B" grades are limited, sometimes with esoteric tests, unless there has been a big change lately (my children graduated not too long ago).

To ask for grade inflation makes no sense to me -- it is like asking to pad your resume (which is wrong) because everyone else is doing it. No, my point is to correct grade deflation in AP/honors classes that are graded way beyond what is comparable to other high schools."
I'll inquire more about limited grades tomorrow in class. But I am under the impression there is no limit -- there is an expectation as to how average scores will be when examining tests, but class-wide I'm pretty sure there is no limit. For tests, it's true, teachers do aim for certain scores -- most prefer a class-wide average somewhere in the 80's, but that's just the impression I get. Is this what you mean by limited number? There's no actual set limit, by the way, it's just a way the teachers can tell if their tests were too easy/too hard....
Also, I don't think Paly is deflated. I'm swimming against the current here, but I think that a lot of schools are inflated.

By the way, I would just like to say that the stress everyone is discussing isn't as terrible as it seems it is. I've read horror story posts about 5 hours of homework in middle school. When I was there, 2-3 years ago, the most HW I had was probably 2 hours AFTER putting an essay off till the final night to write. If I had spaced it out, I probably would have had max 45 mins HW/night or less. I'm in high school now, a sophomore, and am not taking any AP's (yet). So far, the first two years have been easy enough -- although I've had better/worse luck with English teachers than most students. General consensus says I had the two easiest-to-pass-with-an-A teachers (with the least work) in a row. My HW is definitely under 1 1/2 hours a night on average, although sometimes when I have multiple tests and projects in a week it can exceed that (it goes the other more favorable way, too, though).

Posted by unbelievable, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2012 at 8:56 pm

@ Linore
what a [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] you sound wanting a school within a school for "creative and talented students who are not straight A"

what about the other kids who are not straight A?

i should hope our leadership would not be foolish enough to think our tax money should go to such an unfair and shortsighted endeavour

our high schools already have social groups centered around talents with those kids getting applause and attention at every turn while some of our "regular" kids are not noticed

Posted by c-z, a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I am not saying that Sequoia is a bad school. I am just saying that their placements this year are as good as GUNN and they have something like 70 percent disadvantaged! This points to other factors like the IB program being better than the AP system.

So I agree. Palo Alto should introduce the International Baccalaureate and innovate and keep up with the best districts not bog down fighting for places which are overallocated by school.

Posted by east coast schooled, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 9:18 pm


"what a snob you sound wanting a school within a school..."

By no means is the original poster a snob? What is the purpose of public education? There are many, many, many answers. And one of the answers is to educate the best and brightest is the best way we know how.

For example: what kind of snob would you be if you or someone you love needs heart surgery. Do you want the absolute best to cut you open and shut down your heart for a few minutes while they poke around OR do you want someone perhaps many notches down. Pretty obvious answer there.

Public education is for everyone: including the absolute best students. Underserving them does them just as much disservice as underserving a struggling child. A bright student who isn't motivated may not fulfill their full potential. And may very well not become the heart surgeon that you might need.

A school within a school is an format in which to experiment with new ideas of teaching and learning.

Posted by parent, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2012 at 10:04 pm

To c-z

Where are you getting your facts about Sequoia and Gunn? There is absolutely no way that Sequoia is matching the admissions record of Gunn. Gunn got 13 students into Stanford last year and I'm told at least the same this year. There were not 13 Sequoia students admitted to Stanford and not 5 Sequoia students admitted to Harvard, which is the number of Gunn students admitted there this year.

Posted by Gunn Student, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 31, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Not to put anyone down or anything, but I'm a senior at Gunn, and the majority of Gunn students who get into Stanford are the children of faculty.

Of the students who get into Stanford and are not the children of professors, I only know of three students who are not legacy (there may be some students I don't know who got in)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2012 at 11:09 pm

To suggest that Sequoia has the same acceptances as Gunn is ludicrous. Gunn does very well at all of the top tier schools, including Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley, etc. Sequoia does not even come close to matching up.

Posted by Understand, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2012 at 2:51 am

Sorry to hear this story, but this can be just a reality people can face now. My child applied four UC campuses last year, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Davis and UC Irvine. I thought my daughter can at least be admitted to UC Irvine since her GPA and SAT scores are pretty good, she also took some AP classes and received academic awards each year in the high school here. Irvine put her in waiting list. Fortunately, UC Davis accepted her and no other UC campuses had accepted her. She did not want to apply UC Davis at first, I told her to apply. Now she is so happy attending UC Davis. She did not experience the kind of stress many high school students here have experience. I think parents can help create a less stress environment for children even their children attend Palo Alto public schools. I hope people would understand that not every Asian family in Palo Alto would push their children to crack SAT hard and take many AP classes in order to go to the best colleges. Asian kids can live stress free and do well in school in Palo Alto. I always feel that happiness is important for people at all ages. If I knew it could be so tough to get into UC last year, I am sure I would have asked my child to apply a few more UC. My child's friend applied many UC last year, only one UC did not accept this kid. Those on the top got accepted by many UC can squeeze out other students' chances since the average student here is already the top student in other HS in California. A student can attend Foothill for one year and then change to attend UC or other colleges even though no enough of transfer requirement is met. If I did not tell my child to apply UC Davis, my child could face the same outcome and I can tell how bad my child could feel. To achieve 3.85 unweighted GPA for the child in this story is certainly not easy. Please don't be discouraged. Many options and many colleges will be available in the future for such a diligent kid. Last year, I heard that some students including the friends we know who really wanted to go to UC Davis did not get accepted. Going to the college is not the end of the game and it is just the beginning of a more challenging learning life. Therefore, I always feel that keeping the passion for learning is more important for my children than getting A for every class in high school. Colleges are looking for kids with a passion to learn, not the burned out or stressed out kids from the high school.

I attended a highly competitive high school in Asia. Some students in my high school class or in my grade did not get accepted in the college right after high school graduation. Now, many of these students actually are doing really well financially, much better than many of us going to the college right after high school. They all went to attend a college one or two years later after high school graduation. Now it is far more difficult to be accepted to attend this high school than to be accepted to attend a college. Thanks.

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

@east coast - keep in mind that PIE's sole purpose is fundraising and that study was ultimately done as a fundraising tool - so your conclusion (we need more money!) is the intended one ;-) I would say that it is somewhat true, but there is a strong conservative streak in our community around changing anything with the high schools (except possibly making them even harder).

As a school board member once pointed out, it is as if our families were all shareholders in our schools, but instead of being properly diversified and open to risk/reward, they are 100% un-diversified (all their kids attend) and so have extremely low risk tolerance (if it is screwed up for my current kid, all is lost). For instance, our recent school calendar debate is an interesting and extreme example - a huge hue and cry arose over whether to shift the calendar by a couple weeks, which was hardly an innovation as almost all surrounding districts have already done so. I have no view on the debate, other than it is an easy thing to try out - but even something like that took years and acrimonious debate. So I am sadly not optimistic about our ability to innovate at our high schools, regardless of funding, other than on a small and volunteer-only basis.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:06 am

So, why has tuition SKYROCKETED and competition to get into CA state universities increased so dramatically?

From what I understand, the schools haven't improved THAT MUCH. Where is all of the money going?

Come to think of it -- that is a good question for everything in the state. California's taxes (state income + utilities + infrastructure + sales + property + other creative taxes), fees, licenses, tuition, tolls, etc... are highest in the nation and, yet, we are lagging behind in so many ways.

Is this all about pensions and over-valued government salaries?

I was reading a report the other day comparing the proposed 49ers stadium in Santa Clara with the one built in Arlington, Texas for the Dallas Cowboys. Both stadiums cost nearly the same amount of money to build. Both stadiums are roughly the same size (in area/acreage). Yet, the comparison ends there.

The 49ers proposed stadium is nice...but it can't compare with the "8th wonder of the world" in Arlington. The report estimated that the cost of the Dallas Cowboys' stadium would be 2.5 times higher if it were built in the Bay Area.

I just have to wonder why.

Why does everything cost so much in California?
Why do we see so little in return from our epic taxation/tuition/fees/etc...?

Posted by east coast schooled, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:18 am


I've noticed the conservative streak throughout my other exposures to Palo Alto (building codes, development in general, etc.) - I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the same streak permeates education. I can understand being anti-growth, but being anti-modernization is just strange.

Our lives are radically different from just 20 years ago - innovation that bucked the trend started right here. But the schools are on a slow and steady path? That is nonsensical. Colleges want innovators, leaders, thinkers, risk takers, the next Brins, Pages and maybe even a few Zuckerbergs. What is the fear in Palo Alto schools? Is it that a failed policy may reduce their child's chance of getting into a good university?

Sadly - there is a self-selection that can easily happen - families that want to move out because of the limits in the school district will - leaving the more conservative families further entrenched.

Posted by c-z, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:44 am

Sequoia IB program is, I am afraid, a school, within a school within a school! I think only 200 or so kids sat the IB diploma, and of those the strike rate to top colleges was mind blowing.

It is a better program. They emphasize writing skills which our techno-zombie kids dont have.

I will get you the stats.

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm

@east coast - I'm not sure really what the elite colleges want. I have some exposure to one of the senior classes in town and their college acceptances - I would not say your description fits the evidence there, as kids getting into elite schools were the ones with lots of APs, super-high grades, high SATs, and other "hooks" (sports, legacies, activities, etc.) Leadership potential? Sure. Innovators and risk takers? Not so much. (And I'm including my own kid here.)

Given the reality of a college admissions office (high volume, lots of qualified kids per spot), they certainly want transcripts that they can understand and compare to others without a ton of work. If you move away from AP-focused curriculum to home grown courses/methods, you need to be able to communicate to and convince colleges that your way is as good or better (even if the kids aren't taking a standardized test). And of course you need departments (solo teachers aren't enough) that want to develop new courses and teach new ways.

Another approach is to find alternative standards. The leading example, I think, are the IB programs that are popping up (such as just mentioned). I don't know much about it - I'm sure we could figure out how to make it a grind just like the current AP courses ;-) But it is something different to try, that may appeal to a different kind of kid (and perhaps teacher) than the current stuff.

Posted by c-z, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm

In the IB they take first year college courses, while at High School, often from the local Community Colleges. This means that they are AHEAD in terms of curriculum when they enter the UCs. So there is no need for remedial math, or any sort of catch up, in fact they are 1 year into the program.
This means that it costs less for the UCs. I think this may contribute to the TRULY AMAZING entrance into the UCs from the IB programs, including sequoia.

Of course if Palo Alto adopted the IB the advantage of the other programs would be short lived, but the fact remains ,right now, that these IB programs are (of the kids in the school within a school within a school within a school) are on a percentage basis doing unbelievably well.

Having said this there will be a stampede to Redwood City real estate (as there is and the program is turning people away and no longer accepting interdistrict transfers) and the cohort will become richer and more stressed.

Posted by Rat Race, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:16 am

Welcome to the Rat Race, life isn't always peachy. Sometimes you have to be humble to get places.

Posted by Gerhard, a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2012 at 9:09 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

As the father of 3 UC daughters, who got into every college they applied for, it was the result of hard work, good research and knowing the application process. All 3 got into Cal, UCSB, UCD, UCLA and Cal Poly. 2 were accepted to SCU, 1 to Stanford, Cal Lutheran, NDNU, oh yeah all 3 also were accepted to SJSU (yep the un-needed backup for all). They are all well balanced and good kids, who all have jobs while in school to help pay their expenses. They played sports and worked through HS, were on Student Council, service clubs and had a social life. They were allowed to choose what they wanted to do and where they applied to school. The oldest graduated with a 3.74 from UCD and now has a full ride for her MS to the top program in the US for her major, by the way she had a choice of fully rides for her MS too.

The real issue is the high number of out of state, foreign students accepted because they pay higher tuition, though we still subsidize them with our tax dollars, UC's pay out significant amounts of money for salaries for top administrators and to settle studied lawsuits for egregious actions taken by faulty and staff who are still working.

Lastly, as suggested this young lady may not have had the SAT's and well rounded life schools look for. 100 hours of community service is nothing, 4 AP's is nothing without the test scores of 4 or 5 on the exams.

Mommy and Daddy should be proud of their daughter, should support her and not act like the world is ending. And, McDonald's is hiring. Honest work of any type is not shameful and should be respected.

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 2, 2012 at 9:35 am

Check out the front page article of NYT - Cuts Threaten Status of California Universities. More of the same ...... this has been going on for year after year.

Posted by Dr. Eric, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 2, 2012 at 9:46 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Interesting, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 2, 2012 at 10:28 am

This is an interesting topic. I'd love to find out more about that Sequoia IB program.

Posted by Lynn Ware, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 2, 2012 at 11:40 am

It's a sad state of affairs when a 3.85 GPA student from Palo Alto/Los Altos communities can't get into a public university. China is opening so many universities right now they can't keep track of them. The best we can do now is to teach our kids to be entrepreneurial and rely on themselves to get ahead to be globally competitive. Our country is not helping them. Each child should make it a habit of being aware of global trends, what drives economic opportunity, and take independent action to create a good quality of life for themselves. Our local high schools need to realize that the "stress" our children are facing is due to how hard it is now to get ahead taking the "traditional" paths (getting into a good college and doing the "right things"). The America Dream is now available to only a few. I'd like to see high school curriculums focusing more how to create businesses and how our children can create personal brands and career plans for themselves given the "new normal" economic reality of the United States. "Things sure ain't like they used to be" and our children need new skills to navigate in this less abundant environment.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Lynn, not sure it is so bad as that. The kids can go to lots of schools of higher ed, including other UCs, CSUs, and community colleges. Since there are more kids than there used to be, and higher college attendance, there is more competition. That's hard, but not devastating; it means more talented kids go to even more colleges.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm

@ Gerhard: Really?

Why such a jerk?

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2012 at 5:07 pm

A couple random comments -

The PiE study of various high performing, K-12 school districts showed that yes, we spend less money, but we also accomplish a lot with what we have.

Students in an IB program can receive more than a 4.0 for an "A", many IB program graduates have an average of 4.75 GPA's

Sequoia high school does not seem to offer any AP classes.

Posted by Cali native, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 3, 2012 at 8:12 am

Sorry for the disappointment but surprised such a smart woman wasnt so smart here my daughter is a year ahead with slightly higher weighted gpa and 6 th in her class she got into slo. Uci ucd but not ucla or duke ... Fortunately we had taken lots of road trips the summer before and found a private school she loved... And got in and received a great scholarship and passing (did this girl) all those ap tests advanced her a whole quarter. Many of her friends are at community colleges and transfering my son a recent graduate started as an engineering major and soon discovered it wasn't for him. Basically my advise to this woman and those planning on applying this year is that there are no safe schools. Go visit schools and find those you love and feel comfortable at and don't rule out a cc the idea that this one applicant should have her application reviewed again is ridiculous how many applicants were disappointed that they didn't get acceptance letters? Sorry but life isn't always what we think is fair but new doors can offer exceptional opportunities

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2012 at 9:01 am

After reading all the postings here, I reread some old articles.

The record low admission rate of 18% for in-state students sounds like the reason for tough admission for us, but this situation could be the real factor, "The University of California, Berkeley's admission rate for the fall term dropped to 18 percent, a record low, and 98 of those offered admission got a perfect 2400 score on the SAT." Web Link

This article also mentions, "The University has worked hard to increase admission of students from California, and offered spots to 9,278 residents this time around, up slightly from 9,267 a year ago."
My conclusion is still that the lack of information of this parent partly caused her daughter's disappointment. But hey, actually that's UC's loss. They could not find how this student is hard working, smart and great. Now other great schools will take her.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2012 at 10:19 am

What I meant in my comment above is:
The spots for residents haven't been taken this year by non-residents (for example at UC Berkley, spots increased slightly from 9267 last year to 9278 students this year), it's that the competition among residents got harder, evidenced at UC Berkley by the fact that 98% of those accepted admission got a 2400 on the SAT.

Posted by K, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

I agree with the poster who suggested trying to appeal. When I was applying to the UC system 12 years ago (I'm a former Paly Student with a 3.7GPA and 2 APs, and I also did 3 sports a year and volunteer work), I didn't get in to my first choice (UCSB) but did get into some of the other UCs, including UC Davis. My biggest mistake was that applying as undeclared (a very popular choice at the time). I decided to appeal and apply as a math major (I ended up in Mathematics/Economics) as this was my strongest subject. The appeals process worked for me and I started UCSB in the fall of 2000 and ended up doing VERY WELL there (graduated in 3 years). So the appeals process DOES work. And as an added note, it's important to do your homework on the major for which you are applying as some are easier than others to get into. With most majors, you CAN switch. Engineering is one of the exceptions.

I also think it's important not to put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to a variety of schools so you don't get stuck in the situation this kid is in. As others have noted, don't be afraid to also apply to out of state schools if it's financially feasible.

If they do end up having to go to community college first (which is actually a great option financially for some), they can always take summer classes right after high school and take on a full schedule so they can get their pre-requisites out of the way and apply for the transfer after just 1 year.

There ARE always options. They may not seem best at the time, but they do exist. We do not live in a perfect world. This is probably the first of many hard lessons this kid is going to learn over her lifetime. She can choose to let it bring her down or she can choose to learn from it and use it to make her stronger. For me, rejection (which happens to everyone at some point in time) always made me work harder, which is why I'm successful today.

Posted by Interesting, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 3, 2012 at 11:41 am

How does the appeals process work? How do they determine they made a mistake?

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I am interested the appeals process, too.
Could you explain how you did, K, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood?
Or anyone?

Posted by C, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Mom, Read .. They said 98 students got perfect score and NOT 98%. Which is about less than 1%.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm


Thank you for pointing it out.
Right after reading the article, I thought my sophomore had to give up her target schools, but now I feel better to know that she can keep her hope.

Posted by Interesting, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

And would also like to hear more about IB programs. Is that being considered for either of the PA high schools?

Posted by Anon, a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I know that IB programs are offered at dual-language high schools, like FAIS in San Francisco. Though I believe the students have to be fluent French speakers to be accepted into that particular program. I have always thought IB was the route for students considering applying to overseas universities (Oxbridge considers them) as well as American schools.

Posted by K, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm

It's been 12 years, so I can't recall all of the details, but I did ask for some references from another person who was already attending UCSB and possibly a teacher as well. If you contact the UC, they will tell you what you need to do to appeal (they might also have this process online).

They will allow a certain number of people in on appeal depending on the number of people that have already enrolled vs the number of vacancies left. It's always worth a shot. While I only appealed to one school, I suppose it's always possible to appeal to multiple schools in the chance that one might allow you in. However, I would write separate appeal letters and make sure to state why you would be a good fit at each school, what you can offer them, and what you expect them to offer you. Personalization goes a long way. Best of luck! The door may have been closed, but they haven't locked it yet. :)

Posted by K, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I wanted to add that I noticed this girl took the ACT, not the SAT. Things may have changed, but I recall that the SAT was the preferred test for UCs. If it's possible to take the SATs before appealing, I highly recommend that.

Posted by Shounak, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 3, 2012 at 9:20 pm


I graduated from Gunn in 2008, and am currently about to graduate from UC Santa Cruz. I had a similar experience, and rather than answering your question directly, I had a suggestion from my own experience that might help, moving forward.

While DeAnza and Foothill are fine community colleges, I would suggest looking at community or city colleges beyond the bay area. College is a great period of time to meet a variety of people from totally different places and with totally different world views, which makes for dynamic discourse when it comes to learning - both academically and socially. As such, attending a 2 year college in, say, Santa Barbara (just my experience) will throw your daughter into the student life that is, in my opinion, extremely important.

One thing I have learned is that in Palo Alto, we grow up in such a bubble, and it is extremely valuable to throw oneself out of that bubble. I guarantee it will motivate your daughter to try new things, meet new people, and pursue more intellectual pursuits than staying in the area for two years would. Additionally, it is fairly easy to transfer to a good school after that. I chose to go to UC Santa Cruz because I realized that the environment of my school was far more helpful to academic and social pursuits than the "name." I have friends who went to top tier schools and low tier schools, but come graduation, we're all at the same place.

Hope this helps!

Posted by Norm, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by local gurl, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:41 am

Thank you, Shounak, for your perspective on this. Great advice!!

Posted by steve, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 4, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Something is fishy with this story. It is your friend's daughter so there may be some missing details. Parents often withhold vital info. Having done admissions work for Stanford, there is always more to the story.

I knew a similar student - perfect - except that DUI.

Posted by Shounak, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 4, 2012 at 5:35 pm

While there may be missing details, it may also be the case that when it comes to Gunn, her grades, scores, and extracurriculars are somewhat unremarkable. Class rankings mean a great deal at UC admissions, especially with the number of people applying this year, and with the class growth in Palo Alto high schools, she may have not been anywhere near the top.
Also, with the number of people applying to UC's - since I graduated in 2008, the number of high school graduates getting into UC's has dropped 22% - 4 schools just may not have been enough to apply to.
Food for thought.

Posted by uc merced student, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 6, 2012 at 3:16 am

Umm. Wth these numbers do not add up. It is not possible to get a 3.85 GPA and recieve a 4.2 weighted GPA with only 5 AP classes... (unless you only took about 4-5 classes a year) . From the standard six period classes if she took them. I personally took 7 ap classes and 4 honors classes so I would know. The highest she would have gotten would be around a 4.0. There is something not being Told. Uc merced gets their curriculum from uc Berkley and Davis. So the same information is being taught but with a slightly bigger curve. Uc merced may sound bad on paper but truth is. Yes we have the highest admissions, but something that its usually never brought up. Uc merced has the biggest drop out rate. It is not like merced is a joke and it is a university worth looking more into before making judgments

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 6, 2012 at 11:11 am

Agree with Steve that not all facts are being disclosed.

I'm guessing UC Merced student didn't take AP English.

Posted by uc merced student, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Excuse me? I'm not to sure what you are trying to get at. That is very insulting for you to say that I haven't taken AP English. I'm not sure if you are just trying to insult me, because I'm telling the hard truth. If you have been in high school in these recent years you would know straight off the bat that this whole story is complete and utter BS. Give me the official transcript and show us how exactly how you can get that GPA listed in your information. I ran the calculations and unless you are taking about 3.4 classes a year. There is no way you can get that Weighted GPA (Even if you earn all A's in her AP Classes) and if you are taking less than six classes per year there really is no way you can get into any school. Especially the ones that are listed above. I'm not trying to take anything away from your friend's daughter. She is probably a bright individual.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm

@uc merced student: It has nothing to do with your content; I'm talking about your written communication. Thank you for your insightful content, however.

Posted by Parent of a Gunn Student, a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Since the last post was in July, no one is going to read this; I just need to vent.

I have a Gunn senior this fall. Special needs student, uses 504 accommodations. Despite her clear disability-related academic challenges, she is now applying to college with a 3.838 unweighted at Gunn (there is no weighted; she cannot take Gunn honors and AP classes. She is extremely bright [has the IQ test to prove it], but these classes are simply too fast-paced due to her disabilities, though she can comprehend the material.) 29 ACT (will take it again.)

Because of her accompanying physical disabilities, she needs to stay in the Bay Area, where her health care providers are. It is also preferable that she attend a smaller rather than a larger school; she needs to know her professors personally and NOT be "one of 300 students in a large lecture hall.") We don't have a lot of options, therefore; about the farthest she can really travel for school is UCSC, and although she is applying there, I am concerned it may be too large and rather difficult to get around on campus, given the hills. SJSU is local but even larger, and every major there is heavily impacted.

She really can't apply to all the UC's, or even downstate schools, much less out-of-state colleges. She is applying to UCSC and a couple of local small private colleges, and all we can do is see what happens. Nothing wrong with Foothill (I actually think it's an excellent community college!), but our financial aid need is so great (no kidding, even though we are in Palo Alto; "how dare we still live here /sarcasm") and CC transfers (which she shall become should she fail to be accepted this fall) do not get as much financial aid options.

This thread fills me despair. My kid has busted her little butt just to get where she has, and at insanely-competitive GUNN of all places, and has come so far. (We were once told she would probably never be able to go to college.) She's not asking for handouts or "special treatment", but I'm reading here that even her way-more-than-decent academic record may in the end be no good. I just wish she'd have a fair and even chance.

Posted by Marco Antonio Rodriguez, a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2012 at 9:45 am

I was admitted into all four UCs I applied to. And it was relatively simple for our friends to make it into them as well. Of course most of us had a high GPA. I had a 4.56 with 1800 SAT and 35 ACT. I was president of two clubs, treasurer of my schools ASB and had academic recognitions for a long time. I had maxed out on my small high schools (merced county, CA) math classes and completed 8 AP classes passing all of them. I graduated as my high schools valedictorian and also played soccer and competed in the track team. I was a very well rounded student although I lacked alot of confidence and my laziness and ignorance cost me alot. I was admitted into UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Merced, Fresno State, Sacramento State, San Francisco State, CSU Stanislaus. I was rejected from UOP, Harvard, and Stanford. I really do not know why UOP rejected me overall it appears to be that those that had enough money to pay for it or legacy were the ones who would get in. For Stanford I procrastinated really bad on the application and I deserved the rejection letter. For Harvard I was selected for the interview process, but I did not prepare for my interview and this lead to my rejection. Many will call me crazy and I probably was, but I chose UC Merced as my college and to this day I am still attending it standing as a junior only after a year and a half. I made my choice because I had a girlfriend (my first and last so far) and I let my heart convince me to stay (very stupid). She dumped me a year later, and I did not get to go to my dream college UCB and UCLA. However, I also chose a UC over a CSU because of the opportunities that a UC provides not necessarily the prestige. UC Merced is often looked down upon but there is nothing to laugh at, it is a very serious institution that is rather difficult to obtain good grades in if you are studying the hard sciences. My current GPA is a 3.3 and unfortunately it will probably drop again at the end of this semester. When talking to the advisers at the different UCs (because I considered transferring back to one of the better known ones) they told me to stay at UC Merced unless I had a specific major that I wanted to study that they did not have. They said the quality of education was the same at all UCs and as I have been looking at the grade curves from other schools I realize UC Merced pushes its student a step further than other schools because they are trying to obtain prestige. I recommend a UC over a CSU any day. For those of you applying keep in mind that if your gpa is not 4.0+, apply to the lower ranked UCs. This includes UCR, UCM, UCSC, and UCSB. UCM and UCR are the easiest to get into although they get more competitive. When I was admitted to UCM, their acceptance rate was about 70 or 80% if you fulfilled the requirements. This last class that came in had a 50% acceptance, and as we are a small school that is growing, it is expected for the acceptance rate to drop for next year again. I am planning to attend medical school if I am able to increase my GPA. I am currently a Biology major and I do recommend UCM. It is a small school with great academic curriculum, awesome research, club, and volunteer opportunities. I am currently in the process of starting a club (something that UCM really gives you opportunities for). And for those worried about attendance at a UC, remember that the Blue and Gold plan pays for your tuition if you maintain above a 3.0. If you are admitted to a higher prestige UC and it is your dream school, go for it. If you are admitted to a CSU or private that is your dream school go for it as well. Try to steer away from community colleges. All those students are seeing are problems because when they transfer a lot of those credits are not valid at the UC or there were lower division classes in their major that their community college did not offer and then you spend more time in school then you should. If you find yourself in a tight spot and maybe you did not get into your dream school come visit UCM or UCR. Before you judge the towns talk to the advisers, ask about your programs, ask about opportunities and projects you want to get into and tour the campuses. You would be surprised how many people fall in love with the campuses and then attend. As for those that think that a UCB student will obtain better job opportunities than a UCM student, they are fairly wrong. I have seen many UCM students beat Berkeley students for awards and recognitions. I have also seen quite a few make it into medical school. UCM has everything you need to succeed, you just have to be willing to give it a chance, be humble, study plenty, and keep your mind on your goals. What my Harvard rejection letter said (I wish I would have kept it) was that it did not matter the institution you attended, but your accomplishments and your footprint/legacy that you left or plan to leave behind which make you successful. This is very true. Embrace the college you go to, study hard and don't party too much. Hope this helps don't freak out there are plenty of opportunities out there :)

Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 25, 2012 at 10:39 am

Perhaps you wrote your application without any paragraph breaks too?

Posted by Marco Antonio Rodriguez, a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2012 at 11:55 am

Hahaha ^^ sorry about that I wasn't really looking for what was grammatically correct or incorrect when writing this.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 25, 2012 at 8:08 pm

First off, thank you to Marco Antonio Rodriguez for his informative posting and taking the time to help others with advice. However, as other poster mentioned, using paragraphs would make it easier to read.

Not to downplay Marco's high GPA and scores, but some of those acceptances may also be due to his ethnicity. Affirmative Action is still in play, and applies to "minorities in academia": Hispanics, African-Americans, American Indians, Polynesians. Affirmative Action does not apply to Caucasians and Asians. Using a minority's top scores vs. a non-minority in academia, such as Caucasian or Asian applicant with the same data, the college will chose the minority.

Posted by Cindy, a resident of Hoover School
on Dec 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Gpa doesn't have a lot to do with it. It's how you come across in your personal statements. I got accepted to 3 UC's which included UC Berkeley(currently attending), UC Irvine, and UC Santa Barbara. My gpa was 3.65 unweighted and 3.75 weighted. I did volunteer work but not so much. Your essay is what needs to stand out from the rest. Btw the only UC that did reject me was my first choice sadly, UCLA but hey I got into Berkeley so that's all fine now! Hehe

Posted by Member, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2012 at 2:16 am

Well, perhaps your friend is "tweeking" the gpa, activities, etc a bit. (ie: lying to you.) Its just a thought. She is't your daughter so you never really know..

Posted by Andrew, a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Not sure you'll even see this, but this dilemma really isn't so bad. She could go to a community college for a semester or even a year. Or, she could simply study at home and CLEP out of as many courses as possible. If she makes high CLEP scores or, alternatively makes straight A's at a community college, many UC's would undoubtedly be impressed. If you want to up your chances, have her personal statement edited by a professional:

Also, if she does all of that, she may as well apply to CalTech, as it puts all of those schools to shame.

Posted by Guest, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

On paper, everything sounds great. I understand why you are indignant: high gpa, community service hours, and participation in sports are common qualifications that people turn to when submitting college applications. However, the admissions selection process is more complicated than checking off boxes. The KEY REASON the UC's denied your daughter-the major she chose.

Bioengineering-Wow, that word gives me the shivers just thinking about it. Does your daughter enjoy that? Is that her true passion, sitting in a lab labeling test tubes and diligently recording observations every hour on the hour?

Also, how'd she do in bio for high school? Did she even take the AP BIO course? What is her interest in math and science? In order to get into any engineering major, MATH and SCIENCE must be TOP NOTCH. Uncompromisable. What was her score on the calc AB and BC exams? Was she a part of any activities that showed her interest in math or science (Chess clubs, robotic competitions, etc.)?

I bring this up because I know many people, not individually of course, that have similar qualifications as your daughter-high gpa, test scores, and involvement in extracurricular activities- but they were not math/sciencey people. They excelled in other areas, especially English.

Again, this is me speaking from a limited perspective; I am not a college counselor nor have I spent adequate time in one. Take my advice or leave it. All I can say is, as a current UCB student, I am extremely thankful that I ticked the "Undeclared" mark in the application rather than something like "Nuclear and Materials Engineering". I would never have gotten in, or enjoyed myself, at the College of Engineering.

Look at other colleges, take some classes at your local CC, and see what credits you can earn for the universities you want to transfer to. It's not the end of the world. Just make sure you research everything, and be careful about which boxes you tick.

Posted by Sephora, a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm

My son is in a rural school where his 3.7 unwtd puts him in the top 8% of his class. He just applied to the mid-tier UC's (SC-SB-D-I) with a 1940 SAT (740 Lit Subj score). He's applied to a few "safety" schools as well, including some xlnt lib-arts colleges. We hope to see him at Santa Barbara or Irvine. If he doesn't make it, the UC system will try to find him a spot at another UC, and he's fine with that. From the UC website:

"If you're in the top 9 percent of California high school graduates and aren't admitted to any of the UC campuses you apply to, you'll be offered a spot at another campus if space is available."

You can check your 9% eligibility with the UC calculator: Web Link

And if for some reason he doesn't get into his safety schools (unlikely), he's OK with doing two years of JC, striving to get >3.7GPA and transferring to a top tier UC like San Diego or UCLA (he didn't like the Berkeley campus, so that solves that!)

Posted by Litttleasianboy, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

Nothing is wrong with attending a local community college for 2 years and then transfer. It is quite true that a student may not experience the "college feel" that his or her classmates get to right off high school; however, a student can always potentially explore a myriad of other fields and interests while attending a junior college. For me personally, I thought it was relatively more affordable to attend a community college, and as a result, it really helped me save a lot of tuition money. And to top it all, as long as you do well in all your G.E. classes and tap into the core courses needed for transfer, (Different schools have different requirements, ASSIST.ORG shows all the preperation needed before a student transfers), your friend's daughters can easily transfer to a UC. Certain community colleges do have contracts with various UC schools, so do some research to see which community college suits her. I was actually accepted to UCLA after 2.5 years of hard work at CCSF. They have a descent program for students who are looking to transfer to a UC, in spite of all the rumors regarding their accredidation.

Posted by Ivy Student, a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

Don't listen to these people. Her stats were amazing; good enough to get into the Ivies. I think the problem is that she was OVERqualified. Chances are the schools did not accept her because they each assumed she would get accepted into a much more prestigious school. Happens all the time. Top of the class doesn't get into state school. Sucks, but it really does happen a lot.

Posted by David, a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I went through the same thing in high school. Unfortunately UCs have a high standard for the SATs and care less about the GPA. Due to honors and AP courses the GPA scale is out of 5.0 and because of that students who have over 4.0s get a higher chance of getting accepted. I ended up going to community college and transferring out because I also thought I had a guaranteed chance in to my top choices, but that wasn't the case. I even tried the whole appealing process but no luck. The thing that a UC staff member told me is that they look at over 14 different criteria when looking over applicants, so she could've been rejected for her race. My friend and I had the same exact stats when applying to schools and she got into schools I didn't and I figured it was because she was a minority and schools like to have students of different ethnicity's.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Just a clarification after reading "David's" posting: Asians are not considered minorities. Hispanics, Polynesians, Tongans, Philippinos, African-Americans are considered minorities. Asians are so well-represented in academics that they are not considered minorities and have no affirmative action when applying to colleges. Meanwhile, Hispanics and African-Americans who are ANY generation get accepted under affirmative action, some being as Americanized as apple pie.

Posted by Girl Consumer, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 14, 2013 at 1:50 pm

While this comment is in the spilled milk category, perhaps it can help another aspiring student... Shame, shame on the guidance counselor for not advising this young lady to apply to ALL UC's. Also, for not telling her Santa Cruz is not remotely a safety school. If the counselor told her, shame, shame on her for not listening.

Students applying to UC should be encouraged to look further than four years out. There are opportunities everywhere. My son had a 4.1 and 2300 SAT which got him into UCSB. UCSB was a great education and the professorial contacts my son made were in large part the reason he was accepted to four medical schools. He earned a 4.0 GPA. And his professors prepared him for testing (72 MCAT), they wrote glowing recommendations and generally championed him. Coming out of UCSB, he was accepted to four medical schools, two of which offered him full-ride scholarships.(Thank heavens!)

It may expensive to apply to all UCs. It pales in comparison to the expense of the emotional roller coaster, last-minute applications and/or late starts. And in our case, the expense of applying to all of them paid back four-fold in medical school tuition and fees.

Best of luck!

Posted by Opinion/Recommendations, a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2013 at 11:15 pm

I go to UC Davis and am not really appreciating the fact that it is considered a "back-up" or a "lower-tier" school, just to get my opinion in. I also see some comments placing too much value on their students and thinking they are the "better" students, than any other school's students, just because they go to Paly/Gunn. Your friend's impression of their child and of the school caused this misfortune. Expecting to get into the top four UCs because this perception of greatness should be tossed out the window. She would have applied to other, more practical schools if she didn't have this high expectation. A more practical and realistic goal should be taken into consideration. Sure, smart students, but other school's students are being chosen because they did well in the environment they were placed in. Their success was due to their work with what they had. Therefore, I think this idolization of Paly/Gunn, and how much better your students would be than other students who got into college, should be left out of the equation when applying to college.

That aside, some advice for future applicants:
-You should apply to at least 10 schools, 15 max (due to the cost of each application). Set $1000 aside for college applications. KNOW YOUR LIMITS. General guidelines:
*3 should be your hard-to-get-into-schools schools.
*4 should be "chance" schools. These schools are ones you have a reasonable chance to get into.
*3 should be your back-up schools.
-Applicants should consider community college. Community college is a great way to stay on top of things. They have you work on your GEs so when you transfer into college, you can focus on your major. Plus, you get to have more time to consider/explore your options. Parents are often prejudiced against community college, as if it is the worst shame for their brilliant child. Just no. Community college is a real option, a smart option. Unfortunately, parents just don't see the value of it. Plus, some community colleges, like one in my home town, guarantee acceptance into all the UCs (except UCB and UCLA). As for the college experience, I know UC Davis grants on campus housing to transfer students as well. They can experience the college life, even as a junior.
-Out of state colleges : They want Californians. Seriously, they do. A lot of students choose to stay in California for college but out of state colleges want a piece of the cake too. A highly successful student like your friend's child is exactly what they are looking for. They hand out scholarships like candy to Californian students (I received a huge sum to attend RPI, and Colorado State. It became cheaper to just move out there for college, I just have homesickness problems).
-Grades. SATs. ACTs. Universities will almost always look at grades first. Standardized tests help to level the playing field. Some schools may have easy-A teachers, others may just hand out C's to practically everyone, the tests just give them a better idea of their achievements. (API of each school is also considered as a ground breaker). However, even looking at all this. GPA GPA GPA. This is at least half of what UCs look at. They consider AP classes, sure. Regular classes? Of course. You have to understand though, they don't have the time to check the teaching plans of every school's classes. 20 books mean nothing when compared to another AP Lit class that read 1-5. It just makes them "prepared" for the AP test, not college applications.
*Side note, reading 5 books for the AP exam is, by far, better than 20 because you have more of a focus on what you want to write on and a greater understanding of each and every book you read. 5 books of different genres can easily cover any prompt the AP Lit test throws at you (tragedy, drama, and a comedy). Quality over quantity? 20 is just ridiculous and terrible for any student who plans on taking the test. I recommend Heart of Darkness, Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hamlet, Things Fall Apart, and Jane Eyre + Wide Sargasso Sea. Throw in the Bible too. Helps a lot for the essay and novel analysis.
-Extracurriculars. Yes, GPA is SUPER important. However, there are many others who can get the same GPA as you. I got a 4.3, similar to your friend's child. There are MANY more who get that, or higher. Volunteer work is definitely recommended and internships are the most useful, especially in your field of study. I did over 170 hours at the SPCA over a course of 3 years. Doing it continuously and consistently make it more favorable compared to cramming in 100 in two years. Sports definitely. Leading a club? Leading the school? Guaranteed to distinguish you from anyone else! Aim for those leadership positions. Stay involved with something for over a long period of time.
-Personal Statement. My teacher used to tell me that college essay readers will not pick you on a sob story. They don't admit you because they pity you. If you write them a sob story, include how it improved you as a person. You don't brag about your qualities per say. Talk about what they will contribute to the university (or how you can), but not outright. Maybe bring in something you will do with the degree. They want to know why (qualities you have) they should pick you. Including some artistic flair in your writing is helpful too, but don't attempt it if you are not confident in how your essay will turn out. Above all, get peer reviewed, ask your teacher (preferably someone who knows the English language and usage well), which will bring me to the next suggestion.
-Teacher recommendations. Get to know your teachers. Know which ones to go for help. Make sure you stand out to them! I know many teachers who wrote brilliant recommendation letters for students applying to schools that needed it. I feel like the recommendation quality of each letter can make or break it for any student. Make sure to connect with people. Coaches and bosses work too but definitely include one from a teacher.
-Don't apply to be in one major and expect to switch out of it easily once you get in. Highly discouraged. This ruins other people's chances when they actually want to be in that major, which is what you are complaining about when other students get in. Also, only a few schools allow you to change majors easily. UC Davis is one of the schools that make changing majors a breeze. However, a whole new set of rules is placed for engineering students. Right now, it is almost impossible to get into the College of Engineering, even at UCD because it is a super strict program. At UC Berkeley, changing majors is almost impossible is what I heard.
-Don't pick schools based on prestige. Pick based on majors and environment. Although Davis is ranked lower than UCB (UCD is still pretty high up there), Davis has one of the best animal science programs in the nation, and perhaps the best in the state. The environment is the most important thing as well. Some schools are extremely competitive and may be too much for your child, causing a change in schools and an even more stressed family. Make sure to visit ALL the schools you get into. Urban setting? Suburban? The environment will ultimately influence the decision to stay or transfer.

End of my recommendations. This information was given to me by my counselors, AP Lit teacher and/or internet. I am now at my dream school with their help and will definitely be staying with the Aggies.

P.S. Transferring from UC-to-UC or CSU-to-UC is almost impossible from what I hear. Community College to a 4-year college is what I recommend.

Posted by Recommendations/Opinions, a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2013 at 12:01 am

Also forgot to mention that SATs are use more in the west coast while ACTs are used for the east coast, generally speaking.

You should take the advice of other posters as well. a uc merced student has a good point. The UC's prestige doesn't necessarily help you in the job market. Employers look at your GPA and school records. Graduate schools, like the Vet grad school in UCDavis for example, look at GPA mostly. They don't care which school you came from. They don't even care what major you're in. They care about your GPA, and if you completed required courses. I know of an art student who went into UCD's Vet Med school.

In addition to this, UC Merced and UC Riverside may even be better schools. They are relatively new, and under valued. This environment may help your student in academics because the competition is lower there and I feel like all UCs will have enthusiastic teachers who will do their best to help you.
My teachers and teaching assistants have been more than helpful. No need to worry about large class sizes as long as you take the initiative to speak with your professors (make connections, like recommended in my post above). I expect any other UC, CSU, college, university to be the same. They are teachers because they want to be. They will help you get through college. The prestige doesn't get you too far. It's the experience you need to get.
P.S. Not trying to insult anyone here, but I also feel the story is missing something. It feels like the mom is just looking for something to blame because of this view ofher child being faultless. Looking down on other schools, other universities doesn't help anyone. Seems rather snobbish. Be careful to not unintentionally insult other schools, because right now it comes off this way. Each one has their own merit, your school is not better than anyone else. UCB, UCLA, UCSD, UCD probably had good reason to reject her as well, no matter how amazing the student is. For engineering majors (especially bio-engineers), I know they look at your commitment to it because it is super strict, super competitive. Your daughter's activities don't show any sign of commitment or interest to the major of engineering and 4 APs compared to others just doesn't cut it, even if she is brilliant. (By the way, 4 APs over the course of high school could only get you a max weighted GPA of 4.17, assuming semester system). I took 10 APs and the max I could have received was a 4.42. Is something being left out?

Posted by partyingDEMONSTRATESbalance, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I think the UC's like balanced students and somebody is a square and never parties or experiments off the beaten track and still cannot get a 4.0, that's pretty much your answer.
we need balance in this world, the world doesn't need 99% PHDs, we probably only need about 5%
as andy kaufman once said - thank you very much

Posted by Community College IS real college, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm

There are some great recommendations in this thread. Our local community colleges are great schools and some community colleges also have student housing (Santa Barbara City College and Cuesta come to mind). They are not run by the schools, but are regular student dorm type housing so you can get a "real" college experience even at a CC.

Palo Alto parents would be surprised to see all the familiar student faces at Foothill - kids who go there straight from high school, kids who didn't like the school they choose, kids who were too homesick, kids who had too much "real college experience" and forgot about they studying...

Posted by seriously, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 21, 2013 at 9:24 am

First, let me say I feel badly for your friend's daughter. Having said that, here's some hard realities. With her credentials, Berkeley and UCLA were out of her reach. UCSD was a reach, and Davis was "borderline." She should NOT have used those school's as "safety" schools. The fact that she did, says something about the sense of entitlement that she may have had. She probably would have gotten into all the other UCs had she applied. The cold hard reality is that other students DID get into Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, and Davis - they were just "better" qualified than she was (notice the quotes). While a good number of students are out of state or foreign, NO UC school has a non-state population of more than 10%. That means that more than 90% of students at ANY UC school are California residents. The percentage of non-state residents at UC is MUCH LOWER than other elite public universities (such as Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, etc.) so we are not "closing our doors" to in-state students. It's hard to make that claim when more than 90% of the students on campus are in-state students. The cold reality is that other in-state students did "better" (again the quotes) than she did and they got accepted to the top 4 UC schools. Instead of blaming the UCs, out of state students, foreign students, etc. accept the fact that she did not do as well as other in-state students (who make up more than 90% of the students at the four schools), she grossly miscalculated her chances given her numbers, and didn't apply to as many schools as she should have and should now come up with plan B. A good plan B, given how late it is in the year, is to just go to a CC, work her butt off for two years, get straight As, and transfer to Berkeley (yes, if she has straight As at a California CC, she will be admitted to even Berkeley).

Posted by Ryan John, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 21, 2013 at 6:16 pm

This same thing happened to me. I had a GPA of 4.02 overall with the last two years rising to being one of the top of my class with a Junior/Senior GPA of ~4.5. My standardized tests weren't all that different: SAT I:(~2100), SAT II's:(~740), APs: 5 AP tests in all, all 5's (except for AP Biology which I took in 7th grade and got a 4.) I had great extracurriculars: I was president of a club, treasurer of another, I had certain activities that gave me 100+ hours of volunteering in a single week, I rock climb, kitesurf, program in Java and MATLAB on my free time, competitively lockpick, and even took extra math/science classes at the local community college with my already full 7 period day! I got awards from senators for my volunteer work, awards from prestigious Jazz and Classical musical competitions, and even at the end of high school received an award from Obama for my academics! There were a couple reasons that I think caused my rejection: 1. During my freshman and Sophomore years I went through a tough spot and got very low grades (~2.7's). Although I fixed most of the grades from tenth there were several that were trapped as C's. 2. I was naive. I thought all the schools were going to be so happy to accept me and I subsequently put very little effort in my essays. Reading them today make me cringe.=(3. I had a negative attitude and was extremely rebellious towards the system. Although I still am I was more angry in high school and I'm sure that it reflected in my application.

At first I was extremely devastated but now I am to terms with it and additionally I can not overstate the value of my experience! I have grown so much out of the it! Consequently, I suggest that you all go on a solo trip around the world, come back, do what you love for a couple months and then reapply! This is what I did and I feel I am more ready to face the world than I ever was during high school!

Final line: It's OK! It's not the end! There were many people who were rejected by this screwed up system just like you! A man is not defined by the number of times he fall but the number of times he gets up! At times it may seem hopeless but whatever you can imagine can be done! One of the beautiful things about humanity is that nobody can set a persons limits except the person himself!! The system can stop you from going to college but nobody can stop you from going to the library to pick up a book and learn! After all the only education is a self education!

Posted by area man, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2013 at 7:03 pm

And with your experience in "competitive lockpicking," you can become an entrepreneur even without graduating. Eventually, you won't have to worry about housing, food, or medical care, as you will have been moved into an institutional setting.

Posted by ivy league grad and all ivy league quarterback , a resident of Stanford
on Jan 23, 2013 at 7:21 pm

i had a 3.79 gpa and i made got into princeton university it was hard but worth it. She needs to try out of state. I still dont get why cal didnt give her admission. Try junior college and transfer.

Posted by Eva Swanson, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I know a student from a Virginia private school with absolutely nowhere near a 4.0 and with her only other acceptance University of Arizona who was accepted to UCSD. I don't know her test scores but I would hazard to guess 500s each section SAT/ACT equivalent. Annoying huh?

Posted by Eva Swanson, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Shoot I forgot. Her parents are white and rich.

Posted by OR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2013 at 8:25 pm


or she could be poor.

Colleges are balancing the rich and the poor. They admit rich, and have them donate to educate the poor. Not a bad formula, the middle is definitely screwed though.

Posted by Concerned, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2013 at 4:40 am

I live way across the country in what they call a "competitive" district. My son does well in school but not as well as he could. Why? Because he gets his homework done and gets the B. He finished the AP comp sci course on his own in a week. He now sitting in class doing the projects in assembler just "for fun." He spends his time learning things they don't teach at school. He knows 5 computer languages and is attempting to write a kernal for fun. He forgot his calculator and got a 30 just walking into the ACT. So from what I am reading the chances of him getting into a college that will actually have a challenged Comp Sci program is nil? He'll get the B in whatever school, with whatever program you put him in. Thanks to these schools who don't look beyond statistics. You are losing a kid who distributes free software information - that is is free as in freedom - not as in beer.

Posted by Joe freakin mama, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I live way across the country in what they call a "competitive" district. My son does well in school but not as well as he could. Why? Because he gets his homework done and gets the B. He finished the AP comp sci course on his own in a week. He now sitting in class doing the projects in assembler just "for fun." He spends his time learning things they don't teach at school. He knows 5 computer languages and is attempting to write a kernal for fun. He forgot his calculator and got a 30 just walking into the ACT. So from what I am reading the chances of him getting into a college that will actually have a challenged Comp Sci program is nil? He'll get the B in whatever school, with whatever program you put him in. Thanks to these schools who don't look beyond statistics. You are losing a kid who distributes free software information - that is is free as in freedom - not as in beer. You just reeeeeaaaaly suck I guess, oh well, maybe never, I mean next time!!;)

Posted by Jr. College Student, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 13, 2013 at 2:11 am

As a 25yr old U/S/navy veteran I'm now trying to re-live my dream and the college I'm at will eventually allow for my transfer into SDSU. I feel like I'm in school with very smart people and everyone in two of the classes that I know of *philosophy 110 & *english 120 did a grade of A or B (prolly one or two did C's /& that guy who never did his homework toward the end, prolly an F). A girl who was 19yrs old in a class, didn't get things right away a few times at the beginning of my *philo(class), it turned out she was getting things quicker than most or than everyone at the end. And I'm positive got an A. I over heard her saying how much she studied for our class midterm /was average amount to me but/ however I still did not take as much time studying. She had what I think a normal study regiment where as I took it easy and then panic'd on tests. I pulled a B in that class where I know she pulled an A. Although I still studied /I didn't study as much as I should have. I felt confident into thinking "I got this" because I felt like I was catching on more than the rest when it came to in class material. However, WHY I SAY ALL THIS NOW? WEll, I wanted to point out that the dedicated students get better grades. I feel like this girl who got denied by the 4 UC's holds pretty good stats to have gotten in any school but perhaps its all the same in every application they receive these days. I know with me, I didn't go to school after high school but I always remembered or gained something of knowledge that I wanted to know. Maybe if she demonstrated that she gained something of knowledge outside the school curriculum like I don't know SAYING that you want to do something great like the innovative work of the first Trans-Atlantic Cable. Something to demonstrate you learn outside stuff from personal reads is prolly a more sound bet or sounds like a more sound student. I think one non-fiction book that discusses innovative work from past geniuses or inventors will give a high school-er a piece of work to mention in their essay application to demonstrate they have a capacity for curiosity in learning and more importantly a passion for learning. This might sound like you're faking but you DID in fact pick up a non-fiction book when it wasn't gonna help your GPA so in reality you wouldn't be "faking", of course until this effort is measured like your GPA when Universities decide to make it a requirement. To ALL PARENTS please take this advice to your children, it wouldn't hurt AT ALL. Your goal is to make yourself look different and like a "special" learner (showing you have passion for knowledge) not sound like the rest. In any sports team, in any clubs, in any volunteer work .. there are more than just you, so where do you think those others are applying to? You are not special, you are no different. UNLESS you make yourself different like with what I just said or coming up with another practice to accomplish the goal of sounding like a different curious learner from the rest. Maybe get into debates with a real college professor so much so to where a debate is sparked that you wanna see through after enduring a college career or perhaps during. I don't know, I think the possibilities are endless to be different and it doesn't take much cause no one else is working to read a book or meet with a professor outside of high school life. Everyone else are all the same, being different is now easy peasy. Thanks for any of you, for reading.

Posted by Yasser, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Feb 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Take a year off to travel..
The year of travel will provide more education and new possibilities.
Appy again next year.

Posted by Xeneida, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2013 at 10:49 am

My heart goes out to all the kids that try hard, excel and still do not get in to any of the UC's. However, if you read the "college confidential" you will see that many are dealing with rejection, including those in the top 10%, with SAT's over 2200, or ACT's over 32, who have taken 7+ AP classes, and have stellar extra-curricular activities. It's almost impossible to pin-point why someone was or wasn't accepted. The reality is that most of the kids that apply to the UC's (or any ivy league for that matter), are excellent students who are aware that competition is fierce. They are all smart, studious, diligent, responsible, have great potential, the ability to learn and do well in college. Having said that, these schools receive in excess of 30-40 thousand apps and can only accept between 15-50 percent, therefore thousands of very bright outstanding students will unfortunately get rejected due to no fault of their own. Also, the schools have a responsibility to meet the needs of our society, and so they take a little of everything in terms of race, ethnicity, financial background, to name a few - remember, they are already picking from the "creme", and no, they are not using affirmative action, however, they are also not trying to choose only the "Einsteins" (not even Harvard does)-- just take a look at the average SAT/ACT and GPA of those accepted - some kids are above and some are below the mean. My daughter and several friends are still waiting to be accepted to one of the UC's or ivy's -- I remind them that they are outstanding and will do well wherever they go -- a rejection is not a reflection on them -- read the "college confidential" for a reality check, hope for the best, plan for the worse, and may it be a lesson. I know many look down on the community colleges, however, through the TAG program kids that complete their generals or 60 credits at the CC are guaranteed a transfer into the UC's. Of course they can choose to go to a less selective private college, however, I think it makes good financial sense to save those outrageous loans, etc., for graduate school. Good luck to all.

Posted by Interestingtoadd, a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:43 am

It's interesting to read through the whole thread and see everyone's input. I do have a personal experience to add.

My daughter applied to UCB UCLA UCSD UCD UCSC and UCI this year. So far she is only accepted by UCSC and is rejected by all else except UCB and UCLA which are not out on the decisions yet but I think her chances are slim now. She is not happy obviously though not devasted. I called her school counselor yesterday and got some very interesting information: they had 5 other students accepted to all the other schools my daughter got rejected by (along wih another student in the same situation as my daughter), all of them have lower stats in terms of GPA, SAT/ACT scores, ECs (my daughter is three major sports varsity and captain and those other kids has practically none). Basically the obvious stats are all not as good as my daughter and this other student. The only difference is - they are all out of state or international. My daughter and the other student are in state. Oh and they are all Asian. And no major obvious flaws such as suspension or DUI or hidden problems etc. go figure.

To me it really seems our in state kids are in a very inferior position while competing with all the out of state and international students who pay more on the tuition. Ow else how do we explain this situation with my daughter and his other student?

Posted by anti-asian liars, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:49 am

"The only difference is - they are all out of state or international."

But they attend your daughter's school here in Palo Alto? The same school that your daughter attends but they are out of state or international? Or you are an anti-Asian troll with an axe to grind about your daughter who "only" got into Santa Cruz, a great college. Please go away troll.

Posted by Wow, a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2013 at 10:12 am

Wow! No need to jump into conclusions so fast and start calling names.

I'll verify: all are Asians. Including my daughter and the other student. They are at a private boarding school in Oregon. Not in palo alto. I'm in the South Bay. Good?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2013 at 5:36 pm

It's pretty clear--and the UCs have said as much--that it's much easier to get into the UC system if you're out-of-state or from overseas, simply because the UCs want to charge hefty out-of-state fees.

However, isn't it part of the UC system's mission to educate *California* students? If California residents are at such a clear and obvious disadvantage when it comes to getting into a UC isn't the UC system violating its original mission?

I wouldn't be surprised to see some legal challenge to the current way of doing business

Posted by remaining nameless, a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Similar story here. Daughter has 4.1 GPA, elite athlete, 12 honors or AP courses, wonderful, charismatic personality. A real catch for any university. Rejected at UCSB, UCSD, Cal Poly, UCI. I believe applying to more would have been more money down the drain at $60 a pop. You should not have to have a 4.5 GPA and be a prima ballerina with a passion for robotics and two internships under your belt, to go to a UC!!! She was admitted to SDSU with honors, but frankly, I'm so disappointed in the state's choice to favor foreign and out of state students, I'm taking my buying power to another state. She'll attend a university in the East, I'll spend my money in the East, I'll move my job to the East (very doable with flexwork) and I'll pay my state taxes in the East. I want a state that supports its own citizens a little better. This system has lost track of its purpose. Once California citizens realize they are the minority of UC attendees, they will stop supporting the UC system with public money. It's unsustainable without tax money. Good riddance.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm

When very good students from Gunn and Paly are not getting into the UCs because the UCs are taking less and less students from California, it is a sign of one thing. The California UC and CSU system is broken.

The UCs should have (or even do have) a mandate to educate Californian born residents. They are not independent private Ivies who can pick and choose who they want.

The education system here is getting completely out of hand and we should be outraged by this turn of events.

Posted by interestingtoadd, a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I am sorry to hear about your daughter. And I can really understand how you feel. I am too very disappointed at this result from the UCs for my daughter. she is now left with the sole acceptance from UCSC and a few private/non UC public - thanks to me that I insisted she apply to some other schools other than just the UCs (would have much rather not have been right about this but unfortunately yes). One of them is Smith and she is accepted there. So that's where I am sending her.

It's impossible we are just isolated cases here. There has to be more devastated parents and kids out there who are in the same or simular situation. I feel sad our UC system has come down to this, and failed many stellar CA kids out there. I hope there is something that can be done about it. This is not going to be the first year, my daughter is not the first one. There will be more CA kids rejected unfairly with this situation continuing.

Good luck to your daughter! I am sure a stellar kid like her will have plenty of opportunities out there and many excellent - and RIGHT - schools will want her, very badly.

Posted by BNH, a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I agree it is hard to figure. My daughter was rejected by UCD and UCSB but did get into Santa Cruz (my alma mater). Her SAT's were in the mid (50-75) range for UCD and UCSB but her grades (3.5) from a private high school probably hurt her. I guess the problem is at her HS the average SAT (CR + M) is about 1330, so, based on her SAT's, she performed about where you would expect -- in the middle of her class with a 3.5. I don't think UC adjusts for that, so her grades would look "low" to them. I'm guessing the folks who have kids at the elite public schools (Lowell, Palo Alto etc) run into the same issue.

That being said, even Santa Cruz is getting harder to get into (48.5% acceptance rate compared to 60+ percent last year). It is no longer the safety school it once was and, frankly, I got a great education there in the '70's and would urge anyone whose "only" choice is UCSC to give it a hard look before ponying up for a private school.

Posted by internationalparent, a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2013 at 2:08 am

For this girl who did not get admission into one of the 4 UCS I would like you to know that my academically brilliant son who did his IB and applied without scholarship to 21 colleges did not get a single college of his choice. He had everything required to get into an Ivy League and we were willing to pay his complete tuition without a scholarship (for international students this is aprox USD 6000 a month with on campus residence !!!).

So, don't feel bad, when a door closes a window opens. And it will be for the greatest experience ever.....

Posted by Not Alone, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 31, 2013 at 9:44 pm

After reading all the above comments, I felt so much better. I see that I am NOT alone. My son (and I) had PLANNED for his college path since he was in elementary school. We thought we had everything in order: the GPA, the SAT (even went to prep school), the A-G courses, 12 APs, leadership, volunteer work, sports..... he still got rejected from 4 out of 6 UCs he applied! I was not able to sleep for many nights after reading the rejection letters. I felt the pain for him. This child has worked so hard, pouring everything he had into school. But where does that lead him? What is our state doing to kids like him? We need to let the govenment know this needs to be changed. These children are our future. If we don't take care of them now, how are they going to take care of us? Sigh...

Posted by Lane, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 8, 2013 at 11:34 pm

My 2 children are currently attending UCs. My daughter will graduate this year at UCSD and my son is in his junior year at UCSB. What bother me is that throughout the forum, UCD is being placed into the same pedestal together with Berkeley, UCLA and UCSD. Davis is a mid-tier UC, just like Santa Barbara and Irvine. Davis and Santa Barbara are rank either 4th or 5th best among the UC system, depending on whether ranking is from Princeton Review, US News, or Klinger, etc. All these mid-tier UCs can no longer be look upon as a "safety school" any longer, even with credential of a 2130 SAT and a 3.97 uw GPA. In fact, my son was admitted to UCSD as well as UCSB and he chose to attend UCSB, as it is a better fit for him. UCSB has the bad reputation of being a "party school", it is not more so than any other colleges within the U.S., which overshadowed its academic prestige – Many of their departments are world renowned. At UCSB, students work hard and play hard.

Posted by J, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2013 at 5:49 am

I scored 1580 on my SAT and have a 3.82 gpa, and i got into UCI, UCR, UCSB and UCD. Your friend's daughter...was just extremely unlucky, I feel very sorry for her. :'(

Posted by Alex, a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2013 at 12:43 pm

In my opinion, your friend's daughter should have applied to more than 4 UC's. UC's do not only focus on GPA and extracurricular activities but ethnicity and the major she chose. If she is from an unrepresented/minority ethnic background her chances of getting into any of the UC's greatly increase. I applied to UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego. I had a 3.45 GPA, did not have any extracurricular activities or honors classes since I moved to the US on my senior year, but I'm from a n unrepresented background so my chances of getting into a UC increased. I'm majoring in Biology (impacted major) at UCSD.
I would suggest that if she really wants to go to an UC she should appeal or apply again next year. Another thing she could do is go to a CSU school, they are better suited for undergrads since all the funding go to them. On the other hand, all funding for UC's tend to go to graduate students and research. It might be better for her to study in a friendlier environment such as CSU schools than a hostile and competitive setting such as UC's.

Posted by Upset Mom, a resident of another community
on May 1, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Posted by J, a resident of another community, on Apr 16, 2013 at 5:49 am

"I scored 1580 on my SAT and have a 3.82 gpa, and i got into UCI, UCR, UCSB and UCD. Your friend's daughter...was just extremely unlucky, I feel very sorry for her. :'(..."

This really pissed me off. My son's scored 2000 on his SAT, took 10 AP classes, GPA 4.2, attended special college summer school, volunteered more that 100 hours during school years (and more in the summer), played sport, president of three clubs.....

Got rejected from Cal, UCLA, UCSD, and even UCI.... We were all devasted!!!!

This is a nightmare for our family!! What is this country doing to our children? Who wants to try any harder if your hard work doesn't payoff?


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm

"J" scored 1580 on the SAT and was accepted to those schools? A 525 on average in each SAT area? Not buying it, unless "J" is a "minority" or an athlete.

Posted by Ryan, a resident of another community
on May 3, 2013 at 12:35 am

Going to CC and transferring in is a great option! Get over the anti-CC stigma already! You'll save boatloads on tuition, and I dare say, a 4.0 GPA in college-level coursework will look a helluva lot better than 3.85 in high school.

Posted by Ted, a resident of another community
on May 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm

"I scored 1580 on my SAT and have a 3.82 gpa, and i got into UCI, UCR, UCSB and UCD. Your friend's daughter...was just extremely unlucky, I feel very sorry for her. :'("

The SAT converted from and 1600 to 2400 score in 2005. So this information is either erroneous or outdated.

If it's that outdated, the truth is it is much much harder to get into UC than a decade ago.

Also, which school you apply to makes a difference. Big difference in fact.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Interesting. I know some individuals with mediocre GPAs and test scores who were admitted into Cal a few years ago. They had no community service and both admitted that they weren't involved in many extracurricular activities. On a side note, both were "underrepresented" minorities and one was an athlete.

Posted by Ted, a resident of another community
on May 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm

The average weighted H.S. GPA admit into Berkeley's College of Engineering was an astounding 4.46 in 2011!

Web Link

And that's AVERAGE! That roughly means for every person who got in with a measly 4.3 (I'm being facetious) someone else had a 4.62! Crazy.

But that's for UC Berkeley's Engineering school with consistently ranks from #1 to #3 in the world.

In as far as the 3.85 unweighted 4.28 weighted and getting rejected from all UC schools, there might be something going on that we don't know about. For instance the 3.85 says she got two B's over two years. What were those B's in? Which AP's did she take? Were they science oriented? There's the other thing that if your get two B's, you typically cannot have a 4.28 GPA!

I general I'm having a hard time believing a 4.28 got all rejections. Perhaps a really bad essay talking about pool parties at the local country club? I don't know. She should have gotten into Santa Cruz.

But there may be something we don't know about all this.

Posted by Ted, a resident of another community
on May 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm

"Interesting. I know some individuals with mediocre GPAs and test scores who were admitted into Cal a few years ago. They had no community service and both admitted that they weren't involved in many extracurricular activities. On a side note, both were "underrepresented" minorities and one was an athlete."

URM's, athletes, and anyone who has an interesting "story" get admitted WAY easier.

Berkeley counteracted their rejection of Affirmative Action by admitting people with a new "Holistic" which allows them to "diversify" the student population.

Posted by Ted, a resident of another community
on May 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm

"At Berkeley, almost everyone I meet who did not attend a Palo Alto or Cupertino school (or East coast private/magnet school) has a ridiculously high HS GPA. High school GPAs as high as 4.78 or even 4.95 are more common than my "measly" 4.2-weighted Paly GPA."

:D A 4.95 GPA???

Ok, you're a "smart" Paly Grad. If you take 12 classes over two years, how many of those classes need to be AP get get a 4.95 GPA?



Slightly discrediting IMO.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 10, 2013 at 1:55 pm

@Ted: I agree, we can't all believe what is posted on these forums. Not everyone speaks honestly or with accurate facts. Without seeing an entire application, just scores alone aren't enough to conclude the reason for an acceptance or denial.

Prior to my eldest reaching Paly, postings on these forums scared me with people mentioning their students staying up until 2-3:00AM on a regular basis, missing any class not an option, etc. Perhaps those shooting for Ivy Leagues and taking all the APs possible do this, but it's an unacceptable way of life and students who have done this often regret it later - either because they still were not accepted into an Ivy League (and worked so hard for it) or because they were pushed by their Tiger Moms and they feel they missed out on youthful fun. And yes, no scientific research there in my statements either. I did speak with some Stanford engineering students and they said they took all APs and are acquiring more sleep at Stanford than they did in high school.

PAUSD is as difficult or easy as one chooses. Students don't need to load up on APs to get into a college with a good reputation. And yes, some "B"s are okay! In an honors math lane, only 6 of 30 students earn an "A"!

Posted by Ted (Again), a resident of another community
on May 10, 2013 at 3:35 pm

@ Posted by Mom, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, 37 minutes ago

Yes. Very hard to say without details. Especially since this is a "friend's" daughter. That can mean anything.

But the numbers are the reality. If you are not an under-represented minority, and you are middle to upper class (you are scr*wed) (in fact your are MOST scr*wed if you are asian):

You have to shoot for ABOVE a 4.5!!!


UCLA's 2013 Admits this year had a 4.4 AVERAGE w/ 2037 SAT Score !!!

Web Link

Here's a really good site:

Web Link

And every year it gets harder and harder. The reason is probably everyone figures out in year x that they need a 4.3, so they shoot for a 4.5 to be safe so then what happens is in year x+1 the the going admit GPA goes UP!

Why press your kid to do that?

The tuition for UC is EXPENSIVE: About $32K A YEAR.


The tuition at USC for instance is $60K! You have to pony up an EXTRA $30K a year!!

Same for Stanford, Harvard, Yale, heck any Ivy and any decent private school.

About Tiger Moms.

Lots of negative connotations there but here's the reality:

That's what gets you into a better school typically (with the caveat that your kid has to have the mustard to perform.)

And don't believe that the products of those Tiger Families are not well rounded and don't have lives! Know why? Tiger Mom's are smart enough to figure out that part of the selection criteria is to have balanced lives!!! So even THAT is targetable! Being well rounded. All you need to do is look at the demographics of your debate team, gymnastics team, tennis team, school newspaper, science clubs and competitions, robotics, etcetera etcetera.

The fact is that Tiger Parenting? Started in communities like Palo Alto! Middle to upper middle class educated families putting their resources, values, and education behind their kids. Only nowadays it's being taken to a different level. Because those same mores and values are even more aligned to asians.

What I'm saying is not only is getting a A in AP History harder. It's getting harder to make the tennis team!

Now. Sounds like a nightmare right?


The future of America depends on the types of kids from Paly and other comparable schools. It's a global economy. We need to be more competitive.

Posted by Ted (Again), a resident of another community
on May 10, 2013 at 3:52 pm

WARNING about the numbers you read on the websites I posted:

If you are NOT a URM and you are typical middle class in a neighborhood like Palo Alto, you have to score HIGHER than all the stats!


Because the stats take into accounts Athletes, URM's, and the economically disadvantaged that are admitted "holistically" (think the star on UCLA's basketball team had a 4.6 GPA and 2350 SAT? Possible, but not probable know what I mean?). That's just the reality of it.

Caucasians have to score higher.

Asians even higher.

How much higher? You have to beat the upper 25th percentile. And if you want to go into STEM or business you have to do better than the upper 25th!!! Example: Berkeley's admit rate hovers at around at 20%. But their admit rate for engineering is about 10%!!! TWICE as hard to get into.

You get the picture.

Posted by Ted (Again), a resident of another community
on May 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm

"The tuition for UC is EXPENSIVE: About $32K A YEAR."

I am meaning tuition, books, room and board BTW.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Question for those who seem to have some knowledge of this.

What does "rounded" mean.

Does having outside school activities make a student "rounded". What about a kid who has had an after school and summer job for the last two years of high school where they are well thought of as a loyal, trustworthy employee? Isn't the experience of holding a job as well rounding as a manicured group of activities such as debate, school leadership, etc.?

Employers are valuing work experience as a necessary skill. Are colleges doing the same?

Posted by Ted (Again), a resident of another community
on May 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm

"Question for those who seem to have some knowledge of this.

What does "rounded" mean.

Does having outside school activities make a student "rounded". What about a kid who has had an after school and summer job for the last two years of high school where they are well thought of as a loyal, trustworthy employee? Isn't the experience of holding a job as well rounding as a manicured group of activities such as debate, school leadership, etc.?

Employers are valuing work experience as a necessary skill. Are colleges doing the same?"


Yes and No. If the job was working at Macy's to help pay for the BMW dad bought for her, then that is not likely to have much weight. If she was paid by UCSD to do dolphin research, or she opened up her own IT corporation then that's likely to have weight, know what I mean? You may laugh at these examples, but there are a LOT of talented kids doing things like that given the number of kids in this country. So it depends on what the summer job is.

On the other hand, if you are working a part time job to support your family and three siblings because you are very low income, that can work to your favor.

Colleges are actually worse than employers. Top colleges want kids that are trophies. They are looking for someone special. This is because everyone that applies to top colleges have straight A's and huge SAT scores etc. So how do they decide? They take the straight A student with 2360 SAT that was published in Scientific American for her dolphin research at UCSD, know what I mean? Whereas a job a Macy's won't compare to that and therefore will not register.

It's like dating. The gal who doesn't "manicure" herself up will typically lose out to the gal who does. It's hard.

If you think about it. Isn't going to college "manicuring" yourself for employment? Isn't it calculated? It's an interesting thought.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm


Thanks for your examples and I get your analogies. But, I was thinking more of the old fashioned, traditional values of making a kid get a job to buy a second hand car to take to college with perhaps enough cash to take a girl to see a movie after work on a Friday night.

There are many kids at Paly whose families are not in the BMW league but are not in the low income category either.

I am beginning to get the picture that the old fashioned, American traditional values of working to run a car will just become the necessary means of transport to get a Paly grad to and from Foothills after graduation from Paly.

For a family who has valued not just an education but also the fact that their kids are mixing with peers with similar values to keep them out of trouble, and giving them the life lesson of valuing hard work to get them the things in life they want rather than hand outs from parents and for this reason chose to live in a modest manner in less prosperous sounding south Palo Alto, we seem to have done the wrong thing as we cannot compete with the tiger parents in both academics and sports and our kids suffer whereas if we had chosen to live a few miles north or south our kids (if they had survived the possibility of having suspect peers) might have had a better chance of getting into a Californian public school.

Posted by Ted, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2013 at 12:33 am

Hi Paly Parent,

I see where you are coming from now and I entirely understand your demeanor and circumstances now.

Rest assured that the values, morals, and work ethic your child or children picked up attending Paly, and all the sacrifices you made to make that happen will not go at all to any waste. I tend to believe it all works out in the end -- that it doesn't really matter what school you go to but it's what you make out of it. The school you go to isn't the be all and end all of anything. There are plenty of really mediocre Stanford and Ivy league grads out there, and plenty of biggies who didn't even go to college (like Ellison, Wozniak dropped out of Berkeley, Gates out of Harvard which was good because finishing Harvard would have destroyed him, Zuckerberg same story, Steve Jobs, and there are lesser knowns that went to say San Jose State that have done amazingly well). It is paramount to communicate this to all your children. It is paramount to communicate the stories of Edison, Picasso, Henry Ford, and Einstein etcetera to them. All late bloomers. And the likes of course of Abraham Lincoln etc. Those are the big archetypes and iconoclasts. There is an importance to finding a passion, or their thing/niche, and especially their happiness. But it is important to communicate the there's a place for them and that they will be positive forces in society and to strive for that and be optimistic about it.

To my dismay however, I (myself) see a general assault on the "middle class" where, when it comes to undergraduate education, it doesn't pay to be middle class. You're better off being either very rich or very poor. If you're rich, you have the means to do a lot. If you're poor, your child will receive an advantage gaining admittance. This is a manifestation of our current political atmosphere, and all I want to say there is we voted for this (especially in CA) so we have to live it.

It's also a function of our economy and our economic trajectory. The harder the times, the more of a run on say the UC's which offer great educations at half the price. But even the UCs will be marginalized because we have, again, a policy that encourages our state to be where we are now essentially -- bankrupt. And how are we responding to that? More spending and more revenue killing measures. Go figure. I'm sorry to bring in politics, but that's the reality of things unfortunately. You can't escape the elephant in the room, though I apparently very many people would have you believe that the elephant isn't there despite being trampled by it.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2013 at 1:49 am

@Ted: Thanks for bringing some humor to this thread. I agree that while holding a job shows responsibility, engaging in other exracurriculars such as dolphin research also shows responsibility and would be more interesting to admissions officers. Back in the day, we all held jobs, but these days, with the academic competition, our kids have to find ways to impress the colleges and any job needs to somehow relate to show well on college apps.

As far as Tiger Moms, what comes to mind is a mom who makes her kids sacrifice everything fun to focus on academics and music. I know plenty of kids [portion removed] who played an instrument and once they left high school, never touched it again, clearly being forced by the Tiger Mom. Fortunately, these days, there are more opportunities for our children than music. I don't consider a mom a Tiger Mom if she allows her child to find their passion and be the best they can be. Is it a Tiger Mom if the child loves something and the Tiger Mom pays for private lessons so the kid can be the best he can be? I don't think so. To me, the name implies the mom is forcing her kids to do things they don't necessarily enjoy.

And yes, the middle class always gets screwed.

Clearly, kids around here get screwed if there is no parental involvement in grooming for college apps., etc. if a child wishes to attend a school other than a CA State School.

Ted, are your children in college yet?

Posted by Ted, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2013 at 11:58 am

@ Mom

Yes. Parents MUST get involved. Because behind every great person, there is usually some sort of team. If your child is left alone to fend for herself, she is competing against a team. Call it a tiger team.

The Tiger Mom concept is a tragic manifestation of those who perceive themselves to be the status quo who believe that they know what's best for children. "I let my son follow his passion and he doesn't study till two AM every day like all those manufactured tiger kids, and I'm proud of it!"

Yes, but what if sonny's passion for pot and petting hamsters? Or something even more outlandish like playing Halo on his X-Box? Will the person whip out a tiger mom tactic and (for heaven's sake) reprimand him? Or worse, ground him? Only to the point where his self esteem isn't hurt, right? Or maybe you do the adult thing and make it a teachable moment about compromise -- bed is off limits to hamsters before 10PM, and a reduction to one bag a month.

Or what about little league dads? Soccer moms? Swim families? Are they tiger parents? Well of course they are! But not MY soccer kids!! MINE are DIFFERENT! They ENJOY it! They tricycle THREE miles every other day to soccer practice and hired their own coach! :)

Are you positive that every single boy in that tennis family *really* loves tennis? Well let's see: Tennis got him into Harvard, so the kid must HATE tennis, right? And so what! He's just a jar-head going to Harvard -- he won't amount to anything!

We have to be careful.

We have all been tiger momming to some extent or another. It is crucial to realize this. it is crucial to get involved with your kids no matter how busy you are.

To protect the innocent I can't divulge too much and will obfuscate a few things but I've been grappling with these sorts of things for quite some time. Yes. I am a parent. My son will be going to college in the fall.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2013 at 1:26 pm

@Ted: Very funny posting. To me, "Tiger Mom" is a negative connotation, implying forceful engagement without enjoyment, without regard to the feelings of the child. If a parent has to be complacent to not be considered at Tiger Mom, I'll take the hit; I don't want my children to be complacent. If a child wants to improve in a sport and the parent pays for private lessons for the child to excel, I don't view it as Tiger Mom parenting. It's simply supporting the child's interest. And with the improvement comes a sense of accomplishment for the child. We did this with two sports for our children, and when the signs to quit were there (less enjoyment, desire), they told us, and quit. But both learned valuable lessons in competing and learning how to be successful. Unfair to those who can't afford private lessons? Sure. But life is unfair. I'd love to be a tall, leggy, blonde. Won't happen. One has to accept what they have and do their best with it.

Posted by Ted, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Hi Mom,

Yes. Know exactly what you mean. The trick is being near omniscient and knowing when to quit something however. For example, "When is it OK to quit soccer?" After the first boo-boo on the ankle after his second practice? Or should the poor poor kid tough it out all season? Or for a few seasons? Most american parents, being more sports oriented, will "coax" their son to tough it out for a couple seasons despite the fact that it is clear that he's more passionate about watching TV or playing Angry Birds. Why? Because kids are kids. They are too young to be wise.

But I know what you mean. There are kids out there that take a crash course in violin to join the school orchestra to put it on their resume for college and once in to college never touch a violin again in their lives because they hate it. This is tragic.

But here's an interesting thought. Most elite schools like to see four years of foreign language. So kids might veer towards four years of language, right? But ask yourself, how much french (or whatever) do you speak now after taking it in high school? And isn't taking four years of spanish for an outside shot at an ivy or whatever, and, then never doing spanish again (except when at ATM's, calling your bank, and voting etc) about the same as the kid who hates violin but somehow made it onto the school orchestra with violin only to discarded it later? Do people who take four years of spanish in high school really like spanish that much? No! It's typically a bullet they need to gain admittance somewhere.

The way I approached it all was to try a fair number of things. Stick with them for a reasonable amount of time, boo-boos and all, and do those things as life lessons (in art, sport, thinking, creativity, compassion, etc) and see what clicks -- what they become passionate about and run from there ... and stay away from x-boxes, the neighborhood pothead, and hamsters. Find their niche. And dissuade niches that are bad.

A good book to read is "Playing Through" written by Tiger Woods' dad Earl Wood. He was a Tiger Dad. And although the book wouldn't have you believe it, I'm sure there were days when Tiger cried. To me, the book is essential reading for a parent. And there's the book written by Mike Agassi who produced that poor poor Andre Agassi. Mike Agassi was a TIGER DAD in the worst sense. He screamed. He yelled. He was abusive. But you have to ask, "Was it worth it?" Same thing with Steffi Graff. The reason why they hit it of together so much was because they were both brought up the same was -- by a Tiger Dad.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2013 at 9:32 pm

@Ted: Would prefer to not dominate with these digressions, but will address your world language question. It's a class, not an extracurricular which is supposed to be enjoyable. Secondly, they need 3 years, not 4 years.

I think 6 months is the amount of time that should be given to find out if it's a good fit for an extracurricular. If the child does not perform well, but wants to continue, then that's his/her choice. My daughter was mediocre at her sport but was determined. I ignored my thoughts of "She should just quit. It's not her sport." After a lot of private coaching, one would think she was a natural at the sport. Eventually, each time there was practice or a game, she thought of many other things she preferred to do instead, even though she was the best player. Instead of saying "But we spent so much money on lessons. You can't quit now!" we made sure she was clear in her decision. It was a good ride for her and we are proud of her.

Which reminds me of a mom who told me her son was an All-Star standout player and the day before tryouts, he just sighed and said, "I don't want to play baseball anymore." "But we'll take you to tryouts" she replied, thinking, "What?! He's a star! It comes so easily to him!" But he repeated himself. "And that, was that," she said.

The bottom line is that children want to please their parents. And Tiger Moms sadly take it to the extreme.

Posted by Aarti Shahani, a resident of another community
on May 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Hi - I'm a reporter for San Francisco's NPR station, doing a story about undergraduate engineering programs. I would like to contact the person who made this post "Student with 3.85 GPA gets rejection letters from UCs." Can you email me? ashahani at kqed dot org

Posted by Maria, a resident of another community
on May 18, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Hi, I have a question. My friend told me she did not get into USC, yet the letter from USC said that they were interested in her application and want her to meet with the Admissions Officer in order to plan for a transfer. Does anyone know if USC actually offers this, even though they rejected her for admission. Thanks

Posted by Just a tip, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2013 at 1:26 am

First of all, a LOT of these posts seem to look down on people and schools. No, Asians don't get priority. They have to work extra hard just to be considered on the same level as other ethnicities, even Caucasian families have better chances.

Web Link

Also, looking down on UCs is a definite no-no for entering students. They are all super selective. (By the way, UCD is ranked the same as UCSD, #3 UC and #8 national public schools). UCs are constantly improving themselves and every UC has its merit. You should be looking at what each one offers instead of the rankings. (i.e. UCB-engineering, UCSD-medical, UCD-Agricultural/environmental sciences).

These comments make me feel parents are getting more and more clueless about universities, and this is hurting your children.

Second of all, ranking does matter. Your student's ranking, is one of the main factors in decision. The top 9% of the school are marked and are given more consideration than others (ELC). Why? This is because the UCs are trying to get the best and most diverse group of students from different schools. Just because you think your students are smarter than all other students from anywhere in California doesn't mean you will be picked. Even assuming your students have better stats than everyone else is depressing to see.
Fine, your student has taken 10 APs, 12 APs, maybe a few IBs also. Let's throw in a 2200 SAT score. I can honestly say, I've seen students who've done all that and more all around California. The problem is, your student is the same as them.

A bit of advice, uniqueness is what they look for. You have all the same academic merits, but what have you done musically? Any athletics? What about internships showing interest in your major (as mentioned by a few people above).

Thirdly, why would they pick students who can pay more? Californians make up most of the UC population still. Thinking that internationals are replacing in-state students to this rate, causing your "perfect" student to be rejected, is absurd. Does your student going to an out of state school make it so that Californians are replacing in-state students elsewhere? No. True, the UCs have been accepting a bit more students from out of the country, but why do you think this is? Our money in taxes isn't even going to these schools. You expect them to pay for top teachers and top curricula on a budget deficit? How many of you voted to increase taxes to pay for these schools. Think about it? Last time I checked, that didn't work out at all. Why should the UCs favor the people who rejected the plan to save some of their facilities? They still pick in-state students over international students. International students and out of state students MUST have higher stats than any Californian to even get accepted. So your students didn't lose out to international students because they were international. It was because they had to work harder to get selected.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

UC and CSU stopped doing race-based acceptance decisions after Prop. 209 passed. So I have sincere doubts about any of the above claims that certain races are penalized, have to work harder, etc.

Posted by Another Tip, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

"Why should the UCs favor the people who rejected the plan to save some of their facilities? "

Because that is the legal purpose of the university system.

Posted by Randy, a resident of Los Altos
on May 25, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Let me give a word of advice. Take LOTS of AP/Honors classes, at least 10. The 2013 valedictorian at St. Francis had 19.

My son had a 3.9 GPA (w), only 1 Honors class, and was rejected by all UCs except for UC Santa Cruz. My daughter took 10+ AP/Honors classes, had low unweighted GPA (3.5), but a 4.1 weighted GPA. She starts at Berkeley in the fall.

Also, don't forget that the UCs only count GPAs for sophomore and junior years for acceptance. However, senior year class selection counts, as well as keeping a minimum UNWEIGHTED GPA in the senior year (3.0 for Berkeley, lower for other UCs).

Posted by UC 2013 graduate , a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2013 at 10:02 pm

First off I would like to say you need to look at her full resume. I know many people with substantially lower GPAs and all were accepted to a UC. My gpa entering was a 3.87 and a 2020. I was accepted by a majority of the UCs except for UCLA and UCSD(which I did not apply to). The UCs are competitive but for a person with a 3.8 gpa getting rejected from a UC especially Santa Cruz, it is very rare unless their SAT score was low. Ethnicity does not give you an advantage in college admissions to such an extent as some of the people here are stating. I would like to add my major is also Biology and I aim for medical school so my major is under high scrutiny by admissions. Simply put I would believe the personal statement was either terrible or you were given incorrect information. Also why not check the date the application was submitted, if it was submitted at the end of the cycle then it is very unlikely for an acceptance to be given. So, for those applying with something in the low 3's and not so amazing SAT scores should still apply and get in. One unlucky person does not mean it is impossible to get in. If this was an application for Medical School it would be understandable but for applications into an undergraduate program it is extremely rare.

Posted by handsoffmom, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 11, 2013 at 11:09 am

First, I would like to say that UCs have become very competitive in the last four years. I would like to share my son's stats so you can see how competitive it is to get into UC engineering programs.
My son's UW GPA is 4, W GPA is 4.36 and UC GPA is 4.60. He has played various sports for the last 8 years (football, Lacrosse & Tracks), and is also a club president. He had more than 250 hours of community services locally. His SAT (one setting) is 2350. He took five subject tests: Eng-760, Math-800, Physics-750, Spanish-800 and US History-800. He is National Merit Scholar and has won various academic awards and some merit scholarships. He was accepted to UCB, UCLA, UCD (with regent scholarship $7500) and UCSD (with Regent and Jacob scholarships worth $128K over four years). He was also accepted to USC (with close to 90K in scholarship due to the fact that he is a National Merit Scholar), Duke, Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon & Caltech but was rejected by Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth & Princeton. Legacy is very important to private colleges, and we don't have any. My son was very disappointed with the acceptance result at first, but now is fine and has decided to go to Berkeley's engineering program.

The application process is very stressful for the students, and they would need a bit of luck too. Frankly, it really doesn't matter where kids go to college as long as they are motivated and have the desire to learn, they will be fine.

Posted by handsofmom, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I also want to add that my son has worked at the summer camp for the last three years, also tutor football players and middle school kids...the football was the biggest comittment because of the practice and weekly son devoted about 25 hours. He often came home at 8:00pm, then worked until 1:00am to manage his AP and honor classes...really, take as many AP and honor classes you can handle mentally w/o going son took 8 SPa between his junior and senior year, not a lot compare to other kids but he got straight A...he could have taken more but he wanted to have a balance high school experience...he is not stressed out and has enough energy to continue to excel in college...having a balance is very important.

Posted by Jim, a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2013 at 6:43 pm

As an old UCLA alumnus, I think your friend's daughter's predicament boils down to two things:

1) Her choice of major-- super competitive

2) Her high school -- the same, which prejudices the decision (unfortunately-- it's terrifically unfair, yes.)

High school applicants should NEVER put down super-competitive majors. Always say "history" or "undecided."

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 27, 2013 at 2:33 am

Jim, that doesn't work any more. Kids,must declare a major,from the start. And many schools will not let you change your major as they are over-subscribed as it is.

Posted by Parent anonymous, a resident of another community
on Jul 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

My daughter had a very similar situation but she got into Santa Cruz. Both my husband and I were enormously disappointed. Had we urged her to prep more, had we hired a professional counselor to help craft her package, maybe she would have gotten into UCI, where she was on the waiting list but never made it. It's very difficult as parents to accept the rejection and not to reflect upon themselves as "what we did wrong". It's very important to pick up the pieces and find an alternative route. It's easier said than done. I believe your friend's daughter will emerge stronger, and learn to find her niche. I hope your friend will also come to peace with this minor set back. As his/her daughter moves on to a community college and eventually gets into where she wants to go, the parent would realize this little set back really doesn't amount to anything. Have faith in her and face the minor set back with grace and poise. It is easier said than done.

Posted by stress bath, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 28, 2013 at 5:09 pm

This thread is extremely interesting, from a sociological perspective on parenting in affluent communities at the turn of the 21st century, if nothing else. We have one parent bemoaning the "enormous disappointment' of her child getting into UCSC (ranked 77 by USNWR) instead of Irvine (ranked 44 by USNWR). Neither of those rankings is particularly amazing, but both are plenty good. But in today's competitive universe somehow getting into a UC Campus on the beach in the Redwoods is a devastating loss that caused one set of parents to wonder where they went wrong.

Who wants to binge drink? Don't all rush the keg at once. I know when I read stuff like that I definitely feel the urge.

Then there's the unintentionally ironically named "handsoffmom" who clearly is not leading the examined life. She knows every freckle and mole on her son's transcript despite being "handsoff" and she brags relentlessly and shamelessly to the horde of anonymous anxious parents reading this thread of her son's many accomplishments and college acceptances. She is only sharing all this to be helpful "just so we can see how competitive it is to get into a UC engineering program" which her son did. Did you get that? He did get in. He did. I hope you didn't miss what her son got. But he did get in. Plus the scholarships. Did you see those?

Last one to get a 215 card is a rotten egg.

Then there's this post: "Let me give a word of advice. Take LOTS of AP/Honors classes, at least 10. The 2013 valedictorian at St. Francis had 19."

Only 19? Slacker.

Who wants some adderall? Hint: everyone at Gunn!

That this is at once the most popular and most troubling thread on paloaltoonline is deeply disturbing. Stress, pressure, excessive competition among parents and students -- we need a new direction.

Posted by Sheesh, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Reading this thread may freak-out parents. But don't let it. I remember reading threads here prior to my children attending Paly. I read about students sleeping only an average of 5 hours of sleep per night, students needing to load up on at least 8 APs, etc. It's easy to believe the nightmare stories. And it's much easier for people to type fabrications while they input data onto a public forum. They aren't lying to someone's face, so why not up their child's 3.6 GPA to a 3.9? Don't believe everything you read. Maybe the students who are loading up on APs are sleeping 4-5 hours per night, but that's the minority.

Something is amiss with the original posting. Perhaps the personal essay was terrible. Perhaps the person was applying to an extremely competitive major. Pretty much any parent knows that UCSD and UCSC are not safety schools. And most know better than to apply to only 4 UCs.

Here's some incorrect advice which was posted:

"Take LOTS of AP/Honors classes, at least 10." Wrong!

"High school applicants should NEVER put down super-competitive majors. Always say "history" or "undecided." Untrue sometimes. Certain majors need to be declared immediately and one cannot transfer in later.

Plus, colleges view the school profile of our PAUSD schools when reviewing applications. They know PAUSD is not an easy public school. A 3.5 GPA at a neighboring public school is worth less than a 3.5 GPA in PAUSD. So Palo Alto parents can't even compare the student stats from PAUSD compared to other public high schools.

Conclusion: Do you really think everyone is telling the truth on public forums? People who are really in-the-know are not going to share all their secrets.

Posted by Yellow girl, a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2013 at 7:40 pm

These posts are quite alarming. Someone said a 32 ACT IS " low these days" What? My son had a 31 and got into all the Uc's as well as Cornell and MIT. We were surprised by MIT but not the UC results. TheOP's weighted GPA was good and her ACT was competative. I can't imagine why she would not be admitted to UCSC.

The only thing I can think of is that the UC's look for accomplishments in light of all that was available to the student. Did she have an unweighted 3.85 but was ranked 75 in her class? Did she volunteer in the Virgin Islands on her way home from Europe? Did her parents send her to summer prep classes? Did she participate in the HS activities at a high level ( meaning not just fluff activities compared to many other students). Did she commit to a sport, fine art, etc.? We don't know the context of the student (unless it is buried in this thread and I missed it).

Anyway, I know many students with lower stats that were admitted to many UC's ( even a few at UCLA and UCB). Some information seems to be missing.

Posted by Confidential, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 20, 2013 at 1:09 am

It is not the school but what you make of it. The higher ranked the school, the higher probability of your friend's daughter to do thing a parent wishes her daughter not to. I am a college student from UC Merced believe me it is safer at a newer UC because it has not yet what you say "gone bad".

Posted by Chul Wan, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Back in 2009, i had a Weighted GPA of 4.2, SAT of 2100, and volunteered over 100plus hours... part of the varsity wrestling and football team. had over 8AP Classes scoring 3 or higher in each test and i STILL got rejected from ALL THE UCs except UCRIVERSIDE and UCMERCED. with my numbers i shouldve gotten in UCLA or UCB without any problems. HOWEVER I GOT ACCEPTED from USC, PEPPERDINE U, and POMONA COLLEGE.
THE UC SYSTEM IS REALLY WEIRD. maybe she shouldve applied to some private college as i had. But 3.85 GPA isnt that high. UCSD, UCLA, UCB and UCI all require at least 4.0 for a safer acceptance.. 3.85 is very risky.

Posted by AV, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 29, 2013 at 7:04 am

All UC's get an extreme amount of applications from those that do/did good in school. It's my personal opinion, but I honestly feel that the extracuriculars that one participates in make an extreme difference. A few of my friends got rejected to the schools I appled to last year and they all had eay higher gpas than me. I had a 2.8 weighted gpa and I was accepted to UC Davis, Irvine, Santa Cruz, and Riverside (rejected by many more). The main difference between us (besides the obvious), I've always taken a leadership role in everything that I have done i.e. ( student senate of ca... ). After talking to a rep at Davis, it was pretty much spelled out for me, athletes and academics are a dime a dozen . Just know that not being accepted isn't the end of the world. Keep your head up and stay positive ;).oh and declare a major, mine is comm, so that was helpful too, effective communication!

Posted by Palo verde parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2013 at 8:21 am

There must have been some special exception why you were admitted or there was a typo when stating your GPA was 2.8. Here is the GPA info from the UC website:
"The minimum required GPA is 3.0 for California residents, 3.4 for nonresidents. While there are no minimum test scores required, students should keep in mind that when selecting students, competitive campuses and programs look for applicants who have excelled academically."
I am under the impression that they don't even read the applications of students with a GPA below 3.

Posted by Mac, a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm

My daughter was accepted into UC Berkeley in 2010. She had a 4.5 GPA,3 AP classes, was valedictorian (but from a very small town),did tons of volunteer work, ballet, OK SAT scores (not great),low income and her high school was an ELC. Apparently she really impressed them with her essay. She was accepted into all the UC's actually but Cal sent her plane tickets to come up and look at the campus. Berkeley was her first choice. Ok so bottom line she was shocked that she got in. Why did they pick her? Who knows! She is majoring in Molecular Plant Genetics/Biology, minor in Forestry. Her first semester was so hard she almost quit, (got her first C ever) but instead she has taken classes in all the summer sessions, and now is getting straight A's. Her last semester will be her hardest, but she already has job offers. She is still considering grad school however. So that's my little story.

Posted by Sheesh, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 16, 2013 at 10:10 am

@Mac: Thank you for posting your experience and good work on your daughter's part for her persistence. I think what happened in her case is that she was the top student in a small town with ELC, so her chances were increased. We have a lot of students in PAUSD who have the same stats and are rejected from UCB. Perhaps there were less APs available at her school so she didn't have to take as many (PAUSD offers a lot, so UCB requires more APs on our transcripts). Her SAT scores were probably accepted because they figure the school is ELC so the level of education prepared her less. Also, if she's a minority, then the colleges really want her for affirmative action openings. Nevertheless, she is obviously a capable girl, and thanks for sharing.

Posted by James, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2013 at 6:11 pm

I haven't read this whole thread, but I just want to say that I hope your daughter is attending community college and getting A's because it's very doable to get into UC schools as a transfer student.
My story:
I'm currently attending UC Berkeley and let me tell you 3.8 GPA in high school is phenomenal compared to my grades. I went to community college and received very high grades there, but not at all in high school. I did this by working hard in my classes but also being extremely selective with the courses I took. I"ll be honest and only took classes with easy professors. Now, when entering into community college, the classes fill up quickly and its hard to get into the easy ones. That's why I joined the sports teams. I never swam competitively but I joined the swim team anyways. Schools just want students to participate in sports and usually not very competitive on the JC level. I came in just about last place in all my events, but I was given priority registration every semester giving me the flexibility to be really selective with my classes. Now, I'm studying at UC Berkeley when otherwise I would have probably been at Chico or some other cal state school.

A common thing I hear very often from parents: they always love to tell you how high their kids GPA is and how high their SAT scores are and how they have expectations of getting into Stanford or Berkeley, but then their kid ended up not getting into any of the schools they were hoping for. Once a parent or student, with extremely high expectations of attending an amazing university, gets let down then they can't fathom stooping low enough to send their child to a community college. Actually, it seems like this is the common perception of most students on JC campuses. They talk bad about it like they're actually better than the school or slightly embarrassed by it on some part to be attending such a horrible JC institution.
My community college trained me to be a competitive swimmer-- a skill I will keep for the rest of my life, and they did it for free. Or, like two units worth. But, ultimately the school gave me the confidence and the skills needed to enter into UC Berkeley, a college I never dreamed of ever attending. Now, I'm here in my senior year and getting good grades too.
So yeah, parents look into community colleges. It'll save you money. And Go Bears!!

Posted by catherineD, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2013 at 1:47 am

I still can't believe how parochial Californians are. Everyone here seems to believe that life begins and ends in California, with the possible exception of Ivy Leagues. I did my Ph.D. work at Cornell, an Ivy League, but if I had stayed at Indiana, where I began my grad work, I would have been working for a woman who a few years ago became a Nobel Prize winner. Indiana is still an easy school to get into but has excellent faculty. California's schools are not easy to get into, because California hasn't built enough schools to meet the growing population. California doesn't fund education sufficiently - from building the needed additional universities, to actually paying college teachers a living wage. Increase class size, have grad students t.a., hire part-time temporary workers for peanuts. That's how it's being done. People who live in this area can afford to send their kids to some of the state schools throughout the country with excellent reputations, but not the ridiculous competition that has come about through the parochialism of Californians. College should be about expanding horizons. I wish people would stop criticizing the girl, who could have easily gotten into another quality school in a different state if advisors in California high schools even acknowledged that out-of-state schools exist. But they don't. She worked way too hard to get into these schools because that's what everyone around her was doing. For schools that primarily get their high ratings these days because of the California students who have been brainwashed into applying to them! For shame on the lot of you who think California is the be-all and end-all and for shame on the state government for turning our kids into studying zombies who end up feeling ashamed and lesser because of what has happened to California schools. Not a one of you who is over 40 had to study nearly as hard as kids today for this idiotcy.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 28, 2013 at 8:33 am

California's current state budget for higher education is 11.1 billion, Indiana's is 1.8 billion. Respective populations are 38M and 6.5M, so annual funding is $292 per Californian and $277 per Hoosier, roughly equivalent. I guess dollars go farther in Indiana. Everybody should move there. For me though, yes, life does begin and end in California.

Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I have some friends who just moved to Indiana. It's cheap--houses are less than 10 percent of what they are here, but the friends are as homesick as all get-out. They miss the ocean, the food, the diversity.

I've lived in other states, but I'm a native Californian and I do prefer it here. There are things I don't like--the cost, the traffic and the sense of it being more crowded than when I was a kid--but I like the weather, the diversity, the excitement of being someplace that's innovative, the food, and the range and beauty of the landscape.

I'm glad I went out-of-state for college, but I don't think wanting to go in-state means one is blinkered. There are reasons for wanting to stay here.

Posted by Mason, a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm

If your daughter was in the the top 9% percent in her high school in a local context, she should had been offered a spot on any of the UC campuses. Did her high school participate in the ELC (eligibility in the local context)?

Look on line for eligibility in the local context UCOP.

Posted by Asian Surname, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm

My best friend's son was rejected by UC San Diego, UCLA, and UC B erkeley, despite having a 4.5 average and lots of AP classes.

Apparently, the problem was that in order to maintain such an average, and a high SAT score, he did no after school sports or clubs to distract him.

Apparently, the UCs want to see natural intelligence that requires no hard work and can maintain high grades while spending time in sports and clubs.

Wrong attitude of the UCs: does not reward the work ethic!

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm

@asiam surname - the UC's and most schools are looking for students that are more well-rounded. They don't want intelligence with no hard work, they do want someone who has learned to balance hard work with real life.

Posted by Bubbles, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm


For the highly competitive UCs it seems there are simply too many kids with a 4.5, so they look to other things in their application, like test scores, OR the essay, OR their extracurriculars, OR a particular work or life experience.

I say "or" because it may be enough to have one just one more thing stand out about them besides the grades.

In the end, rejections from the in-demand schools is not a reflection on the highly qualified applicants, it's more a refection of the high numbers of applications and limited space.

Real life is what is outside these bubbles.

Posted by new paly parent, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2014 at 7:40 pm

fyi, the UCLA admissions team is holding an AMA session on on Feb.26--seems like a good opportunity to ask about the admissions process, criteria, recommendations.

Posted by question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2014 at 7:55 pm

new paly parent,

"AMA session on on Feb.26-"

How does this work? the reddit website is incomprehensible

what is the simple way to participate?

Posted by MIT grad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Not the end of the world.

She should to community college, challenge herself, make herself stand out, and set her sights higher and broader. It's as much about the spaces available and the fit as it is about her. It's hard to see that when you have a rejection letter in hand, but it's real and not just empty consoling.

Asian surname: if you quietly talk to employers, many will tell you they are happier with employees with less than perfect grades and diverse outside interests, because they are usually not too proud to do what is necessary and work hard. Perfect students can be prima donnas who don't always make the best employees.

At MIT they taught us to work hard but take time off, get sleep, and continue sports and outside interests - turns out, it really does make you perform better in school. it takes discipline to do those things, but worth it. You don't build the biggest muscles by holding weights til you break, you lift and stop, alternate work with rest. Same with your brain.

Posted by counselor, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 24, 2014 at 11:04 pm

As a college counselor I have learned that a majority of the time, the GPA as reported by moms is just not accurate. A mom will say her kid's GPA is 3.9 and it turns out it is actually 3.5. This happens over and over. Parents brag about their kids and exaggerate their accomplishments.

Posted by question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2014 at 11:42 pm


"This happens over and over. Parents brag about their kids and exaggerate their accomplishments."

that's funny, you mean mom reporting to their friends? how do you catch them doing that, or how do you keep track of everyone's gpa to know it happens over and over?

Posted by counselor, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 1:55 pm

i work with students. Their mom tells me the GPA is 3.8. I see the transcript and it is quite a bit lower.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I wouldn't doubt that some parents tend to include the grades from PE, music, etc. In other words, classes that don't qualify under the UC A-G requirements.

Posted by counselor, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 2:32 pm

The main problem here seems to have been the major though. Engineering is very hard to get into at Cal. But then, you can't transfer into engineering, so if you want engineering you have to face the competition. The other thing I have heard the admissions people say is that they want to see some experience with engineering during high school - like a summer program at a college. They want you to prove that you really want to be an engineer and that you understand what that means.

Posted by Praetor, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm

My employer's son had a 4.0 GPA on his Paly transcript. he was also on the track team as well as th school newspaper. He was unable to get into a UC.

The problem, his parents were told ( and I think this is illegal,on the part of the UC system) is that the schools make SO much more money from foreign students that they now need, financially, to give THEM top priority above CA residents.

So, my employer's son ended up going to to NYU, which is probably better than most of the UCs anyway.

Their loss, his gain.

Posted by counselor, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

There is a percentage of the admitted class that is out of state or international. it is a larger percentage than it was in the past, but as the UC Chancellor said, the money has to come from somewhere. The student from Paly is not competing against the international students. They are each competing in their own pool. A 4.0 GPA is great, but they are also looking for the level of the difficulty of the classes; and not just involvement in extracurriculars but leadership in the activities.

The problem is that there are more great kids than any particular college can take. The UCs also want to admit a class that is diverse geographically and socio-economically. They want to admit kids from the rural parts of the state and from the urban areas. They can't take them all from the affluent suburbs. There are too many kids with high scores, high GPAs and lots of activities. They can't take them all. I agree it is very upsetting when a kid has worked so hard and done so well to be shut out of their state university system. But it is a good idea to apply broadly, to out of state public universities and to some private colleges, as well as broadly among the UCs. It is more expensive to go out of state, but with some of them the difference is not huge, and there are merit scholarships for out of state students sometimes. I remember 30 years ago Davis was regarded as second tier. Now it is really hard to get into Davis. The same thing is going to happen to Merced. it is fairly easy to get into now, but in 10 years, you will have graduated from a highly selective campus.

Good luck to all our wonderful hardworking kids. You can have a great experience and get a good education a lot of places. Don't get into a frenzy about the brand name.

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 25, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.


Rationally and beautifully stated.

Posted by Praetor, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 6:58 pm

A few years back, my niece, who attended private schools all her life and had a 4.5 average, was also rejected by the UCs. Her counselor advised her to look outside California, and, Lo and behold, she was accepted by several top-notch schools. She settled on Boston University, received a degree from them, and then applied to Stanford, where she graduated in June with a law degree. She was quickly snapped up by a law firm in San Francisco, where she now lives.

Being rejected by the UCs, along with good advice from her private high school counselor, was the best thing that ever happened to her.

Go east, young woman, go east!

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2014 at 11:35 am

This story is from 2012 and was resurrected. This is 2014.

Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Hear, hear everyone. Anyone who has a stellar GPA and is not admitted to the UCs either:

* Had dismal SAT or ACT test scores.
* Applied only to the top UCs (not just UC Berkeley, but also UCLA, UCSD, UCD, UCSB, UCI) and refused to go to other UCs. Note that 10 years ago, UCSD was already hard to get into, and no longer a "safety"!!

Any student who is in the top 9% state-wide (as calculated using both GPA and SAT/ACT scores) is guaranteed a spot at a UC, maybe not at their top choice though.

So, I don't believe at all any story of a student having a stellar record but not being admitted to the UCs. Something was wrong in their record, or they refused to go to a "lesser" UC.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Completely agree with Midtowner. SATs play a role in admissions, as does the personal essay. There is also UC Riverside, UC Merced. I think when people say "rejected to all" they are only referring to those listed by Midtowner. One thing that has changed lately, according to Paly college counselors is that UC Santa Cruz is no longer easy acceptance.

Posted by UC Grad, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Ultimately, a 3.85 is not a competitive GPA for schools like UC David and UCSD. These schools are top-tier UC's following closely behind Berkeley and UCLA. The only UCs that are relatively easier to get into are Riverside and Merced. Even with high SAT scores, extracurriculars and AP classes, this student would not stand out among the thousands of other applicants with the same or even more impressive grades and achievements. I doubt it had anything to do with what major she declared - colleges are aware that students change their major, and even it affected the top-tier UC admissions decision, it's not the UC system's fault she put all her eggs in highly competitive baskets.

The only person to blame is the student for not being tactical about the application process and applying to actual safety schools, like CSUs (some of which are now close to as, if not more, difficult to get into than the UCs because of how cutthroat the competition is). She could have also looked at smaller out-of-state private schools that may have funded her. I have trouble believing a guidance counselor in a so-called top high school would advise her against safety schools.

Posted by Alejandro Rivera, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

[Portion removed.] The UC system has become by and large the most competitive school system. How condescending are you that you refer to your local CC's as "not real colleges"? Maybe it's that poor attitude you brought your daughter up with that got her rejected everywhere i.e. her personal statement.

Posted by Reality check, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm

The new reality is that if you are from California,,you probably will not get into any UC no matter how great your grades are. The UCs do not want native Californians anymore, even though that is for whom the whole UC system was developed. The students they prefer are from outside the US, because they have to pay so much, and the UC system is near broke! Second choice are Americans from other states--they pay more than Californians but less than foreigners.

The fact of the matter is that if a California student with a 4.0 or better average wants an education, they simply must go east. Preferably to the East Coast, especially New England. They do not like Californians, and will make fun of your accent, yet they badly need your out-of-state tuition. You will have more prestige from a New England school than from any UC. The cost of living there is less than here, as well.

Posted by Pete, a resident of Atherton
on Mar 9, 2014 at 4:28 pm

There are 30+ colleges in the Cal State System. All perfectly fine schools where your "friends" daughter can get an excellent education.

Posted by Ehsan Matin, a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Alright, in all honesty, to get accepted to a top tier UC like Berkeley or LA, assuming you aren't lying about this, her weighted/unweighted GPA are pretty average to high and her 32 ACT comp is top percentile. Forgetting all of her other accolades sports, clubs, Com. Service, etc. That alone should give you a good shot at ANY college, yes, any. Even Ivy Leagues would not have any academic issue with accepting someone of that stature. So, it leaves it to a couple possibilities. The person's essay sucks terribly and does not have any correlation with her academic classes, ambitions in her major, or endeavors in her Service Learning. BUT you sir have stated that apparently she is a very good writer. So, given the fact that her overall Testing and GPA is high, and she can supposedly write very well (keep in mind a ton of people get accepted mainly because they had a single good essay) there's no concrete reason she should have been denied. Bio Engineering is competitive as most sciences are at UCs, but a student with statistics like those should still not be stymied by "competition". I'm thinking you're either lying about the circumstance or leaving some details out, or she is somehow SO overqualified that even the top UCs don't want to take her. This is common for the medium-high level UC's like SD and specifically Davis. So getting denied with those types of stats to Davis should be encouraging, they know you'll have more options and want to keep their Admittance:Attendance Ratio high. However, over qualification to UCLA and Berkeley is pretty unlikely unless you created your own Gray's Anatomy at the age of 12 and found a cure to cancer. But, you should always know that no student, regardless of scores, is guaranteed to any college(unless some plan/contract is made generally for the lower-end schools). As you said, she only applied to a few UCs. Well, just because someone had a good shot doesn't mean they should throw all their eggs in 4 baskets, in terms of schools. I'm fairly confident that if you're not lying she would've got accepted to at least 2 UC's had she not applied to so little, and a wide range of private colleges, possibly Ivy and Baby Ivy. So possible diagnosis for your situation :
A. Over qualification to the mediocre UCs.
B. Lack of connection with Com. Service and Claimed Major
C. Low # of Colleges applied to
D. You're lying or you missed a detail (probably this one)
I'm imagining that you're an adult because you have spoken to this child's parents. Keep in mind most parent's don't understand every corner of the application process and the scores meanings etc. Also, the child's score going to her parents going to her parents' friend... probably something got messed up along the way which i think is likely.

P.S. To the Gentleman or lady who is stating that UCs don't take Californians, You're very wrong. I'm sorry but that's a very very exaggerated and absurd statement. The MAJORITY of UC attending undergrads are native to California. Though it is true that they are more lenient towards people out of state due to higher costs, you make it sound as if they won't accept anyone native to California regardless. I live in the FUSD (Alameda) and 80% of the top 5% of the graduating high school classes in every high school get accepted to at least one UC. Let alone Mission High, Irvington, etc. East coast schools, do they like Californians better than native East coast people? Yea! They do! Will you get more prestige going to Harvard than UCLA? Yea! You will! Can you get into UCLA if you have sufficient grades? Yes, someone with the same grades/credentials as you from East coast will get in instead of you. But, if someones got 2% less than you on every subject they look in an applicant(2% is very minute) they will most likely take the native Californian over the East coaster. Yea, they care about money. They also care more about future praise and prestige. So no they're not going to turn you down because you're from California... Apply, and if you have good grades your odds aren't any more different than 49/51 to an East Coaster.

Posted by Great school, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 10, 2014 at 9:50 am

The University of Colorado Boulder would have been a great choice for her. Strong Engineering -many disciplines are more highly ranked than MIT-in a beautiful setting.

Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm

@ Reality Check - I think you need to actually check the numbers and not listen to people making excuses for not getting in to the UC's.

California residents made up just over 60% of acceptances in 2013.

Maybe if the state wasted less money in other areas, more money could go to higher education and they wouldn't need to supplement revenues with out of state students.

The problem is not entirely with the UC system.

Posted by Jim H.'s fact checker, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm

72.5% are California residents at time of application. Moreover over 60% of California resident applicants gain admission to a UC. With such a high acceptance rate it's very well possible that they have to go to a different pool to gain enough good students.

Web Link

Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 10, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Thanks for checking (and confirming) my stats.

Makes the discussion more realistic when we're using actual facts instead of rumors and speculation.

Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
You know a lot of data for being the "friend". . .

That's pretty rude. Do you really think parents don't talk ad nauseum about their kids?

Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Sparty is a registered user.


admit rate for CA residents 17.87%
out of state 33.68%
international 20.8%

Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

I agree with people saying UC Davis is tough. It used to be middle of the pack on admits, but they've had lots of rebranding lately.... down to calling themselves "Cal Davis" (pretty silly IMO)

So they are going to go for the best. All these schools are causing a ripple effect.

It used to be you could be guaranteed a slot at some UCs as long as you kept the right GPA and courses at certain JCs. I can't imagine that's the same now, but Ohlone and UC Berk used to have that set up. Worth looking into at least.

My high school was has been a top school for years (in Fremont...) There was some stigma linked seniors going off to JC, but even the kids cut each other slack depending on who it was. (and sometimes didn't depending on who it was)

Posted by real alien, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 10, 2014 at 4:51 pm

"UCLA admit rate for
CA residents 17.87%
out of state 33.68%
international 20.8%"

17.87 + 33.68 + 20.8 = ?

I guess the qualifications from the other 28% attending UCLA were out of this world!

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 10, 2014 at 6:07 pm

@sparty - 58% of the students admitted to UCLA in 2013 were California residents. The 17.87% is the percentage of the applicants from California that were admitted. 16177 were admitted in 2013, 9539 of them were from California.

Posted by teacher, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

The NY Times just did an article on the competition level for elite schools. At this point there is almost no real rhyme or reason to why a kid gets into one and not another, or doesn't get into any of them. Stanford accepted 5% of its total applicant pool. It's not a reflection of the kid's abilities or the quality of their application, essay, etc. It's just turned into a lottery/crap shoot.

Web Link

I ran into a former student the other day who just transferred from Foothill to UC Davis. She is a great kid, seems happy, is delighted to be going to Davis and also really enjoyed her time at Foothill. She said it really helped to be local and get a start there, save some money, get used to being a student, etc.

There is always another path.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of College Terrace
on May 31, 2014 at 6:11 pm

My son graduated this year with 3.85 weighted GPA, had a 2250 SAT and 800 in SAT Subject in Math and did not get into Computer Science major at UC Davis and UCSB either. He was accepted into UC Santa Cruz, but decided to go to Rochester Institute of Technology instead. There are many paths to success, no reason to be upset except for the price tag on out of state or private school tuition.

Posted by Benno, a resident of Portola Valley
on May 31, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I had a 4.5 GPA from Paly and applied to,USC, Berkeley, Davis, UC San Diego, and UCLA. I was rejected from all but Davis. The explanation was given that most schools are so in need of cash thT they must give priority to students from outside the country, because they have to pay higher tuition. In spite of the fact that the UC system was founded with the California native students as priority.

Posted by Need to Sue UC System, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 1, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Seriously people. We need to sue the UC systems because they are taking in too many foreigners and out of staters because they pay more money. States like Virginia guarantee admission if you have a certain GPA to their University and State University systems. W

Why can't we have guaranteed if you get a 3.5 GPA?

Newsflash, if you apply to UVA with your 4.25 GPA it gets converted to a 4.0.

Posted by Ask Jerry, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 1, 2014 at 9:13 pm

The UC system is bound BY LAWto give top priority to native California students who qualify. They are required also to accept graduates of any and all California community colleges. But they flagrantly break the law every day. Our governor has reminded them of their legal obligation to give priority to California students, but they still flaunt the law.

They need to be sued until it hurts them in the pocketbook they have so enriched by breaking the law and taking foreign students over California students.

Many, many people moved to California so their kids could attend the UC schools. They have been cheated and deceived.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 1, 2014 at 11:19 pm

UC Riverside is the only UC that offers the Guaranteed Admission Program (GAP) for outstanding high school juniors wth 3.9 unweighted GPA.
But UC Riverside and UC Merced are not as good as UC Davis, UCSB or UC Santa Barbara...

Posted by Ask Jerry, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 2, 2014 at 8:45 am

My nieces, born in Japan and half Japanese, both got into UC Berkeley without a hitch. Annoyingly, neither one had outstanding grades at the American High School in Tokyo ( although their father is a highly paid English professor at Tokyo University). Go figure.

However, my former employer is a Berkeley alumnus, has donated millions, and also built their pool and gymnasium at his own cost ( he owns a business real estate firm). ALL four of his kids got into Berkeley, and even though they all went to Sacred Heart or Menlo, NONE had better than a "C" average. Ironically, the youngest did not want to go to Berkeley ( he had no pull where she really wanted to go), and had rather poor grades, but did well at sports. He sent a letter with her application informing Berkeley that there would be no more donations forthcoming if they did not accept her. She got in.

So, if you are not from a wealthy Asian country, you need only have a wealthy alumnus parent who can bribe them!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

I sincerely believe that it is time to have an elected head of education in California. I don't believe normally in more politicians, but something has to be done to stir up what is going on here in the UCs. Making speeches and praising the schools is not what we need but seems to be what we have. If getting ousted at the next election was a strong possibility we might see a real change. More action in getting Californian kids and young people educated in our top public schools is a worthy goal and should be a priority.

Posted by Go Elsewhere, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 2, 2014 at 11:42 am

As far as the posting from "Ask Jerry", "donating millions" really should buy entrance since it's a capitalist society. Doubt the child will be able to compete academically, however. Unless the bribing continues until graduation, ha.

To those who claim "there are different paths", sure there are, but why are they necessary? Going to CC for two years is a much different experience than going straight to a 4-year college. And most PAUSD students are capable of going to a 4-year college. Our students work so hard in PAUSD and some of the teachers don't understand that the grades can make/break a college acceptance. No, it's not all about learning anymore - it's all about data. Colleges do see the school profile, thus know that PAUSD is college-prep.

My 3.5 GPA/4AP/1850SAT student only applied to out-of-state schools and received many acceptances and they offered merit scholarships to offset the out-of-state tuition. Not Ivy Leagues or elite colleges, but not all the UCs are elite anyway. They are colleges with good reputations, however. Anecdotally, several if the students I know who were accepted to UCB last year and this year had perfect SAT scores and were Nat'l Merit Scholars, along with impressive extracurriculars. How can we compete with that?! Moreover, do we want to compete with that? Aren't kids allowed to have fun in college anymore?

Check out this article, which states the average GPA for UCSB is 4.05. UCSB?! Really?! How much status does UCSB have in the nation?

Web Link

Posted by MD from TO, a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2014 at 1:17 pm

MD from TO is a registered user.

If your friend's student is an athlete at a high competitive level at whatever sport, contact the coach of that sport at the desired school. May not have any scholarships left but could gain admission thru the "side door" and join team as a "walk-on". Coaches have some influence in getting student-athletes admitted to their school.

Posted by Solution, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 2, 2014 at 8:06 pm

When the UC system finally stops admitting all students, then we can do what really needs to be done: stop funding them.

It is high time to just cut off the remaining money the schools get. They clearly are not interested in educating Californians. Why should we fund them any longer?

(We are having to send our kid out of state to get into a public school. The UC/CSU system is very broken.)

Posted by Sk8ermom, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 5, 2014 at 11:49 am

Just a data point from a So Cal public school: 3.96 unweighted GPA, 7 AP tests (all passed), 2100 SAT's, 750 hours of community service, varsity tennis (ranked 2nd in division), nationally ranked in sailing, spent two summers teaching English overseas, coach sailing. Got into ONE mid-level UC.

Posted by Bottom Line, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 7, 2014 at 4:28 pm

What it all. Oils down to is that the UCs shirk their legal responsibility to qualified California students in favor of kids from China and Korea whose governments foot the bill, including the extra costs of being from out of the country.

We'll see what happens when on-line universities take over.

Posted by Chris, a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm

This is an old thread, but since it has recent activity I'll share my story.

I graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 2004 with a 2.6 GPA, scored 1900 on my SATs (740 math, low reading/writing). I just plain didn't care in high school. I was arrogant, naive and thought anything college could teach me I could just learn myself. I had a low GPA because I'd constantly argue the neccesity of homework when I can score 90+ on tests without doing it. I barely graduated and afterwards just went out to work for various mindless 9-5 jobs so that I could play video games the rest of my time.

Fast forward 6 years. I moved to Syracuse, NY in 2010 because I wanted to try something new. I was working at lowes in the electrical department where I struck up a conversation with an Engineering Supervisor at a local firm. She asked where I went to school because I knew a lot about electrical. Ranging from audio/video to lighting (new bulb specs) to how to safetly rewire a house. I didn't go to college. I was informed I could have had an interview with her firm if I had any kind of formal degree. The seed was planted.

As of right now I have 2 associates degrees, one in Engineering Science and the other Electrical Engineering Technology. I graduated top of both of my degree programs at my community college, have an award from the state of New York for my leadership and dedication to the success of my peers (I've been a tutor for 3 years), and now have a full scholarship to UCSD as an Electrical Engineering major.

Having life experiences and going to a community college were by far the best things to happen to me. I will never knock a community college student because I don't know their story. We have the capability to go on to do great things and get into the schools we want as transfers.

Posted by Chris, a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Reading other comments I feel I should add:

I'm a white male.
No one in my family has ever gone to college.
My family is poor.
I'm poor.
I grew up in California, went to CC in NY, but because of AB540 I get in-state tuition so they wouldn't get extra money from me.
Because I went to CC out of state I have to petition to get any transfer credit which isn't even guaranteed, so it's not smooth sailing.
I'm just a kid (28 is still a kid right?) who turned his life around and got into the college he always dreamed of going to.

Life isn't going to suddenly end at 19 if it doesn't go perfectly to begin with. I've learned to enjoy the opportunities that present themselves and live life being as happy as I can. I can't say enough about going to a CC either. It was inexpensive, great people, and all around wonderful experience.

Posted by Lorin, a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2014 at 10:03 am

College is a crap-shoot. My friend's sister did not get into UC Berkeley; however was admitted to Brown University. My suggestion would be to apply to private colleges. Think Carrigie Melon, Standford, a Claremont college ,Reed College, MIT, John Hopkins, ect. maybe more suitable. Additionally I remember had a classmate in high school who everyone thought was a shoe into a top college in D.C. or a top ivy college with their experience the individual ended up at Wellesley College.

My point is look outside the UC box and look where the economy is strong in your chosen field.

Posted by Lorin, a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2014 at 10:43 am

If I may suggest have your your friend and their daughter read "Look Beyond the Ivy" by Loren Pope. Any of those colleges would gladly admit the young lady or at least point her in the direct direction. Such collegs as Reed College is mentioned in the book.
*If you must go the public college route Cal Poly would be an excellent fit. The UC system from what my scientist friends tell me unless you are going to become an engineer, a
doctor, or a rocket scientist you may want to look elsewhere. As far the community college experience due to California budget issues and overall economy the year I was applying to transfer to a public university in California the colleges were not admitting transfer students. At community I had friends who still did not get into a UC but were able to get into Standford as a transfer. Again college admissions is a crap-shoot shot. The are other books by Loren Pope and even a website please read and explore. Network and make lots connections toward your field.

Posted by John, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2014 at 10:51 am

I earned a 4.0 GPA with 6 AP Classes, 4 years of sports, Honor Society member, countless hours of community service, and I didn't get into 3 of my UC choices. Unfortunately, your family is one of the many who got bullshited by all these self-righteous educators who push the UC system down Californian students throats. Your best bet is to try the cal state schools or out-of-state.

Posted by Rodney, a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm

If your daughter is a capable individual she will succeed. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn't go to college. Sure, they were smart enough to get into Harvard and other "top schools", but they were capable individuals to begin with since they were able to create and run multi-billion dollar tech companies right? If you are not as "smart" as these individuals your only chances to brand yourself as an "intelligent" individual to society and most importantly to employers are to attend top schools according to the US News. To succeed, you need intelligence and drive, and maybe drive more than intelligence for some successful individuals, but it really depends on what you are doing. For the sciences and technology categories, you need just as much intelligence as drive. Getting into a top school only measures capability up until that point only, it could or could not foreshadow a successful future. Life is long journey, the attempt at applying to top schools matters just as much as getting into them. It measures your ambition. You got to have ambition before you can succeed. Intelligence + ambition is the formula to succeed. You got to be pretty ambitious to create companies that revolutionized the 20th century in the first place. Most importantly, categorizing yourself in society in accordance to the institution you attend is a mistake even for the people attending the "top schools" according to US News. What matters once you take your last breath is your contributions to the world. Ultimately, (1) figure out your potential, (2) develop an ambition that will take you all the way, and (3) contribute to the world. This is what parents should truly focus on for their kids and the rest will come.

Posted by Change needed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2014 at 9:26 am

This is something that must change in order to save America. Most countries in the world pay for at least a bachelor's degree, many pay for a PhD or master's if the student qualifies. Citizens are given first priority. In this backward nation, wealthy foreigners with pre-paid tuitions are given top priority.

Many students who are well qualified cannot afford college, yet their parents have " too much" income to receive a student loan or a grant, so they are relegated to a lifetime of low wages and employers are forced to look abroad for well-educated employees whose governments paid for their educations.

This is unbelievable nonsense, especially when California law states that California students must be given priority at the UCs. Even Jerry Brown has reminded them of this.

We have also gone back to a time when college was only for the very wealthy---except there are no longer profitable jobs for the non-wealthy people without advanced graduate degrees.

Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel, spends quite a bit of time trying to make our government understand that it MUST start paying for advanced education of qualified students, no payback required, but so far it has fallen on deaf ears.

We have a bunch of do-nothing, apathetic Luddites at the helm of our nation!

Posted by Mangiafuoco, a resident of another community
on Jul 28, 2014 at 5:41 pm

4.00 capped UCGPA
2300 SAT score
rejected by UCB, UCLA, UCSD, Cal Poly SLO
waitlisted by UCD, UCI

Most UCs favor high GPA more than high SAT scores. My 4.00 capped UCGPA is below average.

Posted by Auntie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2014 at 6:23 pm

My nephew recently got into Cal Poly with a 4.5 GPA, but he also received a baseball scholarship, which helped. If you have any athletic or artistic talent, it really helps.

Posted by admit stats, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2014 at 6:06 am

Berkeley looks at 10th and 11th grade fully weighted uncapped and unweighted GPAs: 4.37 and 3.9 admit average
Web Link
Web Link

UCLA: 4.39 and 3.89 admit average.
Web Link

Posted by John, a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2014 at 6:57 am

I got into UCSD's Engineering program as a CC transfer with a 3.8 GPA, no SAT scores (never took them), I'm a California resident, and my UCSD grant covers tuition and housing because I'm older and independent.

Everyone is different and some have life experiences that can make them a stronger applicant that stands out from the other 2000+ SAT score, 100's of hours of community service, varsity sports student.

Posted by Go Elsewhere, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 29, 2014 at 11:33 am

These people who are perpetuating fear are talking about top Ivy Leagues/elite colleges, translated as the top 50 students at each high school. There are plenty of reputable schools which accept lower scores than the top 1% at PAUSD.

We were shocked to see on the Paly graduation program that my son was noted as a "Distinguished Scholar" at Paly due to his 3.5 GPA because all these years these forums and parents had made us believe that any "Bs" would knock him down to CalState schools. And only about 1/4 of the students had the academic distinction. No, people, not every child is attaining the insane GPAs in PAUSD that you read about or imagine. PAUSD is a challenging place, academically.

Be reminded to look for the school with the top ranking in the student's major. My son is attending a school that's ranked in the top 50 of his competitive major. He didn't choose the schools with the best overall reputations because he didn't like those colleges as much and they weren't ranked as high in his particular program.

After the first job, no one really cares where you attended college. Look for the college that is the right fit for your child, rather than just the overall reputation. If your child goes to a college where he feels stupid or too smart, it will be the wrong fit and the time spent will be less enjoyable. Write a list of the perfect campus for your child: urban? Pac-10? Good food? Weather? Greek? Midwest? East Coast? Diversity? South?

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 29, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Posted by Chris, a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm
This is an old thread, but since it has recent activity I'll share my story.

I graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 2004 with a 2.6 GPA, scored 1900 on my SATs (740 math, low reading/writing). I just plain didn't care in high school. I was arrogant, naive and thought anything college could teach me I could just learn myself. I had a low GPA because I'd constantly argue the neccesity of homework when I can score 90+ on tests without doing it. I barely graduated and afterwards just went out to work for various mindless 9-5 jobs so that I could play video games the rest of my time.

Fast forward 6 years. I moved to Syracuse, NY in 2010 because I wanted to try something new. I was working at lowes in the electrical department where I struck up a conversation with an Engineering Supervisor at a local firm. She asked where I went to school because I knew a lot about electrical. Ranging from audio/video to lighting (new bulb specs) to how to safetly rewire a house. I didn't go to college. I was informed I could have had an interview with her firm if I had any kind of formal degree. The seed was planted.

As of right now I have 2 associates degrees, one in Engineering Science and the other Electrical Engineering Technology. I graduated top of both of my degree programs at my community college, have an award from the state of New York for my leadership and dedication to the success of my peers (I've been a tutor for 3 years), and now have a full scholarship to UCSD as an Electrical Engineering major.

Having life experiences and going to a community college were by far the best things to happen to me. I will never knock a community college student because I don't know their story. We have the capability to go on to do great things and get into the schools we want as transfers.


What a wonderful story! Community colleges should not be knocked, nor should life experience. I went to a community college for two years (before transferring to a UC) and had a great experience--really bright, engaging teachers (comparable to the UC professors, and THEY taught the classes, not a T.A.), and the comfort of living at home for those two years. That's what some of us need, and it's not shameful or "less than" in any way.

Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 30, 2014 at 2:35 am

I just saw this blog.

Please encourage your daughter to hold herself high to have worked so hard and achieved good grades and to have excelled in sports and other activities.

It is good to go to these UC schools but not necessarily the end of the world. You may be able transfer; or go to UC for graduate school,,

I worked under two executives at Hughes with outstanding achievements; they are

- Eddy Hartenstein; President of DIRECTV and later LATIMES Publisher;
He went to Cal Poly Pomona and then to Caltech while working at Hughes

- Charles (Chuck) Noski; Vice-Chairman of Bank of America; President Hughes Electronics; Board member - Microsoft
He went to Cal State Northridge; a masters while working full time at Hughes

There are plenty of great schools in California and Arizona besides UC schools; to name a few that my family and friends sent their children to
- Claremont Colleges
- USC is a great school with lots of energy;
University of San Diego; Loyola in Westchester-LA; Pacific Union College; University of Pacific - Stocton; ASU in Tempe with 50,000 + students and great football program; U of Arizona; Cal State Northridge; Cal Poly Pomona & San Louis Obispo.

Please have a wonderful experience wherever you have chosen to go. Bottom line is 'you are top 5% now and strive to be top 5% in college too!

Congratulations to the entire family. It takes a village to get Children to be ready for college.


Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 30, 2014 at 2:52 am

more on UCs
first hand experience: my eldest daughter went to Berkeley in 1997; came with 4.0 GPA; 1430 SAT and 800 in Math portion - University High from Irvine.

UCB is a great school; but it is scary how little they hand hold you. A big shock on how UCB operates and the city with Telegraph Avenue exposure.

I would have liked her to have gone there for graduate school; not as undergraduate. She did finish with two majors and took her 5 years.

There is a second way; some designated Junior colleges have feeder programs to UCs after earning 60 units at the JC level - about 2 years later.

I know it is competitive; yet we have many great schools around us.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:11 am

In this thread I see one of the great reasons for local paper to stay. I would come back this thread occasionally at least until my son graduates from Gunn high school 5 years later. It's full of useful, down-to-earth, real insider comments! So Palo Alto Online, please keep this thread forever.

Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:40 am

You are a great mom/parent.

I wish your children all the success in life and your relationship with your children endures!


Posted by BerkeleyStudent, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2014 at 3:39 pm

I applied to only 3 UC's in 2010: Berkeley, UCLA, and UCSD. I received top Regents Scholarships at 2 out of 3. Without mentioning my multiple varsity-team, drama, foreign language and science achievements, I can say that many of you haven't even begun to compete at an academic level. I was ranked within the top 1% of my 2400 student high school with a 4.8 weighted GPA (straight A's in 14 AP classes taken, 2 college classes on record). 2320 SAT I score with a 2390 combined SAT II score.

I ended up attending Berkeley. Don't underestimate the work ethic of students now.

Posted by iSez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 24, 2014 at 4:29 pm

iSez is a registered user.

@BerkeleyStudent: It's arrogant and naive to only apply to three UCs. I know many students who attend those schools and they did not work as hard as you have. Two students in my PAUSD neighborhood who were accepted the last two years who attend UCB are Nat'l Merit Scholars with extracurriculars that look good on paper. This says nothing of their common sense or aptitude to succeed in life, or their personalities. Sure, they have raw intelligence and participated in activities that appear impressive. In addition, PAUSD students cannot take 14AP classes because they cannot take APs until 11th grade. Your high school must be easier than PAUSD to be able to fit in all the extras.

Conclusion: It's what you do in college that counts. After the first job, no one cares where you were for undergrad studies.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Having taught at a Research University, the incentives are for Professors to publish, not teach. They basically want to spend as little time as possible teaching, with a few exceptions. It's not the end of the world to be rejected by UCB, UCLA and UCSD. There are plenty of good school and you might even get a better education at one of them than these UC's.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2014 at 6:37 am

A friend's family:
Oldest daughter 4.0+ (AP's) and 2000+ SAT. Accepted to UCSB Honors and Cal Poly Honors. Turned down by UCLA, USC, Duke.
Younger daughter (2 years), same GPA, scores, activities...accepted to UCLA, USC, Duke, etc.

Every year brings different criteria, different competition.

Posted by UCSD Student, a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2014 at 5:16 am

How is it naive to only apply to three UC schools? I only applied to one, UCSD, because I didn't want to spend $600 in application fees. I also applied to RIT and Cornell. I was accepted to UCSD and RIT, but denied at Cornell. I applied to schools that did well advertising UG opportunities in the degree depth that I'm interested in. It had nothing to do with the name of the school and everything to do with what courses that were taught.

I ultimately decided to go to UCSD because they were more research oriented whereas RIT was more focused on preparing students to work in industry.

Apply to schools that fit your interests, not ones that you think will look better on paper.

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

The dress code
By Jessica T | 21 comments | 1,860 views

Two Days to Save This Dog?
By Cathy Kirkman | 15 comments | 1,229 views

September food and drink goings on
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,225 views

. . . People will never forget how you made them feel.
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,223 views

It Depends... Disguising Real Characters in Fiction
By Nick Taylor | 0 comments | 397 views