The Odds of Getting into Berkeley or UCLA

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Some high schools prepare teenagers for college better than others.


But here’s something that many parents in California don’t realize. Sending your child to a top high school could reduce their chances of getting into UCLA or Berkeley.

During the past couple of weeks, I’ve run into parents who are mystified and angry that their teenagers didn’t get into these UC schools. One of these parents is my physician whose brilliant daughter had a nearly perfect SAT and grades to match at one of the top public high schools in San Diego County. The daughter of friend, who is an investment advisor, had the same kind of stats and she attends a private high school.

While I was hearing their complaints, a girl in my son’s carpool at High Tech High was rejoicing that she got into UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and every other UC she applied to. Her SAT score was about 350 points less than the scores of each of the overachieving girls. Her SAT subject tests weren’t great either.

So what gives?

The girl with the lower scores attends a school that is in the ELC (Eligibility in the Local Context) program, which represents one of the three paths to UC freshmen eligibility. According to the rules, the top 4% of students at ELC high schools are qualified to attend a UC school based on their coursework, but not necessarily their first choice. The goal of ELC is to boost the eligibility pool to the kind of kids who might not otherwise be eligible for a UC.

ELC schools tend to be lower-income and diverse, but the girl in my carpool is white and Jewish.

How much easier is it to get to a UC campus by being near the top of the class at an ELC school? Here’s an example: Berkeley admits about 21% of applicants, but 56% of ELC students. If you don’t know if your teen’s school is in the ELC program, you might want to ask.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also write a college blog for

Further Reading:

Why It Will Be Tougher Getting Into UC Berkeley.

Why State Flagship Universities Are Rejecting More Students

University of California Admissions Changes

University of California:  A Fading Reputation?

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2 Responses to “The Odds of Getting into Berkeley or UCLA”

  1. courtney says:

    i want to know how much it is to get into UCLA and what gpa do you need to get in? is it hard to get accepted? or no? i wanna know

  2. Lynn says:


    To get into UCLA you need to be in the top 10% of your high school class. You also need to have a GPA that is 3.75 or above. You can get a lot of freshmen admission stats by getting UCLA’s Common Data Set.

    You can find blog posts about the Common Data Set on my site. Good luck.

    Lynn O’Shaughnessy

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