2 years ago
Admissions Advice

How to be a competitive applicant?

Hello- I am a 9th grader starting to plan out my courses to best prepare to apply to universities such as UCLA, UCSD, Berkeley. I participate in three sports and am involved in several volunteering activity and leadership roles.

I am interested in math and business related topics. I would appreciate suggestions on the types of HS classes I should take to help me be a competitive applicant?

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Accepted Answer
2 years ago[edited]

The glaring observation I can immediately make is that your 3 dream schools are all Division I [public schools so unless you intend to become a DI recruited athlete, there is no practical reason to be doing 3 sports. Even if you love sports and I personally think it looks good on an application to be Varsity Team Captain because it shows leadership, I would recommend just sticking with the one you are the best at. For instance, if you are doing water polo, swimming, and lacrosse but you are best at water polo, I'd stick with that, and in the off-season like winter or spring, join a Club team or go to clinics to tweak your skillset. If you become a really good water polo player, you still might not get recruited into a DI school but there are plenty of DIII schools in CA like Occidental, CMC, Pitzer, Pomona, Chapman, Santa Clara, etc that might recruit you and give you a 1/2 tuition scholarship or a full one.

Since you are only in 9th grade, you can't exactly predict what is going to happen in your academics, ECs, athletic ability, etc. so it's best to keep your options open and make strategic decisions that are flexible rather than be laser-focused a couple of schools.

Regardless of where you apply, grades and course rigor are the most important criteria so my advice is to get as many As as possible and take the most challenging classes. You can be a 4.0 GPA student but if you don't have many honors or APs under your belt, you won't look competitive. Also, when you take APs, the whole point besides course rigor is to do well on the AP exams so you can get college credit for them. At UC schools, you are going to need at least 3s on the AP exams, preferably 4s and 5s to get full credit at UCLA and Berkeley. While the UC system has eliminated the SAT and ACT requirement, if you are going to be competitive at NON-UC schools, I highly recommend that save some space in your HS career to prep for either the ACT or SAT.

ECS is important but tries to narrow them down to things that are very impactful to your immediate community that is measurable. So if you are just volunteering to get the hours for the National Honors Society, that is not impactful and meaningful because NHS is not a biggie these days. And neither is setting up a charity or non-profit that you are not going to stick with during college and beyond. A lot of kids think "oh, I'll fundraise and do this charity work so it looks good on my college application". But A.O.s know that most applicants just pad their application with variations of this and they are really not trying to keep it going or pass it on to the next group of HS kids in their school. So it's always best to do something that you are truly passionate about that has positively affected the lives of people in your community.

Here are some pre-recorded livestreams about the 3 schools you are targeting put together by the experts at CollegeVine.




What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
+ add school
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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