I am a rising senior sorting through what schools I want to apply to. As of right now I have a total of 16 schools, two of which are UCs. Since all UC schools use one application and I qualify for a fee waiver to two schools, a while ago I decided to apply to UCLA and Berkeley. Now that I have done more research into both schools I found out that both are outrageously expensive since I am an out of state applicant. I am low income and neither schools offers much in financial aid. Large scholarships are not a guarantee and typically given only to a select few. My fear is that I will not be able to afford the tuition. I really like UCLA but I'm not too keen about Berkeley (I can apply to it for no extra cost and there are no additional supplements so why not try?) The only burden that applying would impose is the time I would have to spend on the UC application as opposed to other schoolwork or university applications. While the opportunity cost of applying is low, will the outcome even be worth it? It is hard enough to get in, but to get a scholarship that would cover enough of the tuition for me to go is unfathomable. Should I apply regardless of the fact that I more than likely would not be able to afford it? Or should I focus my time on schools I can afford/will give me sufficient financial aid? Thanks!
I'm going to be honest — the UCs do not typically give substantial financial aid to out-of-state students. The only exception is the Regents or Chancellor's scholarships, which are extremely academically competitive. And considering the UC application is fairly time-consuming, I would focus on schools that would give you sufficient financial aid. However that doesn't mean sacrificing on competitiveness or quality of the schools; it's more about substituting out-of-state public schools for a) your flagship state school if it's a strong one and b) private colleges that offer to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need.
Basically, if you're strong enough as an applicant to get into UCLA or Berkeley, you could absolutely get into a school like Rice, Emory, Vanderbilt, Carnegie Mellon, etc., where you would in all likelihood receive significant need-based aid. If you feel your application and scores are even stronger, you could conceivably apply to places like Harvard or Yale, which are effectively free for students whose families make below ~$60,000/yr and offer significant aid to people making as much as $150k-175k/yr.
I think that if you do not want to go to UC Berkeley and you know that it is out of your price range, then do not apply. While it is a shame that financial aid will not cover a majority of the cost, it is the unfortunate reality. Normally I would say apply anyway, but the cons outweigh the pros in this scenario.
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