14 Factors Colleges Look for in Admissions

I recently read an interesting article by Peter Kuo about state bill SCA-5. He believes the bill will discriminate against Asians in college admissions. It’s called reverse discrimination by many. Because of this, he’s running for the state senate.

images-7His article hit home, because of my own kid. We thought every school would be clambering for him to come to their schools, but he received small letters — instead of big packages — by 8 out of 9 universities. I don’t know for sure, but it seems this phenomenon called reverse discrimination might have been at play for him, too.

My son and friend at high school graduation.

My son and friend at high school graduation.


He had a resume as a high school student that most adults would envy. Things like top 10 student in the county, Boys’ State, a talented swimmer and musician, a tutor in math and english, president of the Latin and JSA clubs, awarded honors for academics by John Hopkins. Add to that valedictorian and high SAT scores, and community service — who wouldn’t want him? Well, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Cal, UCLA and USC to name a few.

imgres-1Because of his GPA, the UC’s had to take him. (It’s called Identification by UC as being ranked in the top 9 percent of your high school class at the end of your junior year Eligible in the Local Context or ELC). So, he ended up at UCSB. At first he didn’t like it, because he was sorely disappointed with the flood of rejections. But, after getting through his freshman year, he began to thrive and love his new home.

Personally, I think I would have chosen UCSB over all the other schools he applied to. There’s something to say for being surrounded by the gorgeous majesty of mother nature every single moment of your day!  Also, I’m not sure the “big name” schools are all they are cracked up to be. Here’s an interesting article on this subject.  Of course, it’s up for debate, and if he’d been accepted to Stanford, I’m sure we’d have loved it!

View of the breathtaking UCSB campus.

View of the breathtaking UCSB campus.

So, what do universities look for when reading applications? There are 14 key factors that the UC schools use. Each UC campus has a few extras they consider  Here’s one point that stood out for me that my son didn’t have in the list of 14:

  1. Academic accomplishments in light of your life experiences and special circumstances, including but not limited to: disabilities, low family income, first generation to attend college, need to work, disadvantaged social or educational environment, difficult personal and family situations or circumstances, refugee status or veteran status.

You can read about all 14 factors here

At Cal Berkeley they add another factor that my son didn’t have:

In addition to a broad range of intellectual interests and achievements, admission readers seek diversity in personal background and experience.”

On the UC websites  it specifically states: “Race, ethnicity, gender, and religion are excluded from the criteria.” But in the factors I’ve highlighted, I see a large loop-hole to do just that — diversity in personal background?

So what could my son have done differently to be accepted? Intern at a major university with a professor and be published in journals? Or begin the ‘comic con of the desert’ he talked about?

Or, he could have stuck with his 12 years of swimming. Swimming can and will open doors to higher education. I’ve written a lot about swimming and college admissions in my blog.

Swimming opens doors for college.

Swimming opens doors for college.

On the other hand, my son studied, loved learning, was hard working and followed his passions.

In the end, you have to learn to be happy where you are. Making it into a name brand school, or being denied admissions to the school of your dreams isn’t the end of the world. Your four years in college — where ever you may be — are only as good as you make them.

Do you have any experiences with rejections from colleges? Please comment. I’d love to hear about them.

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What to do and say when you’re facing an empty nest, or Is there life after kids? Part 1.

openwaterfinish“What are you going to do after Kat leaves?” I’ve been asked more than a few times. Yes, I’m facing an empty nest, with a soon to be senior at UCSB and my youngest going off to Utah to swim in college.

christmas cardI asked a friend the same thing last year when her youngest left for college. She said it’s unbelievable how many people ask that. She’s a busy person and didn’t think that was going to stop because her kids were living away from home. She liked to answer the question with, “I’ll be taking up underwater, upside down yoga basket-weaving.”

piano lessonsI remember when this friend and I carried our youngest on our hips, and watched our first graders begin their day with an assembly in a courtyard lined with fragrant rosemary bushes. Our babies would wriggle off our hips and run to the playground. I won’t forget the day they were escorted back to us by a horrified teacher that told us they had called their older siblings “poop heads.” Oh my! Those were the days!

friendsatbeachFor the past 25 years I have been serving as a volunteer in one form or another — and the majority of my time has been caring for others. I’ve served on boards of Ad Club and Junior League — in my life before kids. Then the preschool and elementary school boards, room mom for years, National Charity League, the swim team board, etc. It’s been a busy life, filled with great memories and friendships.

katyawnI’ve been changing diapers, wiping noses, making late night trips to the ER with sick or hurt kids, and cooking, cleaning, and driving.

It’s now going to be time for me! Isn’t that an exciting thought?

So, what am I going to do? I’ll let you know at a later date.katandrobertPhotos are from the past 21 years of being a mom. From the top: Kat at June 2014 Open Water National Championships, Robert and Kat at sunset sailing in Santa Barbara, one of 12 years of piano lessons for Robert, at the beach with friends, baby Kat yawning, and a 1997 Christmas card photo.

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar … or, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby…

imagesDuring my weekend visit with my son at UCSB, we discovered how far women have come from my generation to his. (Yes, I’m talking about the same son that tried to give away the cat on Facebook — read about that here. And, he’s the one that wrote about his crazy mom for his senior project — read about that here.)imgres-1

We were out to dinner at The Palms in Carpinteria, where you grill your own steaks or halibut, with one of my best friends, my son Robert, and his girlfriend (She’s a poet and an CCS English Lit major. You can read some of her poetry here).

imgresMy friend and I talked about home ec, and we wondered if it was offered as a major in this day and age? My mom was a home ec major in the 1950s, by the way.

My son said, “They really DID have an MRS degree!”

“Not only was it a college major,” I said, “but we were required to take home ec in high school.”

“Only the girls, that is,” my friend said.

“WHAT?!” both Robert and his girlfriend were horrified. How alien to their lives is a gender-based school requirement. We explained that the boys took wood-working or shop.

My son thought for minute and asked, “What did you learn in home ec?”

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“Scrambled eggs, sewing an apron, sex ed, how to clip coupons and general household budgeting,” I answered.P1017847

“All of those things should be taught to men and women,” the kids said.  

I think they are right.

Thinking of those days, made me remember the Virginia Slims cigarette campaign which began in 1968, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!” 

Also, Helen Reddy, and her song, “I Am Woman.” 

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Do colleges or high schools still offer home ec? Do you think home ec should be required for both men and women? Let me know your thoughts.

Are Tragedies on Campus the New Normal and Other Thoughts from a UCSB Mom

ucsbFriday night, I had tucked myself into bed when the phone rang. It was my son — a student at University of California, Santa Barbara. 

“Mom! There’s a drive-by shooter. A guy in a black BMW is randomly shooting people in IV! We can’t get home. Everything’s on lockdown.”

This was not a call I was expecting. Nor, one I wanted to receive.

Saturday afternoon, he called again. “I just went to the store. We’re on lockdown again and I can’t get home.” 

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Friday night the lockdown was because of the shootings and crashing of the BMW. Saturday, the police were removing male roommates from the killer’s apartment building.

l followed the story closely on the news. It’s almost all I could do for most of the weekend. I don’t understand why there was a leap to call this a hate crime and a war on women — and the fault of the NRA — when three victims were males who had been stabbed to death. I don’t understand why it happened, or how it could have been prevented. I believe the rush to judgement was an attempt to try to make sense or find a cause for this horrific tragedy. ucsblagoon

My heart and prayers go to all the families at UCSB. It’s been a tough year. I think the great academic accomplishments of the school are being overshadowed by tragedy. There’s too much trauma for students to digest. I wonder how these events will affect our kids in their future lives? Read about the academic accomplishments of UCSB in the LA Times here.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from my son during the Deltopia riots. I wrote it about Deltopia here.images-5

Then, weeks before that I saw on the TV about a UCSB Women’s Studies professor denying a pro-life teenager her right to free speech by assaulting her and cutting up her poster. I wrote about that here.imgres-8

Add that to the weekly emails about a meningitis outbreak, and it hasn’t been a stellar year for UCSB parents, students, or the faculty.

The frantic fear in my son’s voice is not what I envisioned hearing. I am sure this is not isolated at UCSB, but must becoming more common at universities across our country. Is this the new normal for our kids? They aren’t experiencing the carefree college years that we did. Where did that world go?ucsbeach
Photos from the top: UCSB campus overlooking the lagoon. A view from a dorm room at UCSB. Across the lagoon to the ocean. A Deltopia party picture. The confrontation between the Women’s Studies Professor and teen-age pro-life advocate. The view of the beach from UCSB campus.