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Applying to the University of California Schools


The University of California school system is a premier system for different universities with a central application system. The UC application system encompasses the following schools:

  • UC Berkeley 

  • UC Los Angles 

  • UC San Diego  

  • UC Irvine 

  • UC Davis

  • UC Riverside

  • UC San Francisco (Graduate only) 

  • UC Santa Barbra 

  • UC Santa Cruz

  • UC Merced


Each UC School handles admissions separately, but students wishing to apply for undergraduate admission use one application for all UCs. The following is a guide detailing the most important information one needs for applying to any of the UC schools

It should be noted that the UC system does not require nor will it read Letters of Recommendations or that you sent them your transcripts (not until you're accepted and commit to the university)

Starting the application:


The actual UC application can be found here. The application can be accessed beginning on October 1st of the application year and the final deadline for submission is November 30th of the application year. All test scores, such as SATs and ACTs, must be submitted by January 15th at the latest.


After creating an account you should make sure you have the following for filling out the application:


  • Academic Records (Official English Translations of Transcripts

  • Test Scores (SAT, ACT + Writing, APs, TOEFL)

  • Estimated Household Income (optional)

  • Citizenship Status (Passport)

  • Credit or Debit card

After the initial information section, you will be asked about your current citizenship status. If you currently hold an  American passport, view this guide. If you are a national of an Arab country, you will most likely need an F-1 Student visa. Therefore you should check the “Non-Immigrant/Foreign Visa” box and put your intended visa as an F-1 Student Visa (unless you currently have one).

Once you continue, you will be asked to check the campuses you intend to apply to. The official UC application website encourages students to apply to more than one and to diversify with regards to admissions ratings. Most former applicants would recommend applying to only 3-4 of your top choices and to research each campus beforehand.The next page presented is the scholarship page. Here you can list your personal characteristics that might make you eligible for a scholarship in the UC system. 

About You Section:


With regards to language question in the “About you” page, most students from  Arab countries would likely answer with “Arabic alone” as the first language unless otherwise true. When asked “Do you receive financial support from a parent/legal guardian? For example, can a parent/legal guardian claim you as a dependent?” the question asks if you are financial supported by your family as of now, that means school, food, housing, etc. For most Arab student applying from the Middle East the answer would be yes.


By “headed by a single parent” the question is meant to ask if your father/mother is a single parent. For example a widow/widower who has not remarried would be considered a single head for the family. As for family income, the income is measured in a single year. For this question simply calculate the combined income of your legal guardians (parents) in a single year and multiple it by the current currency exchange rate for your country.

Academic History Section:


When entering the math and English question part, read the instructions carefully and see what applies to your specific case. In the Special Curriculum section, most Arab schools fall into either “year round”. When searching for your school code, it is very common for Arab students not to have their schools listed. 


After adding school(s) which you attended during grades 9 through 12, you will be directed to a page which asks for your high school grades and so on. Depending on your educational system, it may be very different, however for the majority, simply input the translated names of your courses. For most Arab schools, if your course does not explicitly state “AP” or “honors” then they should simply be entered as “regular”. It is crucial that all the information you input be exactly matching to your official documents. Any deviation found once matriculated may result in harsh penalties.


Finally, you’ll get to the “Additional Comments” section of the Academic History portion. Here you can put anything that elaborates your school educational system. For instance, if you’re from a Saudi government school, you can put that you had a predetermined schedule, which meant you didn’t get to choose your classes. So you should just put any information that will give context to your transcript.


Activities and Awards Section:


Educational Preparation Programs: Here you should list all the programs you’ve attended so far. Such examples would be the Saudi Research Science Institute, or the Aramco Gifted Summer Program and Summer for the Gifted (SIG). This does not include any volunteering experience or jobs you may have; there are dedicated sections for both.


The main difference between Educational Preparation Programs and Extracurricular Activities is when they were done. Educational programs tend to be in the summer and separate from your school, while extracurriculars are usually done as part of the school, or during the school year (however, if you volunteer at a homeless shelter or orphanage during the summer, it is mostly considered an extracurricular). Example of  an extracurricular activity would be the school soccer team, or an Arabic poetry club.


The most important part of this section is to display your work well. You have to make sure that you do not give dull explanations of your activities and awards, but that you do not exaggerate as well. Making the listings as attractive as possible while still maintaining their integrity is the key.


Personal Statement:


Much of what you need to know here is on the application website, or in the Essay section of Qimmah click here. You can see examples of UC essays which were admitted on the Essay Sample section.


The “Additional Comments” section of the personal statement is basically your chance to tell anything you want about yourself in the essay. The best use of it is to write something you couldn’t before because of the prompts. Again, this section has no prompts whatsoever and you should take the opportunity to be unique and tell something the admissions committee should know.  But remember, it is not compulsory, therefore adding comments just for the sake of filling in the box can hurt your chances.

After Applying:


In early to mid-January, each campus the student applied to will email them to create a login username and password for access to the campus’ applicant portal. This is the site in which the admission decision will be posted along with other important information, such as you application status. Check this site frequently to make sure your application is on the right track and that all your scores were received.


Sending your scores has to be directly through the test providers website. For example, you can only send your SAT 1 and SAT 2 scores through the official CollegeBoard website, and your TOEFL through the official ETS website.

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