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Breaking Down California’s Public Universities

Welcome back to your EDGE College Resource Blog! Today’s topic: California’s Public Universities. Join us as we break down the UC and CSU systems for you!

Today’s bloggers are Kelsey MacIlvaine, 2005 EDGE alumni and Humboldt State University graduate, and LeeAnn Patrick, 2009 EDGE alumni and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) graduate.

What are UCs and CSUs?

They are the two public California university systems. The University of California (UC) system consists of Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, UCLA, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. The California State University (CSU) system has 23 campuses across California, including San Jose, San Diego, Chico, Northridge, Humboldt, Long Beach, San Francisco, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State Maritime (where we hosted EDGE this year!) and many more.

Why are UCs and CSUs important? Why should we know what they are?

Kelsey: Many of them are front-runners in research, athletics or the arts. They’re also public and therefore (seemingly) cheaper than private universities

LeeAnn: As California’s two public school systems, it is important to know about what they can provide to you in terms of education. These schools have reduced in-state tuition for applicants living in California, but students travel from all over the world to attend. The UC schools are more expensive than the CSU schools, and they receive more applications per year, making them a bit harder to get into.

What is your personal experience with this topic?

Kelsey: I started at San Jose State and finished at Humboldt State. I have many friends that attended UCs. I was an orientation leader at HSU so became really familiar with that system.

LeeAnn: I attended UCLA after high school, and I applied to a lot of colleges – both public and private!

Timeline—When should students learn more about and/or apply to UCs and CSUs?

LeeAnn: It’s never too early to start learning about college options! Around junior year of high school is when you’ll probably start doing your research and campus visits, if you are planning on attending a four-year college right after high school. You’ll want to make sure all your tests and courses are in order for the schools you want to apply to before you start your senior year, then you will apply during the fall of your senior year. The application for UC system schools is open during the month of November for fall admission for the following year, though some individual schools open earlier. For CSU schools, the window is from the beginning of October through the end of November.

What are some resources, or tips and tricks you think are helpful for this topic?

Kelsey: UCs require additional testing in order to apply (at least, they did back in 2007), so make sure to check the application requirements for the school you want to apply to. Each system has a universal application for their campuses that makes it easy to apply to many at once (and why not!). Both systems are great opportunities for transferring: you can start at a community college or a different CSU and then finish at another.

LeeAnn: Your best bet is to check admissions sites directly for application requirements. Deadlines and application requirements can change pretty regularly. Here’s some helpful information about applying to the UC system as a freshman. And here’s the equivalent site for the CSU system. If you need help paying for school, you’ll also want to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and any scholarships you can get your hands on. There will be a later article on the EDGE College Resource blog about financial aid!

Any final comments?

Kelsey: Both systems are highly reputable. I think we lean more toward UCs, but just because their athletics programs are better does not mean they’re ultimately better. If you are interested in a specific topic and a certain UC is the front-runner for that in research, it’s worth it. Otherwise, you can accomplish everything else college provides at a CSU, and for cheaper.

LeeAnn: Do your research! You should check the course and testing requirements for the specific school you want to attend before your senior year starts. You need passing grades in specific courses in order to be considered for many of these schools, so if you’re missing something, make sure you can cover it your senior year. Some AP testing can actually take the place of introductory college courses as well, so if that appeals to you, make sure you know what counts. Research is your best friend here, and it will save you a lot of trouble and stress down the line!

Thank you Kelsey and LeeAnn for your words of wisdom about California’s Public Universities! Keep an eye on our College Resources page for a new article every two weeks! Got UC or CSU questions that still need answering? Comment below!

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