Tougher Standards for UCLA Transfers

"It doesn't feel real!" said Logan Yuzna, 21, about his recent admission to UCLA from Santa Monica College. Yuzna is transferring as a European Studies major with a 3.56 GPA. When he read he was admitted for the fall quarter of 2009, he says: "I felt really good but couldn't believe it."

But Yuzna is part of the few lucky ones who got into their dream school. According to the UCLA admissions website more than 16,000 transfer students applied this year and 32 percent of them got accepted to UCLA.

According to Daniel Nannini, SMC Transfer Center Coordinator, there was a 28 percent increase in the number of applicants throughout the state between 2008 and 2009. "I was in shock," said Nannini about this augmentation. But even though there are more applicants, UCLA cannot take more students, according to Nannini.

"Most people thought I was joking when I told them I didn't get accepted," said Elisa Tharp, 21, who applied to UCLA in Communication Studies with a 3.90 GPA. When she found out she was not in, she said: "I was blindsided... I was horrified and very disappointed, because I felt my hard work was not recognized."

According to the UCLA website, this year 82 transfer applicants out of 902 got into Communication Studies. The average GPA of the admitted 9 percent was 3.95. Communications Studies is UCLA's most competitive major this year (right after the nursing major where the two students who got accepted have a 4.00 GPA). With her high GPA, Tharp was then part of the competitive ones, so what went wrong?   

Nannini says a high GPA is not the only requirement, "it is a balance of everything." Applications to the UC include two essays and according to Nannini "an essay is less judgmental than just grades," which is why they are an important part of an application.

Tharp believes the economic downturn played a role in decisions this year.

"My academic credentials were impeccable so that cannot be the reason," she said.  She went on to explain when school budgets are cut, teachers get laid off, so they offer fewer classes. Also, according to Tharp and Nannini, more people go to school or come back to school because of the crisis and unemployment.

But last year SMC was still by far the number one in transfer, "and we assume it will be the same for this year, we won't know until November," said Nannini.

Tharp decided to appeal UCLA's decision and attended Nannini's appeal workshop, where according to him, there were more people than any other year. To appeal, the applicant writes a personal letter with "new and compelling information" by May 22, as required by the UC.

Nannini explains that usually, appeals work if you forgot to report a grade or if you explain unusual personal information about yourself that you did not give in your previous essays.

"Be ready to hear no again," said Nannini. The appeal committee rereads your whole application and it is unlikely that they come back on their decision.

If you apply to an impacted major such as Communication or Economics, "as a student, you have to know if what matters is your school or your major," he said. If you are really passionate about your major, "be mentally ready to go to a backup school," he said.

Nannini then advices if you just want to go to a school like UCLA, it is a good idea to apply for a major such as Anthropology (where almost 75 percent of the applicants were admitted). "I know people with lower qualifications who got in for less competitive majors, so I think it is unfair because it shows that UCLA is not properly dealing with impacted majors," said Tharp.

Tharp was accepted to UC San Diego but decided to submit a late application to USC. "I have now turned to the private sector because the public sector is not being fair and rewarding good students," she said.

For the 68 percent of applicants who were not admitted to UCLA (or their first choice school, Nannini says: "your diploma in the long run doesn't determine your success; it is rather how well you do in your first job, then second job, and so on…"