UC admissions reach record highs for California freshmen, underrepresented students and community college transfers

Following an unprecedented year marked by the coronavirus pandemic, hybrid instruction and travel restrictions, the University of California announced today (July 19) that its campuses made record-breaking admission offers to a new class of undergraduates for fall 2021.

Systemwide freshman admissions jumped 11 percent over 2020, rising to 132,353 from 119,054. Admission of California freshmen reached an all-time high this year with 84,223 students, an increase of 5.34 percent over the 79,953 from 2020. Students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups comprise 43 percent of admitted California freshmen, the highest proportion of an incoming undergraduate class and the greatest number in UC history at 36,462.

The University also admitted the largest-ever class of California Community College transfer students, notching up to 28,453 from 28,074, a year-over-year increase of 1.35 percent. The vast majority of these transfer students are California residents (25,700). Notably, 53 percent will be the first in their family to earn a four-year college degree.

“These remarkable numbers are a testament to the hard work and resiliency of students and their families across California,” said President Michael V. Drake, M.D. “I am particularly heartened by the social and economic diversity of those offered a place at UC. Fall will be an exciting time on our campuses.”

Other highlights include Latinx students comprising the largest ethnic group (37 percent) of admitted California freshmen for a second time, up nearly 9 percent to 31,220 from 28,662, following the previous record in 2020. Systemwide, admissions of African-American students grew by 15.6 percent, rising to 4,608 from 3,987 in 2020. Meanwhile, admission of California freshmen who would be first-generation college students held steady at 45 percent.

There are also remarkable achievements across campuses. The locations with the greatest annual overall year-over-year freshman admission gains include UC Davis up 19.2 percent (42,726 from 35,838), UC Irvine up 6.9 percent (31,261 from 29,245) and UC San Diego up 6 percent (40,616 from 38,305). UC Merced had the highest percentage of first-generation resident freshman admissions (59 percent) with a total of 13,136. UC San Diego had the highest number of community college transfers (11,358), an increase of nearly 4 percent. 

“As the data make clear, UC is continuing to honor its commitment to guarantee admission to high-performing California high school students and providing a clear pathway for talented community college students to join us,” said Han Mi Yoon-Wu, executive director of Undergraduate Admissions at UC. “We are proud to be able to welcome so many exceptional young people to UC.”

Several factors may explain the rise in admissions. Fall 2021 applications from California freshmen were up more than 13 percent, rising to 128,266 from 113,471 in 2020. Campuses made efforts to admit as many qualified California students as space could allow given the expanded pool of highly qualified, hardworking students this year. The end of UC’s standardized testing requirement may have also encouraged more students to apply.

Additionally, in recognition of the many challenges COVID-19 posed for prospective students and their families, the University made temporary adjustments to admission requirements, including suspending the letter-grade requirement for high school classes taken in winter, spring or summer terms of 2020 and the full 2020–21 academic year. UC also provided flexibility for students who needed more time to meet registration, deposit and transcript deadlines last year. UC hoped these changes would further support students who faced barriers during a challenging year marked by cancelled classes and schools that switched to pass/fail grading.

The preliminary admission figures released today include applicants admitted from waitlists and freshman and transfer referral pools. The data are subject to change as campuses verify that conditions of admission are met.

Data tables with campus-specific information for both freshmen and transfer students are available here.