Being in California, UC schools are very important to many of my students. Many of their parents have attended UC schools, and the system’s stellar reputation combined with its low price tag make these schools top choices for many of my students and their families. Admissions decisions for UC schools will be released during the month of March, bringing good news — and some disappointment — to high school students around the world. But for some students, the decision lies between yes and no, in the form of a waiting list.
One of the challenging things about the UC application is that there is one form that covers all schools. So whether you’re applying to one school or multiple schools, you can only submit one application, one set of essays, and a list of your activities and accomplishments. When all schools see the same materials, there is no opportunity to specifically discuss what you like about a particular school. Unless you are invited to join the waiting list.
Many colleges will accept and even encourage waitlisted students to submit new information. It could be your most recent quarterly grades to show colleges that your upward trend continues. Or it could be an award or honor you’ve received in the past few months. But UCs are unique in that they have a required essay for students who want to be placed on the waiting list. The UC Davis notice reads: “Tell us briefly why you think UC Davis is the right place to continue your education.” Students may bemoan the fact that they have to write another essay for their college applications, but I see this as a wonderful opportunity to tell a college why you’re interested in going there and why you’re still excited months later. you submitted your application for the first time.
The key to this type of essay is to be personal. I always encourage my students to think about how other students might respond to this message. They are likely to talk about how strong the [insert your major] program is. They might say something about how nice the campus is. You could talk about how much you like the city of Davis, the facilities, or the sports teams. But these answers are missing a crucial element: why is that important to you? And besides, why is that unique to UC Davis? Maybe you like campus because you grew up in a city and love the idea of looking out your bedroom window and seeing open fields miles away. Maybe you like the city of Davis because when you visited, you found this quirky coffee shop where a group of students were studying together, and you immediately imagined yourself there, having intellectual debates over cold coffee. Whatever the reason, you need to make it specific to the school and specific to you. So if you get the chance to write one of these essays, throw it away and provide the most compelling reasons why it’s a perfect fit.