Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times

Essential California: UC admissions still a tough waiting game

Email sent: May 12, 2021 8:41am
What's the latest on a wild UC admissions process? Bryan Jue, acting director of undergraduate admissions at UC Irvine, offers an update.
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Los Angeles Times

Essential California
PRESENTED BY Rebuild SoCal Partnership* 

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, May 12. I’m Kimi Yoshino, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

If you know any high school seniors, you’ve had a front-row seat to a season full of anticipation and now, nail-biting, as they stand by for final wait-list decisions in a college admissions cycle like no other.

Times higher education reporter Teresa Watanabe has chronicled much of the drama in a series of stories, including one on the first wave of admissions — and the heartbreak and joy that came with it. She also wrote recently about what UC says about the chances of being plucked from a waitlist.

I decided to check in with Bryan Jue, acting director of undergraduate admissions at UC Irvine, for the latest. He said it’s still too early to release any admissions data on their 108,000 freshman applicants. The next two to three weeks will be about fine tuning — what happens at one UC campus can affect the others as they balance acceptances, diversity goals and other targets.

Q: How was this year’s admission process different?

A: The biggest thing in terms of reviewing the application was the lack of standardized tests. That was definitely a challenge. When you don’t have that number, it forces you to dive in deeper to other parts of the application. It made us look at other things. We focused in on other aspects of the application. The more information the students gave us, it really helped us get to know them a lot better.

UC Irvine
UC Irvine (Steve Zylius / UC Irvine)

Q: After two crazy years — first with less interest during the pandemic and now with pent-up demand — we really don’t know what to expect next year. What advice would you give to rising seniors?

A: Students need to give us the story behind the numbers. We see your grades, we see the activities. Give us a little bit of information of what it takes to get to that level. If you’re a team captain, how much extra time does it take? Do you have to work to support the family? Do you have to do all these chores at home? Are there things you were able to overcome?

I recommend them being open-minded to lots of different programs at UCI. To be accurate, 57% of our students apply to only 10 majors, undeclared being one of them, which is great, but we have 85 different majors and I believe students should stay open-minded and not feel they have to only apply to a major that is perceived to be successful. There are lots of great majors that can still lead to very successful careers and job opportunities.

Q: With no campus visits or in-person orientation, how are you helping incoming and prospective students?

A: We weren’t really trying to do too much to sell them on anything or win them over, We just made ourselves available to answer students’ questions. We actually started an online virtual live tour. Every Wednesday and Friday, students can sign up and walk around with a current tour guide. Our first day doing it, almost 800 people signed up and 500 showed up. [Jue said the tour guides can also answer questions in real time through a live-chat function. The school also offers live chats with counselors, current students and parents.]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

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Hundreds of protesters in Orange County blasted a proposal to issue digital “vaccine passports” that provide proof of vaccination status. The public outcry comes as Orange County prepares to widen openings as early as next week when it moves into the less restrictive yellow tier. (Los Angeles Times)

Fires related to homelessness have nearly tripled in Los Angeles in the past three years, occurring at a rate of 24 a day in the first quarter of 2021. The fires — which killed seven homeless people in 2020 and have caused tens of millions of dollars in damage — are one consequence of the growing number of makeshift shelters, tents and campers on city streets. (This story is exclusive to Los Angeles Times subscribers.)

Will the A’s leave Oakland? Major League Baseball gave the team approval to explore a new market as the A’s continue their lengthy hunt for a new stadium. One betting site puts Las Vegas as the frontrunner. (Los Angeles Times/San Francisco Chronicle)


California teenagers ages 12 to 15 could start getting vaccinated this week. Now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared the Pfizer vaccine safe for children in that age group, health officials expect the state’s website to start taking appointments on Thursday. (Los Angeles Times)

COVID-19 has called attention to many disparities, but what about for large-sized people? There’s a clash going on between the medical establishment and the fat acceptance movement, including over basic terminology such as “morbidly obese” versus “fat.” (Los Angeles Times)


The Hollywood Bowl is back. The L.A. landmark may be a great spot for those nervous about re-engaging in public life; 85% of the seats will be reserved for vaccinated guests. Here’s what we know so far about the summer schedule. (Los Angeles Times)

The newest mega-mansion builders are celebrity plastic surgeons. And yes, it’s as over-the-top as it sounds. Think DJ platforms on a hydraulic lift and “World of Color” Disney-esque light shows in the swimming pool. (Wall Street Journal)

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Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to spend $12 billion to combat homelessness in California. That would be 10 times what the state has spent in recent years and would be earmarked for 46,000 new affordable housing units. (Sacramento Bee)

Being Rep. Kevin McCarthy can’t be easy or very much fun these days. So says Times political columnist Mark Z. Barabak, who weighs in on the Bakersfield Republican’s often-changing views. (Los Angeles Times)


A gray wolf wandered into Northern California from Oregon earlier this month, the second this year. California considers the wolves an endangered species, but the Trump administration removed them from the federal roster last year. They were hunted to extinction in California in the 1920s and have only returned in small numbers since 2011. (Los Angeles Times)

A wolf
OR-93 arrived in California in late January and has ventured farther south in the state than any other wolf in more than a century. A new wolf, OR-103, has also crossed over from Oregon into California. (Austin Smith / Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs)

The Sierra snowpack has dwindled to next to nothing this year. California’s snowpack is just 6% of normal, according to data from the state Department of Water Resources. Those numbers come on the heels of a widening drought declaration from Gov. Newsom earlier this week. (San Francisco Chronicle)


Eagle-eyed fans will notice changes to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, which underwent refurbishment while the theme park was closed during the pandemic. New tombstones, the return of a familiar portrait and a spruced-up paint job are among the changes detailed here. (Orange County Register)

Cactus lovers, take note! Times plant expert Jeanette Marantos writes about the California Nursery Specialties Cactus Ranch in Reseda, which she describes as “a magical secret place, the way Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books was open only to shoppers in the know.” It’s a three-acre wonderland of succulents that’s only open to the public on weekends. (Los Angeles Times)

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Los Angeles: patchy fog then sunny, 77. San Diego: cloudy, 68. San Francisco: sunny, 68. San Jose: sunny, 87. Fresno: sunny, 98. Sacramento: sunny, 95.


Today’s California memory comes from James Campbell:

It was October 1966. My sister and I were told to get in the car, “we’re going to a rally,” our parents said. This seemed odd, but off we went. Turned out to be a political rally for then-candidate Ronald Reagan for governor. It took place in the parking lot of the Montgomery Ward shopping mall in Pleasant Hill. When we parked, campaign workers placed a bumper sticker on our 1965 Chevy Impala. The event was magical; the energy, the cheering, the large crowd. I was completely hooked. It wasn’t until the next morning when we realized the Brown campaign had slapped BROWN bumper stickers over the REAGAN stickers on ours and presumably every other car in the parking lot. To this day, I have been active in politics and campaigns, one way or another.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to [email protected].


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