For Patrick McMurrow, a college counselor at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, the hardest part about his job is comforting students who have excelled academically but still couldn't get into UCLA and other top universities.
"How do you tell a really bright kid who has taken all the right courses that it just wasn't good enough to get into UCLA?" McMurrow said. "Each year it's getting harder and harder as the university becomes more popular and the academic standards of the students keep increasing."
McMurrow was one of nearly 200 college counselors from throughout the Southland who gathered on campus earlier this month to review the university's application process in hopes of advising their students on how to get into UCLA. Only 9,950 students were admitted for fall's freshman class out of approximately 35,800 applications received.
"It's important to learn how and what it takes to get into UCLA," said counselor Ha Linh Le of Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra. "Our top students all dream of attending a university as prestigious as this, but I don't really know what the perfect formula is for admission."
Counselors were guided through a review of actual applications by Director of Admissions Rae Lee Siporin.
In addition to academic performance, Siporin pointed out the various factors considered when selecting students. Readers look at life challenges the student may have faced to achieve his or her academic potential, volunteer work and extracurricular activities, the family's economic situation, the applicant's high school and whether the student is a first-generation college student.
"We look for students who have done more than the minimum, who have challenged themselves academically despite limited resources and who we feel will do best at UCLA," Siporin noted.
Said Jesus Angulo, a math teacher and SAT coordinator at South Gate High School: "It's not just about getting straight As anymore. We need to prepare students to become well-rounded individuals who can excel in many areas beyond academics."