This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.

UCLA's applicant pool for fall is more diverse, stronger academically

Hear that? It's the sound of 72,000 people knocking on UCLA's door.

About 55,600 would-be freshmen and 16,500 transfer hopefuls applied to UCLA for fall 2009, according to early admissions figures. The pool of applicants is more diverse than last year, as well as stronger academically. The average weighted GPA is 3.89 for freshmen, and 45 percent had more than a 4.0.

"We continue to be impressed and honored by the exceptional quality of applicants to UCLA," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "This ensures that the incoming freshman class will continue UCLA's tradition of excellence."

Although the regents recently approved a UC-wide enrollment cap, UCLA was exempted since it already turns away so many applicants. But admissions officials said that UCLA's 2009 fall freshman enrollment won't exceed its 2008 enrollment of approximately 4,700 students.

applications photoAfter several years of seeing a few thousand more students apply at UCLA compared to the previous year, this year's applications to UCLA increased by only a few hundred students – to 55,636, to be precise, compared to 55,437 in 2008. Transfer applications, on the other hand, rose an unexpected 9.6 percent. Susan Wilbur, the UC director of undergraduate admissions, noted a similar trend UC-wide, and offered a few possible explanations for the decline in freshman applications.

"The Department of Finance projects that the number of high school graduates will decline [for the first time in years] beginning with this current group of students," Wilbur said. "That we did see some growth [in application numbers] despite the decline in high school graduates indicates that there is still high demand."

Wilbur said she wasn't sure whether the weak economy affected application numbers, but noted that students also applied to slightly fewer campuses this year, dropping to an average of 3.3 campuses per student instead of 3.4. Students pay a $60 fee for each UC campus they send their applications to.

From 3.4 to 3.3 "is a really small decline; barely noticeable," Wilbur said, but added that students appeared more reluctant to apply to the more competitive campuses, such as UCLA. "What it suggests is that students are thinking more carefully about where they are applying, and making those decisions more carefully."
Like UCLA, the UC system saw a record number of applications this year, with freshman and transfer applications totaling 126,701. About 44 percent applied to UCLA as one of their choices, more than any other UC campus. In fact, as in years past, more students applied to UCLA than to any other university in the country.

"It's nice to be that much in demand," said Thomas Lifka, UCLA's associate vice chancellor of student academic services. "Of course, then you've got to process all those applications."
Although Lifka said he was surprised that freshman applications to UCLA did not increase dramatically this year as they have in previous years, it's not a bad surprise, he said.
"Not having a huge increase is really beneficial," Lifka said. "Having a consistent application pool helps us predict how many students to admit to get enough without going over. Getting a large or unexplained increase makes it harder."

Applications from minority students to UCLA increased slightly this year, up to 26.4 percent from 25.5 percent in 2008. Before holistic review of applications was implemented, African American enrollment dropped to 2 percent in 2006. Preliminary figures for 2009 show that freshman applications from African Americans represented 5.3 percent of the pool; from Latinos/Chicanos, 20.5 percent; from Asian Americans, 37.7 percent; and from Native Americans, 0.6 percent. Transfer applicants also showed increased diversity over last year's figures.

After years of UC enrolling more students than the state provided funding for, Wilbur saw a possible benefit in the shrinking population of high school students, a population that is expected to decrease for a few more years before leveling out.

"It gives us an opportunity to catch up to the amount of funded space available to students," she said. "It may mean, in the long run, a great opportunity for students … the flattening of the high school population is also quite good in terms of allowing us to bring in more transfers [from community colleges]."

The UC-wide enrollment cap, however, should not be seen as a deterrent, she said, and added that there is still hope that the state's budget will improve enough for the cap to be lifted. But even under the cap, "we will find a spot [at one of the UC campuses] for every California resident who is eligible," she said. "What will happen this year is students will not get offers from as many different campuses as they may have received in previous years, and admission to their top-choice campuses cannot be guaranteed … but we will continue to admit."

UCLA will begin to send out acceptance letters to students in March.
More information about application figures is available from the UC Office of the President, including an array of tables and an overall information sheet. More information about this year's applications to UCLA is available from the UCLA Newsroom.
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