Freshman applicants to UC soar to a new record, with UCLA again leading the way

Janet Mejia, left, of Sun Valley and her kids Emmanuel, Jennifer and Samantha pose for pictures during the annual Bruin Day for admitted students and their families.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA has shattered its own record as the nation’s most popular college choice for high school seniors, attracting more than 113,000 freshman applications for fall 2018, according to preliminary data released Thursday.

Applications to the Westwood campus soared among California high school students and across all racial and ethnic groups. UCLA again led the University of California’s nine undergraduate campuses, which collectively received more than 181,000 freshman applications — a 5.7% increase over last year.

“We are thrilled by yet another record-shattering year,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “The steady momentum of increasing application numbers underscores the university’s standing as one of the best higher education institutions in the world.”


UCLA has long been popular, thanks to its top-notch academics, storied athletics, posh location and relatively reasonable price tag. But over the last several years, campus officials have poured particular energy into reaching out to underrepresented students. They work with several Los Angeles Unified School District schools to help prepare students to compete for UC seats, for instance, and connect with community groups, elected officials and families to get the word out about UCLA’s application process and financial aid.

The efforts have paid off. African American freshman applicants for fall 2018 rose by a record-setting 13%. Freshman applications also increased by 10% for Latinos, 6% for American Indians, 17% for Asian Americans and 7% for whites.

“The beauty of this year’s numbers is the amazing diversity,” said Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, who has spearheaded the recruitment efforts as vice provost of enrollment management. “To be able to inspire students from every socioeconomic, racial and cultural background to see themselves on this campus — there’s no greater joy than that.”

Copeland-Morgan said it was still unclear how large the 2018 freshman class would be. Last year, UCLA received more than 102,000 applications for a class size of about 6,000.

How will she get through the massive review process? “Joyfully,” she said.

Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, center, UCLA's vice provost of enrollment management, hugs prospective student Trinity Willard, 17, while talking to Willard's mother, Tanyika, during a visit to Crenshaw High.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times )

UC Irvine led all campuses in applications from Latinos with nearly 26,000. The campus has reached out aggressively to Latinos and this year won federal recognition for serving them — a still-rare distinction among elite research universities.

UC Irvine received nearly 95,000 freshman applications, an 11.5% increase over last year. The campus passed UC Berkeley last year to become the third-most popular after UCLA and UC San Diego.

“These spectacular results represent exactly what we have set out to achieve: sending the message to California residents of all cultural or economic backgrounds that an exceptional education is not only available but also affordable at UCI,” Thomas Parham, vice chancellor for student affairs, said in a statement.

UC Irvine students Angela Vera, left, and Daniela Estrada are part of the growing Latino student population at the campus.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times )

Applications from transfer students increased at all UC campuses, with the biggest numbers at UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz. Those two schools have redoubled efforts to recruit California community college applicants in a push to meet state goals to enroll one transfer student for every two freshmen.

The share of applicants from low-income families slightly declined to about 41% and those who are the first in their families to attend college stayed steady at 46.4%. Latinos made up about 56% of applicants, followed by Asian Americans at about 25%, whites at 9% and African Americans about 7%.

Overall, freshman and transfer applicants to UC campuses reached nearly 222,000, a number that has nearly doubled over the last decade. The combined total of applicants at each campus is higher because they apply to an average of four schools. The final number of applications is expected to rise because three campuses have extended deadlines for transfer students.

Twitter: @teresawatanabe


12:13 p.m. This article was updated to clarify the UC data.

This article was originally published on Dec. 14 at 9:30 a.m.