CSU, UC, or Community… what the differences are, and what would be best for YOU!

More and more students are opting to attend community college before going to a 4 year UC or Cal State. This is because colleges have lowered their acceptance rates since they have more applicants now. As positive as it may be, this means that not everyone who applies is guaranteed to get in.

The top students in a class– from the ‘all APs’ student to the class valedictorian– aren’t necessarily guaranteed to get into the colleges of their choices. “[Admissions officers] look at things holistically,” said Golden Valley counselor Nathan Pellegrin. This is considered since the acceptance rates of UCLA and UC Berkeley went down from 21% in 2016, to about 16% as of 2021.

Causes don’t come without effects. “We are seeing more applicants,” explains Mr. Pellegrin. This is the cause and the effects of this are that “When you have hundreds of thousands of people applying to a college, colleges are going to be more selective because they have greater options and fewer spots to fill.” This effect then causes colleges to have less space for the amount of applicants they have.

This counts for CSUs also, which are known for being more forgiving with their acceptance rates.

California State University of Northridge(CSUN) had a 59.3% acceptance rate as of the year 2019-2020, and is now projected to have a 51% acceptance rate for the 2022-2023 year. That’s almost a 10% decrease.

A graph of UCLA acceptance rates from 2016-2022 (Ivy League Prep)

Cal State, LA is projected to have an acceptance rate of 44.4% in 2022-2023 year this is down by almost 4% form their 2020 year.

This being said, these are still more forgiving numbers compared to UCs. The UCs or University of California schools are research -based. They operate as residential campuses that focus on graduate education and research. Cal State, on the other hand, focuses on practical, career-focused training rather than research based disciplines. As a result, for careers such as nursing, teaching, computer science and many more, CSUs are a better option, since it’s focused on more technical learning.

This can explain why Cal States have become more selective also.

“For certain programs like computer science or nursing, it’s just so many applicants that the likelihood of getting into these programs are few and far between,” states Mr. Pellegrin.

While California has the second most universities of any U.S. state– closely behind New York– there are only 10 University of California institutions, and about 23 Cal States through the state. Therefore “UCs have fewer campuses, whereas Cal States have a little over 23 campuses, so they have a few more opportunities,” added Mr. Pallagrin.

This being said, Community Colleges are a strong option and most students choose to attend Community College as a more inexpensive and assured way to get started. Transferring credits from community colleges to UC and Cal state is the most guaranteed way to get into any Cal State, UC, or even out of state school.

Here at Golden Valley, counselors are more than happy to help students to get started on their college careers. They have organized FAFSA applications workshops, visits and presentations about colleges in classrooms, and meetings with different counselors from colleges and universities like Brown, UC San Diego, UCLA, and more to help students find their best pick for their bright future.