The 18-year-old De La Cruz graduated barely in the top 20% of her San Pedro High class and is competing against students with much higher GPAs and test scores.
UCLA officials acknowledge that some freshmen are admitted for reasons other than their grades and test scores, that some students come from dramatically different backgrounds than many of their peers but show academic promise.
San Diego State University was her dream school; she applied to six others, mostly UC and Cal State campuses. She never thought she'd get into UCLA, especially after San Diego State rejected her in February.
The average UCLA freshman boasted a 4.22 GPA in 10th and 11th grades, according to the most recent data posted by the school, and De La Cruz had a 3.365 at San Pedro High when she applied. She got a 21 out of a possible 36 on the ACT college admissions exam, ranking her in the 48th percentile in California. She scored 380 out of a possible 800 on an SAT subject test, putting her in the third percentile nationwide. But on March 8, De La Cruz opened an e-mail from UCLA, and a congratulatory banner popped up.
She's an illegal immigrant, so she isn't eligible for most forms of state and federal financial aid. The University of California system, by policy, does not require applicants to disclose their citizenship status: Officials say their goal is to find the best students, not to enforce immigration law. UCLA officials say they aren't even sure how many undocumented students are on their campus.
This reminds me of the difficult tradeoffs made between increasing diversity and maintaining UCLA's reputation for academic excellence.
The UC system is considering lowering admissions requirements by abolishing the SAT II requirement, getting rid of the requirement that students complete all of the a-g courses, and changing the GPA minimum. Currently, students are guaranteed admission into the UC system if they are in the top 12.5% of the state or top 4% of their school. Under the new proposal, students are guaranteed admission if they are in the top 9% of the state or top 9% of their school. One of the main purposes of these changes is to "cast a wider net" that catches more people of diverse backgrounds and increases diversity on campus.
While increasing diversity is an important goal, I am afraid that these changes are going to make my UCLA degree look less prestigious because of this lowering of standards.