eSlug summer 2015

Michael McCawley (right) talks with a family at a recent UCSC Admissions event. Photo by Dani Milner.

Michael McCawley (right) talks with a family at a UCSC Admissions event. Photo by Dani Milner.

Where has this summer gone? Here we are with nearly half of August behind us and many of you are already returning to your school looking forward to a new school year to begin. I can only hope that you were able to enjoy a good part of your summer, and for those of you who don’t have a summer break, my staff and I can relate!

Summer is an extremely busy time in any UC Admissions Office, and we’re no exception. We engage in a time-honored process called “clearing,” which is where we take official transcripts and compare them to the self-reported academic information on their application, ensuring the information is complete and accurate. Since the University of California relies on a self-reported academic record to make admissions decisions, it is important to our faculty that the information we used to admit a student matches with their official transcripts, allowing us to “clear” their admission.

The official transcripts are also reviewed to ensure that coursework that was originally listed as “in-progress” and “planned” on their application has been completed with appropriate grades. Both first-year students and transfer students are held to a consistent level of academic achievement (with no single grade falling below a C) in their in-progress and planned courses, and unless they’ve contacted us previously, we only find out about their most recent grades when we receive their final, official transcripts. Admitted students are made aware of our expectations through our “Conditions of Admission Contract,” one version for a freshman and one version for a transfer student.

Our conditions of admission also include deadlines by which a student is responsible for submitting official transcripts and test scores. All UC campuses require official transcripts to be received no later than July 1 and official test scores by July 15. UC moved to a July 1 receipt deadline for transcripts last year to help with the clearing process, which can include cancellations of admission. Our philosophy, both as a campus and as a UC system, is that it is better to inform a student that their admission has been cancelled as early as possible, allowing them to look for alternatives for fall enrollment. Cancellations are one of my least favorite parts of my job as an admissions director, and this year has only served to underscore that feeling.

Many of you may know that our campus cancelled hundreds of frosh toward the beginning of July because they failed to get us official transcripts by the July 1 deadline. Despite our numerous warnings that were sent to students well in advance of the deadline, we still ended up cancelling nearly 500 students for missing the July 1 deadline. Our cancellations set off a firestorm of anger and frustration, and in many cases, we learned of schools and school districts for which a July 1 deadline was impossible to meet, but by then, students had already been cancelled.

While our campus made it clear to students early on that we planned to enforce the July 1 transcript deadline, it was never our intent to cancel students whose school was unable to provide an official transcript by that deadline. When a school/school district had contacted our campus (or the UC Office of the President) prior to July 1 and indicated their transcripts would not be available by the deadline, we extended the July 1 deadline for their students, sparing them from the impending cancellations. What we learned after the cancellations, however, was that there were many more schools/school districts in that same situation, but that information was not known to us prior to July 1.

Since our cancellations, hundreds of appeals were submitted, which is the only method for a student to be reconsidered to have their admission reinstated. A faculty committee reviews each appeal, and in most cases, when it was clear that a student’s school/school district couldn’t meet the July 1 deadline, the student’s admission was reinstated. I say in most cases because sometimes the official transcript showed academic shortfalls that did not meet the Conditions of Admission Contract, thus the cancellation would remain in place. To date, nearly 300 cancelled students have had their admission reinstated, although many of those students and their families (as well as some of you) are upset we took this action in the first place.

To say that we’ve learned a lot this summer would be an understatement. Based on our experience of being the first UC campus to enforce the July 1 deadline, I can honestly say that I wish another campus could have trail-blazed this path, but such was not the case. I’ve already talked with my UC colleagues and the UC Office of the President, and based on our experience, two important changes are coming for the next admissions cycle and beyond:

  1. UC will move back to making the July 1 deadline a postmark deadline, instead of a receipt deadline.
  2. There will be a systematic approach to collecting and disseminating information from schools/school districts which cannot meet the July 1 deadline.

I’m pleased that these changes are being made, and based on our experience this summer, these changes should help to prevent future students from having their admission cancelled. Deadlines are an essential part of UC admissions, and we want students to take them seriously, but we never want (nor intended) to harm students for circumstances that are beyond their control.

I will see many of you at this year’s statewide Counselor Conferences, or when I’m on the road in the fall, and we can discuss this further. Until then, and to those of you I won’t see in the fall, I hope you still believe that UC Santa Cruz remains committed to the success of your students.