University of California or California State University

California College Application Countdown

The Countdown for Applying to Public Universities in California has begun.

A big part of the college application process is keeping track of all the deadlines once a student has decided if they want to apply EA (Early Action), ED (Early Decision) or RD (Regular Decision) to the college of their choice. Often students have an application strategy and follow a mix of these outlined application options. Students in California, and in fact all over the USA, have been working on their college applications since summer. If a college is high on a student’s list they might have applied already, either Early Action or Early Decision, with both having had deadlines around Nov 1st.

California’s public state universities impose yet another deadline, November 30th! Since the UC as well as the CSU university system is highly regarded, many students from California and beyond are in a hurry to meet the universities’ deadlines.

California State University Systems : UC & Cal State

California has two fabulous State University systems: the UC (University of California) and the CSU (California State University). While many UCs enjoy international recognition, UC Berkeley and UCLA come to mind; the Cal States have a few schools in their own system that are highly regarded in California but also within the USA. Admission there can almost be as competitive and selective than it is at the UCs. I am particularly thinking of Cal Poly San Luis ObispoCal Poly Pomona, and San Diego State

What’s the difference between UC & Cal State?

Aside from the size, the UCs serve about  280,000 students spread over 10 campuses while the Cal States have about 485,000 students on their 23 campuses, both university systems are highly respected. So, what sets them apart? We’ll address three defining differences.

1- Approach to Education 

While the UCs prepare students for careers in academia and graduate school, and are highly focused on research, Cal States’ focus is on hands-on education and helping students prepare for practical, non-research oriented professions. Having said that though, there are still many options available for students to engage in research and even go on to graduate school at the Cal States. Over 50,000 students are currently pursuing graduate degrees at Cal States’ 23 campuses. 

2- Cost of an Undergraduate Degree

An important difference to consider is the affordability of a degree at the Cal State or UC system. Being the largest public four-year university system in the USA, the Cal States outscore the UCs for making a Bachelor’s degree a much more reasonable option for many students. The in-state tuition for a Cal State Bachelor’s degree lies around $7,000 while out-of-state tuition is about $18,500.

In comparison a Bachelor’s degree at a UC school has a price tag of about $14,000 for in-state tuition and about $43,500 for out-of state tuition. 

Since these tuition prices are for one year only and don’t include room & board, this is certainly a component that international students should consider when applying to a California university.

3- Application Process

As part of the application to a UC school, students need to answer four Personal Insight Questions (PIQ) and describe their extracurricular activities, not just list them. Students can choose from eight prompts, each potentially giving insight into a student’s character, academic and personal growth, and overall life experience. While each “PIQ” can only be 350 words long, it takes time to be thoughtful with your words and make the best use of the given space. 

The Cal State application, on the other hand, seems easy and very straight forward with the part of self-reporting your grades being the most time consuming activity. No essays or answering of any personal questions is needed. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, we think, that everyone in California, who is applying to college, should have one or two Cal States in their mix of colleges they apply to. As mentioned before, they offer a quality education at an affordable tuition price and, should admission to one of the competitive UC universities not work out, you can’t go wrong with an education at the Cal Sates.


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