Schedule A Free Call

Transcript: Gary Clark - UCLA: Nation's Largest Applicant Pool

Season 1, Episode 13 Gary Clark 11.21.18

Destination YOUniversity:
UCLA - Nation's Largest Applicant Pool


[Commercial 00:00]

Dr. Cynthia Colon: What makes you double click? What do you find on Instagram that makes you double click? For some of you, you love food, sports, people you know, others may double click on something that stops you in your tracks. In life, we double click on anything that is interesting, engaging or compelling. College admission officers are scrolling through thousands of applications from thousands of high schools. Yes, I said thousands. College admission officers are looking for something, someone, some essay that captures their attention enough to make them double click. What makes them stop and want to learn more about that applicant, that is called connection. In a world that moves so quickly, in a process with thousands of applications, how do we stop and connect through with written words, sentences versus bullet points, full words versus emojis? How do you accomplish that in an essay? Well, today we are here with the director of the undergraduate admission from UCLA.

Gary Clark oversees the nation's largest pool of college applications. My friends, today's lesson is a reminder that the best story to tell in a college application is your own in your voice. Today's question from Gary Clark is this, how can we convince you that this is less about what you think we want to hear and more about what you need to say. I'm Cynthia Colon, author of the book Tips, Tales and Truths for Teens. Welcome to Destination University where we explore extraordinary people who lived ordinary childhoods and found a pathway to college. If you are a student, parent, educator, or a student of life, this show is for you. Well, hello and welcome Gary. How are you doing today?

Gary Clark: I'm doing great. How are you?

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I'm doing well. Thank you so much for being here. We are here live on the UCLA campus and I am excited to be on campus because there are so many people across the country who are listening, who probably have never been on this campus. We have listeners up north in Washington and Oregon and of course in Virginia and New York and even in Minnesota and Missouri, so I would love it if he would start Gary by just sharing a little bit about what we're looking out outside literally your window and figure to leave on this campus.

Gary Clark: Well, it's a beautiful campus. I've been at UCLA for about six years and every day that I had the good fortune to be able to actually get out of my office for a little bit and enjoy the campus. It's one of the prettiest campuses that I've ever set foot on. We're right on the west side of Los Angeles a very, very hilly campus, beautiful green hills, lots of trees where we're kind of surrounded by Santa Monica and Bel Air, Beverly Hills, so we're in a beautiful part of town, lots of open green spaces, lots of student traffic on campus which adds that real kind of vibrancy and excitement to the campus but I've been on many a college campus and I have to say this is easily one of the most attractive campuses I've set foot on.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I have to agree with you and I think that people might be surprised to know how much green space is on this campus and you know, given the fact that we are in an urban city in Los Angeles, but you did say that a couple of B words, Bel Air, Beverly Hills. It's a very, you know, it's a beautiful area and part of town and it's definitely this campus resembles what's right around us as well.

Gary Clark: Absolutely.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: So, absolutely. Great, well. Okay, so we're in for a treat and I'm going to, I caught myself and I actually remembered for the first time, listeners, I'm going to say this, get your pen and paper out. You're going to be in for lots of little golden nuggets that Gary will share throughout our episodes. So if you haven't pulled out your paper and pen, please do so or your iPhone so you can take notes. But, so Gary, Gary Clark, we've known each other for quite some time and he's worked at a number of institutions and we're going to talk about lots of admission stuff, but I want to also just start by asking you about your own childhood, right. This is about extraordinary people like yourself who lived ordinary childhood so describe for us your family and where you grew up.

Gary Clark: Yeah, no. I grew up in Virginia. I grew up in Hampton, Virginia, which is in the southeastern part of the state and I have two older brothers. You know, both my parents were in the house growing up. I, you know, I feel extraordinary in how fortunate I was to have such a supportive family, lots of extended family close by, you know. I went to a big public high school in Virginia, about 400, 450 students in my graduating class.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Wow.

Gary Clark: But, you know, I, while my parents didn't earn college degrees, my parents always cared deeply about education and kind of ingrained that in me from a young age that they wanted and expected that I would go to college. And, you know, I grew up in an environment where I didn't then and don't now feel like, you know, everybody has to go college. I think it's a great aspiration and a great fit for a lot of students, but I have two older brothers who live very, you know, wonderful and fulfilling lives and do the thing they love to do and college just wasn't something they wanted to do, but it was something that I wanted to do and it was something that my parents really supported in me at a young age. So I feel really fortunate that I had two parents that sacrifice to the degree that my parents did for all of us to give us whatever opportunities we wanted to seek as young adults and so I feel like, you know, I owe a lot to my parents and to my family for the support that they gave to me as I went on my own journey.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: So you're the youngest of three boys?

Gary Clark: I am, yep.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And as soon as you said that, I thought, oh, well then, you know, you must have fallen in their footsteps, so they didn't take the path of college and I'm, I'm one that agree, I don't know that every college is for everybody.

Gary Clark: Right.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And every has a different path.

Gary Clark: Right.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: A different journey. So who did you look to, your parents didn't go to college and neither of your older brothers. So how did you figure that out? How did you navigate that?

Gary Clark: You know, I would say that I got really lucky. I don't know that I really navigated it well, you know, and I met my guidance counselor I think once during my four years in high school. I don't remember her name and I'm sure she wouldn't remember mine. It wasn't an extraordinarily memorable experience when we met. So I really lucked into the right campus, you know. I applied to Christopher Newport University, which is a public university that's about half hour, 45 minutes from where I grew up and that's where I wound up attending and it wound up being the perfect fit for me. It wound up being just the right place that I needed. I probably limited my search in a lot of ways. I didn't really think about private colleges or universities cause I didn't think my family would be able to afford that.

I didn't think about going anywhere out of state cause I didn't think we'd be able to really afford, you know, me moving out of state or that type of thing and again, going, you know, my parents saved for my college education and paid my tuition all four years.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Wow.

Gary Clark: I left college with no debt, which was amazing. I mean, just, you know, what a great fortunate start I had, you know, from that standpoint, but when it came to my college search, it was a much more regional search and more limited than it probably needed to be but I was working off the information that I had that I could gather and like I said, I got lucky and wound up at exactly the right place, but my search was a pretty narrow and limited focus.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And a couple of things you said there, and for those who are listening, I love what you said about your parents had put away some money, so you knew you had that and they were able to give you that gift, right? What a gift that is for any parent to be able to do, if you can be thoughtful about it in advance because, you know, nobody likes to be straddled with, with student loans after graduation.

Gary Clark: Sure.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: The other thing you said is, you were limited by what you knew and so you went to the local, about 30 minutes away, local public school, but you said it was a good fit for you, when and how did you know that? Was it before, did you visit before or?

Gary Clark: So I don't know if I knew before. I think I did visit, it was close by to where I lived, so I was able to visit the campus before I went but I think the reason why it wound up being a good fit for me, I think educationally it offered me the, you know, I wound up changing my major a couple times, but landed in political science, which was a real and continues to be a real passion and kind of interest of mine, but I think from an experiential standpoint, I was able to really be a leader in that community. I think I was able to, you know, the colloquial kind of, you know, big fish in a small pond kind of thing. I wasn't a particularly big fish, but I was able to be president of my fraternity.

I was able to be a student orientation leader. I was able to be a brand, you know, a brand ambassador. An ambassador for my school, a tour guide, an RA, a resident assistant. I was able to take on a lot of leadership opportunities there and really excel and thrive and grow, you know, as a person both in and outside of the classroom and I think that was the kind of environment that really allowed me to do that, you know, and it's not a place that many people outside of Virginia know about. It's a wonderful school and a wonderful institution, but it was the right fit for me not because of its name, but because of the kind of experience that it offered.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: This is one of the things I think that so many families and students don't think about, what are you going to be able to accomplish when you're at an institution, right? Because what you just described is very similar to my undergraduate. I was able to be a leader in a lot of ways which serves us well in life later and so there is a lot to be said for being a bigger fish in a smaller pond because you're going to have a lot of opportunities.

Gary Clark: Yeah. Think I think the college search a lot of times gets wrapped up. You know, if you picture a college diploma hanging on a wall and you know, the name of that institution in script along the top, like we focus so much attention on that, that we forget about the name in the middle of the diploma which is your name and the role that that plays in the kind of experience that you are going to have. You know it's, I certainly wouldn't pretend that that the name of the institution or the identity of the institution doesn't matter. It does, but I think a big part of what makes an experience great or not as is the level at which the student invests in that experience.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Now it sort of begs the question, where are you a leader in high school, but for like, you know, you talked a lot about some really great opportunities that you've had in college, but just for a second, can we go back?

Gary Clark: Sure.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: What your kind of leadership did you have?

Gary Clark: You know, I don't know that I was, I think I was a good student. I paid attention in class. I stayed on top of my work and I graduated and you know, probably in the top 10 or 12% of my class. So I did well, but I was not a person who was super engaged in things outside of class so I think when I look back on my college experience and I think this has a lot to do with why I do the work that I do now, it was really transformational for me. Like I, the person I was when I left college was very different than the person who entered. I grew, I became more comfortable talking in front of people. I engaged in a way that was completely different than what I did in high school so I left a very different person than when I started and I think that's a good thing.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I do think that's a good thing. Again, I think that's something that we don't often take into account when we were doing the search, so what I wanted to just, can you describe for people, what does it, what is an RA, she put don't know what an RA is.

Gary Clark: Sure. An RA is a resident assistant. So on any college campus when students live in residence halls on a college campus, there are professional staff often who live in the buildings which are, you know, college graduates who just, you know, their job is to oversee the residential community but there are also students staff who are resident assistants who live in the residence halls as well and kind of supervise or coordinate activities or help to support students on perhaps a hallway or a group of rooms or a group of students that they might provide that support for. So I was able to do that for one year in college and that's what gave me the opportunity to live on campus because as part of the deal of being an RA at my university, you got free tuition. I mean, you got free room and board.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Yes.

Gary Clark: And that's what allowed me to have the, because otherwise, I had commuted to campus for my first couple of years from home but that experience of being an RA and living in the residence halls, my first two years and my last two years of my college experience were completely different.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Completely different.

Gary Clark: Because of that residential component. So, I learned a lot being an RA, some things I didn't need to know but I guess I'm glad I learned them anyway, but it was just a really kind of fulcrum point of my college experience before and after that RA experience.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I too was an RA, resident advisor and the other point I just want to drive home for those who are listening who might be new to all of this, those parents who are also first generation like your parents and like mine, you know, there's something that happens when you are connected. When a student becomes connected, engaged and involved on the campus, they are more likely to sustain it, that campus, graduate from that campus, right and stay connected for years past on that campus. So there is a lot to be said, you said you commuted for two years and then you were there connected and living on campus.

Gary Clark: Yeah.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And it was a world of difference.

Gary Clark: It was, I mean, I think the opportunity to work in offices on campus and I worked in student life and the registrar's office and the admission office so I got to really see the higher education from a lot of different perspectives from the student employment standpoint but not only is it just kind of money in your pocket to spend and you're not asking your parents for money throughout college but it also really, it forces you to manage your time and in a way that, you know, cause the big transition that a student, a lot of students don't anticipate between high school and colleges is, you have a lot of what you might think is free time in college, in between classes and you know, your day isn't completely scheduled from kind of 8-3 like it is then in high school, but having a job on campus really forces you to kind of manage your time in a way that, you know, you can't just put things off. Like, I've got two hours to commit to writing this paper. I need to take those two hours because I've got to go work in the office from 11-3 or whatever the timeframe might be, so I loved it. I learned a lot about the campus. I made a lot of good friends, a lot of professional colleagues, so I really loved working on campus. It was fun.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Good lesson for everyone that there are lots of ways to be able to pay for the college experience and certainly becoming a resident advisor is one of them among a number of other things that Gary has just said. Okay, my friends, today's lesson is a reminder that the best story to tell in a college application is your own and your own voice and we're talking about connections today. We're talking about how do we connect on a personal level? How do we connect in a college application? What are the connections and how do we get our readers to find that out? As always, you need a pen and paper. The show is filled with golden nuggets. Today, director of admission, undergraduate admission at UCLA will share his best tips for applying to the University of California. You don't want to miss this. Stay with us and we will be right back.

[Commercial 16:38]

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Welcome back. I'm Dr Cynthia Colon here with Gary Clark, director of undergraduate admission at UCLA, the college that in 2018 received the largest pool of college applications in the country. Oh my goodness, if you are just joining us, be sure to catch us on the replay from the very, very beginning because this is filled with good stuff today from Gary Clark. So we were talking just before the break about how involved and that Gary really felt like a big fish in a smaller pond and it was a perfect place for him to explore leadership and get involved with a number of things on campus. So Gary, this show is called Destination University at, with a Y, O, U and I love that you said that the college diploma does have that script, you know, of the college that you attended, but really the most important name on that diploma is your own, which I love. I love that. So that's a golden nugget, write that down everyone. I love that. So that being said, you graduate and you've got your diploma, I'm looking around to see your office and see if it's anywhere near.

Gary Clark: It's at home.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: It's at home. So when did you know, tell me about how you landed in this industry, college admissions.

Gary Clark: Yeah. You know, one of the offices that I worked in as an undergraduate was the admission office. I was a tour guide and I was a student ambassador so I was able to kind of lead families around campus and show them the campus and tell them about the experiences I had as a student and then as a student ambassador, I would occasionally do presentations and really talk a little bit more about the admission process and as I mentioned, I was the first person in my family to go to college. My mom wanted to be a nurse, you know, but she really wasn't. She chose to focus on taking care of her family, you know, as a younger person and I think we all benefited from that and my dad worked night shift at the Newport News Shipyard for 40 plus years.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Wow.

Gary Clark: And so he, when he got back from Vietnam that's immediately what he did to support his family. So I generally went through the college process without a whole lot of support from the standpoint of somebody who was knowledgeable. So I had a lot of support from my family in terms of my college going aspirations, but I didn't really have anybody who understood how to navigate the process and give me advice in that regard. So when I had the opportunity to work in the admission office, I was able to be in front of families, many of whom were similar to me and you know, had not gone through a college journey as a family before and the opportunity to really kind of demystify the process or to answer questions in a very practical, real, tangible kind of way was something that I really enjoyed. I liked, you know, having that conversation, seeing that light bulb go off, seeing that student or that family relax a little bit because they heard something in a clearer way from me that they might not have heard, you know, from somebody else and I just liked that.

I liked that sensation of being able to help pull the curtain back a little bit on this process, but I think even above and beyond that more emotional connection to the work, I really, as I kind of was in the office and behind the scenes and saw kind of the mechanics of college admission, I loved the kind of intellectual challenge of really crafting a class that meets the mission of a university that, that enrolls students that are diverse and engaged and brilliant and exciting for the faculty to teach and, you know, really help to further the identity and the mission of whatever that university or college might be. So I think the work of college admission appeals to both my head and my heart. I think it gives me that intellectual challenge of trying to meet layers and layers of priorities and goals within an admission process on behalf of the university, but also that real emotional connection to, you know, connecting with families and students and counselors and helping them to understand kind of the what and the why behind the work that we do. So it's, you know, I've never wanted to do anything else as soon as I left, you know, as soon as I graduated, this is immediately what I started to do as a profession and you know, here I am, you know 20 years later and still love it as much as the first day.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Oh my gosh. Write that down, the head and the heart and making connections, that's beautiful. And I'm so glad that you're the first person actually and now 13 episodes to talk about that, about crafting a class and it is something that I still remember when I was at Vassar, because, you know, people often say, you know, what is it? Or how do we stand out? Or what do you mean you're looking for, you know, is this the right fit? And you really are looking for that, so can you describe like in your own words, like what does that look like or feel like to you when you read an application and you're like, oh, this feels great.

Gary Clark: Yeah, I think, you know, there's a reason why colleges and universities collect as much information from applicants as they do. I mean, if really all we cared about were GPA and SAT scores, we could fill our class with an excel spreadsheet in an hour and save ourselves a lot of trouble but we really, we ask for students to share so much about themselves because in order for us to really craft that class, we need to know more about the person. You know, every process I've been a part of at every institution I've represented has been a combination of quantitative and qualitative, of art and science. I mean, it's a human process, so it is imperfect and flawed, there's no way to get around that but it is also a process that is a human process and that we're not just crunching numbers here. You know, I think we want to understand a student's intellectual abilities, their ability as a student in the classroom, their willingness to take on rigor and the high school curriculum. We want to understand how engaged they are outside of class. I mean, when you walk across campus at UCLA or many other colleges and universities, like students are engaged and they're active and they're in clubs and organizations or they're in athletics or they're participating in things in the community, that doesn't happen by accident. Those students don't just happen to show up on a college campus. They're the types of students that the college is looking for and in order to continue the tradition of having those types of students in our campus communities, we have to really look for those kinds of qualities in the admission process and for us, you know, and for every college you're always asked to write, you know, usually kind of an essay or in our case personal insight questions.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Right.

Gary Clark: You know, that's what adds that kind of voice, you know, because otherwise you're a series of kind of boxes and check marks and things like that and an application and for us, especially at UC, those personal insight questions kind of really bring you to life and add that third dimension to an applicant and allow us to get to know the person behind all these other kind of amazing accomplishments and courses and that type of thing.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: The AQ's and the PQ's as you call them, academic quality and personal qualities right?

Gary Clark: Yup, yup.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Now I count, I think you've been at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 different institutions.

Gary Clark: Yes.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: So you've done this quite a bit and crafted different kinds of classes. So I would love for you to talk about, if you can, maybe it's Sophie's choice, right? Is there a one applicant that you sort of remember, a student that you remember meeting or reading and just that stands out and why?

Gary Clark: Yeah, so I'll kind of go, I'll answer that question, but I'll give kind of the political response and kind of work around a little bit. So there, yes, there are definitely applicants throughout my career that I can still recall and you know, even one person in particular that I remember interviewing when I was at Pitzer College, she wound up working in the office. She's now a college counselor, you know, so and so I, there are certainly applications in cases of people like that that I remember, but rather than describing in detail one of those applications, I think what I would want your listeners to really understand is that the word I use most often to describe a quality application is authenticity. It's really not about aspiring to be like somebody else who was successful in this process, it's about really aspiring to represent yourself as fully and as authentically as possible in any college application because ultimately you can't control the decision. Your counselor can't control the decision. Your parents can't control the decision. Only I, the ultimately and people like me in college offices control what those decisions are going to be like. So rather than trying to shoehorn yourself into the image of what you think a college or university as looking for, I always tell students to just really reflect on who you are and what it is you want to college or university do to know about you. Be sure that that's reflected in some part of the application and then step back and really say, you know what, if I get admitted, great, they've admitted me because I've represented myself as my authentic self and if they don't, then that's probably not a place that I wanted or needed to be anyway because I mean.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Exactly.

Gary Clark: Just think if you really, if you put things in the app that don't really feel, you don't feel enthusiastic about or you feel like you're trying to really kind of manufacture these things for the purpose of an application and then you don't get admitted or then you really sit back and wonder, well gosh, I wonder what would've happened if I had really just been me, you know, and when the outcome had been different and I don't think you want to look backwards and ask yourself that question. So I think it's really just about kind of presenting yourself in an authentic way in an application, that's the one thing we can all hope to see.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I think it's easier said than done, right?

Gary Clark: Sure.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I think that that's for sure and maybe we just stick on this point for one more second about, I often think about my myself and I think if I got that information, if I got that advice, would I have listened to it, right. Because I didn't come from a lot, because my parents didn't go, I didn't, I always thought what I was doing at my little like, you know.

Gary Clark: True.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I was trail flour and I didn't have very exciting life. My parents weren't doctors or lawyers so I often think back and think, you know, gosh, I didn't know that I had anything special to say. So what can you say to combat that, for those who are listening?

Gary Clark: No, I think that's a good question. I'm glad you asked that because I think a lot of times students, especially from, you know, first gen or low-income backgrounds or even students who just aren't as familiar with the process, they don't understand how much we value the experiences they have that are outside of kind of what they think is the traditional kind of high school activity. Like, you know, a lot of what we see from students, it doesn't have to be a club or organization in high school. It doesn't have to be school sports or the yearbook or the school newspaper. Those things are great, you know, if those are things a student is engaged in, but maybe you take care of a younger sibling at home, maybe you work part time, maybe you're active in your church or your synagogue or you're active in the community in some way that that isn't necessarily connected to school, but it's just something you do because you feel like you care about it and it's something you want to commit your time to, those things matter. Like, those things count and we pay attention to those in the process. So I think sometimes students feel like if I'm not doing something that is, you know, a club that I, you know, I think a college has heard of that somehow it's not going to be valued and I think it's often, you know, very different than that that we really want students to share with us those, you know, well I spend, every day I come home and I take care of my elderly grandparent at home for two hours a day. I prepare her meals and I help get her ready for bed or that type of thing. Like, write that down, put that in the application because that's valuable information for us.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: It is. It's valuable information. JC Tescone at Vassar was my mentor when I was there. He said, you know, ultimately the question is what are you doing? Given your resources, what are you doing outside of the classroom? And if that is taken care of a parent or a grandparent or a sibling, you share a room with a sibling, you know, what do you have, you know, at your disposal and how are you taking advantage of that or you know, how are you spending your time and that's what we want to know.

Gary Clark: Well because all those different perspectives contribute to an experience on a college campus, whether it's in the residence halls, whether it's in the classroom. If everybody comes from the same background and was involved and engaged in the same kinds of things in high school, it's not going to make for a very exciting campus experience, you know.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: That's right.

Gary Clark: We really want students who bring a wide variety of perspectives and experiences to bear in the residence halls and in the classroom on campus so it really adds to the richness of the undergraduate program here.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Which circles back to your point, authenticity. Be authentic and just true to yourself and trust that who you are is going to connect with the person reading it.

Gary Clark: Right.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Okay, so tell us the one truth that you want us to know when it comes to college admissions and specifically, I think this is specific to you know, UCLA, what do you want us to know?

Gary Clark: Well, I, excuse me. I think the one thing that I often have to come back to kind of a myth or a perception out there, every single application to UCLA is read at least twice before a decision is made and I think with the 113,000 freshman applications, I think people just often shake their head and they think that's not possible. It absolutely is, I can tell you that the way we read applications here is more similar to the way that I read applications at a small liberal arts college than anybody would ever imagine. So I think it's important that especially this time of year as students are really finishing their applications and they're pouring over things and just stressing about every little thing in the application, recognize that on the back end that there are people that care about what you're sharing, that take this responsibility very seriously, that understand the weight and the gravity of the role that we play in this process and we're going to read everything that you take the time to share with us in the application so I think it's important that families know that and hear that and believe that because I think it would be easy for us to cut corners with that kind of volume and we simply don't do that.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I'm glad you said that out loud and it's coming from you because I say it all the time and say absolutely get read and one thing I want to say or point out, and you can comment on this please, the one piece that is different is that there are no letters of recommendation.

Gary Clark: Correct.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And so that's why you say the PIQs have so much weight, so can you just?

Gary Clark: They do, I mean, I think in our process that doesn't, where, you know, we don't collect letters of recommendation, we don't interview students, we really have to rely heavily on what the students share with us in those Personal Insight questions. The UC application doesn't have a lot of safety nets from that standpoint. Like, you have to be a strong self-advocate. You have to be somebody who's willing to tell your story and to hit all the points that you really need us to know because there isn't a counselor or a teacher that's going to cover those details or isn't an interview that you can count on that's going to cover those details. It's incumbent upon the student to really be thorough in what they share with us in the application but that's what makes those even more important for that for us and they might be at another college or university.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Yeah, I love that. Wow. We are feeling confidence in building dreams today. We are here with Gary Clark, director of undergraduate admission at UCLA. The UC system is one of the largest, if not the largest public college system in the country, so you are hearing from the pro today? We will, we have to take a commercial break but while we are on break, why not share this episode right now with a family or friend that you know needs to hear this? Because when we come back Gary's going to share with us some specific tips for the UC because we are just about 9 days away from the UC application being due on November 30th so you will not want to miss this. We will be right back.

[Commercial 36:05]

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Welcome back everyone, you are listening to destination university. I'm your host, Dr. Cynthia Colona and I'm here with Gary Clark, director of undergraduate admission at UCLA. Oh my goodness. So just before we went to break, we were talking about the UCLA specifically and you were sharing, I'm so glad you did that, every application does get read twice, even though you know last year you had 113,000 plus applications, that was just for freshmen by the way. So Gary, let's spend a little bit of time. We are nine days away from the due date of November 30th and certainly, UCLA is that for better, for worse. It is the school on the tip of everybody's tongue in use in California, the UC, it is the go-to place, but can you talk, do you mind talking a little bit about the UC system in general?

Gary Clark: Yeah, I mean I, you know, obviously I represent UCLA and I love this place dearly and I think it's a phenomenal university, you kno, for a lot of students but I also, having been in California now for about 20 years, can say that we're really fortunate to be in a state that has what is a top to bottom one of the best systems of higher education in the country.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Absolutely.

Gary Clark: All 9 undergraduate campuses within the UC system offer a wonderful education for students and you know, while UCLA is kind of a very recognizable brand and you know, a highly reputable institution like, there are a number of campuses within the system that I think if families really give them a chance and take the time to get to know each of these campuses, will find that, you know, we are amongst the best public universities throughout the country and to have 9 of them right in your backyard, and have an opportunity to really consider those as a place where you might enroll, I think students sometimes sell themselves a little short and only consider one or two of the campuses within the system and I would love students to really take the time to explore multiple campuses and think about what you see as a system has to offer because it's really, really second to none.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I am always surprised at how many families don't realize that in order to be eligible and get a spot at one, any of the UC campuses or at one of the UC campuses is that you've got to be in the top 9% of California seniors in the state and I think that it helps put in perspective just what an abundance of luxury we have. Like you said, in our backyard, 9 campuses, you just can't go wrong.

Gary Clark: Yeah and I think that, you know, the top 9% I think for students who are interested in having a guarantee of admission to the University of California, being in the top 9% of your graduating class at a participating high score in the top 9% on a statewide index of GPA on SAT or ACT scores means you're guaranteed admission to the UC system, not necessarily to the campus of your choice.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Right.

Gary Clark: But you're guaranteed admission to the UC system. But each year or from throughout those 9 campuses, the University of Californa has enrolled in increasing number of California residents over the past several years and I think that's something that we're all really proud of that with some additional support from the state of California, we've been able to really increase the enrollment of California residents at all 9 of the campuses throughout the UC system. So, you know, I have an 11 year old son and you know, 9 years from now, I certainly will strongly encourage him to consider some of his in-state options because he's got between the UCS and the Cal state's just quite a range of, and even the California community colleges, quite a range of opportunities to consider.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Absolutely.

Gary Clark: Yeah.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Absolutely, you're right. Okay, so earlier you were talking about, I love what you said, if we just cared about GPA and test scores, we'd put them on an excel spreadsheet and we'd call it a day. It would save you many, many hours.

Gary Clark: Right.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: So you know, my book is called Tips, Tales and Truths and I always go back to what is your, you know, what is your best tip as you think about the application that's due in just a week and a half, there are those PIQs, which you can choose 4 out of 8 options and there is a number of things that students can list as their activities. So can you, I know that that's one of your favorite tips to talk about, so share with us.

Gary Clark: Sure. So I think when it comes to involvement outside of class, we talked a little bit earlier about, you know, students should really define that broadly, don't be so narrow in how you define an activity because we're certainly not narrow in the way that we define that, think about any of the things you might be spending your time doing, you know, outside of the classroom. But you know, I often will say to students, it's not the length of the resume that matters as much as the depth of commitment to the things that you do that really stands out to us. I think sometimes students find inspiration late in high school and feel like, all right, I need to go out and join, you know, Chess club and Spanish club and you know.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Yeah.

Gary Clark: And kind of tick off all these boxes that I think college or universities want to see and I don't want students to do that. Certainly feel free to get involved in whatever, whenever you want to, but don't all of a sudden try and add things to the list late in your high school career because you think colleges want to see it. Well, we want to see is real depth of commitment, kind of progressive responsibility, progressive leadership and the activities that your mind be engaged in, you know, that's the kind of thing that I think really, really stands out. The UC actually limits the number of things that you can list in the application in terms of involvement outside of class and part of the philosophy behind that is, you know, we don't want students to feel like it's a question of volume. We want them to understand it's a real assessment of kind of quality of commitment to what you're doing outside of the classroom. So I think that's the thing that really rings true in an application, is seeing that students are really committed to a handful of things that they're clearly passionate about.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: So those are some, couple of golden nuggets there that I just wrote down so I'm going to just reemphasize them. You said, it's not necessarily the length of time per se that you've put into something, but the depth, right.

Gary Clark: Right.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And the depth of the passion or the, maybe the leadership or how much you're gonna be involved in a particular thing and the particular organization and also the application limits you on how many, right?

Gary Clark: Right.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: So the UC is clearly making a statement, quality versus quantity, right?

Gary Clark: Right and I don't think, I don't want students to even feel as though like I have to fill every box in the application. I think it's really just, it's a priority for us to make sure that students understand that we're not expecting them to do this long laundry list of activities. Now, some students do.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Yeah.

Gary Clark: Some students are very engaged and are involved in lots of activities and that's great. I don't want three students to feel like they need to decrease that. I just want students to understand that what we're looking for in assessing kind of involvement outside of class is more of seeing that long term commitment over a long period of time versus students just feeling like they have to add things to the list.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Right.

Gary Clark: You know, the resume doesn't have to be three or four pages long. It's if there were a couple of things or a handful of things that clearly you've poured yourself into and we can see that kind of present itself in the application and that's the kind of thing that I think we're looking at.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Oh gosh. Okay, so lots of good stuff and I want to transition us, pivot to a little bit of fun, a little bit of banter.

Gary Clark: Okay.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Because not everybody, I don't know often share that I, in addition to being an alum of the other school down the road, I am also an alumni of UCLA. I am a Brewin. Yes, it's true. I'm a house divided and in some ways you are too, because you did also have, you did work at the other place.

Gary Clark: I did, I did.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: So we must take note and I must say congratulations.

Gary Clark: Thank you.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Oh, the victory bell, sweet.

Gary Clark: I wish I had a bell in my office to ring to signify that the bell is back home in Westwood.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Oh gosh.

Gary Clark: It's a funny story about that. When I used to work at USC, one of the things we really enjoy each year was as a part of one of our big yield programs, we always have the victory bell out.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Oh wow.

Gary Clark: And students could ring the bell as a part of just being in that, at the program on campus, you know, in April of each year and now that I'm at UCLA, the first couple of years I was here, we had the bell and so I brought that tradition to UCLA and it's been over the sea for quite a few years now.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Yeah.

Gary Clark: Happy to have it back in Westwood.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Well, I just couldn't watch. I couldn't stomach all of the, the whole of the game, but, anyway, it's a great rivalry.

Gary Clark: It is.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I love watching it. I love that we both wear the home jerseys and it's fantastic. And why don't you tell us, your D1 sports is just class act.

Gary Clark: Absolutely.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And has how many national titles?

Gary Clark: 116 national championships where we're one behind Stanford. They passed us recently, so I'll give credit to Stanford where credit is due, but we are certainly one of the strongest NCAA Division One athletics programs in the country. So proud of not only the performance on the field, but we consistently have amongst the highest graduation rates.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Oh, great.

Gary Clark: And student-athlete performance in the classroom within the pack 12 and around the country, so really proud of what our student-athletes do, both on and off the field.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And people know I'm a big sports fan, but I also love that your men's, it has the most national titles, men's volleyball.

Gary Clark: Yeah.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Right.

Gary Clark: Yeah.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Followed by men's tennis so volleyball, last I counted, which was maybe a year ago, so this might be dated in less, so volleyball with 19, men's tennis with 16 and men's basketball come in at 11 and then female bruins, I have noted that the softball team has earned 11 national championships in women's water polo with 7 and those darling gymnasts.

Gary Clark: Oh. That's, you know, it's funny I think from a, cause I'm a big sports fan as well and I think a lot of times when we think of college sports, we sometimes gravitate to some of the big football, basketball.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Yes.

Gary Clark: You know, and kind of think about some of those sports, but honestly, like if whatever college or university you wind up attending, like some of the most fun sports to watch are some of those other sports and I will tell you here at gymnastics, at UCLA gymnastics, women's gymnastics is, you know, that the, how poly pavilion is packed, people enjoy watching those gymnasts, their olympic level talent are many of them former Olympians themselves ad it is just an amazing, amazing program and a lot of fun.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And the coach, she's amazing.

Gary Clark: She's great. She's retiring this year.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Oh my, oh gosh.

Gary Clark: Yeah.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Well I've got to definitely make sure I come out.

Gary Clark: Absolutely, she's amazing. Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. What is your favorite sport outside of [50:03 inaudible]?

Gary Clark: You know, I will say, I did not necessarily grow up a big soccer fan, but my son is a big soccer player and a soccer fan himself, so we've come out to see both the men's and women's soccer teams quite a few times.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Oh, good.

Gary Clark: And it's a blast. They're really talented teams. You can get really close to the action here. You know, plan other packs. Well, teams and teams around the country and you know, I enjoy from a spectator standpoint, if you'd asked me 10 years ago if I was a big soccer fan, I probably would've said no, but I'm all in now. I, I enjoy it quite a bit so I love going out to those games.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: I love soccer too.

Gary Clark: Yeah.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: What is your favorite thing to talk about when it comes to UCLA? When you're up presenting, is there a question that you love to answer?

Gary Clark: Well, think going back to the beginning, I really enjoy the opportunity to demystify this process and I think a place that is as applied to as UCLA is and is as selective as we've become, I'm always happy to kind of break down that perception that it's impersonal, that it's random, that it's numbers driven and you know, I'm always very straight with families. Like, I don't, I think I appreciate being given kind of direct response and so I try to give that whenever I can to just say, look, it is a highly selective process, there is no getting around that but it's one that I feel we can represent proudly and say that it is a human process. It is a thoughtful process. It's a process where we really are committed to getting to know these students as best we can before we make tough decisions because I, you know, the thing that gets all the attention is the volume, you know.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Yes.

Gary Clark: But the bigger challenge I would say is really the quality of students that apply here. I mean, 50, 60,000 students that apply could probably come to UCLA through the work.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Yeah.

Gary Clark: It's a very self-selective applicant pool and there are not a lot of bad students that apply here and so we are choosing amongst very, very talented students that apply each year and I think I think we're all humbled by that and proud of the fact that those students are considering UCLA and kind of honor us with an application but what it means is that the quality of students that we admit as extraordinary and the quality of students that are often not admitted here is also extraordinary.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Also extraordinary, yeah.

Gary Clark: Because when you have that quality of an applicant pool, there's no way to get around that.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: It's the good news and the bad news.

Gary Clark: Yeah.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: And having such a big, great pool.

Gary Clark: Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Okay. So if you are out there and you are thinking about applying to UCLA or have it on your horizon, you're an 8th grade, 7th grade, you know, thinking about it and you know, you can find Gary Clark and his staff, there is someone assigned to you in your high school, wherever you are, you can find it out that information on the UCLA admission page.

Gary Clark: Yeah. We actually have a website on our site that's just an opportunity to meet your counselors. So if you just go to UCLA, meet my counselor, it'll take you right to a link where you can look up your high school or your community college for any of our transfer students out there and it'll tell you exactly who from my staff is kind of assigned to work with students from that high school. I think we want to be sure that while our, we always answer our general phone line and happy to respond to general inquiry emails, I want every student out there to know that there's a person on staff that they could connect with if they have questions.

Dr. Cynthia Colon: Absolutely. Thank you so much. My friends, we have given you some good tips and tails but here's the real truth, some of the best essays I remember was so simple. The topic was a family dinner, a car ride to school, a favorite TV show, time with dad, advice from mom. For me, it's never about the topic itself, but rather how the student captures that story and the emotion he feels or she feels in those moments of life. Remember, this process is not objective, but it is subjected to humans and connection. Thank you for joining us today, you are my family. If this episode has fueled you in any way, please share this episode with three people in the next 30 minutes. High school seniors, you are in the home stretch and you must complete your essays and applications. You do have all the stories you need to stand out. You might feel overwhelmed, you might not know which direction to go, you might just need a guide or a nudge to reassure you that you are on the right path, consider me your tour guide, your sideline cheerleader or your compass. You can go to my website, and click on coach or you can email [email protected]. Educators and adults, I'm always looking to amass a village of changemakers. If you would like to learn how to become a changemaker, you can also go to my website. That is all for today, my dreamers. I'm Dr. Cynthia Colon, remember to share this episode with three people in the next 30 minutes. I'll see you next Wednesday at noon Pacific for another episode and until then, wherever you are, may you have a happy and sunny day. Bye for now.

Outro: Thank you so much for listening this week to Destination YOUniversity. Be sure to join Dr. Cynthia Colon again next Wednesday get one step closer to your success.