SACRAMENTO — For many 10th graders, college may seem light years away — or out of reach entirely. But at Sacramento’s McClatchy High last Thursday (Nov. 3), students heard from recent high school graduates about the experiences they had as sophomores that launched them on their journeys to UC.
They also heard from university leaders, including UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May and UC Vice Provost Yvette Gullatt about financial aid and pathways to a UC education, and the fact that three out of four California students who apply to UC get an offer of admission.
“When adults told me I could aim for a college education, I didn’t believe them,” said Gullatt, a UC Berkeley grad and Ph.D. who now oversees graduate, undergraduate and equity affairs for the 10-campus UC system. “I didn’t have any money. I’d never been on a college campus. But the education I got opened doors, not just for me, but for my entire family.” Indeed, her sons also attained UC educations.
Alice Atiegar, who attended El Camino Fundamental High School in Sacramento and is now at UC Davis pursuing a career in medicine or public health, shared a similar story.
Her journey to UC started in 10th grade when she attended a summer college prep program on the UC Davis campus. “That showed me that it’s possible to go to a UC and pushed me to apply,” she said. “The campus is very diverse, and that’s something that I love. I underestimated how welcoming it would be and the overwhelming support I receive as a minority student.”
‘Empowering our students’
Chancellor May was equally encouraging, telling the assembled students that the campus offered more than 100 majors, not to mention the possibility of working alongside faculty and researchers who are trying to change the world for the better.
“Nearly 41,000 students are part of our campus community, and they're studying major issues of our time, like climate change, pandemics and feeding a growing population,” May said. “They’re learning about how they can contribute to social justice issues, reshaping how we see and appreciate the world in which we live.
“We’re also empowering our students for great success after they graduate and helping them to find their dream career. We want each of our students either to have a job offer in hand before they graduate or have plans for graduate school in place.”
The McClatchy outreach event was part of the university’s Achieve UC program, presented at high schools throughout the state to inspire students to see themselves as college material, and to pair that aspirational message with practical guidance and support for going to UC.
Achieve UC targets schools with relatively low college-going rates. Students in such schools often face a gap in what educators call “college knowledge.” They may not understand the application process (don't despair, Achieve UC has tips to share), or that community colleges offer another path to UC (roughly one out of three UC undergraduates is a community college transfer).
And they may be unaware of the financial aid options that make a UC education affordable for all students. Achieve UC representatives present information that can come as a reassuring surprise, like how UC’s Blue and Gold program covers all systemwide tuition and fees for students from households with incomes of $80,000 or less. Thanks to that program, more than half of UC’s California undergraduates pay no tuition.
That fact was a major eye-opener for Shaylah Payne, a sophomore who had seen college as financially out of reach and had planned on going into the military to help pay for college.
“I always worried about the money,” said Payne, who had stopped by tables to talk to representatives of UC Merced, UC Riverside and UC Irvine. “But now that I’ve talked to some people from UC about it, I’m thinking about going straight to college.” Payne, who has lived with her grandmother since her mom passed away when she was young, hopes to study psychology and criminology.
Taylor Scott Hansen was impressed by the fact that two out of three McClatchy High students who applied to UC last year got in. “I know these schools are really competitive, but it opened my eyes to the fact that going to a UC campus is actually possible,” said the 10th grader, who hopes to become a doctor.
Nicole Freeling is a senior communications strategist in the marketing communications unit, UC Office of the President.