UC application
Founded in 1868, it’s earned its highly-ranked reputation as one of the world’s leading public research unis. Source: Mario Tama/AFP

The University of California (UC) has nine campuses in the US: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz with the campus in San Francisco being a graduate and professional one only. Founded in 1868, it’s earned its highly-ranked reputation as one of the world’s leading public research unis. 

What key things do you need to consider in your UC application as an international student? We’ll go through all of them here but first, let’s take a look at why you should even consider applying here. 

Firstly, being part of the state’s three system public higher education plan means that UC works towards increasing diversity, making college affordable, and meeting California’s workneeds among others. Along with its institutions, faculty and alumni, UC is one of the most advanced in terms of tertiary education in the world and generates US$82 billion a year in economic output for California

UC application

Pro tip: start your UC application early. Source: Jens Schlueter/AFP

What’s more, six of the campuses are considered Public Ivies (similar level to an Ivy League school). Many Nobel Prize recipients call UC their alma mater. Shuji Nakamura, Lloyd Shapley and Jennifer Doudna are have won Nobel Prizes in Physics, Economics and Chemistry, respectively. They are part of the group of 68 Nobel-winning faculty and staff who studied or worked at UC.

If you plan to walk the same illustrious paths, here are the key things you should know to nail your UC application by this November? Let’s take a look at them below:

Key Dates

If you’re planning to start in the next fall semester, you must submit your application by November 1 to 30. 

UC application fee

The application fee for each campus at UC is US$80. If you apply to UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara, it’ll cost US$160. If you apply to all nine campuses, you’ll have to pay US$720. 

Choosing a campus

In one UC application, you can apply to as many campuses as you like. Research each of them to see if its environment and features are what you want and/or need. To increase your chances of admission, it’s advised to apply to more than one campus. In the next step, the application site will show you if your preferred course is offered in your chosen campuses.

Passports and visas

Every country has its own set of passport and visa rules for students. For your UC application, you must have a valid passport from your government and a study visa. Applying for visas can be a long process — it’s advisable to begin this as soon as you can.

There are two types of visas for international students in the US. One is the F-1 Student Visa and the other is the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. To apply for these, it’s best to check the US government website for precise requirements

Typically, to apply for a visa, you’d need your passport, your certificate of eligibility issued by the UC campus you applied for, and proof of financial support for your studies and living costs. 

Proof of previous study

You must prove you’ve studied the following subjects in your country:

  • Two years of history
  • Four years of composition and literature in your home country’s language
  • Three years of college preparatory math
  • Two years of college preparatory science (biology, chemistry, or physics)
  • Two years of a second language
  • One year of visual and performing arts
  • One additional course from the aforementioned

If you’re calculating your GPA as an international student, your minimum requirement is 3.4. To calculate your total GPA grade, you can look at how to convert your grades to grade points here.

Filling out the papers

You must show all the courses you earned, as reported by your school and in numbers, letters, percentages or words. You can check the guidelines depending on the education system in your country here.

English language proficiency

If you’re planning to study in an English-speaking country, you’ll need to prove your proficiency in the language. This can be done through tests such as the SAT,  IB, IELTS, TOEFL or a Duolingo English Test. Check the minimum requirements of these on UC’s English language proficiency page.

UC application

UC generates US$82 billion a year in economic output for California. Source: Mario Tama/AFP


There are many different housing options at UC but some will need you to apply early. The residence halls for single students are found on campus and married students can opt for housing in UC apartments (which are limited). 

Students at most campuses live in private homes shared with other students as it helps lift the financial burden of living alone. There is also the option of working a few hours a week at student cooperatives in exchange for room and boarding at a lower fee. 

In the Berkeley, Riverside and San Diego campuses, you can find an International House which is a residence for international and US students providing a multicultural living environment. Make sure you go through all of your options asap to see which ones would suit you best financially. 

Health insurance

Much like any other uni in the world, health insurance is a must for your UC application. The policies and costs are different at each campus but are generally more affordable than the ones in the US market. 

On average, an undergrad can expect to pay US$1,962.18  at UC for the fall, winter, spring and summer terms. Under the International Student Insurance, a full year’s package would cost US$1,734 or US$1,840 if you pay monthly.