Everything You Need to Know About Applying to the California State University System

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Unlock the secrets of applying to California State University systems. From admission requirements to insider tips, get the edge you need for enrollment success.

Everything You Need to Know About Applying to the California State University System

Published March 11, 2021 | Last Updated June 30th, 2023 at 06:17 am

Unlock the secrets of applying to California State University systems. From admission requirements to insider tips, get the edge you need for enrollment success.
A green road sign that says, "Welcome to California"

There are two public university systems within the state of California: the University of California (UC) and the California State University (Cal State or CSU). The schools in both systems offer graduate and undergraduate education with the exception of UC San Francisco, which only offers graduate and professional programs.

Most public colleges in California are large, with extensive student and faculty populations and a myriad of course offerings and degrees to choose from.

The CSU system consists of 23 college campuses throughout the state, while there are a total of 9 UCs offering bachelor’s degrees.

Both the UC and CSU systems are test-optional.  SAT and ACT test scores are not used for admissions or scholarship decisions.  Test scores may be used for class placement after a student is admitted.

What Are the Nine UC schools?

The nine UC campuses are large public research universities widely considered to be some of the best in the country, and most have undergrad student populations of well over 20,000.

Even the newest UC campus which opened in 2005, UC Merced, has approximately 8,000 total undergrads.

Potential students can visit the official University of California admissions website which offers a rundown of everything needed to apply as well as a place to sign in and fill the virtual application out in full, which applies to all schools in the system.

The following are all UC schools that make up the system:

  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • UC Santa Barbara (UCSB)
  • UC San Diego (UCSD)
  • UC Davis
  • UC Irvine
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • UC Riverside
  • UC Merced

Each school varies in competitiveness for both in- and out-of-state students. UC Berkeley (simply known as “Berkeley” or “Cal”) and UCLA are considered the most well-regarded and selective, with acceptance rates as low as 15 percent at Berkeley and 19 percent at UCLA. Meanwhile, in the second tier are UCSB, UCSD, UC Davis, and UC Irvine, all of which have similar mean Grade Point Averages (GPAs), standardized test scores, and admission rates (between 27 percent and 39 percent).

According to CollegeVine, while out-of-state acceptance rates for the UCs are generally higher, “those applicants tend to be better qualified, and are held to a higher academic standard.”

This especially applies to UCLA and Berkeley, but less so to UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced.

What Are the 23 Cal State schools?

With a reputation for being highly affordable for in-state students, CSU tuition for in-state undergraduates is $5,742 and $16,286 for out-of-state students.

This fee applies to all 23 Cal State schools for the 2023-2024 academic year and is markedly lower than the cost of attendance for the UCs.

Consequently, most Cal State colleges are made up of mostly California residents.

Potential students can visit the official Cal State Apply website to access the virtual Cal State application and receive all pertinent information on the upcoming admission cycle.

The following are the 23 Cal State universities:

  • CSU Bakersfield
  • CSU Channel Islands
  • CSU Chico
  • CSU Dominguez Hills
  • CSU East Bay
  • CSU Fresno
  • CSU Fullerton
  • Humboldt State University
  • CSU Long Beach
  • CSU Los Angeles
  • Cal Maritime
  • CSU Monterey Bay
  • CSU Northridge
  • Cal Poly Pomona
  • CSU Sacramento
  • CSU San Bernardino
  • San Diego State
  • San Francisco State
  • San José State
  • Cal Polytechnic San Luis Obispo
  • CSU San Marcos
  • Sonoma State University
  • CSU Stanislaus

While both in- and out-of-state applicants are admitted using the same factors, according to the official CSU website, “the primary difference is that the Eligibility Index​ (a combination of grades and test scores) is somewhat higher. Non-resident students need to complete the same pattern of courses in high school, but need a higher GPA and test score combination.”

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