for extracurricular pursuits, it is not enough that a student be
occasionally involved in an outside activity, says Tran. “The
student admitted to UCLA was involved in up to four extracurricular
activities every year, and was on the school’s varsity soccer
team four years in a row. There was ongoing volunteer service. The
student who was denied admission had only one or two activities
a year,” and none with great consistency. The first student
also demonstrated more leadership, while the other was a member
of campus groups but did not participate as a leader.
are also reviewed within the context in which they have demonstrated
academic accomplishment. This component, known as “life challenge,”
might include anything from a learning disorder to residence in
a high-crime, poor-school neighborhood or coming from a single-parent
or low-income household.
having had adversity in one’s life is not itself a sufficient
criterion upon which an admissions decision would ever be based.
What would be considered is how the student achieved in that context
— some demonstration of qualities that evidence a willingness
to persevere and overcome.
many students admitted to UCLA, in fact, list no life challenges
whatsoever on their applications. (Neither applicant cited as examples
experienced significant life challenges.) Yet when a student has
prevailed over challenges — in combination with excellent
academics and personal achievement — it denotes something
special about a person, says Tran.
all go through life along different routes,” says Tran. “Some
people are less fortunate than others. If you are born with, let’s
say, a physical disability and you still are able to study hard
and become involved in many things, that says something about your
ability to succeed.”