The UCs, and The Makings of Success
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By David Phillips

Every year, the nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California release their admissions decisions during throughout the month of March. This year, heralding another great admissions cycle for my students, I heard from the UCs in mid February when one of my top students received an invitation to interview for the Regents’ Scholarship at UC Berkeley (#21) – an honor extended to only 200 students from the 10,000 admitted to each freshman class (

In US News and World Reports prominent National Universities ranking, UC Davis (#46) beat the other UCs by releasing decisions on March 9. I heard of a student’s acceptance to UCLA (#21, tie) for Computer Science on March 16, on the heels of his Washington University in St. Louis (#18) admit earlier that day. (He’s gone on to add Georgetown to that haul, and is an understandable happy camper.)

March 16 was also the day that the sphinx-like (at least to me) UC San Diego (#42) admissions authorities informed students of their decision. To round out UC-rankings talk, UC Irvine is tied with UCSD (#42) and Santa Barbara now leads the middling UC pack at #37.  

It has been a great 2018 already with many big results still outstanding, such as Cal itself, which holds off notification until March 29, 2018. Meanwhile, my students have still received happy and deserving admits to ED, EDII and just plain early-announced schools such as: CalTech (#10), Vanderbilt (#14) with a full ride, Harvey Mudd (#12, Liberal Arts College) College and Pitzer (#33 LAC and Claremont College w 3.7/1290 SAT). Over the years, I have helped students to find success at all of the Ivy League and Ivy League Plus schools.

The UCs tend to be a very GPA-focused school. Kids without top test scores still do pretty well at the UCs – especially students from underrepresented minority backgrounds, first-generation in college, etc. I really respect this mission of the UCs to serve disenfranchised groups, and at the same time it does not do very much for most of my students, who are the sons and daughters of Chinese immigrants. Most of my students have a parent who earned an advanced degree, and this demographic – especially young men interested in STEM majors – is one of the most beleaguered in current admissions.

Returning to my student’s example, one of the advantage’s that distinguished the work of ThinkTank Learning consultants, is our ability to help students select and enact the perfect activities to help the reach their dream schools while exploring their academic passions through internships, selective summer program, job shadowings, volunteering, and our famous signature projects.

Over the years, I have helped students to attend a who’s who of summer programs, including Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR), MIT Research Science Institute (RSI), Boston University Research in Science and Engineering (RISE), UC Davis Young Scholars Program (YSP), Garcia Center for Polymers at Stony Brook, COMOS, UC Santa Cruz SIP. . .and that’s just a short list of the STEM programs. I’ve also helped students into non-STEM experiences like Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS), US Senate Youth Exchange, Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP),  Iowa Young Writer’s Studio. In short, if you would like to pack your student off to a highly selective summer program, look no further. Applying to summer programs is like applying to colleges, and we are likewise, very knowledgeable and skilled in how to do achieve these goals!

I’ve helped students to apply through the competitive channels to internships with politicians including mayors and state representatives in California and beyond, including Senator Barbara Boxer, Representatives Ro Khanna, Mike Honda, Fiona Ma, Evan Low, Anna Eshoo, and Jackie Speier, and many others.  

It all begins with a tailored, student-centered approach to education that goes beyond what is offered by even the best public and private high schools of today. A laser focus on a student’s ambition guide the consultant’s ability to deliver the stuff of educational dreams, including guaranteed admissions to the schools of your choice.

I am always heartened to hear news of my students’ successes, in college, their extracurricular activities, and other pursuits.