Applying to a Cal State University in 2021
Updated: Oct 5
The CSU system is made up of 23 campuses across the state of California.
Prior to the pandemic, applying to the CSU campuses was fairly straightforward. But the admissions criteria have in the past year.
Here’s what you need to know for the 2021 -22 admissions cycle.
How do students apply to the CSUs?
Whether your student is applying to one or 4 of the CSU colleges, they will still apply via the Cal State Apply Application. The application opens Oct. 1 has "phased deadlines," meaning some campuses will have earlier deadlines than other campuses. Eight campuses will close on November 30th, including Cal Poly San Louis Obispo and San Diego State University. You can verify deadline dates on each campus's website or look it up here.
What is admission based on?
Historically, admission to 22 of the 23 CSUs was determined by an eligibility index based on two criteria
Standardized test scores
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo uses a more comprehensive, multi-criteria admissions process that also takes into consideration college-prep coursework, extracurricular activities, and leadership among other factors.
For the class of 2022, the use of ACT/SAT scores in the admissions process has been suspended for all of the CSU campuses.
As a result, the new basic eligibility requirements for admission into all 23 CSU campuses are:
Completion of the 15-unit comprehensive “A-G” pattern of college prep courses with a qualifying GPA of 3.0 or higher for non-California residents
Completion of high school (by 2022)
Some CSU campuses are impacted, or have programs that are impacted – meaning the number of applications received from qualified applicants is greater than the number of available spaces. These campuses may use a higher GPA minimum in their admissions process. They may also take into consideration supplemental information in order to make admissions decisions. The GPA minimums and the weighting of supplemental information used may vary by campus.
For example, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo gives extra consideration when students take beyond the minimum number of semesters required in some of the “A-G” subject areas, such as math, lab science, or language other than English. This year, more CSU campuses will also take “A-G” coursework into consideration. Some campuses will utilize it simply to determine if a student has met the basic requirements, others may use it to give a student extra consideration.
The Cal State Apply application has expanded in the past year to include questions relating to a student’s extra-curricular activities and work experience.
Previously, Cal Poly SLO was the only CSU campus that considered these factors by asking questions related to co-curricular activities in the supplemental section of Cal State Apply application.
Now, these additional questions have been incorporated into the main section of the application and considered in the admissions process system-wide. Students are asked to choose from a range of hours to indicate the average time they have participated in their extracurricular and work activities over the past 36 months.
Students may also be given extra consideration if they indicate they have held a leadership position in any of their extra-curricular activities, or if 25% or more of their work experience is related to their chosen major.
Does CSU consider 9th-grade year coursework?
As in previous application years, the majority of the CSU campuses will use a GPA derived from “A-G” coursework taken in 10th and 11th grades only, even if the second half of 11th-grade coursework was awarded “pass” or “credit” rather than a letter grade. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo continues to be the only CSU campus that will also include 9th grade in their GPA calculation.
Will CSU consider test scores, if submitted?
The CSU has made it clear that “in no case will standardized test scores be utilized in making admissions decisions for applicants during the 2021-2022 academic year.”
Will CSU count “credit” or “pass” pass grades?
Yes! The CSU campuses will consider course grades of “credit” or “pass” as fulfilling “a-g” requirements for those courses. Grades of credit/pass or no credit/no pass will satisfy eligibility requirements, but they will not be included in the calculation of high school GPA.
Is an essay be required?
Although the CSU campuses will be looking at coursework and non-academic variables such as the hours spent in extra-curricular activities, the CSU system does not require any essays or personal statements and remains as objective as possible in making admissions decisions.
Do I need to submit my transcript or Letters of Recommendation?
Students will self-report their courses and grades in the application and do not submit letters of recommendation.
Where can I learn more about the CSU campuses?
Each CSU campus offers its own events (mainly virtual). Find the campuses here and link to their admission events website pages. You can also visit with specific campuses in October:
Where can I learn how to navigate Cal State Apply Application?
Several resources are available to students throughout the admissions process:
Students can sign up for a virtual application workshop here. Be sure to scroll down to the very bottom of the page to "other ways to explore" and click on schedule.
Students can also watch Cal Poly's series of application videos.
Do you have questions about college admissions? Let's talk!