UCSF navigation

Saturday, September 20, 2008

SEO: Statements of Educational Opportunity

Being in the midst of the application season, our office is inundated with calls from applicants. Just last week, I had several questions regarding the Statements of Educational Opportunity section on the Supplemental Application.

According to our instructions: "We believe that students of diverse backgrounds will positively contribute to the intellectual, social, and cultural enrichment of the School's academic programs and student body. Although not required, this section provides you with the opportunity to tell us how you may have overcome economic, social, cultural, or educational barriers while pursuing your academic goals."

The 4 areas that are included on this section of the application are:

SOCIAL/CULTURAL FACTORS. Tell us about any unique circumstances involving your family and/or the community in which you were raised, and how these social and/or cultural factors might have adversely affected the pursuit of your education.

ECONOMIC FACTORS. Economic factors, such as the need to work, dependent care, family resources, etc., can often seriously impede an individual’s academic progress. Use the space below to elaborate on any economic issues that affected your schooling.

EDUCATIONAL DISADVANTAGES. The availability and types of schooling offered, as well as the history of education in one’s family and/or community might vary significantly. Comment below on any educational disadvantages you feel you might have had to overcome.

OTHER FACTORS/DISADVANTAGES. Are there now, or have there been in the past, any other factors or barriers that might have adversely affected your academic performance? If so, please feel free to elaborate.

So.... the questions we always seem to get (and my responses):
  • Do I have to fill this section out? No. It is totally optional!
  • Should I complete this section? Sure -- but only if you feel we should know about a particular situation or issue that fits into one of the four areas.
  • If I do not fill out this section, will my application be less competitive? Absolutely not. This section is optional!
  • Why do you include this section anyway? Well, we believe that it's important to provide applicants with the opportunity to comment or provide us with any information that puts their application into context. If we talk about a "holistic review" of an applicant, these areas are important for us to know about.
  • Do I have to complete all four categories of this section? No, it's all optional! If you think you may have something in one or two categories, then just complete those categories. If it's only one category that you feel is appropriate, then just complete that one category. Did I mention that this section is optional?
  • If I complete this section, will I be a more competitive applicant? No. But it could help explain a particular situation. Sometimes, an application may have a "red flag" somewhere. By explaining a situation on this part of the application, the "red flag" can be appropriately addressed.
So there you have it... everything you wanted to know about the Statements of Educational Opportunity (but were afraid to ask!)

We receive many applications with this section completed -- and many applications where this section is left blank.

We've admitted many applicants who completed it (or parts of it) -- and many applicants who did not.

We've denied many applicants who completed it (or parts of it) -- and denied many applicants who did not.

It's optional. Complete only the categories that are appropriate for you to do so. Don't include it if you don't feel compelled to address any issues in the four areas.

I did mention that this section is optional, right? I think I did. I hope I did.

(It's kind of like going to a "black-tie optional" party. If you feel compelled to wear a black tie, great! Rock it! If not, no big deal -- because it's optional!)


Anonymous said...

this is great! I wish this blog had been available when I was applying.

Priscilla Bui said...

Thank you so much for your blog. It clarifies many of my questions. The only problem I have left in this portion is that, I have difficulty in classifying the category. I'm an international student, and I got into some sort of trouble with my relatives while living here with them (which affected my studying). So it's supposed to be classified into the Social/Cultural Factors, or the Other Factor/Disadvantages category, as you would recommend? Thank you.

Joel W. Gonzales said...

It sounds like you are over-thinking this decision (how to classify this issue.) Simply select a category. It's not a big deal. Your entire application will be read.

UCSF UCSF About UCSF Search UCSF UCSF Medical Center