The VPA requirement can be confusing to out-of-state students, because many high schools do not require completion of an arts course to graduate; and many students were not planning to take one.
But UC’s “overarching goal is to ensure incoming freshmen are adequately prepared to undertake university study.” The UC criteria for completion of the requirement are specific. Make sure you understand these rules as early as possible during high school if you are planning to apply.
1.The grade in the course must be a C or better to meet the requirement. (A grade of C- would be counted as a C, since pluses and minuses are not considered.)
2. The course must be a full high school year; or two one-semester courses from the same discipline of dance, drama/theater, music, visual art or interdisciplinary arts. (Neither both semesters of the yearlong course nor the two one-semester courses need to be taken in the same academic year.)
3. If the choice is two one-semester courses, they not only must be from the same discipline, but also must “demonstrate a sequential relationship of some sort,” whether because one is a stated prerequisite to another, or because one reasonably serves as a good foundation to another. (For example, Drawing 1 and 2, not Drawing 1 and Ceramics 1.)
However, if the high school does not offer more than one semester of VPA courses, the student may mix and match two one-semester VPA courses. Nonetheless, the two courses must still be from the same discipline. (For example, two Fine Arts courses or two Dance courses.)
4. Private competition, instruction, or learning, does not count.
5. A course the student’s high school counts as PE (such as Marching Band), does not count.
On the other hand, a course the student’s high school counts as fulfilling an arts course requirement, even if it is not considered as such at other schools (an example might be computer graphics), will satisfy the requirement. Your school counselor can verify this for you with the UC admission office.
6. Concurrent courses will satisfy the requirement. (For example, Drawing 1 and Drawing 2, taken during the same semester.)
7. New for 2017-18: UC approved VPA online courses will satisfy the requirement! Current approved courses are listed on UC’s Online Publishers page. For example, Arts Anywhere, LLC offers six UC-approved survey courses in music, media arts, studio arts or theatre; and iCEV offers one: Art and the History of Floral Design. These specific courses are annotated with UC approved through 2020-21.
8. A score of 3, 4 or 5 on the AP History of Art, Studio Art or Music Theory Exam; or a score of 5, 6 or 7 on any one IB HL exam in Dance, Film, Music, Theatre Arts or Visual Arts will satisfy the requirement.
9. A 3-semester or 4-quarter transferable college course, that “clearly falls within one of four visual/performing arts disciplines: dance, drama/theater, music or visual art,” will satisfy the requirement.
10. Admission by Exception is an option for unusual circumstances in lieu of meeting the requirement. Examples of who might qualify include home-schooled students and those who’ve experienced hardships. UC suggests that students who believe they qualify “use the personal insight questions or additional comments section of the admission application to explain (their) unique story.”
There is still one more way a student can be considered for admission without meeting the UC minimum requirements, and that’s through Admission by Exam. Unique circumstances that may qualify a student for this option include non-traditional education or long-term illness. The student must achieve minimum scores on either the SAT with essay or the ACT with writing, as well as two subject exams. A chart on the UC website can provide the information necessary to determine if your scores, totaled and converted to UC Scores, will qualify you.
The most important point is to review the rules as early as possible in your high school career. If you check in regularly with your school counselor or college advisor and carefully follow the UC website guidelines, you can plan ahead to avoid a last minute scramble to meet UC admission requirements when you are ready to apply!
Bonus: Read Sandy Clingman’s University of California Application: 10 Requirements Out-of-State Students Don’t Expect to learn more about the UCs unique admissions requirements.