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Ranked List of the Best UC Schools

What’s Covered:

 

Founded in 1868, the University of California is now home to 10 distinct campuses*, most of which are widely considered some of the best institutions of higher learning in the world. In fact, The vast majority of the universities are known as “Public Ivies,” thanks to their exemplary academic programs and prestige.

 

*University of California, San Francisco is a graduate and professional school only and not included in this list.

 

CollegeVine’s Ranking Methodology

 

These rankings are based on factors including educational quality, student outcomes, and return on investment (ROI). We also looked at retention rate, selectivity, student-faculty ratio, and more. Learn more about CollegeVine’s rankings.

 

Ranked List of the Best UC Schools

 

1. University of California, Berkeley

 

Location: Berkeley

Acceptance rate: 17%

Middle 50% SAT: 1310-1530

Middle 50% ACT: 31-35

Undergrad enrollment: 30,800

 

Ranked no. 2 among Top Public Schools and no. 22 among National Universities by U.S. News, the prestigious UC Berkeley is widely considered an academic and cultural powerhouse. The university has produced Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, Academic Award winners, Supreme Court justices, and Olympic athletes, with famous alumni like Earl Warren, Kathy Baker, Joan Didion, Alice Waters, and Steve Wozniak. 

 

The site of the 1964 Free Speech Movement, Berkeley is also known for their activism. The university is the no. 1 all-time top producer of Peace Corps volunteers.

 

Learn more about Berkeley and your chances of acceptance.

 

2. University of California, Los Angeles | UCLA

 

Location: Los Angeles

Acceptance rate: 14%

Middle 50% SAT: 1290-1520

Middle 50% ACT: 30-34

Undergrad enrollment: 31,500

 

Particularly famous for its School of Theater, Film and Television, UCLA is the second-oldest of the UC campuses, after Berkeley. It is ranked no. 1 among Top Public Schools and no. 20 among National Universities in U.S. News. Like Berkeley, UCLA is considered a Public Ivy. It was also named a Best Value University by Forbes Magazine in 2019, coming in at no. 4.

 

Just some of UCLA’s notable alumni are Mayim Bialik, George Takei, Francis Ford Coppola, Jackie Robinson, Johnnie Cochran, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Judy Chu.

 

Learn more about UCLA and your chances of acceptance.

 

3. University of California, San Diego | UCSD

 

Location: La Jolla

Acceptance rate: 37%

Middle 50% SAT: 1270-1480

Middle 50% ACT: 27-33

Undergrad enrollment: 30,200

 

Founded as an experiment in 1960, UCSD is situated in sunny La Jolla, right by the Pacific Ocean. A top research university, it offers 125 undergraduate degree programs across its seven undergraduate colleges, along with the option to design a major. It was named the Top “Golden Age” University — an honor bestowed to institutions founded between 1945 and 1966 — by Times Higher Education for four years running.

 

Learn more about UCSD and your chances of acceptance.

 

4. University of California, Irvine

 

Location: Irvine

Acceptance rate: 30%

Middle 50% SAT: 1230-1430

Middle 50% ACT: 25-33

Undergrad enrollment: 29,700

 

In 1965, the University of California, Irvine, was founded to accommodate growing enrollments across the UC campuses. Among its many claims to fame are its rankings as a Top 10 “Cool School” for sustainability by Sierra Magazine for 12 years running and a best school for upward social mobility by U.S. News (no. 2). 

 

UC Irvine has graduated many acclaimed professionals, including David Benioff, Alice Sebold, Jon Lovitz, and Janet Nguyen.

 

Learn more about UC Irvine and your chances of acceptance.

 

5. University of California, Davis

 

Location: Davis

Acceptance rate: 46%

Middle 50% SAT: 1160-1470

Middle 50% ACT: 24-32

Undergrad enrollment: 30,700

 

UC Davis was initially founded as an agricultural branch of the system in 1905. Today, the campus boasts a rigorous learning environment in a college town atmosphere. Undergraduates can choose among more than 100 majors, and more than half conduct research and creative projects beyond the classroom. In fact, more than 700 students present their work at the university’s annual Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Conference.

 

Learn more about UC Davis and your chances of acceptance.

 

6. University of California, Santa Barbara

 

Location: Santa Barbara

Acceptance rate: 37%

Middle 50% SAT: 1230-1460

Middle 50% ACT: 27-33

Undergrad enrollment: 23,000

 

Located on the coast, UC Santa Barbara is one of just a handful of universities in the US with its own beach. But that’s hardly all it has to offer. The university is ranked no. 5 among public universities in the country according to U.S. News and no. 10 among Princeton Review’s Top 50 Green Schools.

 

Offering more than 200 programs of study across five schools, the university has six Nobel Laureates among its faculty. UC Santa Barbara is also the birthplace of the Practical Scanning Microscope and the editorial headquarters for The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau.

 

Learn more about UCSB and your chances of acceptance.

 

7. University of California, Riverside

 

Location: Riverside

Acceptance rate: 66%

Middle 50% SAT: 1080-1280

Middle 50% ACT: 23-29

Undergrad enrollment: 20,500

 

Ranked no. 1 in social mobility by U.S. News and no. 2 in financial aid by Business Insider, UC Riverside has a diverse, inclusive community. It is well known for its value, innovative, and green campus. The university, which offers more than 80 undergraduate majors, is divided into three colleges and four professional schools. 

 

Another claim to fame is the university’s recognition as the no. 1 school for Hispanic enrollment among selective universities. 

 

Learn more about UCR and your chances of acceptance.

 

8. University of California, Santa Cruz

 

Location: Santa Cruz

Acceptance rate: 65%

Middle 50% SAT: 1160-1360

Middle 50% ACT: 36-32

Undergrad enrollment: 17,700

 

Princeton Review ranks UC Santa Cruz the no. 2 public university in the US for students focused on making a world impact. Across Arts, Engineering, Humanities, Physical & Biological Sciences, and Social Sciences, the university offers 64 undergraduate majors, 65 graduate programs, and 41 minors.

 

UC Santa Cruz is also known for being a founding member of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities. 

 

Learn more about UCSC and your chances of acceptance.

 

9. University of California, Merced

 

Location: Merced

Acceptance rate: 85%

Middle 50% SAT: 960-1140

Middle 50% ACT: 19-27

Undergrad enrollment: 7,800

 

The newest of the UC campuses, Merced opened in 2005, becoming the first American research university of the 21st century. The university continues to follow its mission to increase college attendance rates for students in the San Joaquin Valley while stimulating economic growth and diversity across the region.

 

Across three schools — Engineering, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts — UC Merced offers 24 majors and 25 minors. It also boasts state-of-the-art research facilities and opportunities for undergraduates. Notably, it was the first public research university to be certified as carbon-neutral.

 

Learn more about UC Merced and your chances of acceptance.

 

How to Apply to the UC Schools

 

The UC system has its own application portal and does not accept the Common App or Coalition App. The good news is that you can use the same application to apply to multiple UC schools at once — all nine accept it. Bear in mind that you must submit your application by November 30th.

 

As part of your application, you will be required to respond to four of eight personal insight questions. Again, you can use the same short answers for all UC schools you apply to, so there’s no need to make them school-specific.

 

UC no longer considers SAT or ACT scores as part of the admissions process. If you submit them, they will not be used as part of admissions decisions. However, they may be considered for course placement when you enroll. You may submit SAT Subject Tests as an additional piece of information for the adcom to review if you took any before they were discontinued in 2021.

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?

 

What are your chances of admission to UC schools? Find out using our chancing engine. This free tool takes into account your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and other factors to predict your personal odds of acceptance, plus gives you tips on how to improve your profile!

 


Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.