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Timothy Peck
7 How to Get Into

How to Get Into Santa Clara University: Admissions Stats + Tips

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What’s Covered:


Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University (SCU) offers unparalleled access to some of the largest and most innovative companies in the world and opens up doors for future employment. However, the SCU experience is about more than access to high tech; the university is rooted in the 500-year old-Jesuit tradition—it’s among the most prestigious Jesuit colleges in the nation—focused on forming the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. 


How Hard Is It to Get Into Santa Clara University?


Santa Clara University is difficult to get into. The university received 16,488 applications for its Class of 2025 and accepted only 8,362 students, equating to an overall acceptance rate of 51%


SCU has an early decision admissions process, through which it received 577 applications for its Class of 2025 and accepted 398 students—an early decision acceptance rate of 69%


SCU’s acceptance rate is low, but your personal chances of admission are tied to the strength of your profile. CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator can help you better understand your odds of acceptance at SCU and hundreds of other colleges. It uses factors like your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars to estimate your odds of admission and to provide tips for improving your profile.


Average Academic Profile of Accepted Santa Clara University Students




The average high school GPA of Santa Clara University’s Class of 2025 is 3.68.




The middle 50% SAT score of SCU’s Class of 2025 is 1280-1430 and the middle 50% ACT score is 28-32.


Class Rank


40% of Santa Clara University’s Class of 2025 graduated in the top tenth of their high school class and 73% graduated in the top quarter. 


What is Santa Clara University Looking for?


Admission to Santa Clara University is competitive and one of the main considerations when making admissions decisions is how you fit at the school. Fit is determined by using a variety of factors—such as grades, test scores, and extracurriculars—looked at collectively to get a better idea of you as a person, both inside and outside of the classroom, and to make a judgment on whether you’re ready for the academic and social challenges of SCU. 


For consideration at SCU, you must meet the school’s minimum high school requirements:




History and Social Science

3 years


4 years 


3 years required, 4 recommended 

Laboratory Science 

2 years required, 3 recommended 

Language (other than English)

2 years required, 3 recommended, 4 preferred 

Visual and Performing Arts

1 year recommended 


How Santa Clara University Evaluates Applications


According to their 2020-2021 Common Data Set, Santa Clara University considers the following factors “very important”:


  • Course rigor
  • GPA
  • Essay


These factors are “important”:


  • Class rank
  • Test scores
  • Recommendation 
  • Extracurricular activities 
  • Talent
  • Character
  • First generation 
  • Legacy
  • Racial/ethnic status
  • Volunteer work


These are “considered”:


  • Geographic residence 
  • State residency 
  • Religious affiliation 
  • Work experience 
  • Applicant interest 


And these are “not considered”:


  • Interview 


Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Santa Clara University


1. Achieve at least a 3.68 GPA while taking the most challenging classes available


Course rigor and GPA are “very important” to admissions at Santa Clara University. The average high school GPA of SCU’s Class of 2025 is 3.68—5% of them graduated with a 4.0 and 40% graduated with a GPA between 3.75 and 3.99. 


Competitive colleges like SCU use a tool known as the Academic Index (a representation of your entire academic performance by a single number) to facilitate admissions decisions. If your Academic Index fails to meet the school’s standards, you’re in danger of being seen as an unqualified candidate and not having your application receive serious consideration. If you’re early in your high school career, there’s still time for improvement—check out our tips for increasing your GPA. It’s harder to raise your GPA if you’re a junior or senior, however, and the best way to increase your Academic Index is to earn higher test scores. 


Simply earning great grades isn’t enough at top schools like SCU, it’s also important to push yourself academically by taking the most challenging coursework available. It’s common for students attending highly ranked schools like SCU to have completed anywhere from five to 12 AP classes


2. Write engaging essays


Almost every applicant to Santa Clara University has an exceptional academic profile, which makes areas of its application where you can stand out, such as essays, particularly important. SCU views essays as “very important” to admissions decisions—it’s the only factor outside of academics on which SCU places such significant weight. 


In addition to the personal essay found in the Common Application, SCU requires applicants to answer two supplemental questions:


  • Briefly describe what prompted you to apply to Santa Clara University. Based on what you know about SCU and our Jesuit mission to educate citizens and leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion, how do you envision your life at SCU and beyond? (Maximum 200 words) 

  • At SCU, we push our students to be creative, be challenged, and be the solution. Think about an ethical dilemma that you care about that our society is currently facing. This can be something happening in your local community or more globally. How can an SCU education help prepare you to address this challenge? (150-300 words)


When answering SCU’s supplemental questions, it’s important to write in your unique voice. SCU values how you’ll fit at the school and this is the perfect place to show how you connect with the college and how its campus will benefit from you being there.  


3. Aim for a 1430 SAT and 32 ACT  


Test scores are “important” to admissions decisions at Santa Clara University. The middle 50% SAT score of SCU’s Class of 2025 is 1280-1430 and the middle 50% ACT score is 28-32. Any score in SCU’s middle 50% range is good, but the higher you score, the more compelling of a candidate you become. Santa Clara University superscores both the SAT and ACT, which makes taking one of the exams between two and three times a smart strategy to maximize your score and strengthen your profile. 


To improve your SAT/ACT score, check out these free CollegeVine resources:



SCU will practice test-optional admissions for both the 2022 and 2023 terms. However, CollegeVine recommends taking either the SAT or ACT if you can do so safely, and submitting scores if they’re at, or above, the 25th percentile. Applicants who submit test scores are accepted at a higher rate than those who do not. You can get recommendations on whether or not you should apply test-optional using our free chancing engine


4. Cultivate a strong portfolio of extracurriculars


Extracurricular activities are “important” to admissions at Santa Clara University—they show the college your interests outside the classroom and highlight your talent and character, two other factors SCU considers “important” to admissions decisions. 


Rather than showing a college a bunch of unrelated interests, selective schools like SCU want you to have one or two highly developed interests, known as “spikes” and one or two impressive extracurriculars in line with your spike. How influential are your extracurricular activities to SCU? The 4 Tiers of Extracurriculars provide a good guide for understanding how colleges view your activities outside of the classroom. 


  • Tier 1 extracurriculars are the most impressive, least common, and hold the most sway at schools like SCU. Tier 1 activities show great achievement or leadership and include things such as winning a prestigious award, earning national distinction in athletics or music, and attending a renowned merit-based summer program. 


  • Tier 2 activities show accomplishment and leadership but are more common than those found in Tier 1. Tier 2 activities include winning a state-level competition, earning state-level recognition in athletics or music, and holding a position like student body president. 


  • Tier 3 extracurricular activities lack the distinction of those in the higher tiers and are better for highlighting your interests, rather than showing off an outstanding accomplishment or demonstrating an in-demand quality like leadership. Tier 3 activities include winning a regional competition, holding a minor leadership position in a club, and captaining a varsity sports team.


  • Tier 4 extracurriculars are the least impressive to colleges and hold little weight in the admissions process. Tier 4 activities include playing a sport or instrument, participating in a club, and general volunteer work. 


While you probably don’t need a Tier 1 activity for SCU, having some Tier 2 or 3 activities will demonstrate your drive. Keep in mind that the most competitive applicants have 8-10 activities total, but not all of those are “impressive” tiers, and many are seasonal.


5. Really Strong Recommendation 


Santa Clara University values teacher recommendations—they consider them “important” to the admissions process—and students are required to submit one academic teacher evaluation with their application. 


The teacher evaluation includes details about the teacher and your relationship to them and should be from a teacher in a core academic field, such as computer science, English, math, science, social studies, or world language. The 9 Rules For Requesting Letters of Recommendation from Teachers provide a good guideline for getting the best possible recommendation, which is particularly important considering the weight SCU places on them.  


6. Apply Early Action/Early Decision


Applying early can improve your odds at Santa Clara University—the school’s early decision acceptance rate of 69% is significantly higher than its overall acceptance rate of 51%. In addition to regular decision, SCU has three early decision/action processes: Early Decision I (ED I), Early Decision II (ED II), and Early Action (EA). 


ED I and ED II hold the greatest admission advantage but are binding programs and by applying through them you commit to attending SCU if accepted and are prohibited from applying Early Decision at other institutions. This makes ED I and ED II ideal if you’re positive that SCU is where you want to attend college. 


Early Action is a nice option if you want to demonstrate your interest—which is something SCU “considers”—and wrap up the college admissions process early in your senior year. EA is non-binding and applicants are under no obligation to attend SCU if accepted. 


How to Apply to Santa Clara University 




Application Timeline


Early Decision I

November 1

Early Decision II

January 7

Early Action

November 1

Regular Decision

January 7


Application Requirements


Santa Clara University accepts the Common Application. Other requirements include:


  • High school transcript
  • Teacher evaluation 
  • Secondary school report 
  • Mid-year report 
  • SAT/ACT scores (optional)


Learn more about Santa Clara University 


Interested in learning more about SCU? Check out these other informative articles: 



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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.