The Ultimate Guide to Applying to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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The flagship school in the University of North Carolina system, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC or Carolina) was chartered in 1789. The first public institution of higher learning in North Carolina, UNC is one of three schools to share the title of oldest public university in the United States.

Situated in scenic Chapel Hill, UNC offers more than 70 majors and minors across 60 departments. Undergraduate UNC students spend their first two years taking first-year seminars and fulfilling general education requirements across English, social science, history, foreign language, mathematics, and natural science. After their sophomore year, students may move into the College of Arts and Sciences or choose an undergraduate professional school program within the schools of medicine, nursing, business, education, pharmacy, information and library science, public health, or media and journalism.

UNC is a fierce athletic competitor. The Tar Heels, North Carolina’s mascot, had won 40 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships across women’s soccer, women’s field hockey, men’s lacrosse, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and men’s soccer, as of 2011.

Statistics, Deadlines, and Financial Aid

According to state law, the percentage of students from North Carolina at UNC Chapel Hill must meet or exceed 82%. This means the competition for out-of-state residents is fierce. With a 28% acceptance rate for the class of 2020, UNC continues to rank as one of the country’s most prestigious and challenging public universities. 3,144 applicants were offered a position on the waitlist, and of these students, 78 were admitted. Waitlist applicants are notified of their final admission decisions by June 30th.

Students who apply Early Action by October 15th receive their admissions decisions by the end of January. This program is non-binding, and admitted candidates are free to apply elsewhere Early Action or Regular Decision. Regular Decision applicants should submit their applications by January 15th, and will receive their admission decisions by the end of March. Materials aside from the application, such as test scores, should be submitted within two to three weeks after the deadline. All admitted candidates must submit enrollment deposits by May 1st to secure their positions. UNC reserves some opportunities for students who are admitted Early Action.

Tuition for in-state students is $8,834, with a total cost of $25,898 including room, board, and other fees annually. Tuition for out-of-state residents is $33,916, with a total cost of $51,466 including room, board, and other fees annually. Applicants may use UNC’s Net Price Calculator to estimate their cost of attendance. Financial aid forms are due March 1st for all applicants, but UNC recommends that you submit them as early as possible, because university scholarships, campus jobs, and low-interest loans are awarded first to students who complete their documents accurately and on time.

Under the Carolina Covenant, undergraduate students with a family income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level may be eligible for a path that enables them to graduation debt-free, through a combination of grants, scholarships, and work-study-jobs. The Covenant serves about one in ten students. There is no separate application process; candidate need only apply to the school and apply for financial aid.

Honors and Scholarships

Through Excel@Carolina, students may be considered for a variety of merit scholarships and other honors. There is no separate application; all first-year students are automatically considered. Students are matched based on responses to an optional survey. Assured admissions programs include Environment/Science Communication, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Euro-TAM Program, Information Science, Kenan-Flagler Business School, School of Education, and School of Media and Journalism. Research, service, and other scholarships and honors include Carolina Innovation Scholars, Carolina Research Scholar Program, Chancellor’s Science Scholars, Honors Carolina, MacDonald Community Service Scholars, Summer Study Abroad Fellowship, Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and Wood Scholars Program.

All applicants will be considered for Honors Carolina, which offers exceptional students unique opportunities for courses and events inside and outside the classroom. Admitted candidates will receive invitations to join within two weeks of being offered admission. Students who are awarded merit scholarships from UNC are automatically invited to join.

Other merit scholarships include Pogue Scholarship, for which you will automatically be considered if you apply Early Action, Morehead-Cain Scholars Program, and the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. The latter two scholarships require separate applications.

Applying to UNC Chapel Hill

UNC accepts the Common Application with an essay supplement.

UNC Supplement

The supplement has seven sections: General, Academics, Activities, Contacts, Family, Residency, and Other Information.



Here, you will enter your start term of Fall 2017 and preferred admission plan (Early Action or Regular Decision).



In this section, you will select your intended major. Keep in mind that you are not declaring your major, but giving the admissions committee a general idea of your current interests. You may also select Undecided.




UNC provides the following message about activities:

We hope you’ll share with us the activities that you’ve found especially worthwhile. We also hope you won’t feel compelled to tell us everything you’ve ever done or, worse yet, to do things that mean little to you just because you think we want you to do them. We also hope you’ll remember—because we never forget—that low-profile pursuits can be just as meaningful as ones that draw more attention, and that fewer activities can be just as good as more, and sometimes even better. Although starting a new club, for example, can be a great experience and helpful to others, so can caring for siblings, parents, or grandparents, or working outside the home to put food on the table, or being a good and caring friend. We hope you won’t feel as though you have to do the former, especially if your doing so will keep you from doing the latter. For all these reasons, although we’re glad to receive complete résumés, we don’t require or encourage them. Instead, if you choose to submit something that goes beyond what you’re providing through your Common Application, we encourage you to keep it brief; focus less on including everything than on choosing and explaining the things that have meant the most to you; and upload it here.

Although you will have the opportunity to list your extracurricular activities in the Activities section of the Common Application, this section provides you with a chance to expand on a particularly meaningful activity or describe a particular interest that you may not have included previously. Pay close attention to the suggestions UNC describes—you may describe a club or job, but activities that are not part of your resume, such as supporting or caring for friends and family members, can be just as meaningful. Ultimately, you should use this section to show an aspect of yourself and your life outside of high school that may not be evident on the rest of your application. Keep it brief, using no more than a couple paragraphs.



Here, you will indicate if you have previously applied to UNC. You may also include a cell phone number if you wish to be contacted by call or text.



In this section, you will list any connections your family has to UNC. First you will indicate if you have any siblings who are also applying this year. If so, you will be prompted to list their names. Next, you will indicate if you have any relatives who attended UNC. If you answer yes, you will be prompted to list their relationships to you (parent, step-parent, guardian, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or other relative), their names, and the number of degrees they received from the college.



UNC asks if you believe you may qualify for in-state tuition. You must be a resident of North Carolina to qualify for in-state tuition. If you are a resident, you will be asked how long you have lived in North Carolina and since when you have lived at your current address. You must also indicate when you began your legal residence in the state. You will also indicate your county, your driver’s license information (if you have one), your office location (if you are employed), the state in which you filed a tax return (if you filed) and will file this year, your car state registration information (if you own one), and the state where you are registered to vote (if you are registered).

Parent/Legal Guardian Residency


If you indicated that you believe you qualify for in-state tuition, you will answer some questions about the parent you believe best qualifies you.

First, you will indicate the parent or guardian. Next, you will indicate how long he or she has lived at his or her current address, if s/he is a resident of North Carolina, and the starting dating of that residency. You will also answer some questions about your parent or guardian’s U.S. citizenship status, if s/he is a U.S. Armed Services active duty or veteran, if s/he is employed, has a driver’s license, owns a car, is registered to vote, or has ever served jury duty, as well as where s/he filed and will file tax returns. This information, along with the information in the previous section, helps UNC thoroughly evaluate your state residency status to determine whether or not you qualify for in-state tuition.

Other Information


This is the essay section. First, you will be asked to read UNC’s Honor Code Statement.

Carolina prides itself on honesty and integrity. Under the University’s system of self-government, each student is responsible for obeying and supporting enforcement of the Honor Code, which is administered by students. The Honor Code specifically prohibits lying, cheating, or stealing and any conduct that impairs significantly the welfare or the educational opportunities of others in the University community. For more information, visit

You should indicate that you agree to uphold the Honor Code. Next, you will agree to abide by the policies defined on

You will also indicate if you have any criminal charges pending against you or if you have ever entered criminal pleas. You must agree to inform the Office of Undergraduate Admissions within one week of any new criminal charges or school disciplinary action if they should occur after you submit your application and before you enroll.

Next, you will choose two short answer prompts to write essays of 200-250 words each.

The prompts are as follows:

Tell us a story that helps us better understand a person, place, or thing you find inspiring.

What do you hope will change about the place where you live? 

Tell us about a small goal you hope to achieve, whether in the next 10 days, 10 months, or 10 years. 

What will be the best breakthrough – whether scientific, social, economic, or other – between now and 2025?

Not only are these essays used in your admission application review, but are also considered in the process for awarding merit-based scholarships. Therefore, you will want to take the time to make your essays stand out as much as possible. Ensure that your voice and personality come across fully. For more tips on writing the UNC essay, check out our “How to Write the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill’s 2016-2017 Essay” post.

Next, you may include the names and relationships of individuals with whom you authorize UNC to discuss information related to your application (e.g. parents or guardians). You may also authorize UNC to share your basic information with members of its extended community (e.g. alumni, student organizations, etc.) so they can correspond with you and your family.

Finally, you may complete an optional survey about Excel@Carolina opportunities. You may indicate up to three opportunities for which you would like to be considered. Typically, UNC extends invitations for one of these opportunities to about 10% of admitted students. Keep in mind that some of them, including Assured Admission into Dual Degree in Environment and Science Communication, Assured Admission into Kenan-Flagler Business School, and Assured Admission into the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, are only available to Early Action applicants.

Additional Materials

Students must submit an $80 application fee or fee-waiver. UNC requires either SAT or ACT scores. If you submit both, the admissions committee will only look at your higher score. You may submit SAT subject tests as well, but these are not required. You may be able to receive placement or credit for some subject tests, so be sure to review this list when considering which tests to take.  You should also submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher who taught you in a core academic subject area (Math, Science, English/Language Arts, Social Studies/History, Science, or Foreign Language). You may send a second letter if you wish.

UNC does not use interviews as part of the admission process.

Students who have special talents in art or music may include URLs to their portfolios in their applications. UNC advises that they cannot review media submitted by CD or DVD, and will not return any materials, so send copies only if you prefer to use physical materials. These materials will not be used to admit students into art or music majors; these majors are available to any enrolled students who have an interest in the programs.

UNC advises against submitting resumes, unless they provide new information that cannot be found anywhere else on your application.

If your academic progress has been affected by a disability, you are encouraged to provide documentation to that effect.

It may seem like a daunting process to complete your UNC application, but with its stellar reputation, this “public Ivy” is well worth the challenge. Good luck!


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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.

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