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Timothy Peck
7 How to Get Into

How to Get Into UCSD: Admissions Stats + Tips

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What’s Covered:

 

When you consider UCSD’s location and weather (which are best described as idyllic), it’s a miracle that anyone attends class—yet the school is among the best public universities in the nation. More than merely recognized nationally, the University of California San Diego is consistently ranked among the top research universities in the world. 

 

How Hard Is It to Get Into UCSD?

 

The University of California San Diego is very difficult to get into. UCSD’s Class of 2025 had an applicant pool of 98,669 and accepted 37,584 students—giving the school an overall acceptance rate of 38%. 

 

UCSD’s acceptance rate is low, but your personal chances of acceptance are tied to the strength of your profile. CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator uses a host of factors—like your GPA, test scores, and extracurriculars—to estimate your odds at the University of California San Diego and provide tips to improve your profile.  

 

Average Academic Profile of Accepted UCSD Students

 

GPA

 

The average high school GPA of UCSD’s Class of 2025 is 4.09—76.6% of them graduated with a 4.0.

 

SAT/ACT

 

The middle 50% SAT score of UCSD’s class of 2025 is 1280-1460. The middle 50% ACT score is 26-33. It’s worth noting that the SAT and ACT are not used to make admissions decisions at any of the UC System Schools, including UCSD. 

 

Class Rank

 

Every student in UCSD’s Class of 2025 graduated in the top tenth of their high school class. 

 

What is UCSD Looking for?

 

The University of California San Diego is first and foremost looking for applicants with strong academic profiles. In addition to possessing great grades and a high class rank, UCSD (and the UC System as a whole) has a set of academic prerequisites known as the A to G subject requirements that applicants must meet to qualify for admission. Most applicants graduating from public school should have no trouble satisfying them, but they can prove troublesome for applicants from private schools or those who were homeschooled. 

 

The A to G subject requirements are a collection of 15 courses that are prerequisites for admission to the University of California San Diego: 

 

Letter

Subject 

Requirement 

A

History 

2 years

B

English 

4 years

C

Mathematics

3 years 

D

Science 

2 years

E

Language other than English 

2 years (or the equivalent to the second level of high school instruction)

F

Visual and performing arts

1 year

G

College-preparatory elective

1 year 

 

To satisfy the A to G subject requirement, in-state students are required to earn a GPA of 3.0 and cannot get anything less than a C. Out-of-state applicants have an even higher bar to clear—they must earn a 3.4 GPA and can also not receive a grade lower than a C. 

 

Although academics take precedence at UCSD, there are other qualities they look for in applicants. According to UCSD, they’re looking for students who demonstrate “leadership, motivation, tenacity, initiative, originality, creativity, intellectual independence, responsibility, insight, and maturity.” The university is also looking to field classes with students from different backgrounds and values cultural, socioeconomic, and intellectual diversity. 

 

How UCSD College Evaluates Applications

 

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

 

  • Course rigor
  • GPA
  • Essay

 

These factors are “important”:

 

  • Extracurricular activities 
  • Character
  • Talent
  • State residency 
  • Volunteer work 

 

These are “considered”:

 

  • Class rank 
  • First generation 
  • Geographical residence
  • Work experience

 

And these are “not considered”:

 

  • Standardized test scores
  • Recommendations 
  • Interview
  • Legacy 
  • Religious affiliation/commitment
  • Racial/ethnic status 

 

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 UCSD

 

1. Achieve at least a 4.09 average GPA while taking the most challenging classes available

 

The University of California San Diego places considerable weight on your academic performance. The university considers both GPA and course rigor as “very important” to admissions, and the average high school GPA of UCSD’s Class of 2025 is 4.09. But UCSD students didn’t just earn great grades in high school—they did so while tackling challenging coursework. It’s common for students at top-tier schools like UCSD to have completed between five and 12 AP classes. 

 

Selective schools that receive an enormous amount of applications, like UCSD, use a tool known as the Academic Index to expedite admissions decisions. Academic Index consolidates your entire academic record into a single number. If your Academic Index fails to meet UCSD’s standards, you risk being viewed as unqualified and your application not given serious consideration. 

 

If you’re earlier on in your high school career and your GPA is low, there is still time to improve it. Check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, you’ll need to buckle down, as you’re unable to increase your Academic Index with higher test scores like applicants at many other schools.

 

2. Write engaging essays

 

Outside of academics, essays are the best way to stand out from other applicants at UCSD. The University of California San Diego—like all UC System schools—requires applicants to answer four essay questions from a selection of eight prompts: 

 

  1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

 

  1. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem-solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

 

  1. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

 

  1. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

 

  1. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

 

  1. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

 

  1. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

 

  1. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

 

UCSD received almost 100,000 applications for its Class of 2025. To distinguish yourself from the thousands of other essays submitted, you’ll want to avoid cliches and write in your unique voice. Make sure to highlight the qualities that aren’t easily gleaned from your application and show why they make you a good fit at UCSD (and how the school will benefit from you being on campus). For UCSD-specific essay advice, check out our article, “How to Write the University of California Essays 2021-2022.”

 

3. Cultivate one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)

 

Almost every applicant at the University of California San Diego will have an exceptional academic profile. This places extra importance on areas like extracurriculars for separating yourself from other applicants. UCSD views extracurricular activities as an “important” part of their admissions process. 

 

A strong extracurricular profile will feature a highly developed interest, known as a “spike,” and one of two impressive extracurriculars. Just how much weight do your activities outside of the classroom carry with colleges? The four tiers of extracurriculars provide a good guide for how schools value them:

 

  • Tier 1 activities are the rarest, most impressive, and extremely compelling to colleges. These extracurriculars demonstrate exceptional achievement, leadership, or merit and include things like winning a national award, earning nationwide recognition in athletics or music, and attending a prestigious merit-based summer program. 

 

  • Tier 2 extracurriculars demonstrate great accomplishment and leadership but are more commonly seen by admissions officers and don’t carry the same weight as those in Tier 1. Examples of Tier 2 activities are winning a regional award, earning state-level recognition in athletics or music, or holding a position like student body president. 

 

  • Tier 3 extracurricular activities are good for highlighting your interests outside of the classroom but do little to differentiate you from other candidates. Tier 3 activities include captaining a varsity sport, playing in a regional musical ensemble, or holding a minor leadership position in a well-known club. 

 

  • Tier 4 activities are the most common and least impressive to college admissions. These activities include playing a sport or instrument, participating in a club, and general volunteer work. 

 

4. Aim for a 1460 SAT and 33 ACT 

 

The schools of the UC System no longer use the SAT or ACT when making admissions decisions. That said, having strong standardized test scores is a quality shared by the majority of UCSD students—the middle 50% SAT/ACT score of UCSD’s Class of 2025 is 1280-1460/26-33. 

 

Although standardized test scores are not used to make admissions decisions at UCSD, you may submit your test scores, and there are some benefits for doing so. Standardized tests may be used as an alternative method to fulfill minimum requirements for admissions eligibility or for course placement after you enroll. To improve your SAT/ACT score, check out these free CollegeVine resources:

 

 

5. Apply Early Action/Early Decision

 

Many colleges have early decision and early action programs that allow applicants to get a jump on the college admissions process and gain an advantage over other applicants—applying early can increase your chances even when controlling for profile strength. 

 

Unfortunately for applicants to the University of California San Diego, it and the rest of the UC System schools do not offer early decision or early admission. This makes it even more essential that your academics are impressive, your essays are polished, and your extracurriculars are impressive. 

 

How to Apply to UCSD

 

Deadlines

 

The deadline to submit your UC application is November 30 and decision notifications are sent on March 31. 

 

Application Requirements

 

UCSD and the other schools of the UC System accept only UC Applications. In addition, you’ll need to submit your four personal essays and ensure you’ve met the UC System’s subject requirements. Arts majors pursuing music, theatre, dance, and visual art may submit an optional (but highly recommended) portfolio for review. 

 

Learn more about UCSD

 

Interested in learning more about the University of California San Diego? Check out these other informative articles: 

 

 

Want to know your chances at UCSD? Calculate your chances for free right now.


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.