UC Santa Barbara Acceptance Rate: What Does It Take to Get In?

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UC Santa Barbara accepts 32% of applicants. What does it take to get in?


If you’re dreaming of earning your college degree at a beachside paradise, UC Santa Barbara might be the school for you. One of 10 colleges that make up the University of California system, UCSB offers superlative academics coupled with breathtaking ocean views. There’s a reason U.S. News & World Report ranked UCSB No. 5 out of all the public universities in the country.


With an acceptance rate below 35%, UCSB clearly holds its applicants to high standards. A global leader in science education, the school is known for its research efforts. And there are few schools that boast such a picturesque setting. Read on for CollegeVine’s tips on gaining acceptance to this exceptional institution, along with advice on the college admissions process.


Applying to UC Santa Barbara: A Quick Review


Getting into UC Santa Barbara is no easy feat, but that doesn’t mean the effort isn’t worth it. The first step is familiarizing yourself with the university’s application process, as well as the important deadlines. Like most prestigious institutions, UCSB considers both academic factors and extracurriculars when making admissions decisions. The goal is to assess how a student will add to the college community, both intellectually and personally.


You can apply to UC Santa Barbara by filling out an application available online on the University of California website. One of the benefits of applying to UCSB is that you can use the same application for all 10 of the colleges in the University of California system. So, if you’re also interested in UCLA or UC Santa Cruz, you can opt to send your application and test scores to them as well.


Starting August 1, students can fill out the online application. The due date for submissions is November 30. The application fee for domestic students is $70 per school, while international students will have to pay $80. To apply to UCSB, you must be a first-time freshman or junior transfer student. In some cases, the College of Creative Studies will accept senior transfers.


When applying to UC Santa Barbara, be sure to submit the following materials:


  • UC Application
  • ACT or SAT with Essay
  • Transcripts
  • AP/IB/A-Level scores
  • Personal insight questions
  • Fee


Students can expect to hear back from the admissions committee between March 1 and March 31.


Test Scores and GPA


UCSB requires students to have completed a rigorous high school curriculum. If you’re thinking of applying to this institution, be sure your transcript includes the following:


  • 2 years of history or social sciences
  • 4 years of college-preparatory English
  • 3 years of mathematics (4 years preferred)
  • 2 years of laboratory sciences (3 years preferred)
  • 2 years of a foreign language (3 preferred)
  • 1 years of visual/performing arts
  • 1 year college-preparatory electives


Most of the incoming freshmen at UCSB earned high marks at their secondary schools. Below are the GPA and test scores for the middle 25% to 75% of accepted students:


High school GPA 4.0 to 4.26

ACT composite score 28 to 34

SAT Evidence Based Reading & Writing 630 to 720

SAT Mathematics 640 to 780


Want to boost your SAT score before applying to UCSB or another school? The CollegeVine SAT program was created to help students improve their scores quickly by focusing on those areas that drive the largest score increases.


UC Santa Barbara Acceptance Rate: How Difficult is It to Get In?


Gaining entry to UCSB takes hard work and planning. Of the 92,305 students who applied for admission last year, the university accepted just 29,782 for an average admit rate of 32%. That puts the UCSB in the company of other selective institutions like Wellesley College in Massachusetts, the University of Richmond in Virginia, and Oberlin College in Ohio.


If attending the University of California Santa Barbara is your dream, there are steps you can take to boost your chances of acceptance early on. Networking with current and former UCSB students is a great way to gain a leg up on the competition. Additionally, you can enlist the help of a third party such as CollegeVine for information on application guidance services.


So, How Does One Get Into UC Santa Barbara?


In an effort to build a diverse and robust student body, UC Santa Barbara considers a range of factors when making admissions decisions. The ideal UCSB student excels in the following areas:


Talents and Awards


Your application should detail your extracurricular achievements, be they in the art room, on the athletic field, or on the debate stage. Additionally, the school is interested in students who demonstrated leadership at the high school level, so feel free to highlight experiences in student government.


Special Projects


What projects have you undertaken outside your school work? Maybe you created a club, launched a tutoring organization to help other students, or volunteered to coach a youth soccer team. Show your initiative both inside and outside school walls.




Of course, USCB is interested in students with stellar academic records and test scores. However, the university acknowledges that not all applicants have access to the same advantages and opportunities. Be sure to note any special circumstances or factors that you would like the school to consider when evaluating your application, such as income level, disabilities, family circumstances, or refugee status.


How to Make Your Application Stand Out?


With almost 100,000 students applying each year, UC Santa Barbara isn’t at a loss for qualified candidates. Devoting extra attention to your Personal Insight Questions is one of the best ways to ensure your UCSB application stands out from the pack.


The UCSB Personal Insight Questions consist of four short essays designed to provide insight into your personality and interests. You’ll have a choice of eight questions, and each answer should be approximately 350 words in length. For best results, ensure that each essay response reveals something new and unique about your character and abilities. In other words, don’t talk about your love of playing the piano in three out of four essays.


What If You Get Rejected?


UC Santa Barbara is considered highly selective, and even the most accomplished students may not receive that elusive acceptance letter. While it is possible to appeal an admissions decision at UCSB, students need to be providing new information not present in their original applications. Because the likelihood of being accepted on appeal is slim, we advise against petitioning admissions decisions.


The good news is there are plenty more fine institutions out there, and CollegeVine has mentors available to help you find the right one for you. If UCSB tops your list of college prospects, it might be worth considering some of the other schools in the University of California system. Other institutions that are similar to UCSB with regard to GPA and test scores include UC San Diego, UC Davis, and UC Irvine.


If you’re still set on attending UC Santa Barbara at some point, you might want to consider transferring in as a junior. However, it’s worth noting that admission requirements for transfer students are strict, and eligibility alone does not guarantee acceptance to UCSB.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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April Maguire
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.