How to Get Into UCSB: Admissions Stats + Tips
Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?
See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.
- How Hard Is It to Get Into UCSB?
- Average Academic Profile of Accepted UCSB Students
- What is UCSB Looking for?
- How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into UCSB
Currently ranked #5 in U.S. News & World Report’s Top Public Schools, the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) is a public university in Isla Vista, California. It was founded in 1891 and became part of the University of California system in 1944, joining just two other members at the time, UC Berkeley and UCLA.
Undergraduates at UCSB study at one of three colleges:
- College of Letters & Science
- College of Creative Studies
- College of Engineering
Like several other schools in the UC system, UCSB is selective. So, what does it take to get in?
How Hard Is It to Get Into UCSB?
For the 2020–2021 admissions cycle, 89,752 students applied, and 32,842 were admitted, for an acceptance rate of 36.6%.
UCSB’s acceptance rate is low, but your chances of admission will vary by your profile. To find out your personal odds of acceptance, check out CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator. Using your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and more, we’ll predict your chances of acceptance and give you tips on improving your profile!
Average Academic Profile of Accepted UCSB Students
The average high school GPA for the freshman class was 4.17 weighted.
SAT and ACT scores are no longer considered in the UCSB admissions process.
With 78.69% of the freshman class submitting class rank, 100% were in the top 10% of their graduating class.
What is UCSB Looking for?
Like many other public universities, UCSB does have minimum requirements for admission. Bear in mind, however, that meeting them does not guarantee admission.
Requirements include completing approved courses in A-G subject areas with at least a grade of C. (Letter grade requirements are suspended between winter 2020–summer 2021. Passing or credit suffices.)
A-G subjects are:
A: History/Social Science
E: Language other than English
F: Visual & Performing Arts
G: College-Preparatory Elective
California residents must earn at least a 3.0 GPA, and non-residents must earn a minimum GPA of 3.4. The university also wants to see you challenging yourself by taking the most rigorous curriculum available to you.
But UCSB considers more than your academic achievements. “We look at your extracurricular activities and accomplishments in light of the opportunities available to you,” the university says. “As we consider each individual application—and rest assured, we do consider each one—we look beyond grades.”
The goal is to assess how you might contribute to the UCSB community. They also want to see specialization—outstanding performance in a particular subject area.
NB: Although the schools within the UC system use the same application, each campus evaluates applications independently of one another and does not consider or know the status of your application at another campus.
How UCSB Evaluates Applications
According to UCSB’s 2020–2021 Common Data Set, the following factors are “very important”:
- Academic GPA
- Application Essay
This factor is “important”:
- Rigor of secondary school record
These are “considered”:
- Extracurricular activities
- Character/personal qualities
- First generation
- Geographical residence
- State residency
- Volunteer work
- Work experience
These factors are “not considered”:
- Class rank
- Standardized test scores
- Alumni/ae relation
- Religious affiliation/commitment
- Racial/ethnic status
- Level of applicant’s interest
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into UCSB
1. Achieve at least a 4.17 (weighted) while taking the most challenging classes available
Remember that UCSB has a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0 for California residents and a 3.4 for out-of-staters. But in order to be a competitive candidate, you should strive for a weighted GPA of 4.17, the average at the university.
If your GPA is lower, and you’re earlier on in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it will be harder to increase your GPA, so the easiest way to increase your Academic Index is to get a higher test score.
2. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)
UCSB values “special talents, achievements and awards in a particular field,” along with unique skills and interests. You can demonstrate these talents and qualities through extracurricular pursuits.
There are typically 4 Tiers of Extracurriculars that are considered. Tier 1 encompasses the most impressive and unique activities, those that adcoms rarely see, such as award-winning research or earning national recognition for a creative project. Meanwhile, Tier 4 represents the most commonly-seen activities, such as club participation. While all tiers have their value, you should aim to have at least a couple Tier 1-2 activities. (Here are more examples of impressive ECs for college.)
We advise students to develop a “spike” — specialization in one or two interests — around which your activities should be grouped.
3. Write engaging essays
UCSB does not accept the Common Application. Instead, the UC system has its own application, which includes essay prompts. However, you can use the same essays and full application for all schools in the system.
You are required to address four out of eight personal insight questions on the application. This is an opportunity to express your personal qualities and help the adcom get to know you. For specific guidance on responding to the UC prompts, check out our 2021–2022 UC essay guide.
4. Apply in-state
The admissions rate at all UC schools is considerably higher for in-state students than it is for out-of-state students. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother applying if you’re outside California, but you should be aware that you’ll have to clear higher standards, as evidenced by the higher minimum GPA requirement. Last year, only 9% of USCB’s freshman class consisted of out-of-staters.
5. Explain special circumstances
UCSB seeks to represent myriad cultures, perspectives, and backgrounds. They review your academic accomplishments “in light of your life experiences and special circumstances, including but not limited to: disabilities, low family income, first generation to attend college, need to work, disadvantaged social or educational environment, difficult personal and family situations or circumstances, refugee status, or veteran status.”
Make sure you describe these qualities on your application if you have them.
How to Apply to UCSB
Applications may be submitted between November 1–November 30.
- UC application
- Supplemental application (select colleges and majors only)
Learn more about UCSB