What Does it Really Take to Get into Southern Methodist University?

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49% of Southern Methodist University applicants are admitted. What does it take to get in?


Founded in 1911, Southern Methodist University (SMU) is an acclaimed private research institution nestled near the heart of Dallas.


Although established by what is now The United Methodist Church, it is important to note that the university is nonsectarian and fully committed to the academic autonomy and exploration of its student body. From the sprawling greenscape of the 234 acre campus, the historical George W. Bush Presidential Center and the university’s diverse body of high achieving students, SMU is a top choice for many applicants.


However, with an acceptance rate of 49%, getting into SMU is no guarantee. If you’re looking to contribute to SMU’s vibrant community, keep reading for tips on how to make your application stand out.


Applying to Southern Methodist University: A Quick Review


You can apply to SMU using The SMU Online Application, The Common Application, ApplyTexas, or the Coalition Application. Since more schools use it, we recommend applying via the Common Application, making it easier to apply to universities outside of Texas. With all of these options, though, it’s important to choose an application portal that works best for you—take a look at some of our application guides to determine best fit.



Students may apply by November 1 for either Early Decision I or Early Action and by January 15 for either Early decision II or Regular Decision.  There are specific commitment expectations associated with priority deadlines; if you’re unsure about when you should apply, check out our post Early Action vs. Early Decision vs. Restricted Early Action for more insight.


When applying, be sure to submit the following:


  • A general university application via one of the aforementioned portals
  • If applying early, a completed Early Decision Agreement Form
  • $60 nonrefundable application fee
  • Official high school transcript
  • Official/ self-reported SAT or ACT scores
  • Counselor recommendation
  • Extracurricular resume
  • If applicable, a Home School Supplement
  • Optional Supplements:
    • Teacher Recommendation
    • ZeeMee, a profile that enables colleges to engage with prospective students via social communities.


Transfer applicants have a different set of deadlines and requirements. For more information, visit SMU’s Transfer Admission page.


Southern Methodist University Acceptance Rate: How Difficult Is It to Get In?


With an undergraduate admissions rate of 49%, SMU is moderately selective. In the fall of 2018, 12,603 students applied and 6,457 were admitted. Of those, 1,530 students actually enrolled.


Although admissions statistics can be intimidating, keep in mind that the strength of your individual application factors heavily into how your chance of acceptance may skew above or below 49%. Beyond strong grades and test scores, a well crafted application can make all of the difference! 

So, How Does One Get Into Southern Methodist University?


As a research institution with a strong liberal arts tradition, SMU values applicants that are committed to innovation and leadership in a variety of fields. Ultimately, they are looking for students who posses strong academic records and a passion for learning and engagement that extends beyond the classroom.


Growth and Potential. There is no definitive grade “cutoff”, but competitive applicants often rank amongst the top quarter of their graduating class. Additionally, other factors such as coursework rigor and the overall academic context of your your high school are evaluated. Remember, how you take advantage of your current resources can give admissions a glimpse into your future potential at SMU.


Academic History. SMU strongly encourages that prospective applicants take a minimum of 17-18 solid academic units including:


  • 4 English
  • 3 math (algebra I, II, geometry)
  • 3 social science
  • 3 science (2 lab science)
  • 2 foreign language (of the same language)


SMU acknowledges that students who exceed this minum have an admissions advantage—generally, more competitive applicants have an average of 20 high school academic units.


Contribution to Community. Admissions officers want to know how you will positively impact the greater SMU community. SMU’s holistic approach to reviewing applications gives you the opportunity to craft a narrative that demonstrates your engagement inside and outside of the classroom through your extracurriculars, passions and life experience.


How to Make Your Application Stand Out


Personalize your Why SMU. SMU not only uses your essays to evaluate your writings skills, but to also paint a better picture of who you are beyond test scores and grades. Admissions is already familiar with generic facts and figures about the university, what they really want to know is why you and your unique perspective are a great fit. Check out SMU’s 5 Tips for Writing Your College Essay guide and CollegeVine’s How to Write the Southern Methodist University Essay 2018-2019 to gain insider advice on how to truly personalize your why.


Include a letter of recommendation. Although optional, a letter of recommendation can give admissions officers additional perspective on who you are. Be sure to select a recommender who can write a compelling recommendation that attests to your strengths. Don’t be afraid to brief your recommender on key themes within your application that you would like for them to highlight within their letter!


What If You Get Rejected?


A little over half of all applicants to Southern Methodist University aren’t admitted, so don’t take the news to heart. If you are still set on SMU, you can always transfer in, but keep in mind that the competitive nature of applying is not reduced the second time around.


It can be difficult to find contentment in your backup choice after rejection, but the blog post, Envisioning a New Future: Preparing for Life at Your Second-Choice (or Third, or Fourth) School, gives great insight on how to maximize your experience at any university.


Getting into Southern Methodist University is no easy feat, but you can definitely improve your chances by building a strong academic foundation that speaks to your drive and potential inside and beyond of the classroom.


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!


For more information on Southern Methodist University and other similar institutions, take a look at these CollegeVine posts:


How to Write the Southern Methodist University Essay 2018-2019

A Guide to Religiously Affiliated Colleges

Complete List of NCAA I, II, and III Colleges

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Short Bio
Kristen is an alumna of Vanderbilt University, where she earned degrees in English and Medicine Health & Society. In her free time she enjoys writing poetry. She lives in Arlington, Texas and is currently applying to graduate school.

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