Veronica Wickline 5 min read Applying to College, College Lists

What Does It Take to Get into Pepperdine University?

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Only 35% of Pepperdine Applicants Are Admitted. What Does It Take?


Nestled in the bluffs of Malibu, California, you will find Pepperdine University, a private Christian university. With world-class professors and a safe, supportive campus, it is no wonder that admissions are competitive. Only 35% of applicants are admitted each year.


If you’re interested in applying to Pepperdine, keep reading to learn CollegeVine’s time-tested recommendations for acing the application process. Each year, CollegeVine helps hundreds of applicants perfect their applications to gain admissions to Pepperdine and equally competitive schools. In fact, 75% of students who work with CollegeVine get into one of their top choice schools.


Applying to Pepperdine: A Quick Review


Applying to Pepperdine is easy and straightforward. All Pepperdine applicants send their materials through the Common Application. You can learn more about this online portal in our Guide to the Common App.


You may apply Early Action by November 1 or Regular Decision by January 15. If you’re unsure about whether or not you should apply early, read our post, Early Decision vs. Early Action vs. Restrictive Early Action.


To apply, be sure to send in all of the following:


  • A general university application
  • Complete Pepperdine’s supplemental essays
  • SAT or ACT test scores, without writing
  • Any AP, IB, or other scores from standardized exams you have taken
    • This is optional but highly recommended
  • Letter of recommendation from a teacher in a core academic subject
  • A school report and letter of recommendation from your counselor
  • High School Transcript
  • $65 application fee or fee waiver
  • A midyear report


If you fall into any of the following categories, visit the corresponding page to understand additional admissions information that applies to you: International Applicants, First Generation College Applicants, Church of Christ Applicants, Veteran Applicants.


Pepperdine Acceptance Rate: How Difficult Is It to Get In?


Pepperdine is fairly selective, with an undergraduate admissions rate of 35%. Of 12,134 applications last year, only 4,249 were accepted. Ultimately, 954 students chose to attend Pepperdine, giving the class a yield of 22%. Pepperdine is comparable in selectivity to schools like American University, Tulane University, and UC Irvine.


35% may sound like an intimidating number, yet it is important to remember that the strength of your profile has a lot of influence over whether your own likelihood of getting in is higher or lower. Once you have the grades to gain admission, a well-crafted application is the make-or-break difference.

So, How Does One Get Into Pepperdine?


Pepperdine’s selection criteria can be broken into three categories—Academic History, Interests & Activities, and Character.


Academic History. Your grades, the classes you take, and your standardized test scores come together to give the admissions committee an idea of your strength as a student. If you’re applying to Pepperdine, it helps to have grades and SAT scores at or above those of last year’s admitted students.


For reference, the unweighted GPA for the middle 50% of Pepperdine’s most recent admitted students was 3.62-3.95. The middle 50% of SAT scores were 1270-1420, and the middle 50% of ACT scores were 28-32. If your scores fall in that range, chances are that Pepperdine would seriously consider your application.


Interests and Activities. Your extracurricular activities and awards, as well as your application essays, give Pepperdine a sense of your skills and passions outside the classroom. Taken as a whole, the way you spend your time outside of school says a lot about you. Whether you are service-oriented, a natural-born leader, a planner, or a visionary, Pepperdine will be looking for trends that emerge in your application.


As a rule of thumb, unusual activities as well as roles that impact more people (for example, national committee leader vs. state committee leader), stand out more in the admissions process.


Character. Your essay and letters of recommendation give Pepperdine a snapshot of the traits you have demonstrated throughout college, as well as a glimpse of the person you are becoming. Talk to your recommenders to make sure they highlight ways you have matured in high school. It is also a good idea to use your essay as a showcase for the ways you have grown.


How to Make Your Application Stand Out


At the end of the day, thousands of Pepperdine applicants will have great letters of recommendation, grades, and test scores. If you are looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, consider incorporating these three points into your application as a whole.


Find your unique admissions theme. When you look at your classes, grades, and activities, there are bound to be trends that emerge. Perhaps you are someone who loves languages. Maybe you use your math skills to help those who struggle in the subject. Look for a theme in your application, then try to reinforce it using your essay and short answer responses. This will help admissions officers remember you when it comes time to make choices among equally qualified candidates.


Demonstrate the role of faith in your life. As a Christian school, Pepperdine is looking for students with the capacity to invest trust and hope in the future. Pepperdine celebrates its diverse student body, so don’t worry if you are not Christian. Regardless of your personal background, look for ways that faith (or trust, hope, optimism) have played a part in your journey so far.


Emphasize character over achievement. Pepperdine is interested in sending trustworthy graduates into the world. As such, they are looking for outstanding people more than outstanding resumes. Whenever possible, try to highlight your virtues, even if that means your accomplishments have to take a backseat for that part of your application.


What If You Get Rejected?


Every year, very talented students are rejected from Pepperdine. If you find yourself among them, do not be discouraged. There are other great fit schools out there for you!


If faith is important to you, consider applying to other Christian colleges, such as Biola University in Los Angeles and Wheaton College in Illinois.


If you applied to Pepperdine, other schools in California that you may enjoy include the University of San Diego, Chapman University, and Occidental College.


If you already know your target industry, consider attending a top-ranked university for that field. Geographic proximity to where you want to work really helps later in life.


Since Pepperdine almost never reverses its admissions decisions, we do not recommend petitioning your rejection.


If you want to reapply, you may after taking a gap year, but this path is riskier than simply committing to another school and requesting to take a gap year there. To see if a gap year is right for you, visit our posts, What Are the Pros of Taking a Gap Year? and What You Need To Know When Applying to Colleges After a Gap Year.


For help adjusting to a different dream, read our post, Envisioning a New Future: Preparing for Life at Your Second-Choice (or Third, or Fourth) School.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to Pepperdine? 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 resources on Pepperdine and similar schools, visit these other CollegeVine posts:


How to Research Colleges and Choose the Best Fit for You

Why Are Students Getting Rejected from Every College?

Breaking Down the College Admissions Process: Your 5-Part Guide

You’ve Applied To College — Now What Should You Do?

3 Mistakes to Avoid in the College Planning Process

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Veronica Wickline
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Veronica is an alumna of Harvard College, where she earned her A.B. in History and Classics. After graduating, she joined CollegeVine serving as the Curriculum Development Manager. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA and is writing her debut novel.