Sadhvi Mathur 5 min read Applying to College, College Lists

What Does it Take to Get into the University of California—Santa Cruz?

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UC Santa Cruz has an acceptance rate of 47.7%. What does it take to get in?


The University of CaliforniaSanta Cruz, fondly known as UC Santa Cruz or UCSC, is a modern and scenic college located just off the water in sunny Santa Cruz, California. Founded in 1965, UC Santa Cruz has state of the art facilities with 65 different undergraduate majors in the arts, humanities, physical and biological sciences, and social sciences. With 16,952 undergraduates and 1,813 graduates, it is one of the more tight-knit colleges in the University of California system, which means that each student has plentiful access to the university’s vast resources.


According to US News’ 2019 College Rankings, UC Santa Cruz ranked as #70 in the entire nation. Its in-state tuition and fees are $13,949, and its out-of-state tuition and fees are $41,963.


Interested in learning more about this institution and what it takes to get in? Read on.


Applying to UC Santa Cruz: A Quick Overview


As part of the University of California system, UC Santa Cruz is on the larger UC application. When you fill out the UC application, you will simply need to check “UC Santa Cruz” on the list of schools.


In order to apply to UC Santa Cruz, you need to meet the basic UC requirements through your academic coursework. These requirements are as follows:


  • Completion of a minimum of 15 Preparatory Courses, with at least 11 finished before senior year of high school.
  • A GPA of 3.0 or better for California residents, 3.4 or better for non-California residents.
  • Completion of the ACT with Writing or SAT with Essay by December of senior year. SAT Subject Tests are not required by UC Santa Cruz, but certain colleges within the university do recommend them. You may also use SAT Subject Tests to fulfill some of the 15 preparatory course requirements.


The UC applications is unique in that they do not require you to send in letters of recommendation or official transcripts. If accepted, you will be asked to send in a final transcript to the university. The university will not read any letters of recommendation unless they specifically ask for them as part of a supplemental review process.


UC Santa Cruz Acceptance Rate: How Hard is It To Get In?


In 2018, UC Santa Cruz had a freshman acceptance rate of 47.7%.


Of that 47.7%, 49.3% were men, 50% were female, and 0.7% identified as other. 51.1% of accepted applicants had a GPA of 4.0 or higher, and 40.4% had a GPA between 3.5 and 3.99. 71% of accepted applicants had an ACT score of 27 or higher, but only 32.6% had an SAT score of 1400 or higher. Nearly all accepted students are from California, with only 4.8% of students from other states and 9.2% from other countries. 

Want to know your real chances of admission?

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So, How Does One Get Into UC Santa Cruz?


UC Santa Cruz prides itself on a holistic approach for selecting freshman for its undergraduate institution. This means that they will consider all parts of your application, from your academic to your personal achievements, in the context of your specific academic and personal opportunities.


As a whole, the major that you choose does not affect your admissions decision, unless you are applying to the Baskin School of Engineering. If you are interested in this program, be sure to indicate that on your application, as you may not be able to pursue that major if you come in to the university as an undeclared major.


If you are a California resident, you have two ways to automatically qualify yourself for admission to one of the UC schools, UC Santa Cruz included. One is through the statewide path, where you must meet some minimum requirements. The other is the local path, where you must rank in the top 9% of your class. With each of these programs, you may not be admitted to the UC college of your choice, but you are guaranteed to be admitted to at least one UC.


So, in order to gain admission to UC Santa Cruz, you should first do your best to achieve as high of a GPA as possible and do well on your ACT (27 or higher) or SAT (at least 1200). After that, try to make your application stand out by making a difference in your extracurriculars, using your summers to build your college resume, and writing some really stellar essays. Overall, if you’re a California resident, you have a better shot at acceptance to UC Santa Cruz, but out-of-state and international students have a fighting chance as well.


How to Make Your Application Stand Out


UC Santa Cruz considers 14 different factors when evaluating your application. The first few are the obvious ones: academic achievement, GPA, test scores, etc. However, those last few factors are the less common ones, the things that not every applicant is going to have. If you can achieve those, you have a good chance at being a stand-out applicant. Here are some of the factors for you to consider:


1. Special talents and passions: Examples of this include leadership experiences and any awards that indicate the student’s potential for intellectual and cultural diversity on campus. If you have a particular field or topic that you are passionate about, try to gain some experience outside of a school context. This can include entering competitions, doing a self-study, or starting a club.


2. Participation in educational preparation programs: Any sort of pre-college academic program that extends your learning outside the program will fit this category. Of course, those programs sponsored by the University of California are included.


3. Achievements in special projects: If you have worked on a big project outside of your academic and extracurricular work, this is certainly worth mentioning on your college application. These projects include, but are not limited to, putting together an event, starting your own business, or getting an article published.


What if You Get Rejected?


If you get rejected from the University of California Santa Cruz, there’s essentially four options for you:


1. Submit an appeal: UC Santa Cruz accepts few, if any appeals, due to enrollment constraints, but this route is still an option. Learn more about the appeal process here. We at CollegeVine generally do not recommend appealing as admissions decisions are rarely overturned. However, if you believe there was a mistake on your application, or if there was a major development since you applied (i.e. winning a national award), appealing may be a good idea.


2. Gain enrollment as a transfer student: UC Santa Cruz is very committed to accepting students to its junior transfer programs, especially those from California community colleges. If you don’t gain admittance as a freshman, you may have a good chance as a junior transfer.


3. If given the opportunity, join the waitlist: If UC Santa Cruz gives you the option of putting yourself on the waitlist, by all means, do it. You won’t hear for a few months whether you’ve been taken off the waitlist or not, but you’ll still have a small chance of acceptance either way.


4. Attend another college: There are many colleges in the US and in the UC system specifically. If UC Santa Cruz doesn’t work out, surely another college will be a good fit for you as well.


That being said, it’s always best to gain admission on your first try. Thankfully, CollegeVine can help you with this. Through our College Applications Guidance Program, you will work online with an applications consultant from a top university to receive the guidance you need to succeed in the admissions process. We’ll help you every step of the way, from formulating a school list to preparing you for your interviews.

Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Sadhvi is a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, double majoring in Business Administration and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!