What Does It Take to Get into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill?

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The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill accepts 21.9% of applicants. What does it take to get in?


One of the top 30 universities according to U.S. News, and in the top 5 of public universities, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill offers its students amazing opportunities for research and study abroad. It was the first public university in the nation, and consistently has more Rhodes Scholars than any other public research university. Not only does it offer great opportunities for students, but Chapel Hill is known for its beautiful natural surroundings and a charming small-town atmosphere.


However, with an acceptance rate of 21.9%, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill does not make getting in easy, even for highly qualified students. If you are looking for one of the best educations you can get in the world, then UNC Chapel Hill might be the school for you. Keep reading to learn more about the tips that have helped CollegeVine’s students get into the school that’s perfect for them.


Applying to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: A Quick Review


Apply to UNC Chapel Hill using the Common Application. We’ve written an extensive guide with everything you need to know about this application, so be sure to read our User’s Guide to the Common App.


Students may apply Early Action by October 15, or Regular Decision by January 15. If you’re unsure about whether you should apply early, check out our post Early Action vs. Early Decision vs. Restricted Early Action.


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


  • A general university application via the Common App
  • The supplemental essay and short responses
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • One academic  teacher recommendation
  • Secondary school statement (school report)
  • High school transcripts
  • $85 application fee or fee waiver


If you are an international student whose first language isn’t English, you’ll also need to submit IELTS or TOEFL scores to demonstrate your English proficiency.


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Acceptance Rate: How Difficult Is It to Get In?


Getting into UNC-Chapel Hill takes hard work—last year only 21.9% of applicants were admitted. UNC Chapel Hill received 43,473 applications last year and admitted 9,524 students. Of those, 4,326 students actually enrolled, making it similarly selective to top public schools like the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and the University of Virginia.


If you are a North Carolina resident, you’re in a bit of luck, because UNC Chapel Hill has a preference for in-state students. Out of the North Carolina applicants, 41% were accepted compared to only 13% of out-of-state applicants who were accepted.


If you aspire to attend a school like UNC Chapel Hill, it’s critical to surround yourself with people who have been through the process before. CollegeVine offers mentorship for underclassmen and applications counseling for seniors to help you set yourself apart from the crowd. Even if you don’t choose to work one-on-one with one of CollegeVine’s trained near-peer mentors, connecting with someone who has successfully gained admission to a school like UNC Chapel Hill can make the difference between rejection and acceptance.

So, How Does One Get Into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill?


UNC Chapel Hill is interested in you as a person, not just your grades or your essays. Use your application to reflect your strengths in these areas.


Academics. Students who are admitted to UNC Chapel Hill took challenging courses in high school and did well in them. Last year, 78% of the admitted students were in the top 10% of their high school class. Not only do you want to excel in your classes, but you’ll also want to score well on your standardized tests—the middle 50% of admitted students earned SAT scores of 1280-1470 and ACT scores of 29-33.


Extracurriculars. The admissions officers at UNC Chapel Hill don’t care what kinds of activities you did as much as they care that you pursued them with passion and excellence. This could mean taking a leadership position at your school, starting a new organization or initiative, or being recognized for your talents through awards and recognition. Whatever you do, show why those activities were meaningful to you and how you went above and beyond in following them.


Character. UNC Chapel Hill looks for students who want to combine their natural talents with what they’ve learned in the classroom to find solutions that our society faces. Write a compelling essay that demonstrates your strengths and values, and choose a recommender who knows you well enough to provide meaningful insight into your character.


Contribution to Community. UNC Chapel Hill emphasizes that they don’t use an admissions formula to evaluate candidates. They’re looking for students who will bring a vibrant presence to their campus through their past experiences and college involvement. Show how you’ll bring value to UNC Chapel Hill through your unique qualities or by mentioning extracurricular college opportunities you want to pursue.


How to Make Your Application Stand Out


Every application is different, but over the years we’ve seen these strategies give our clients applications that are three times more likely to gain favorable admissions results.


Team up with your recommender. UNC Chapel Hill only requires one letter of recommendation, so you want to make sure that whoever you choose to write this letter complements the rest of your application. You may want to talk with them about why you’ve chosen them as a recommender—Did they get to see a side of you that your other teachers didn’t see? Do you respect them and their opinion? You may also want to share a draft of your essay, so they can highlight any of your positive qualities that you didn’t get to touch on in your essay.


Discover what makes you different. As we mentioned earlier, UNC Chapel Hill prides itself on not using a formula and reading applications closely. They want to know who you are, what you’re passionate about, and why you want to attend UNC Chapel Hill.


Enhance the themes of your completed application. A seasoned admissions counselor will review your entire application in about nine minutes and evaluate it. If you want them to remember something positive about you, then you’ll need to mention it throughout your application, not just once and hope that they remember.


Try this strategy—finish your application at least a week early and leave it alone for a few days. When you return to it, read the whole application in nine minutes. What stood out to you? What wasn’t clear or could be improved on? Then make those improvements.


What If You Get Rejected?


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill receives applications from more qualified applicants than they can accept. If you find yourself receiving a no-thank-you at the end of the admissions process, don’t be too hard on yourself. Bright, motivated, resourceful students will find success, or create it, anywhere they go.


While UNC Chapel Hill offers admissions appeals, we advise against it. Decision reversals are extremely rare and only granted when you provide exceptional new information that wasn’t included in your application. It’s better to attend another equally great school.


Transferring is an option—UNC Chapel Hill has a transfer admissions rate of 34%, with 3,276 students applying for transfer last year and 1,128 being admitted. However, we recommend choosing and sticking to another equally great school rather than gambling with transfer, unless you truly have your heart set on UNC.


You can reapply 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.


By far, we recommend looking at another great school and making the most of your time there. Other top schools in the South include the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, and Emory University. For advice on adjusting to a different college path, check out our post Envisioning a New Future: Preparing for Life at Your Second-Choice (or Third, or Fourth) School.


UNC Chapel Hill Resources:


How to Write the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Essays 2018-2019

The Ultimate Guide to Applying to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


At CollegeVine, we’re passionate about making college guidance accessible to all. That’s why we took the guidance that’s helped 100,000 students and made it free. On our college applications platform, you can use our chancing engine, build a best-fit school list, and learn how to improve your profile—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.

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Gianna Cifredo

Short Bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.

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