What Does it Take to Get into UC Irvine?

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UC Irvine’s acceptance rate is 29%. What does it take to get in?


Nestled in beautiful southern California, UC Irvine offers no shortage of fair weather days to its nearly 35,000 students. It offers wide-open spaces and a central park, which are the medium for a close-knit community, in spite of UC Irvine’s large size.


According to Irvine students, UCI’s campus pride permeates college life. It’s no wonder so many Irvine hopefuls apply each year, their sights set on becoming a part of this vibrant community. The numbers reflect this reality, with a record low 2018 admissions rate coming in just under 29%.


In a pool of thousands of applicants, what does it take to stand out? We’ve broken it down for you in this post.


Applying to UCI: A Quick Review


As with all schools in the University of California (UC) system, the only accepted application portal is the UC Application. The hard deadline for the UC schools is November 30th, and for each additional UC you want to apply to, there is a fee of $70. However, all of these schools take the same supplemental essays, which is convenient for those applying to more than one.


Here’s a review of the steps to a complete UC application:


  • Create an account in the UC Application Portal
  • Record your basic demographic information
  • Reply to four of eight Personal Insight Questions
  • Send your transcripts
  • Send your test scores
    • Include your scores from the ACT with writing or the SAT Reasoning Test with the essay portion. If you’re applying for Fall semester entry, sit for standardized tests by December.
    • SAT Subject Tests, AP, IB, TOEFL, and IELTS scores are accepted as well.
  • Share tax and ID information, including:
    • Your family’s annual income for last year and this year
    • Your social security number, if you have one
    • Your citizenship status. Citizens of other countries will need to state immigration status and visa type.
    • For students in California public schools only, supply your California Statewide Student ID


For the full guide on applying to a UC school, check out this post.


Applying as a transfer student? Here’s Irvine’s rundown on everything you need to know to be eligible for consideration.


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


The word is out on UC-Irvine. Drawn to its beautiful campus and perfect weather, more students than ever are clamoring to get in. In fact, 2018 saw applicant numbers reaching a record 95,000, with admissions offered to a mere 29%. Of the UCs, Irvine places fifth for selectivity and is only getting more popular.


So, How Does One Get Into UC-Irvine?




The following is a list of requirements that must be satisfied in order to be considered for admissions.


A minimum GPA of 3.4 (or 3.0 for California residents) on a 4.0 Scale must be attained in the following high school courses*:


History/Social Science: 2 years

English: 4 years

Mathematics: 3 years (4 years recommended)

Laboratory Science: 2 years (3 years recommended)

Language other than English: 2 years (3 years recommended)

Visual and Performing Arts: 1 year

College Preparatory Electives: 1 year


*Note: 11/15 must be completed before beginning your last year of high school.


The Numbers


According to UCI’s website, students admitted will generally have ranked in the top tenth of their senior class. This means that only the strongest transcripts are considered for admissions, with few exceptions. Specifically, the average high school GPA for successful applicants is between 4.00 and 4.26.


As an added bonus, colleges love an upward trajectory in grades. What this means is they are impressed by grades that increase over time (say from a B+ average freshman year to an A average in junior year), as it demonstrates growth on the part of the applicant. Is it better to just get straight-A grades all the time? Absolutely. But an admissions officer will definitely be looking for this upward trend as opposed to grades that drop over time.


However, if you’re already applying to colleges, there probably isn’t too much you can do about your GPA at this point. Let’s look at UCI’s average scores on the numbers you still have time to influence.


Average ACT Composite: 26 – 33

Average ACT English Language Arts: 24 – 31

Average SAT Evidence-Based Reading & Writing: 600 – 710

Average SAT Math: 630 – 780

Average SAT Essay*:  15 – 18


*Note: The writing/essay portion is required. In addition, there is no superscore offered. The highest score from a single administration of the exam is used.


Based on this list, it’s clear your test scores have to be pretty strong. UCI’s averages are about 95th percentile and higher, which is what you should be aiming for to give yourself the best shot at acceptance. In particular, if your high school grades are on the lower side, you’ll want to compensate with strong test scores.


Interests and Activities


Unfortunately, good test scores and a shining transcript are no longer a guaranteed ticket to acceptance. Irvine wants to get a sense of what makes an applicant unique, and in particular, how an applicant chooses to spend their time outside of classes. Extracurriculars are vital in showing the admissions officer that you’re more than just a set of numbers.


If you’re still choosing extracurriculars, be sure to select activities that you’re genuinely interested in. There is no magic formula, so you might as well spend your time doing the things you love. Colleges love to see authentic passion and doing what you love will help you build your “hook.”


What is a hook? This is an attribute or activity that makes an applicant stand out. For example, a hook for a student who loves medicine could be dedicating hours to lab research, shadowing, and clinic work. In other words, it’s the theme that ties your application together.


At the end of the day, Irvine would rather see an applicant committing tons of time toward one passion, or even two, rather than spending a moderate amount of time on a wide range of activities. Figure out where your passions lie, and then pursue this to its outer limits.


Character and Personality


Though similar to the last section, this category is more about how you frame yourself, and your interests, to admissions. Your personal insight questions, in particular, are a perfect place to let your personality shine through.


While writing your supplements, you want to convey different aspects of what makes you, you. That said, the supplements should read as the work of one cohesive person. If each one seems like it’s about an entirely new person, rather than different sides of the same person, reassess.


Ultimately, you want to allow the admissions officer to picture what you’d look like as a member of their community—that’s all they really want to know. If you can read through an essay and say to yourself, “This is a piece of me,” you’ve done well.


What To Avoid:


  • Coming across as offensive or close-minded
  • Writing cliches
  • Redundancy
  • Grammatical mistakes


Want more help? Check out this article for more advice.


What If You Get Rejected?

Unfortunately, not everyone can be accepted. Though rejection is never fun, know that it is going to be okay. This is not the end of the line. In fact, it’s just one school in a country full of thousands! You will find your school, and I promise it will all work out.


A note for California students:


If you’ve met the minimum requirements (listed above under “requirements”) and aren’t offered a space in any of the UC campuses to which you’ve applied, you will be offered a spot at another campus if:


  1. You rank in the top 9% of California high school students, as per the admissions index


  1. You rank in the top 9% of your graduating class at a participating high school (ELC)


Looking for more schools?


Here’s a list of universities that are remarkably similar to UC-Irvine, and whether you’ve been rejected or not, they’re worth considering.


  • San Diego State University
  • California State University Fullerton
  • University of San Diego
  • California State University Long Beach
  • Santa Clara University


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!

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Short bio
Rebecca Weinstein is an undergraduate student at Stanford University, where she plans to study English with an emphasis in creative writing. When she is not studying at college, she lives in Morris County, New Jersey with her two dogs and three cats.