What is the Easiest UC to Get Into?

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As a California resident or any citizen of the United States, you must have heard of California’s prestigious University of California system. The schools in the system are considered the biggest colleges not just in California but the entire country. But if you hear all that praise and prestige, you must also think about how getting into them cannot be easy.

What is the easiest UC school to get into? What is the hardest UC school to get into? How do you even get into these schools at all? These questions you will find answered in this very article.

What are the UC Schools?What are the UC Schools?

If you are or want to be part of a UC school, then you are a part of or want to be a part of the University of California school system. This system consists of ten institutions:

  1. UC Berkeley
  2. UC Davis
  3. UC Irvine
  4. UCLA (UC Los Angeles)
  5. UC Merced
  6. UC Riverside
  7. UC San Diego
  8. UC San Francisco
  9. UC Santa Barbara
  10. UC Santa Cruz

Considering California’s size, this does not seem like a lot for a “University of California” system. However, these universities are not only incredibly prestigious. Still, they are often counted as one of the best universities in the United States: UC Berkeley and UCLA vying for the top spot in 2022-2023’s Best Colleges rankings.

UC Schools, in particular, are known for their high-quality STEM and humanities programs and top-dollar research centers. The universities are expectedly expensive, as they are in the heart of some of the most expensive cities in the United States, like Los Angeles and San Diego. Still, there is no other kind of university for those who want an incredible college experience. Even Ivy League colleges must fight for their seat as the country’s most famous and prestigious university system with UC schools.

This is all to say: if you are planning to join a UC school, you have your work cut out for you. It will not be so easy to send an application and get back an acceptance letter. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of students have the same idea, each with various qualifications. But why exactly are UC schools hard to get into?

Why UC Schools are Hard to Get Into?

Why UC Schools are Hard to Get Into?

As we’ve stated before, California is a large and expensive state, so it stands to reason that UC schools would similarly be packed with students and expensive to get into. But what exactly makes them so hard to get into?

Low Acceptance Rates

The acceptance rates of the schools are astonishingly low. The average college acceptance rate in the United States is 68%. At the same time, a few UC schools match that average or have an even higher acceptance rate (as provided by BeMo); namely UC Merced (85.4%) and UC Santa Cruz (65.2%); after UC Santa Cruz, you will experience a very sharp drop in the acceptance rate, starting with UC Riverside (56.3 %), with the rates going as low as 14% in the case of UC Los Angeles.

Selective Processes

The main reason is that the University of California school system is very selective. UC schools play selectively because students like you also think about how swell and beneficial it would be to join them. The schools then have to play more selectively to prevent an overabundance of students attending. In addition, the UC schools keep their incredibly high academic standards by taking on students who are expected to be able to keep up and graduate. UCLA has one of the lowest acceptance rates in a college in the United States; in contrast, its graduation rate is very high at 90.5% as of 2020-2021. Students admitted into UCLA are most likely to be able to leave with a degree, as opposed to dropping out: you can credit this to the UC schools’ selective processes, admitting only students who can afford to take on the high academic standards the schools have.

Many Students Want to Attend

To expand on the population, California is one of the most populous states in the country, with 39 million residents. This population is also centered around its major cities; Los Angeles is the largest city in the state, with a population of three million. Consider that students of UCLA can come from other cities to attend school. These details are important because, despite its low acceptance rate, UCLA has the largest undergraduate population of all UC schools at 32,122. 9% of applicants get admitted into UCLA, and the population base is still nearly four times larger than UC Merced, the school with the highest acceptance rate.

This is all to say that a lot of students also want to join a UC school, and the people behind the scenes would have to sort through a truly overwhelming amount of applications and start building more campuses if they were to admit everyone.

To give a good example of how hard these schools will be to get into, we will tell you the hardest UC school to get into and why.

What is the Hardest UC to Get Into?

What is the Hardest UC to Get Into?

We’ve alluded to this several times, but by far, the most difficult school to get into is UC Los Angeles. It has, of course, the lowest acceptance rate at 14%. Its difficulty can be owed to the fact that it is situated in California’s largest city and thus would have a lot of applicants. If 14% of the applicants make up 30,000 students, then hundreds of thousands of students try to enter UCLA.

UCLA is the second oldest university in the UC school system, right behind UC Berkeley (which can easily be considered the second hardest UC school to get into), so it also had more time to earn its prestige than the other schools.

We now know about the most difficult school to enter, but what are your best chances of actually getting into a UC college? What is the easiest UC school to enter?

What is the Easiest UC to Get Into?

What is the Easiest UC to Get Into?

The easiest UC school to enter is easily UC Merced, the only university whose acceptance rate exceeds the national average of 87%. It also has the smallest population, with under 10,000 students attending.

UC Merced’s greater acceptance rate says little about its academic standards, as it maintains similar standards as its contemporaries. Even the “easiest” UC school to get into receives in their applications an average GPA of 3.40 to 3.96, according to BeMo. Instead, you can credit Merced’s low overall population and UC Merced’s position as the most recent institution. It should be noted, however, that its graduation rate is also the lowest of the schools, at 66%; however, that is still higher than the national average graduation rate of 58.3%.

Before we wrap this article up by explaining how exactly to get into these schools, we will compare the acceptance rates of every UC school to give you a concrete idea of which college that you as a student have the best chance of entering.

UC School Comparison By Acceptance Rates

UC School Comparison By Acceptance Rates

Decide for yourself which is the easiest or hardest UC school to enter. To give a clearer idea of how easy it is to enter each UC school, we shall compare their acceptance rates side by side.

  • UC Merced: 85.4%
  • UC San Francisco: 65.6% (as provided by Global Scholarships)
  • UC Santa Cruz: 65.2%
  • UC Riverside: 56.3%
  • UC Davis: 46%
  • UC San Diego: 38.3%
  • UC Santa Barbara: 36.9%
  • UC Irvine: 29.9%
  • UC Berkley: 17.6%
  • UCLA: 14%

Once you have decided which of the UC schools you wish to attend, there is only one more question left: what does it take to get into the University of California?

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

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

If you have read through this sizeable article and are already thinking about which University of California college piques your interest, then you must be very interested in what you need to get into the system. We’ve said before, but even the “easiest” UC school to enter has relatively high academic standards to reach. Every UC school has requirements that must be met before you consider getting an acceptance letter back. So, let’s get into what it takes to get into the University of California.

While each UC school has different standards but has the same requirements or recommendations, so one tip is good for every school.

Basic Requirements

To get into a University of California college as a freshman, you need to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in fifteen A-G college-preparatory courses. These fifteen courses are:

  • Four years of English
  • Three years of Mathematics
  • Two years each of History, Science, and a Language other than English
  • One year in the following subjects each: Visual and Performing Arts; a college-preparatory elective

Transfer students have to be enrolled in a college when they begin transferring. The same applies to international students who take an English language test.

Average Scores

As stated before, a student applying to a UC school must have a GPA of 3.0 (or higher) on their high school transcript. Non-residents, however, need a GPA of 3.4 at the least.

UC schools do not consider SAT and ACT scores when making decisions. Instead, they are used as an alternative method for requirements that an applicant fails to meet.

Wrapping Things Up: What is the Easiest UC to Get Into?

What is the easiest UC school to get into? What is the hardest? Many will tell you that UC Merced is the easiest and that UCLA will give you a run for your money. Other people will inform you that they are all difficult to get into and that looking at only acceptance rates wouldn’t paint a good picture. However, no matter the subjectivity, the UC schools are simply colleges. They have their requirements, and they can be applied like any other. So long as you meet their standards, you should have no problem getting into any UC school!

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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