The Easiest and Hardest UC Schools to Get Into in 2024

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California is home to many great academic institutions, and hardly any Californian hasn’t heard of the University of California.

This article reviewed the easiest and hardest UC schools to get into and their acceptance rates for the class of 2027. Also, we outlined the most competitive majors in the University of California system.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Why are UC schools so hard to get into?

The University of California schools are hard to get into for many reasons. The first and most important is that the institution receives many applications, more than the available admission spots.

This year UC campuses saw a record-breaking number of first-year applications since its first campus was established about 155 years ago. It received 206,405 freshman applications for the class of 2027, which saw a 2.1% decline compared to the previous year.

Of these over 200k applicants, only 88,285 were admitted for fall 2023. That’s like 4 in every ten freshman applicants, and remember that most of these applicants met the minimum admission requirements.

These schools get more competitive yearly, and campuses like UCLA and Berkeley are now as selective as some Ivies and elite colleges. This can be attributed to their prestige and high-quality education.

Also, residency is a factor here. International students find it relatively harder to get into any UC school than an in-state student. There are exceptions where these institutions may need to raise money and will admit more non-residents due to their expensive tuition.

Not all schools in the University of California system are extremely competitive, and we listed the less competitive campuses in this article. But first, do you have what it takes to get into the University of California?

The University of California Admission Requirements

Let’s find out if you got what it takes to earn a UC degree.

1. Good grades. When submitting your UC application, the lowest grade that should be on your transcript is a C. With this said, you should try to get as many as possible while in high school or community college.

Freshman applicants must have completed all the 15 A-G courses, while transfer students must have completed at least 60 semester (90 quarter) units of UC-transferable credit at the time of application.

2. Extracurriculars. In this section, you should include non-academic accomplishments such as Volunteer/Community service, award(s), work experience, and extracurricular activities. Strong ECs can determine if you will be accepted, rejected, or added to the waitlist.

3. Personal statements. Make sure you are as genuine as possible when writing these essays. You must answer the questions in no more than 350 words; try to do that without adding fluff.

4. Understand the admissions criteria for your major. Some majors are more selective than others and have requirements different from the general admission requirements. For example, if your intended major is Art History, you are more likely to be admitted than someone planning to study Computer Science.

Easiest UC schools to get into

Below are the top 3 easiest UCs to get into in 2024.

1. UC Merced

UC Merced campus

Founded in 2005, UC Merced is the newest school in the UC system. It is one of the best and most affordable public colleges in the nation, with about 8,000 students across different fields of study.

The school is unarguably the easiest University of California school to get into, whether as a freshman or transfer applicant. UCM has an overall admit rate of 88.3%, and an average admitted first-year student has a GPA of 3.48 – 4.08.

2. UC Riverside

University of California Riverside

U.S. News and World Report states that UC Riverside is among the best colleges for veterans in the United States. The 1,200-acre campus is currently home to over 24,000 students.

UCR is the 2nd least competitive UC School to get into after UCM. It has an acceptance rate of 70.3%, and an average admitted freshman student has a GPA of 3.97.

The application process is holistic for students aiming to get into UCR and considers more than just academic merits. UCR looks at each applicant’s academic achievements in the context of the opportunities available to them and the capacity each student has demonstrated to overcome challenges and contribute to the intellectual and cultural vitality of the campus.

3. UC Santa Cruz

University of California Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz is a suburban campus of the University of California located on the edge of the coastal community of Santa Cruz. It offers one of the best student lifestyles among the UC schools.

With a 62.7% acceptance rate, UCSC offers admission to almost half the number of freshman applications it receives. The average admitted first-year students have a high school GPA of 3.86-4.22.

Outside of academics, UC Santa Cruz offers a vibrant campus life. The university competes in the NCAA Division III sports and has over 150 student clubs and organizations. The campus combines the bustle of modern student life with its picturesque surroundings, featuring redwood forests and sunny beaches.

The university is also known for its commitment to several social causes, including gender equality, diversity, sustainability, and social justice. It regularly receives high national rankings for its contributions in these areas.

The Hardest UC schools to get into

Below are the top 3 hardest UCs to get into in 2024.


Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA

The University of California, Los Angeles, is the hardest UC school to get into. It offers 337 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across various disciplines and is the first UC to guarantee all undergraduate campus housing.

The school has an acceptance rate of 8.8% and receives more than 100,000 freshman applications annually, taking the lion’s share in the UC system. An average admitted freshman student has a weighted GPA ranging from 4.20–4.31.

2. UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Campanile

UC Berkeley is among the most prestigious academic institutions in the US and globally. Since its creation in 1868, it has won 107 Nobel laureates, 19 Pulitzer Prizes, and 207 Olympic medals.

Berkeley is among the hardest UC schools to enter and is considered a public Ivy. The school has an 11.6% acceptance rate, and admitted freshman students have GPAs ranging from 4.28-4.62.

UC Berkeley’s faculty includes many distinguished professors, including numerous Fulbright Scholars and MacArthur Fellows, as well as many other notable members who have made significant contributions to their fields.

Berkeley’s strong alumni network includes successful individuals in various fields, including business, law, government, science, and the arts. Some notable alumni include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

3. UC Irvine

UC Irvine Verano

Becoming an anteater doesn’t come easy. UC Irvine is a small public research institution in Orange County. The school will be ranked among the best national Universities in 2024.

With a 25.7% acceptance rate, UCI is the 3rd toughest University of California school to enter. The average admitted first-year students have high school GPAs ranging from 4.07 – 4.28.

UCI’s admission process is competitive because the institution has a world-class faculty with a strong commitment to teaching, cutting-edge research facilities, and a diverse student body.

Enrollment statistics indicate that most of the student body consists of California residents. However, the institution also admits many out-of-state and international students. The student body boasts a diversity of nationalities, races, and backgrounds, fostering a rich, inclusive environment conducive to learning and growth.

The toughest University of California majors to get into

Below are the top 15 hardest UC majors to get into in 2024 in no particular order.

  1. Computer science
  2. Business administration
  3. Psychology
  4. Pre-business economics
  5. Film & Television
  6. Design media arts
  7. Computer science & engineering
  8. Nursing
  9. Communications
  10. Electrical engineering – computer science
  11. Economics
  12. Chemical biology
  13. Computer engineering
  14. Nursing Science
  15. Bioengineering

UC acceptance rates 2023

Outlined below are the acceptance rates for all schools in the University of California system for the class of 2027.

SchoolAcceptance rate
UC Berkeley11.6%
UC Davis41.8%
UC Irvine25.7%
UC Merced88.3%
UC Riverside70.3%
UC San Diego24.7%
UC Santa Barbara27.9%
UC Santa Cruz62.7%
UC San Francisco14.8%

Transfer admission rates for California University

The table below contains the transfer acceptance rate for all UC schools for fall 2022/23. UC San Francisco was excluded since it does not accept transfer students at any level.

SchoolTransfer admit rate


The top 3 easiest UC schools to get into are:

  1. UC Merced
  2. UC Riverside
  3. UC Santa Cruz

On the other hand, the hardest UCs to get into in 2024 are:

  1. UCLA
  2. UC Berkeley
  3. UC Irvine

These evaluations are often based on accepted students’ acceptance rates, average GPAs, and SAT scores. However, admission difficulty can fluctuate year by year, depending on the pool of applicants.

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