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 2026. 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 so many reasons. The first and most important one 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 154 years ago. It received 210,840 freshman applications for the class of 2026, which is a 3.3% increase from the previous year.
Out of these over 200k applicants, only 85,268 were admitted for fall 2022. That’s like 4 in every 10 freshman applicants and keep in mind 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?
What do you need to get into the University of California?
Let’s find out if you got what it takes to earn a UC degree.
1. Good grades. When submitting your UC application, the least 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 are to 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 2023.
1. UC Merced
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 90.4%, and an average admitted first-year student has a GPA of 3.79.
2. UC Riverside
U.S. News and World Report state that UC Riverside is among the best colleges for veterans in the United States. The 1,200 acres campus is currently home to over 24,000 students.
UCR is the 2nd less competitive UC School to get into after UCM. It has an acceptance rate of 68.1%, and an average admitted freshman student has a GPA of 4.01.
3. UC 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 47.1% acceptance rate, UCSC offers admission to almost half the number of freshman applications it receives. Average admitted first-year students have a high school GPA ranging from 3.94 – 4.25.
The Hardest UC schools to get into
Below are the top 3 hardest UCs to get into in 2023.
The University of California, Los Angeles, is the hardest UC school to get into. It offers about 337 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across various disciplines and is the first UC to guarantee all undergraduates campus housing.
The school has an acceptance rate of 8.6% 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 of 4.27.
2. UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley is one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the US and across the globe. 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 get into and is considered a public ivy. The school has an 11.4% acceptance rate, and admitted freshman students have GPAs ranging from 4.17 – 4.31.
3. UC Irvine
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 2023.
With a 21% acceptance rate, UCI is the 3rd toughest University of California school to enter. Average admitted first-year students have high school GPAs ranging from 4.08 – 4.29.
The toughest University of California majors to get into
Below are the top 15 hardest UC majors to get into in 2023 in no particular order.
- Computer science
- Business administration
- Pre-business economics
- Film & Television
- Design media arts
- Computer science & engineering
- Electrical engineering – computer science
- Chemical biology
- Computer engineering
- Nursing Science
UC Schools acceptance rates
Outlined below are the acceptance rates for all schools in the University of California system for the class of 2026.
|UC San Diego||23.7%|
|UC Santa Barbara||25.9%|
|UC Santa Cruz||47.1%|
|UC San Francisco||14.8%|
University of California schools’ transfer acceptance rate
The table below contains the transfer acceptance rate for all UC schools for fall 2022. UC San Francisco was excluded since it does not accept transfer students at any level.
|School||Transfer admit rate|
The top 3 easiest UC schools to get into are:
- UC Merced
- UC Riverside
- UC Santa Cruz
On the other hand, the hardest UCs to get into in 2023 are:
- UC Berkeley
- UC Irvine
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Sam is a brilliant young Nigerian biochemistry student and an aspiring entrepreneur. Despite facing many challenges, he has never lost his passion for learning and drive to make a difference in the world. Read more about him here.