Easiest UC to get into

By | May 22, 2022

Founded in 1869, the school system earns high marks for its STEM and humanities programs, multi-billion-dollar research centers, and proximity to dynamic cities like Los Angeles and San Diego. So, it’s no surprise that some of the UC schools’ acceptance rates are low. If you’re eager to spend your college career getting a great education in the sun, read on to learn about the hardest and easiest UC schools to get into.

Whether you are searching for information on why are UC schools so hard to get into or you are just interested in knowing what is the easiest UC to get into? Well, we know for a fact that our list of the 10 easiest UC to get into in California will guide you in studying both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the UC system. So If you’re interested in knowing all the easiest UC to get into and beyond, then you’ve found the right place. We’ve pulled together a simple, straightforward guide to help you put together the best application for any UC school. So let us put your mind at ease and tell you what you need to do to make this journey to the University of California.

Right here on info learners Topschools, you are privy to a litany of relevant information on UC schools, what the easiest UC school to get into, the hardest to easiest uc to get into, the hardest UC schools to get into, UC acceptance rates, and so much more. Take out time to visit our catalog for more information on similar topics.

Easiest UC to get into - College Learners

Uc Schools

If you’re ready to apply to college, you’ll want the easiest places to get into. The following table orders the best UC schools according to their ranking given by the US News & World Report. The numbers in parentheses represent each school’s place among all other ranked US colleges. It’s worth noting that all nine of the UC schools place among the nation’s top 100 universities. We found our list of easiest UC schools to get Into to be the most reliable when making your admission choice.

UC Rankings US News Ranking Location Year Est. Acceptance Rate GPA Range SAT Range ACT range
UCLA 1 (20) Los Angeles 1919 14.4% 4.18-4.31 1350-1550 31-35
UC Berkeley 2 (22) Berkeley 1868 17.5% 4.13-4.30 1320-1540 29-35
UC Santa Barbara 3 (30) Santa Barbara 1891 36.9% 4.03-4.27 1290-1510 28-34
UC Irvine 4 (35) Irvine 1965 29.9% 3.96-4.26 1280-1510 27-34
UC San Diego 4 (35) La Jolla 1960 38.3% 4.04-4.28 1310-1520 29-34
UC Davis 5 (39) Davis 1905 46.6% 3.97-4.25 1230-1490 26-33
UC Riverside 6 (88) Riverside 1954 66.2% 3.65-4.11 1110-1380 21-31
UC Merced 7 (97) Merced 2005 85.4% 3.40-3.96 980-1260 18-27
UC Santa Cruz 7 (97) Santa Cruz 1965 65.2% 3.71-4.16 1170-1440 24-32

Even if UCLA and Berkeley seem like reaches, you might still be able to attend a UC. The easiest UC schools to get into including UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced, all of which have acceptance rates over 50%.

Located 40 minutes outside San Jose, UC Santa Cruz earns high marks for its picturesque campus and close beach access. Along with the small class sizes and community feel, students rave about how progressive the school is. In fact, Santa Cruz came in No. 1 on Business Insider‘s list of the Most Liberal Colleges in America.

Like UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside has a higher acceptance rate that makes it more accessible. It’s also a great choice for students seeking a more affordable college degree. In fact, the school admits a higher percentage of Pell Grant students than any other top research school in the U.S.

One of the newer UCs, Merced is still finding its identity. As a result, students have a chance to shape the school into the kind of institution they want to attend. Additionally, Merced accepts a large number of community college students. According to the school website, 96% of admitted transfer students come from a California community college.

UC acceptance rates, GPA, and SAT Requirements

We have created a table comparing the undergraduate enrollments, average standardized test scores, and acceptance rates for each of the UC campuses. Take a look at the table to get an idea of the size and selectivity of each UC institution. Rankings are subjective, based on reputation and objective statistics, but we have grouped the UC schools into four tiers.

School Number of Undergraduates Middle 50% SAT Score Middle 50% ACT Score Acceptance Rate
UC Berkeley 31,348 1330-1520 28-34 17%
UCLA 31,568 1290-1510 27-34 12%
UC Santa Barbara 23,349 1230-1480 26-32 30%
UC San Diego 30,794 1250-1470 24-33 32%
UC Davis 30,982 1150-1420 25-31 39%
UC Irvine 30,382 1190-1400 27-33 27%
UC Santa Cruz 17,517 1200-1360 24-30 51%
UC Riverside 22,055 1130-1330 24-30 57%
UC Merced 8,151 990-1180 17-22 72%


Why Are the UC Schools Hard to Get Into?

Admission to the UC schools is competitive, and for good reason. Students flock to the UCs because of the high rankings and academic quality. In the 2020 US News & World Report rankings, UCLA and UC Berkeley came in first and second respectively in the list of best public schools. Moreover, UC Riverside ranked No. 1 for social mobility, due to the fact that more students with Pell Grants were enrolled there than in any other university in the country.

Why are the UC schools so hard to get into? With a few general requirements and an open admission policy, the University of California means one thing: opportunity. With a wide variety of majors available in both campuses within the state, from agriculture-based programs to theatre arts, to pre-professional programs such as medical professions or law-related ones, the UC system is one that provides an array of study options for students across all fields. It stands true to its motto ‘Let there be Light.’ College Learners can help you get in by explaining how the rankings system works and sharing helpful strategies for making your college list, getting organized, and applying for admission.

The UC system also offers a wide range of majors, extracurriculars, and resources. Students enjoy access to museums, art galleries, concert halls, observatories, and even botanical gardens, all without having to leave campus.

It’s no surprise that the UCs draw a large number of applications each year. According to Forbes, more than 181,000 students applied to the UCs in 2018, and the schools only admitted 71,085 freshmen. While the schools have always been competitive, continued space limitations and scarce state funding mean that they now have to turn away around 60% of qualified applicants on an annual basis.

The low acceptance rates at the UCs are complicated by the fact that statistics differ significantly for in-state and out-of-state applicants. Because the UCs offer in-state residents the chance to earn an exceptional education without the private school price tag, California students are particularly drawn to these public institutions.

However, the UCs are cognizant that they can net a lot more money from out-of-state admittees. In fact, UCLA admitted only 12% of its California applicants in 2019 and 16% of its out-of-state applicants. Keep in mind, however, that there were 2-3 times more in-state applicants than out-of-state ones, not including international students. While the out-of-state acceptance rate is higher, those applicants tend to be better qualified, and are held to a higher academic standard. The middle 50% SAT scores for accepted out-of-state students was 1440-1550, but 1300-1530 for in-state students. The middle 50% ACT scores were 33-35 for out-of-state, and 28-35 for in-state.

While the University of California colleges are undoubtedly competitive, the good news is that some UC schools’ acceptance rates are much higher than others. Keep reading to find out which schools you’re most and least likely to get into in 2020.

New data shows extent of UC, CSU admissions crunch - Los Angeles Times

Hardest UC Schools to Get Into

How hard is it to get into a UC school? The truth is that it depends on the university. Both featuring acceptance rates well under 20%, UC Berkeley and UCLA are the most competitive of the UC institutions. Admissions pros place these well-regarded schools among other highly selective colleges like the University of Notre Dame, USC, and Georgetown.

While these UC schools’ acceptance rates can seem intimidating, there are still plenty of reasons to apply. Known for its political activism and diverse student body, Berkeley is the oldest of the UCs. Along with the exceptional academics, top-notch faculty, and exciting research opportunity, students are drawn to the institution for its location. With San Francisco just a 20-minute drive from campus, Berkeley students are never bored.

Academics are also a major draw at UCLA, which offers more than 3,800 courses and 109 majors. With a total undergraduate enrollment of 31,577, this UC is a great choice for students seeking a large school with plenty of activities and extracurriculars. Additionally, the Los Angeles location means that students have access to numerous internships and career opportunities. In particular, UCLA’s robust network of entertainment alumni makes it a wise option for those considering careers in film and television.

UCLA planning a 20-story tower as part of student housing expansion -  Curbed LA

UC Acceptance Rates

Wondering what it takes to get into a University of California school? Check out the stats for incoming freshmen at the nine undergraduate UC institutions below:

School Name Acceptance Rate Middle 50% SAT Middle 50% ACT
UC Berkeley 16.8% 1350-1540 30-35
UCLA 12% 1270-1520 28-34
UC Irvine 26.6% 1195-1435 27-33
UC Santa Barbara 32% 1230-1480 26-32
UC San Diego 32.3% 1300-1520 26-33
UC Davis 43.4% 1260-1480 28-34
UC Santa Cruz 51.57% 1170-1400 24-31
UC Merced 54% 1020-1270 17-25
UC Riverside 56.3% 1130-1400 21-29

Easiest UC Schools to Get Into

No matter how good your grades are, no college or university will accept you if you can’t get into the first one. UC is the easiest way to fulfill your dream of attending college. The majority of the UCs reviewed are rated either “Very Competitive” or “Competitive”. We didn’t find any schools that aren’t competitive. Browse through our UC university list to find the easiest is to get into. Our list is designed to be simple and user-friendly to help present UCs in an easy way for you to decide which UC to apply.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Geri Lavrov / Getty Images

List of the UC Schools

Before we dive in, here’s a complete list of the 10 hardest to easiest uc schools to get into (UC San Francisco is a graduate-only school, while the others offer undergraduate and graduate education).

  • UC Berkeley
  • UCLA
  • UC Davis
  • UC Irvine
  • UC Riverside
  • UC San Diego
  • UC San Francisco (graduate only)
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • UC Merced

The University of California system is one of the best state university systems in the country (also one of the most expensive), and three of the schools below rank among the nation’s top public universities. The nine universities that offer undergraduate degrees are listed here from the lowest to highest acceptance rate. Admissions standards vary widely from highly selective UCLA and Berkeley to the far less selective campus in Merced.

San Francisco also has a University of California campus, but it is dedicated exclusively to graduate study and, thus, is not included in this ranking.

If you don’t think you have the standardized test scores or grades to get into one of the University of California schools, realize that you still have plenty of other public university options among the 23 campuses in the California State University system.



Powell Library at UCLA
aimintang / iStock / Getty Images Plus 

UCLA will nearly always be found ranked among the country’s top ten public universities, and its strengths span fields from the arts to engineering. The university is home to one of the nation’s best nursing schools, best dental schools, and best law schools. The university’s athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division I Pacific 12 Conference.

  • Acceptance Rate (2019): 12%
  • Enrollment: 44,371 (31,543 undergraduates)

UC Berkeley

The University of California Berkeley on a sunny day.
Charlie Nguyen/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Not only does the University of California Berkeley rank at the top of this list of the UC schools, it tends to earn the number 1 spot in the country for all public universities. To get in, applicants will need grades and standardized test scores that are well above average. UC Berkeley made our lists of the top public universities, top ten engineering programs, and top ten business schools for undergraduates. The university competes in the NCAA Division I Pacific 12 Conference.

  • Acceptance Rate (2019): 16%
  • Enrollment: 43,185 (31,348 undergraduates)

UC Irvine

UC Irvine has numerous academic strengths spanning a wide range of disciplines: biology and health sciences, criminology, English, and psychology, to name a few. The university’s athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division I Big West Conference.

  • Acceptance Rate (2019): 27%
  • Enrollment: 36,908 (30,382 undergraduates)

UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara’s enviable location earned it a place among the best colleges for beach lovers, but academics are also strong. UCSB has a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, and it is a member of the Association of American Universities for its research strengths. The UCSB Gauchos compete in the NCAA Division I Big West Conference.

  • Acceptance Rate (2019): 30%
  • Enrollment: 26,314 (23,349 undergraduates)

UC San Diego

UCSD consistently ranks among the country’s best public universities, and it also tends to make lists of the best engineering programs. The university is home to the highly regarded Scripps Institute of Oceanography. UCSD athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division II level.

  • Acceptance Rate (2019): 31%
  • Enrollment: 38,736 (30,794 undergraduates)
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UC Davis

UC Davis has a huge 5,300-acre campus, and the school tends to do well in national rankings of public universities. Like several of the schools on this list, UC Davis competes in the NCAA Division I Big West Conference. Academic strengths earned the university a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and membership in the Association of American Universities.

  • Acceptance Rate (2019): 39%
  • Enrollment: 38,634 (30,982 undergraduates)

UC Santa Cruz

An impressive number of students who attend UC Santa Cruz go on to earn their doctorates. The campus overlooks Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, and the university is known for its progressive curriculum.

  • Acceptance Rate (2019): 51%
  • Enrollment: 19,494 (17,517 undergraduates)

UC Riverside

UC Riverside has the distinction of being one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the country. The business program is extremely popular, but the school’s strong programs in the liberal arts and sciences earned it a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. The school’s athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division I Big West Conference.

  • Acceptance Rate (2019): 57%
  • Enrollment: 25,547 (22,055 undergraduates)

UC Merced

UC Merced was the first new research university of the 21st century, and the university’s state-of-the-art construction was designed to have a minimal environmental impact. Biology, business, mechanical engineering, and psychology are the most popular majors among undergraduates.

  • Acceptance Rate (2019): 72%
  • Enrollment: 8,847 (8,151 undergraduates)
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UC Schools Ranking

The latest University of California schools ranking on a single web page, ranks the top UC schools in each college and field of study. We created a table with rankings of the UC schools. And we included their US News rankings for National Universities and their overall Forbes rankings.

University US News College Ranking Forbes Magazine Ranking
1. UC Berkeley 22 13
2. UCLA 20 38
3. UCSB 30 84
4. UCSD 35 (tie) 79
5. UC Irvine 35 (tie) 87
6. UC Davis 39 88
7. UC Santa Cruz 97 (tie) 183
8. UC Riverside 88 199
9. UC Merced 97 (tie) unranked

The schools in the UC system are unique. While they’re all distinguished by top-tier academics, they vary in size, location, and audience. Use our ranking of the top-ranked UC schools to find an education that fits you.

The first tier is UC Berkeley and UCLA. They’re the most selective and generally the most well-regarded of the UC schools. Non-UC colleges that would be in this tier include the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, USC, and the University of Virginia.

The second tier is UCSB, UCSD, UC Davis, and UC Irvine. Their US News and Forbes rankings, average GPAs, average standardized test scores, and admission rates are all very similar. It would be difficult to definitively rank one ahead of the others. Non-UC colleges that would be in this tier include Boston University, Tulane University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The third tier is UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside. UC Santa Cruz probably has a better reputation and is ranked higher by various publications, but these two schools are pretty comparable in terms of test scores and acceptance rates. Non-UC colleges in this tier would be the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of San Diego, Florida State University, and the University of San Francisco.

The fourth tier is UC Merced. UC Merced is not necessarily trying to directly compete with the other UC campuses. It’s the newest UC campus and has a significantly smaller enrollment than all the others. It also has the highest percentage of underrepresented minorities and low-income students of all of the UCs. It’s heavily invested in providing access to education to students in the San Joaquin Valley of California and offering a UC education to more California residents.

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UC Admission Requirement

This is an image of two students chatting in front of an art mural.

1. Subject Requirement

Students must successfully complete UC-approved courses in the A-G subject areas with a ‘C’ grade or better.* If you attend a California high school, check that the classes you take are on your school’s UC Certified Course List by referencing the A-G Course List resource website.

*UC has temporarily suspended the letter grade requirement for A-G courses completed in winter 2020 through summer 2021 for all students. A-G courses completed in these terms with Pass (P) or Credit (CR) grades will satisfy appropriate A-G requirements.

This is an image of students studying in the Student Resource Building from above.

2. Grade Point Requirement

Students must earn a minimum GPA of 3.0 (3.4 for non-California residents) in all A-G courses. Only the grades you earn in A-G subjects in the tenth and eleventh grades – including summer sessions – are used to calculate your preliminary GPA.* Courses you took in the ninth and twelfth grades can be used to meet A-G subject requirements if you earned a grade of C or better, but they will not be used to calculate your GPA.

*UC has temporarily suspended the letter grade requirement for A-G courses completed in winter 2020 through summer 2021 for all students. A-G courses completed in these terms with Pass (P) or Credit (CR) grades will satisfy appropriate A-G requirements.

This is three students walking in the library stacks.

3. Personal Life Accomplishments

UCSB doesn’t just look at academic accomplishments to bring in our freshman class. We look at your extracurricular activities and achievements in light of the opportunities available to you. Learn how applications are reviewed.

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