Thinking about studying at Rice University? In this definitive guide on how to get into Rice University, we’ll discuss acceptance rates, requirements, and so much more.
Rice University was named after businessman William Marsh Rice and founded on the 12th anniversary of his passing in 1912. The university has since grown into a 300-acre campus located in Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the United States.
Rice has a 6:1 ratio of undergraduate students to faculty. It also has a residential college system, including 11 colleges–or small communities–that provide students with housing, dining, and academic and social events.
As you start researching different schools and building your college list, you may be interested in learning more about the top-ranked universities in the nation. Keep reading to find out how to get into Rice University, ranked 17th in the U.S. News 2022 Best National Universities list.
The residential college system at Rice University plays an integral part in developing a close-knit, diverse college community. It is also why Rice is highly ranked for the best quality of life and the best value among private universities. You can remain a member of your residential college even if you move off-campus.
Rice University is a leading research university with a well-known commitment to interdisciplinary undergraduate education. The school has a mission to cultivate a diverse community of learning and discovery that forms leaders in all of its students. Its four core values are responsibility, integrity, community, and excellence (RICE).
The university requires you to take 12 hours each in humanities, social sciences, and applied sciences. You have the freedom to select the courses that interest you most due to the flexibility in these requirements.
Rice has seven different schools with over 50 majors for undergraduate students to apply to:
The School of Architecture is the smallest professional degree program situated in a top-ranked research university. Its undergraduate program consists of two consecutive degrees: the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Architecture in the first four years of study and the Bachelor of Architecture professional degree after an additional two years.
The B.A. in Architecture is a liberal arts degree, and you get exposed to courses in other disciplines such as history, technology, and design.
While Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business is home to Rice’s top-ranked graduate business degrees, a few undergraduate programs are also available. You can major in Business or minor in Business and Entrepreneurship.
There is also a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) deferred enrollment program so that you can secure your spot at this school before graduating.
George R. Brown School of Engineering is a leader in computational science, information technology, engineering, simulation, and modeling. This school has made significant contributions to bioengineering, materials science, and energy as well. Brown School of Engineering enrolls 36% of all Rice undergraduate students.
You can choose from 18 Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degree programs across nine engineering departments.
The School of Humanities offers programs in English, history, philosophy, and visual and dramatic arts. This school offers eight different humanities departments, 15 centers and programs, and 160 faculty members, all of whom are dedicated to pushing disciplinary boundaries in areas of research and study.
The Shepherd School of Music is one of the youngest major university-level music programs in the nation. Shepherd has also become one of the most prominent music schools, with world-class teachers and accomplished artists dedicated to cultivating talent and professional success. It has an international student body of almost 300 gifted young musicians.
You have access to individualized instruction and performance opportunities to develop your music career through the Bachelor of Music degree program.
The Wiess School of Natural Sciences offers 20 Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees and seven minors, which allow you to explore areas such as bioscience, chemistry, physics and astronomy, kinesiology, mathematics, and environmental sciences, among others.
You have access to mentored research opportunities with Rice University’s faculty and the school’s partners at the Texas Medical Center. You can present your work at conferences and publish your papers in top research journals before you graduate.
The School of Social Sciences has a mission to tackle society’s most significant challenges with an unconventional vision toward shaping a future we can all thrive, both individually and collectively. Each of the seven departments of this school dedicates their teaching and research for the betterment of society.
Over a third of Rice University’s undergraduate students declare a major in the social sciences, ranging from anthropology and sociology to economics and psychological science.
When deciding whether to choose a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in some of Rice’s departments, you need to consider your interests and career goals. A B.A. program typically contains more free elective hours than a B.S.
If you are preparing for a career that is not primarily in the scientific discipline of your major, the B.A. degree may be the right choice. A B.A. also lets you pursue other areas of interest with a minor or another major. However, if you want to pursue a career in a scientific discipline, you should consider the B.S. degree.
A huge part of knowing how to get into Rice University involves being aware of the institution’s requirements, including elements like standardized tests.
To apply for Rice University, first-year and transfer students can submit their SAT or ACT scores if they choose. The testing policy is optional for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 application cycles. Students who prefer not to submit test scores or are unable to submit scores will still be fully considered in the admissions process.
As part of their holistic review process, standardized tests are merely one of many factors that admissions officers consider. Submitting test scores is purely optional for the next two application cycles, and you are welcome to showcase their strengths and academic achievements wherever possible.
Generally speaking, Rice University has no preference between the SAT and ACT. If you submit scores for both tests, the admissions committee will use the highest SAT section scores and composite ACT scores across all test dates. The school will then consider the score that best enhances your application.
Remember that if you want to calculate what a good SAT score and ACT score are, you should pay attention to the scores in the middle 50% range and the 75th percentile. If you score close to or higher than the 75th percentile, you will have a competitive application. If you miss the 75th percentile by a few points, you will still be in the middle 50% range. You can read this article to understand SAT percentile scores better.
You can self-report other exam scores, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) exams. These scores may count as course credit and fulfill some of your undergraduate requirements. AP exams scores of 4 or 5 let you earn transfer credit for college-level courses. The same applies if you hold the IB diploma and score a 6 or 7 on higher level exams.
Various international exams with a grade of A or B may also count as transfer credit. Rice does not award transfer credit for dual credit courses. Only those with more than 20 college preparatory courses may be considered for course credit.
Rice evaluates each student within the context of their school and personal environment. The school does not emphasize any academic metric, such as class rank, GPA, or test scores.
Rice University has an acceptance rate of 9.5% and an Early Decision acceptance rate of 18.1%. Rice’s yield rate, or the percentage of admitted students who choose to enroll, is 43.8%. It is a very selective school to keep class sizes small and facilitate a more close-knit community.
Here is a chart with the admission statistics for the Class of 2025:
With an overall acceptance rate of less than 10%, Rice University has a competitive applicant pool and is very difficult to gain admission into.
Here are some tips to help you apply.
Ideally, you will have decided on what you want to study when you conduct your college research. Now that you are deciding where to apply, you should know what major you want to pursue at Rice and why Rice is the best place to study it. Do a lot of research and self-reflection now and save yourself time on the rest of your applications.
Not only will you need to write an essay for the Coalition Application or Common Application, but you must also write at least three supplemental essays for Rice. Give yourself enough time to think through each prompt and revise your writings to be the best versions they can be. Remember that there are additional prompts for the School of Architecture and the Rice/Baylor program, too.
Your letters of recommendation are a great way to showcase your academic success. Notify your recommenders well in advance so that they can send the evaluation on time, especially if you apply for Early Decision.
The student-to-faculty ratio at Rice University is 6:1, and 69.4% of its classes have fewer than 20 students in each class.
According to the U.S. News and World Report, the average freshman retention rate at Rice is 97%, an indicator of student satisfaction. The four-year graduation rate is 85%, which is a good way to tell if students receive enough aid and resources to complete their degrees. Rice has a gender distribution of 51% male students and 49% female students. International students from 45 different countries make up 12.9% of first-year students.
Here is a table representing the racial and ethnic backgrounds of domestic first-year students.
Note: These statistics are based on self-identified data, and students indicating more than one race or ethnicity are counted in each category. Thus, the percentages may add up to more than 100.
Another integral part of Rice University’s application is, of course, the supplemental essays. The admissions committee uses these essays to understand your personality and academic interests better and decide whether you would make a good fit with the university.
The Rice supplement has three required essay prompts for all applicants and an additional image-related prompt, which we will explain below and give tips on how you can write them.
Note: You can also read a more detailed article on how to write the Rice supplemental essays here.
“Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected. (150-word limit)”
In this essay, you have the opportunity to explain the reason behind your academic interests and why you want to study that subject at Rice. You should think about what excites you the most about your field of study and how it fits your strengths and career goals.
As with all of your other college essays, you should do extensive research on the school. Find out what specific programs will benefit you at Rice. You want to show the admissions committee that you are a good match, and your research should reflect your diligence.
For example, if you want to major in Kinesiology at the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, look up what programs and research opportunities are available. Perhaps you already have a research topic in mind because of your personal experiences with physical therapy. Be specific about your academic interests.
“Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? (150-word limit)”
For this prompt, you will want to address both the academic advantages and the social fit of Rice. You should research student organizations that stand out to you and match your passions. For example, if you are vocal about women’s rights, you can explain your interest in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and related activism student groups.
To get a better idea of the social climate of Rice, you may want to reach out to current students and alumni about their experience on campus. If you do not know anyone to contact, you can look for videos and blogs about the school.
Try to avoid obvious topics such as the small class sizes. You should also not talk about what you already discussed in the first essay prompt. Your response is only 150 words, so make sure you talk about unique aspects that you find most important.
“Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System and undergraduate life are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What life perspectives would you contribute to the Rice community? (500-word limit)”
The residential college system at Rice randomly places you in one of 11 colleges where you live, dine, and interact with other students, allowing you to develop strong relationships with one another. Diverse student perspectives and experiences greatly enhance the campus atmosphere.
Your essay should highlight what makes you unique. Your diverse traits can come from your ethnic and cultural traditions, but they may also relate to your health and disability, personal background, or other life experiences.
A good way to get your point across is by telling a great story. Show the admissions committee what you will be able to contribute to the school. Draw on specific experiences that represent you as a person. You can get several examples with a thoughtful brainstorming session.
One of Rice’s long-standing traditions is “The Box,” a question where you share an image of something that appeals to you. You have the opportunity to present an image that conveys something about yourself, your interests, or what is meaningful to you.
The Box is not used for evaluation, but it allows you to put a personal stamp on your application of who you are aside from your achievements. The Box must be a 2-D image that speaks for itself and does not need a written explanation. You should upload it along with your application or in the Rice Admission Student Portal.
If you want to apply for the School of Architecture, you will have to write two additional essays. The prompts are as follows:
“Why are you determined to study architecture? Could you please elaborate on your past experiences and how they have motivated you to apply to Rice University and the School of Architecture in particular? (250-word limit)”
This essay prompt is your typical “why this major?” essay that you will have to answer often throughout the college application process. You should discuss your reasons for studying architecture and why Rice is an ideal place to get your education.
You may have already answered this question in the first prompt about your academic interests. Avoid sounding repetitive in this essay by presenting new information or taking a different approach. You can tell a personal story of your passion for architecture that you did not mention before.
You can also talk about how your dream to be an architect has evolved in recent years and why it has led you to Rice University. Remember to connect your academic goals to the university.
“Please expand on relevant experiences and motivations outside of your academic trajectory that have inspired you to study architecture, focusing on aspects that are not accommodated by other prompts in the application. (250-word limit)”
In this essay, you have the chance to elaborate on your experiences that relate to your interest in architecture. You have already talked about your academic interests and how Rice can help you achieve your goals. Now is the space to focus on architecture.
Think about any formal and informal experience you have in architecture, such as working in a construction company, remodeling your parents’ house, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, and other tasks.
You should try to dig deep and be as specific as you can. Detailed examples in your essay are the best way to leave a lasting impression. Do not simply say why you love architecture and want to study it.
The Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars Program is a partnership between Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine. It seeks to enroll talented and high-achieving students who want to work in healthcare and represent the diverse communities in which they serve. If you apply for this program, you will have to write these three essays:
“What aspirations, experiences, or relationships have motivated you to study in the eight-year Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars Program? (500-word limit).”
We see another variation of the “why this major” question in the Rice supplemental essays. You should research the expectations of this program and make sure it aligns with your career goals. If it does, you can demonstrate your commitment to medical school and talk about your personal experience in the healthcare field.
Do not be afraid to share highly personal stories with the admissions committee. Maybe you were unable to visit the doctor’s office much as a child and adolescent, and that experience negatively affected your health. Now you hope to promote the benefits of regular checkups in younger people in your community through outreach programs.
You should focus your goals on specific ways you can serve your community. The admissions committee already knows that you want to help people, so avoid using generalizations. What unique things do you plan to do if you were to study in this program?
“Outside of academics, what do you enjoy doing most? (300-word limit).”
Avoid bringing up academic-related topics in this essay. You have already done so in other prompts. You should highlight your hobbies and interests that best represent your traits.
Think about activities that you do regularly. Why do you like them? How do they help you develop specific skills, and what do they add to your perspective? You can tie your answer to what makes you unique from other applicants.
Describe how this activity has become a significant part of your identity. If you enjoy dancing, for example, you can write about the roots of dancing in your culture if it is relevant. You can also share a story of your appreciation for dance as both an art form and exercise. Show your passion to the admissions officers, don’t just tell them.
“Describe the most difficult adversity you have faced, and describe how you dealt with it. (300-word limit).”
This “overcoming obstacles” essay is another common one you will see as you apply for colleges. The key to answering this question is to focus on your response and what you have gained or learned.
You can choose from many adversities, but you should be careful about what you discuss. Avoid sharing graphic details or stories about drugs and alcohol. You should also avoid cliché topics about moving to a new school, completing a challenging group project, or suffering a sports injury.
The adverse experience does not have to be tragic or traumatic, nor must it result in success. You want to be able to show your personal growth as a result of your most difficult adversity. It may be an ongoing problem that you experience in your hometown, and you want to express how much it has changed your career goals.
Rice recommends first-year applicants to have an interview, but the interviews are optional and not always guaranteed. Your inability to schedule one will not negatively impact your chances of admission. Interviews will be conducted virtually with a trained alumnus or a current Rice University senior.
A limited number of interviews with current Rice seniors are available beginning in late August through the campus visit website, and slots are on a first-come, first-served basis. You do not need to have your application submitted to schedule this interview. Here is when you should complete your interview with a senior:
If you cannot schedule an interview with a senior, you can request an interview with a member of the Rice Alumni Volunteers for Admission (RAVA). There is also limited availability, so you will need to submit your application before requesting this interview. Here is when you should request your interview with an alumnus:
You may only complete one interview, and Rice has no preference between an interview with a senior or RAVA. Due to the high demand for interviews, however, the school may not fulfill your request. The university will try to match students who request an interview before the priority deadline for Regular Decision.
Interviews are an opportunity to show what you know about Rice and highlight your achievements while learning more about the campus. You can expect to answer questions about your interests, intended major, extracurricular activities, career plans, and anything else that draws you to the university. Remember to do enough research on student organizations and programs that interest you.
Once you practice answering potential questions, you should also prepare a list of stellar questions to ask your college interviewer. You can learn a lot about the campus fit from an alumnus and especially a current student. Here are a few examples of excellent questions to ask:
What was your experience with the residential college system like?
This question is specific to Rice University, and it will help you decide whether the school is a good social fit for you.
What did you study? What kinds of research opportunities are available for someone in your major?
If you happen to have common academic interests as your interviewer, learning this information can be beneficial to your success at the school.
Are you getting enough career guidance as a senior?
You show that you are a diligent student with this question. You are thinking about how your college can help you meet your goals, making you a great candidate.
What advice would you give to incoming students? What are some things you wish you had done or known?
These questions are excellent ways of continuing the conversation, and you can ask anyone this question, whether they are an alumnus or a senior. You want to demonstrate your desire to learn.
First-year students can apply to Rice University using the Coalition Application, the Common Application, and the QuestBridge Application. The required materials are generally the same, but each application has its own set of essay prompts.
You can submit your applications in one of two rounds: Early Decision and Regular Decision. Remember that you do not need to apply to schedule an interview with a senior, but you must submit one to request an interview with an alumnus. Completing the application sooner means you will have a higher chance of securing an interview.
Early Decision is a binding decision plan for students whose first choice is Rice University. You may apply for non-binding programs at other colleges, but you must withdraw your applications if accepted into Rice. You must also submit your materials by November 1 to meet the Early Decision deadlines. Admission decisions will be released by mid-December.
There are three possible outcomes with Early Decision, and the decisions are final. The admissions committee may admit you, defer you to the Regular Decision applicant pool, or deny you. If you get denied, you will not be considered with Regular Decision. You will have to wait until next year to reapply. If you get admitted, you must withdraw all your other college applications, accept Rice’s offer, and submit an enrollment deposit by January 1.
Regular Decision is not binding, and you have until January 4 to submit your materials. Admission decisions will be released by April 1, and they are final. The admissions committee may admit you, offer you a place on the waitlist, or deny you. You may choose to be considered for admission if space becomes available. If you get admitted, you must submit an enrollment deposit by May 1.
The QuestBridge National College Match Program serves high-achieving, low-income students by providing financial aid packages, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses. This application can be used in place of the Coalition Application or the Common Application.
Here are the requirements to apply for Rice University through QuestBridge:
A complete application for Rice University includes the following components:
You must submit letters of recommendation from your counselor and two teachers. The counselor’s letter of recommendation should highlight your accomplishments within the context of your high school. The two teacher recommendations serve to highlight your academic strengths and contributions in core academic subjects. You should try to get a recommendation from a teacher whose class relates to your intended major.
You can apply for the Rice/Baylor program on any of the three available applications, and you must answer three supplemental essay prompts. You should submit all materials by November 1 for Early Decision and December 1 for Regular Decision. If you apply after December 1, you will be considered for admission to Rice but not for the Rice/Baylor program.
You will be notified in late January if you are selected for an interview, which will be conducted in February. You will know if you were selected for the Rice/Baylor program by April 1. If you are admitted during Early Decision, you must still commit to Rice by January 1, even though the Rice/Baylor decision will be given later in the spring.
Here is a chart with all application dates and deadlines for Rice University, according to each application type:
If you want to apply to the Shepherd School of Music, you must submit additional materials depending on your area of study by December 1. Music applicants are not eligible to apply through QuestBridge or Early Decision. You are required to have an audition or an interview specifically for Shepherd.
In addition to two supplemental essay prompts, you are required to submit a portfolio of creative work if you apply for the School of Architecture. It should demonstrate your creative potential, and it is not expected to be architecture-focused or professional quality. You may include sketches, paintings, and photography and compile them into a PDF.
If you are interested in Visual and Dramatic Arts under the School of Humanities, you have the option to submit a portfolio of creative work. Unlike the above materials, this portfolio is not required for admission. You can include sketches, paintings, photography, models, and social media pages in one PDF.
If you are still deciding whether to add Rice to your college list and apply, here are some questions to consider as you conduct more research:
With about 75% of undergraduate students living on campus, Rice’s residential college system forms the heart of campus life. Each college is a self-supporting unit with its own government, budget, intramural teams, and faculty advisors. You are randomly assigned to one of 11 coed colleges once you enroll, and you are affiliated with that college throughout your time at Rice.
A faculty magister is assigned to each college, and they help cultivate a variety of cultural and intellectual interests among students. This system allows you to combine your studies with various social events, intramural sports, plays, student government, and lecture series.
There are more than 300 student clubs and organizations for you to join, including performance, media, athletic, cultural, and political groups. You can find a group to pursue your current passions or try something new. Student clubs also provide you with leadership experience, social networking opportunities, and career preparation to give you a head start in the real world.
Rice’s average freshman retention rate is 96.7%, and the four-year graduation rate is about 85%, according to the latest statistics for Fall 2019. Of the Rice class of 2019, 68% are employed in a regular organization, 29% are seeking employment, and 3% are not seeking work. Rice did not specify whether the 3% of graduates not seeking employment included those continuing their studies at graduate and professional schools.
According to the U.S. News and World Report, the median starting salary of Rice University alumni is $67,500. The average student debt after graduation is $13,422.
The tuition and fees at Rice University are $52,895, and room and board cost $14,800. Rice meets 100% of demonstrated need without loans through one of the country’s most notable financial aid programs: The Rice Investment. To qualify for the Rice Investment, you must submit your FAFSA by November 15. You will be notified of your award in mid-December.
Rice offers merit-based scholarships to first-year students who are highly competitive among all the admitted students. You are automatically considered for these merit-based scholarships, and about 20% of students are offered one each year. Recipients generally distinguish themselves, whether it be in community service, art, writing, entrepreneurship, sports, social activism, and other areas.
At Rice, 57% of undergraduate students receive some kind of financial aid. The average freshman aid package is $53,688, and the average responsibility for families receiving assistance is $18,057. Furthermore, 77% of Rice students graduate debt-free.
Still have a few questions about how to get into Rice University? Take a look at our answers to these frequently asked questions.
To calculate a good SAT score, you should look at the average SAT statistics for the incoming class. The middle 50% range is 1460-1570. If you aim for 1570, or the 75th percentile, your score will be considered competitive even if you miss the score by a few points. Here is an article to help you better understand SAT percentiles.
You want to apply the same concept to a good ACT score. The middle 50% range for ACT scores is 34-36. You should aim for a composite or total score of 36 to remain competitive.
No, Rice only offers a binding Early Decision plan for students who have Rice as their first choice. If you want to have the option to accept offers at other schools, you should apply for Regular Decision.
Interviews for first-year students are recommended but not required. You can schedule a virtual interview with an alumnus or current Rice University senior, but there is no guarantee that you will get one. Due to the limited availability and high demand for interviews, all student requests may not be fulfilled. If you request an interview by the priority deadline of December 17, Rice will try to match you with an interviewer.
Rice has no preference as to whether you have an interview with an alumnus or a current senior. You should decide whose perspective you want to gain from the interview, but both options are sure to give you essential information.
All first-year and transfer students must enroll in the first (fall) semester at Rice University. There are no mid-year admits.
No, auditions are reserved for music major applicants only. Most auditions run from 10-15 minutes long.
The Rice Investment is a need-based financial aid package that gives awards depending on your family’s total income and assets. Awards may cover half tuition, full tuition, or even full tuition, fees, and room and board.
Yes, Rice remains dedicated to meeting 100% of demonstrated need for financial aid. If your family has significant assets or income above the thresholds of The Rice Investment may still qualify for other need-based aid.
As you begin applying for college, remember that this process does not have to be stressful if you prepare enough. You should start early and tackle one section at a time. You can achieve your goals if you know what is expected of you. When wondering how to get into Rice University, the first step is to review everything this guide provides.
We have covered information on the different schools within Rice, application requirements, supplemental essays, and class demographics. This guide will help you confidently navigate the Rice admissions process and break down what you need to complete.
Try not to procrastinate on any piece of your application because each part helps show the admissions officers who you are. Remember to demonstrate your unique perspective in your essays and interviews because that will surely leave a lasting impression. Good luck with your application!