How To Get Into Rice University - Admission Requirements

Rice university
May 24, 2024
11 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/17/24

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 gain admission to Rice University, ranked 17th in the U.S. News Best National Universities list

Rice University Acceptance Rate: 7.5%

The acceptance rate at Rice University is 7.5%. This means that the school has a highly selective admissions process. This low acceptance rate keeps class sizes small and facilitates a more close-knit community.

Here is a chart with some of Rice’s admission statistics for the past few years:

Year Number of Applicants Number of Accepted Students Acceptance Rate
2024 32,459 2.439 7.5%
2023 31,049 2,399 7.7%
2022 31,424 2,691 8.56%
2021 ~29,560 2,749 9.3%

With an overall acceptance rate of less than 10%, Rice University has a competitive applicant pool and is very difficult to gain admission into. 

Rice University Early Decision Acceptance Rate: 16.5%

The early decision acceptance rate at Rice was 16.5% for the most recent admissions cycle. Although this is twice as high as the regular decision rate, it’s still a very selective percentage. 

For more ED admission information, see the table below: 

Year Number of Applicants Number of Accepted Students Acceptance Rate
2023 2,953 486 16.5%
2022 2,725 511 18.8%
2021 2,635 478 18.1%
2020 2,248 440 19.6%

Source: Rice University Common Data Set

How Hard Is It To Get Into Rice University?

It’s very challenging to get into Rice University, as they typically only admit around 7.5% of applicants. Rice is a highly selective and prestigious college known for its competitive admissions process.

Rice University Admissions Statistics

To help you build an outstanding application, it’s often helpful to look at statistics from previous classes. Here are some admission stats from a recent incoming class at Rice. 

Rice University Average GPA: 3.9

The average incoming GPA of a Rice University student is 3.9. This is a very competitive GPA, so if you want to maximize your chances of admission to Rice, you should aim for no less than a 4.0 GPA. You may also want to take high-level classes, like IB or AP courses, to stand out. 

Rice University Average SAT Score: 1530

The average SAT score of the class of 2027 was 1530. The 25th percentile to 75th percentile range was from 1500-1560. To improve your chances as much as possible, try to aim for a score in the 75th percentile, which would be at least a 1560. 

To apply for Rice University, first-year and transfer students can submit their SAT or ACT scores if they choose; however, standardized tests are optional. Students who prefer not to submit test scores or are unable to submit scores will still be fully considered in the admissions process. 

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. 

If you want to calculate what a good SAT score and ACT score are, 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. 

Rice University Average ACT Score: 35

The class of 2027 had an average score of 35 on the ACT. The 25th percentile scored 34, and the 75th percentile score was 36. To maximize your chances of acceptance, you should aim to score 35-36 on the ACT. 

What is Rice University Looking For In Applicants? 

Rice University seeks to admit applicants who are intellectually strong and can demonstrate their competency through their grades. This means that you should aim for a GPA of 4.0 and choose challenging courses such as IB or AP classes. 

For more information on how Rice University evaluates applications, take a look at this table outlining their basis for selection

Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Rigor of secondary school record X
Class rank X
Academic GPA X
Standardized test scores X
Application essay X
Recommendations X

Non-Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Interview X
Extracurricular activities X
Talent/ability X
Character/personal qualities X
First generation X
Alumni/ae relation X
Georgraphical residence X
State residency X
Religious affiliation/commitment X
Racial/ethnic status X
Volunteer work X
Work experience X
Level of applicant’s interest X

Rice University Admissions Requirements

To get into Rice University, you should aim for an SAT score of at least 1530 or an ACT score of 35-36. Strong candidates typically also have GPAs close to 4.0. Taking AP or IB classes will also boost your academic profile and prove you have what it takes to thrive at Rice!

A huge part of knowing how to get into this university involves being aware of the institution’s requirements. Here are Rice University’s admission requirements:

  • The Coalition Application or the Common Application
  • Application fee of $75 or a fee waiver
  • Rice writing supplement
  • Official high school transcript(s)
  • Recommendation letters
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Early Decision agreement (if applicable)
  • Architecture portfolio and supplemental questions (if applicable)
  • Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars supplemental questions and interview (if applicable)
  • SAT/ACT scores (currently optional)
  • Alumni/Rice Senior interview (optional)

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. 

QuestBridge Application 

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: 

  • Rice QuestBridge Decision Verification Form
  • Rice QuestBridge Application Supplement
  • Official transcripts
  • Standardized test scores (currently optional)
  • QuestBridge Mid-year Report Form 

Rice University Application Deadlines

It’s important to stay on top of important deadlines when applying to colleges. Here are some important dates to keep in mind if you’re applying to Rice.

Application Step Deadline
Early Decision application due November 1
Early Decision deadline to request an alumni interview November 3
Early Decision deadline to complete a Rice senior interview November 22
Shepherd School of Music application due December 1
Regular Decision deadline to complete a Rice senior interview December 2
Shepherd School of Music deadline to complete a Rice senior interview December 3
Early Decision admission notifications released Mid-December
Early Decision deadline to accept admission offer January 1
Regular Decision application due January 4
Regular Decision/Shepherd School of Music deadline to request an alumni interview January 6
Regular Decision admission notifications released April 1
Regular Decision deadline to submit enrollment deposit May 1

Rice University Regular Decision Deadline

The Regular Decision application deadline at Rice University is January 4. You should be certain that you have all your application materials in order in advance to avoid missing the deadline. 

Regular Decision admission decisions will be released by early April, 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.

Rice University Early Decision Deadline

The Rice University Early Decision deadline is November 1. To get your application in on time, you should have a solid application plan and adhere to strict deadlines. 

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. 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 enrolment deposit by January 1. 

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting Into Rice University

If you feel sure that Rice University is the college for you, you’ll need to create a standout application that’s tailored to what Rice is looking for. Here are some specialized tips to help you improve your admission chances at Rice. 

Know Your Intended Major and Why You Want To Pursue It At Rice

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. 

Start Writing Your Essays Early

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. Note that there are additional prompts for the School of Architecture and the Rice/Baylor program, too. 

Provide Excellent Letters of Recommendation

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. 

Submit Standardized Test Scores

Rice is a test-optional school, but they allow applicants to submit their standardized test scores if they wish. 

If you’ve done well on either the ACT or SAT, it’s highly recommended that you submit these scores to admissions. It will give you a competitive edge when applying. However, if you don’t submit these scores, you will still be considered for admission. 

Attend the Optional Alumni Interview

Although the alumni interview is optional, experts highly recommend applicants book one if they’re able to. Here’s what Darryl Tiggle, the former Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Tufts University, thinks about interviews:

    Participate in Extracurricular Activities 

    Rice values well-rounded individuals who are not only dedicated to their studies but also actively engaged in pursuits that complement their interests and goals. 

    Through extracurricular involvement, you can showcase leadership, teamwork, initiative, and a commitment to making a positive impact. These are all qualities highly regarded by admissions committees. 

    Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t “perfect” extracurriculars you should pursue. As Paolo, an admissions counselor at Columbia University explains, any extracurricular can boost your application when framed correctly:

    "Even if you are sitting around playing video games, you might be a competitive esports player. You might have something unique, like competitive crossword puzzles or break dancing. Don’t underestimate the value of these unique hobbies—they show depth and individuality. Think creatively about how you frame these activities to show a fuller picture of yourself. Focus on what you’ve done and what you’re interested in, making your application as authentic and true to you as possible. But remember, quality over quantity is crucial. Focus on the extracurriculars that you are truly passionate about and committed to. It’s better to have a few strong activities than many superficial ones."

    Rice University Supplemental Essay Prompts + Examples

    Rice University requires applicants to write a supplemental essay, which they can access through either the Apply Coalition with Scoir site or the Common Application. 

    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.

    Here’s what Darryl suggests you keep in mind when writing your essays:

      The Rice supplement has three required essay prompts for all applicants and an additional image-related prompt. Here are the essay prompts you’ll be required to answer:

      1. “Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected. (150-word limit)”
      2. “Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? (150 word limit)”
      3. “Please respond to one of the following prompts to explore how you will contribute to the Rice community:
      1. The Residential College System is at the heart of Rice student life and is heavily influenced by the particular cultural traditions and unique life experiences each student brings. What life experiences and/or unique perspectives are you looking forward to sharing with fellow Owls in the residential college system? (500 word limit)
      2. Rice is strengthened by its diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders and change agents across the spectrum of human endeavor. What perspectives shaped by your background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity inspire you to join our community of change agents at Rice? (500 word limit)” 
      1. The Rice Box: 
      1. “One of Rice's long-standing traditions is “The Box,” a question on our application where we ask all of our applicants to share an image of something that appeals to them. The Box gives you the opportunity to present us with an image that shares something about yourself, your interests or what is meaningful to you. This image is not used for evaluative purposes in the application, but allows you to put your stamp on the application about who you are aside from what you have achieved. Be sure to choose an image that speaks for itself and does not need an explanation. The Box must be a two-dimensional image that is uploaded in the Common Application or Apply Coalition with Scoir, or uploaded in the Rice Admission Student Portal.” 

      For detailed tips and advice on how to write a strong essay for Rice, check out our article on college supplemental essays

      Additional Essay Prompts for the School of Architecture

      If you’re applying to the school of architecture, there are also architecture school essay prompts you must answer:

      1. “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 words)”
      2. “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 words)”

      How to Prepare for the Rice University Interview

      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: 

      • Early Decision deadline: November 22  
      • Regular Decision deadline: December 2

      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: 

      • Early Decision deadline: November 3
      • Regular Decision priority deadline: December 17
      • Regular Decision deadline: January 6

      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. 

      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: 

      1. 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. 

      1. 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. 

      1. 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. 

      1. 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. 

      How to Get Into Rice University: FAQs

      Still have a few questions about Rice University? Take a look at our answers to these frequently asked questions.

      1. What is a Good SAT Score for Rice? What is a Good ACT Score? 

      A good SAT score would be in the 75th percentile, which is 1560 at Rice. If you aim for 1560, or the 75th percentile, your score will be considered competitive, even if you miss the score by a few points. 

      The 25-75th percentile range for ACT scores is 34-36. You should aim for a composite or total score of 36 to remain competitive. 

      2. Is There a Non-Binding Early Action Option to Apply for Rice? 

      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. 

      3. Am I Required To Have an Interview? 

      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.

      If you request an interview by the priority deadline of December 17, Rice will try to match you with an interviewer. 

      4. Who Should I Schedule an Interview With? 

      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. 

      5. Can I Enroll in the Second Semester (January)? 

      All first-year and transfer students must enroll in the first (fall) semester at Rice University. There are no mid-year admits. 

      6. Do I Need To Audition for the Shepherd School of Music If I Am Not a Music Major? 

      No, auditions are reserved for music major applicants only. Most auditions run from 10-15 minutes long. 

      7. What Exactly is The Rice Investment? 

      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. 

      8. If I Do Not Meet The Qualifications for The Rice Investment, Will I Still Be Considered For Other Need-Based Aid? 

      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. 

      Final Thoughts

      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. 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!

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