How to Get Into UCSD: Acceptance Rate + Requirements

San Diego, California
April 26, 2024
5 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Do you want to be a changemaker? UC San Diego is known for its culture of collaboration that sparks discovery to advance society. To learn more about how to get into UCSD, read on!

UCSD has a preference to take the path less traveled. In an attempt to accelerate the world’s most pressing issues, UCSD encourages its students to think outside of the box, be innovative, and follow their boldest ambitions!

With a commitment to innovating with a purpose, UCSD is a billion-dollar research institute that transforms ideas to solutions, no matter how big or small! 

If you’re a creative thinker with big ambitions for the future, look no further—UCSD can provide you with the resources and support to help you succeed! This guide will discuss this prominent university’s major admission details and provide tried and true tips to ensure your application stands out!

UCSD Admission Requirements

If you want to get into UCSD, you’ll need stellar academic scores. Aim for an SAT score of 1520 or an ACT score of 31 to position yourself within the 75th percentile of successful applicants. You should also maintain a 4.28 GPA to give yourself a competitive edge.

UCSD claims to only admit “fearless innovators,” which is an intimidating standard to live up to! To make sure you meet these expectations, here is a comprehensive list of UCSD’s admission requirements and competitive score ranges!

High School Transcripts

Part of being a bold-thinker is pursuing academically challenging courses and having a strong dedication to learning. To be eligible for admission to this university, you’re required to complete the following courses:

  • Two years in history or social science
  • At least three years in mathematics (four years preferred)
  • Four years in English
  • At least two years in laboratory science (three years preferred)
  • At least two years of a foreign language (three years preferred)
  • One year in visual and performing arts
  • One year in a college preparatory elective

You’re required to receive a minimum of a 3.0 GPA in these courses, with no grade lower than a letter “C.” Non-residents are required to have a minimum GPA of 3.4. However, the majority of successful UCSD applicants have a weighted GPA between 4.12 to 4.30, which equates to about a 3.5 to 3.7 unweighted GPA. 

UCSD is particularly keen on admitting students in the top 9% of their classes! So, students should aim to maintain a GPA as close to 4.0 as possible to be considered competitive applicants.

SAT or ACT Scores

UCSD is a test-free school meaning it does not accept SAT or ACT scores as part of the application process. Any submitted SAT or ACT scores will only be used to assess students’ eligibility for certain course placements.

AP or IB Tests

If you completed Advanced Placement (AP) courses or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, it’s recommended you complete the related exams and submit your scores to UC San Diego to demonstrate your academic skill. Students are highly encouraged to pursue these challenging courses to prove their readiness for college.

Personal Insight Questions

Your writing abilities are another important factor that admissions committees will assess you on, which is why you have to write four essays as part of your application. While this may seem intimidating, each answer should only be 350 words. You’ll have eight prompts to choose from:

“1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.  
2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem-solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.  
3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?  
4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
6.  Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. 
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?  
8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?”

Each answer will be considered equally, so choose a prompt you believe will showcase your best traits and writing skills!

In case you still feel weary about writing these essays, here are some UCSD-approved tips on how to ace them:

  • Share experiences that best reflect your circumstances
  • There is no right or wrong answer to these questions so avoid fabricating stories that you believe will impress the committee—be honest and keep it simple
  • Express who you are, your interests, life experiences, ambitions, and inspirations
  • Be reflective
  • Take your time when choosing which questions to answer
  • Consider brainstorming ideas for each question and then choosing the ones that have the best answers
  • Avoid clichés or overused statements 
  • Focus on you! Do not give the committee a history report on UCSD

There will also be an additional information section after your personal insight questions. This section is optional and is not meant to be a continuation of your previous essays.

Instead, the additional information section should only share:

  • Additional clarification on details of your application such as certificates, awards, honors, or extracurriculars
  • Anything else that you were unable to include in your essays but is integral for the admissions committee to know
  • Any military service you’ve participated in and the role it has played in your educational path

These writing sections are an opportunity for you to tell the committee who you are outside of the classroom! Craft compelling essays and proofread them multiple times to impress the judges!

Portfolio Review

Art major applicants may also submit portfolios or audition tapes demonstrating their talents. While these are not required for your application, they are highly encouraged so the admissions committee can better gauge your potential.

UCSD Acceptance Rate

After learning more about how to get into UCSD and the rigorous standards they hold their students to, you may be wondering, “how hard is it to get into UCSD?” Given the GPA requirements alone, this school is competitive.

The UCSD acceptance rate further confirms that this university is challenging to get into. At only 25%, students are expected to have standout applications to gain admission to this prestigious school!

Take our interactive quiz below to find out how likely you are to get into UCSD.

UCSD Application Timeline

As you begin gathering all of the necessary admission requirements, you should also make a note of the following key deadlines to ensure a hassle-free application process:

Date What’s Due
August 1 Applications open
October 1 FAFSA and California Dream Act applications open
October 1 – November 30 Application due
March 2 Submit FAFSA application
March 31 Admission decisions posted
May 1 Deadline to accept UCSD’s offer

Source: UCSD

If you’re a transfer student, your deadlines and requirements will vary slightly. Your application deadline will be January 6, and you will hear back from UCSD between March and April. You will also have until June 1st to accept your offer.

UCSD Tuition and Scholarships

Tuition for California residents will cost $17,361 a year. With the other estimated costs of attending UC San Diego, the total amount you can expect to pay for your first year at UCSD is around $29,000 to $36,000, depending on if you’re living at home or on campus.

Non-residents can expect their total cost to attend UCSD to be between $60,000 to $67,000 a year. Tuition and fees make up $31,026 of these expenses.

Fortunately, UCSD offers several types of financial aid to its students:


Grants are given to students based on their financial need. Here are the six grants offered by UCSD:

  • Cal Grant A: covers the system registration fees of $12,570 
  • Cal Grant B: covers the system registration fees of $12,570 plus a subsistence stipend of $1,648
  • Federal Pell Grant: $672 to $6495 for up to six years
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG): $100 to $400 annually
  • Grant-In-Aid (GIA): amount depends on need
  • Blue and Gold Opportunity Grant: amount depends upon the total aid you’re already given, this grant will make up the difference of your financial need

To be eligible for these grants, you will have to submit a FAFSA or California Dream Act application to determine your financial need. Students interested in receiving the Blue and Gold Opportunity Grant must demonstrate income of less than $80,000 with financial need.


UCSD also offers its students over 30 scholarships. These scholarships are either merit-based or based on other restricted criteria such as demonstration of leadership or field of interest.

UCSD scholarships typically cover a significant portion of tuition.

Tips to Get Into UCSD

UC San Diego admits students that exceed their minimum expectations. Aside from having a high GPA, you should follow these tips to ensure your application goes above and beyond:

Demonstrate Drive

UCSD looks for students with a drive to build a better world and the insatiable curiosity required to do so. Use your essays to explain how you want to make the world a better place and how UCSD can help you accomplish this goal. While you want to demonstrate boldness, ensure you remain realistic.

You can have strong ambitions, but claiming you’re going to cure cancer within the four years of your undergrad may be a bit of a stretch! 

Give the Committee As Much Information About You As Possible

You have to write four essays to get into UCSD. Make each essay count by highlighting different talents or abilities in each one. Try not to be redundant! These essays give you an opportunity to share more about yourself and your fundamental characteristics! 

Try to give the committee the most detailed picture of who you are, what you’ve experienced, and what you hope to accomplish!

FAQs: Getting Into UCSD

Read on to find the answers to any remaining questions about how to get into UCSD.

1. How Hard Is It to Get Into UCSD?

Given the fact that this school aims to admit students that are at the top 9% of their class, getting into UCSD will be challenging. You must wow the admissions committee with more than just your academics; you must also demonstrate that you’re a bold-thinker who can contribute greatness to the UCSD community!

2. How Can I Increase My Chances of Getting Into UCSD?

Focus on writing compelling essays and demonstrate a clear interest and drive to attend UCSD. Share your ambitions and how you plan on making the world a better place! These values are huge at UCSD.

3. What Is the Average GPA to Get Into UCSD?

Students should aim to maintain a GPA of around 3.5-3.7 in the listed core courses to be considered competitive applicants. The closer you are to a 4.0, the better! UCSD places strong emphasis on academic excellence. 

4. Is UCSD a Good School?

Yes, UCSD is recognized as one of the top 15 research universities worldwide and has renowned Nobel Prize, Fields Medal, Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize, and Presidential Medal of Freedom winning faculty. 

5. What SAT/ACT Score Do I Need to Get Into UCSD?

UCSD is a test free school, meaning students are not required to submit the SAT/ACT as part of the application process.

6. How Much Does UCSD Cost?

UCSD’s tuition and fees cost over $17,000 a year for residents and around $31,000 for non-residents. However, they offer extensive financial aid to help their students afford these high costs.

Final Thoughts

Gaining admission to this innovative school will be challenging! But, if you’re focused, dedicated, and put in the time to submit a stellar application, you’ll join a university that is known to make the impossible possible! UCSD welcomes bold-thinkers and provides them with the resources needed to fulfill all of their ambitions!

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