How To Get Into UCLA: A Complete Undergrad Guide

UCLA campus
September 8, 2022
About UCLA UCLA Undergraduate RequirementsUCLA Acceptance Rate Tips to Get Into UCLAUCLA Personal Insight Essays UCLA Interviews How to Apply to UCLAUCLA Application Dates and Deadlines UCLA Class ProfileFAQs: Getting Into UCLAGet Into UCLA, Unlock Your Future

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/29/22


If you’re wondering how to get into UCLA, read on for tips and more to help you get accepted!

The University of California Los Angeles is a public research university. The school is one of the most respected and competitive universities in the US, informally known as a "public Ivy."

With an undergraduate student population of 31,543, UCLA prides itself as a pioneer, persevering through difficulties and turning the impossible into the attainable for over a hundred years. The school promotes a community spirit and looks for academically outstanding candidates with a drive to make a positive change in the world.

But how hard is it to get into UCLA? How do you gain undergraduate admission to UCLA amid a competitive applicant pool? In this guide, we'll outline what you need to know about how to get into UCLA and how to be a competitive candidate.

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About UCLA

UCLA is a public land-grant research university that traces its early origins back to 1892 as the southern branch of the California State Normal School. It offers a wide range of undergraduate majors and minors, with the top six most popular majors being:

It offers almost 150 graduate degree programs and 40 doctoral programs that rank among the top 10 in their respective fields nationwide.

UCLA's primary purpose is to better our society through the creation, perseveration, and application of knowledge. UCLA’s fundamental values are respect, freedom, and open access to information.

The university prides itself on maintaining a community of scholars dedicated to providing the best education in fundamental concepts and in-depth knowledge. The school's priorities include academic excellence, civic engagement, diversity, and financial security. It strives to integrate education, research, and service to enrich society as a whole.

Almost a third of undergraduates earning a degree are first-generation college students to graduate from a four-year college or university. Their ample financial aid means that most families pay much less than full-price tuition.

UCLA prides itself in stating that 45% of undergraduates pay no tuition at all. In regular circumstances, in-state undergraduate tuition for California residents is around $14,000, and out-of-state tuition is $43,000. However, if you add the cost of living and residence hall, the in-state total cost averages $32,000 and $66,000 for out-of-state students.

UCLA's core mission can be expressed in three words: “education, research, and service.” The campus is a community committed to innovation and discovery, debate, and collaborative achievements, all in an inclusive environment that promotes the growth of faculty, students, and staff.

The school stands by “The Principles of Community,” essential to ensuring a welcoming, inclusive, and positive environment for all campus members:

UCLA Undergraduate Requirements

Applying to college is exciting, but there are requirements for every school that you should consider. You must ensure you are aware of them to produce a complete and well-constructed application.

If you're currently in high school or have already graduated but not yet attended any college or university, you may apply for admission as a freshman.

UCLA is a competitive school, so ensuring you secure all the required materials ahead of time will give you an advantage and the opportunity to focus on application parts that will help you stand out.

The UCLA admissions committee considers many elements when making decisions about prospective students. They seek good grades, students with rich experience, and solid personal stories demonstrating positive characteristics.

Showcasing your intellect and being curious are key to gaining admission. Demonstrating how you've made a change through your academic work will get you a long way. Both your accomplishments inside and outside the classroom are considered for admission. Among the factors considered are:

The admissions committee uses a holistic review method. They carefully balance many factors and gain a complete sense of every candidate; they are a person, not just a student or a mere number.

GPA

Since they know that every student's potential goes beyond their grade point average, there's no GPA requirement for admission. However, the average unweighted GPA is 3.93. The middle 50% range of admitted students had between a 3.92 and 4.00 GPA.

It's essential to ensure you maintain a strong, consistent GPA throughout high school as close to a 4.0 as possible. Higher grades demonstrate your academic aptitude and show you can handle the rigor of UCLA’s undergraduate program.

Test Scores

Test scores are no longer required for admission or scholarship purposes at UCLA: GPA is much more important. However, evaluating the test scores of past students can show you their academic ability.  Test scores of the middle 50% of students are:

For the ACT, the average scores are as follows:

Required Courses

There is no academic path students are expected to follow, but UCLA expects candidates to achieve high grades in the most rigorous curriculum available to them, such as AP or IB classes.

Prospective students must complete 15 A-G courses, with at least 11 of them finished before starting their senior year. The list of A-G requirements includes the following:

UCLA Acceptance Rate

So, is it hard to get into UCLA? The recent admission rate for first-year college students is 11%, with 15,028 admitted students out of 139,490 applicants. For transfer students, the acceptance rate is a bit higher, at 19%. The freshmen enrollment rate or yield rate is 43.8%, and the transfer enrollment rate is 63.2%.

UCLA is a pretty competitive school, accepting only 14 out of every 100 students that apply. For this reason, a perfect GPA will get you accepted; getting into UCLA requires profile differentiation and hard work.

Thousands of candidates apply every year. Your goal is to create a well-rounded application highlighting your abilities, achievements, resilience, and leadership capabilities. The admission committee needs an accurate idea of who you are as a person, not just who you are in the classroom.

Tips to Get Into UCLA

For tips on how to get into UCLA, we first need a clear understanding of the admission review process, what the admissions committee considers for acceptance, and what they look for in prospective students.

UCLA states that:

"Each year more students apply to UCLA than we can possibly admit...we focus on successful applicants who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, leadership, initiative and tenacity. They are the students who would contribute the most to the UCLA learning community. They are the students who would make the most of immersion in UCLA's dynamic learning environment."

UCLA uses faculty-approved criteria when reviewing every single application. The criteria are not in order, and none is more important than the other.

Understand Selection Criteria

Understanding selection criteria is critical to getting into UCLA. This is what admissions committees look for.

Record of Achievement in College Preparatory Coursework

Good grades are essential, but more important are good grades in rigorous coursework if available to the student, such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate Higher Level (IB HL), college-level, or honors. Be sure to take high-level coursework if available to you.

Personal Qualities

UCLA looks for candidates with a broad set of qualities, such as intellectual independence, responsibility, maturity, insight, leadership skills, motivation, initiative, and concern for others and the community.

However, it's not enough to possess them; you have to show them in the best way possible. The application gives you several opportunities to showcase your strengths through the information you provide in the section "activities and awards," and through personal essays.

Access to Opportunities

The admissions committee understands that not everyone has had the same access to resources and thus may not have had equal opportunities.

Many aspects play a role in this, such as demographics, location, background, and schools. That's why the admissions committee considers your achievements based on potential opportunities.

Reflect on anything that stepped in your way in your application as well, and explain how you kept going: obstacles don’t have to be a barrier to UCLA undergraduate admission.

Challenges/Obstacles

How have the hardships and unusual circumstances you've encountered shaped you into the person you are today and helped you grow?

The way you have responded, faced, and overcome challenges is significant to the admission committee, as it shows your maturity, determination, and resilience. Be prepared to talk about it in the personal insight responses.

Possible Intellectual and Cultural Contributions

Your past contributions in your high school career can signal there's a high chance you'll contribute in college as well. UCLA is looking for proactive individuals who can bring something to the table; show them what that is.

They are looking for someone willing to participate in clubs and extracurricular activities. Having a passion and hobby outside the class is very important for the development of each and every student, not only academically, but personally and professionally.

Academic Achievement in Enrichment Programs

These include UC programs and local or national programs. Time and depth of participation, academic progress, and program rigor are several ways UCLA measures achievement: pre-college summer programs are an excellent option.

Other Achievements

Maybe you're an athlete, an artist, a leader in an organization, or are involved in community service - you name it. Whatever it is that you do distinctively, UCLA wants to know about it.

Prioritize Coursework and Grades

You need to be a high-achiever to get into UCLA. If you're still a sophomore or even a junior in high school, plan to upgrade your coursework game soon if you haven't done so.

Take advanced classes and raise your GPA. A perfect grade point average is not enough for this competitive school: your classes need to be challenging as well. Show them that you're not afraid of hard work and that you're willing to challenge yourself.

Ace Standardized Tests

Ace your standardized tests. Good grades and high test scores will certainly strengthen your application. It's essential that you do well on the SAT or ACT; otherwise, your application may not be at the top of the pile. However, this doesn’t mean that grades are all that matter; they are just a starting point.

Write Exceptional Essays

An outstanding GPA is necessary, but grades alone won't get you accepted by themselves. To stand out and get into UCLA, you'll need to show your uniqueness through admissions essays.

Take advantage of the specific prompts to demonstrate how you positively impact your community and how you make a difference. Focus on your leadership skills, how they have improved throughout high school, and how you show them.

Demonstrate Your Interest

Colleges want you to attend if you get accepted, so if UCLA is your first-choice school, don't forget to allude to that somewhere in your application or your essays. Schools try to accept students that will likely accept an offer of admission. If you demonstrate that you specifically want to attend UCLA, the odds might be more in your favor.

Focus on Your Strengths

When writing college applications, it's tempting to show the admission committees how you excel and are interested in everything. If you fill out every single extracurricular entry on the application with mediocre activities, chances are you won't stand out from the crowd.

Instead, focus on quality; what is that one thing that you do remarkably well? Stand out in what makes you you. Don't try to do "just fine" in everything or be like everyone else.

Getting into UCLA is difficult, but not impossible. To get accepted, you'll need not only to be an exceptional student but show how you're outstanding outside the classroom.

UCLA Personal Insight Essays

So, does UCLA require an application essay? The answer is technically yes: in the form of personal insight questions. These questions are probably the most time-consuming and exciting part of the application. Freshman applicants have eight questions to choose from, four out of which they must respond to. Transfer applicants will have a required question, plus three out of seven additional questions. Choose wisely!

UCLA recommends that applicants select the most relevant questions to their experience that best reflect their circumstances. Each response is limited to 350 words, so you'll have to be concise.

The questions are pretty personal, so not going over the word count limit might be a challenge for many; brainstorming and outlining will help you create the perfect essays.

All questions are given equal consideration, so regardless of the questions you choose to respond to, you won't have any advantage or disadvantage in your application review process.

The UC system has a joint application for all its schools, including UCLA. This means that regardless of how many universities of the UC system you apply to, you won't need to write additional essays.

UCLA Essay Prompts

The UCLA Essay Prompts, which you should be able to find at the UC Application Site, are the following:  

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

How to Write the UCLA Essays

The UC application essay prompts are very personal and require time, preparation, and focus. The following tips can help you write your essays and stand out as an outstanding candidate.

Start Early

It may seem obvious, but many students underestimate how long it will take them to write the essays and focus on other aspects of the application before they even start them. Don't make this mistake; give yourself plenty of time to prepare, brainstorm, outline, write, and revise.

Write From a First-Person Perspective

Using "I" and "my" statements in your essays help the admissions committee get to know you and your personality. Don’t talk about yourself in the third person.

Revise and Proofread

We can't stress this enough: revise, revise, and revise again. In the UCLA essays, you will not be evaluated on grammar, spelling, or sentence structure, but errors can negatively impact your application. It's essential that everything makes sense and is clear; the reader will appreciate it.

Get Feedback

Although the answers to the prompts are personal, others can offer precious feedback and suggestions. Consider seeking the help of an admissions consultant for professional feedback.

Take Your Time

Answering such personal prompts can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Don't try to get everything done in one night.  Expect the essays to be a bit time- and energy-consuming, so prepare accordingly.

How to Prepare for the UCLA Interview

Unlike other institutions, UCLA doesn't offer undergraduate admission interviews. If you're a shy person, this can work to your advantage, but it can also be a significant disadvantage.

Interviews are more common for graduate programs and usually serve as a way for the school's admission committees to know the person behind an application. Being able to talk face to face can help your interviewer get a sense of who you are.

Since interviews are not an option for UCLA undergraduate admission, your essays are your best chance to shine. You'll rely on them for admission, so ensure your essays are edited to perfection!

How to Apply to UCLA

To apply to UCLA, you'll need to use the University of California's online application. This is a standard application system for all nine UC system universities, allowing you to apply to several of them without redoing the whole application. However, you'll need to pay a separate application fee for every institution you decide to apply to.

Applying to UCLA is not as complicated as it may seem, but you'll need to be prepared and gather some documents before you start your application. You'll need the following:

Once you have these materials, you'll be ready to get started on your application. You'll need to create an account in the UC application system if you don't have one already.

The layout of the site is pretty straightforward and organized into different sections. Take a look at how the application is laid out:


About You

You'll be asked to provide basic information about yourself, your address, your country of citizenship, demographics, background, and languages you speak.

Campuses and Majors

Here is where you'll have the option to choose as many UC campuses as you wish. You can decide to apply only to UCLA or to other campuses as well. You'll also need to provide information about your desired major for every campus you choose.

Academic History

You'll need to refer to unofficial transcripts from all institutions attended from the 9th grade onward, including college or university courses completed while in high school. This section is crucial and must be accurately reported; the school requires official transcripts from every institution to report if the student accepts an offer of admission.

Test Scores

ACT or SAT scores must be completed by December of your senior year if you plan to use them “to determine your eligibility for the California statewide admissions guarantee, as an alternative method of fulfilling minimum requirements for eligibility or for course placement after you enroll.”

Official scores can be submitted to only one campus to which the student will be applying but will serve the whole application and for as many campuses the student applies to. Remember, test scores won’t be considered for admissions anymore.

Students whose first language is not English or who have completed fewer than three years of high school in the US must demonstrate English proficiency by submitting TOEFL or IELTS results.

Activities and Awards

You can list up to 20 activities and awards, but there's no minimum. You should list significant activities, and you should describe them, your role, and what you learned from them.

Scholarships and Programs

In this section, you have the opportunity to apply for scholarships as long as you’re eligible. There is no limit on scholarships students can apply to, and only scholarships available at the selected campuses will be displayed.

Personal Insight Questions

You should start brainstorming as early as possible. We recommend outlining and writing your responses in a Word or Google document, and when ready to submit, copy and paste them into the space provided in the application.

You can also provide information that you have not had the opportunity to include elsewhere in your application, such as explaining unusual circumstances or educational gaps.

It's important to mention that you'll be able to start the application, save it, and continue at any time from the time the system opens until the deadline.

Should I Apply to UCLA?

Applying to college can be a time-consuming and tiring process but also an exciting one. We know that doubts may arise before, during, and even after applying. Whether or not to apply to UCLA is a common concern for many potential students.

The university is pretty competitive, with a 14% admission rate. While it is difficult to get into UCLA compared to the rest of the nation’s colleges, you’re sure to thrive if you know it’s the right school for you.

Before deciding not to apply or determining that it's not worth it, please take a deep breath and carefully examine all the requirements, class profiles, and what the school looks for in its candidates. If you're early, you'll have plenty of time to work on the possible gaps and submit a well-rounded application. It just takes effort and time!

It's also wise to apply to take advantage of the UC application portal. You can apply to several UC universities with the same application. Do your research and consider other University of California options: location, courses, major, and scholarships offered. You may be able to complete many of your applications in one fell swoop!

UCLA Application Process and Deadlines

To start your application, you need to consider all the requirements. You can start working on your application in your senior year as soon as the application portal opens on Aug. 1.

The completed application can be submitted no earlier than Nov. 1 and not later than Nov. 30. After that date, the application portal will be closed, and you won't be able to edit or submit your application anymore. Don’t let the UCLA deadline for applications sneak up on you.

Here are the UCLA application deadlines to save in your calendar:

Sadly, unlike many other universities, UCLA does not offer early decision or early action options for any application. They use the quarter system calendar and only accept applications for the fall term.

How to Get Into UCLA For Out-of-State Students

Getting into UCLA as an out-of-state student may be more difficult than it is for in-state students,  especially with California state lawmakers considering cutting the percentage of out-of-state and international students to free more seats for in-state students. The UC system has capped “nonresident enrollment at 18%.”

You may need to step your game up; if your application has the same credentials as an in-state student, the California resident may have the upper hand. However, getting into UCLA as an out-of-state student isn’t impossible.

If you’re an out-of-state student set on attending UCLA should:

Hundreds of stellar out-of-state and international students are accepted into UCLA annually. Clearly outlining why UCLA is your top school and showing your commitment to the school and surrounding community is an excellent way to help boost your profile.

UCLA Class Profile

The profiles of admitted UCLA students shows a class is diverse as well as intellectual and driven. The middle 50% range of freshman unweighted GPA is 3.92-400, and 3.70-3-95 for transfer college GPA. At 33%, over a third of undergraduate students are first-generation college students, and 50% of undergraduates receive need-based financial aid.

Demographics

As far as their respective backgrounds, the student body is very culturally diverse, with many races and ethnicities represented. The UCLA admitted student profile represents 47 states and 84 countries.

Out of all freshmen students, 46% come from Southern California, 29% come from the rest of the state, 16% are from out-of-state, and 9% are international.

The race that’s the most represented by incoming freshmen is Asian at 33% followed by 25% of students that consider themselves White. The race most represented by incoming transfer students is White.

UCLA Student-to-Faculty Ratio

The student-to-faculty ratio at UCLA is 18:1, and 50% of classes have fewer than 20 students.

FAQs: Getting Into UCLA

If you have more questions about how to get into the University of California, these FAQs can help.

1. What Does UCLA Look for in Applicants?

UCLA describes its core mission in three words: education, research, and service. These three words can give you a hint of what they specifically look for in candidates. UCLA looks for students with a stellar academic record. UCLA looks for students who "demonstrate intellectual curiosity, leadership, initiative, and tenacity." To match what UCLA looks for in applicants, show how you’ll contribute to the UCLA learning community.

They seek individuals who value education and are passionate about applying their interests in real life to make positive changes in the world. Also, successful applicants will be community-driven and socially engaged; show that you care and how you contribute, and you will be on the right path toward getting accepted to UCLA.

2. Does UCLA Accept Transfer Credit?

Yes, UCLA does accept transfer credit from other accredited colleges or universities. Coursework credits completed at other institutions are determined by the UCLA Registrar's Office and Undergraduate Admission, both of which follow UC-wide transfer guidelines.

All transfer coursework is carefully reviewed and applied to the degree audit in time for the first quarter enrollment, provided that all admission transcript deadlines are met.

3. Is UCLA an Ivy League School?

UCLA is not an Ivy League school. However,  it's a prestigious and academically rigorous school with an excellent reputation. Because of that, it's usually informally referred to as one of the country's Public Ivies.

4. Can I Get Into UCLA With a 3.5 GPA?

Only 2% of admitted students have a GPA of 3.52 or less, whereas 30% have a GPA between 3.54 and 3.94. It is difficult to get in with a GPA of 3.5 or below. While UCLA doesn't state a minimum GPA for admission, data speaks for itself. If you have a lower GPA, focus on improving it.

5. How Do You Stand Out in the UCLA Application Process?

Standing out in the application process is critical if you want to get into UCLA. To stand out, you first need to have a clear idea of what the school is looking for in its candidates. you'll need to show how you are a perfect fit for UCLA. You need to be not only exceptional academically but also committed to your community and possess a strong drive to make a change.

Talk about what truly describes you and better showcases your achievements and how you've overcome difficulties in the past. Whatever makes you you is worth mentioning.

6. When Should You Prepare for UCLA?

The application portal opens on Aug. 1, and the deadline for submission is Nov. 30: it is wise to start planning and preparing right after finishing your junior year, if not earlier.

You'll have plenty of time to fill out your application, but it is wise to use the summer to gather all documents and be ready to start as soon as the portal opens.

You want to stay ahead of the UCLA application deadline!  

7. What Should You Do If You Get Rejected from UCLA?

If you’re rejected from UCLA, you can try to appeal your rejection, take a gap year, or accept an offer from another school. Keep in mind that UCLA reviews rejection appeals on a case-by-case basis.

However, the school does not set aside space in their class for individuals who appeal an admission decision, and the number of decisions reversed on appeal is deficient and limited to sporadic and exceptional cases.

Get Into UCLA, Unlock Your Future

UCLA is a well-respected university that can open the door to a bright future. With a 14% acceptance rate and admitted students boasting a very high average GPA and test scores, being an exceptional candidate is crucial if you want to get accepted.

Focusing on activities outside the classroom, apart from achieving an outstanding academic profile, is also a critical part of the UCLA admission process.

Now that you know how to get into the University of California – Los Angeles, you’re one step closer to your dream school!

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