How to Get into UCLA
Located in Los Angeles, California, UCLA is one of the top schools in the nation. A combination of excellent academics, an absolutely beautiful campus, and Division I and Division III athletics, make UCLA a great choice for students who have put in the hard work in high school. But gaining admission to UCLA can be quite difficult. You will need to have the right combination of test scores, grades, and extracurricular activities if you want to be a strong contender. In this post, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know before you apply to UCLA in order to give yourself the best possible chance of getting in. So, let’s talk about how to get into UCLA.
How hard is it to get into UCLA?
Like many competitive schools, UCLA has become even more selective in the last few years. Students putting off college because of the pandemic has significantly increased the number of applications that many schools receive, but all of these students are competing for the same number of spots in the freshman class. Three years ago, UCLA had an acceptance rate of 13%, which is already very low. Currently, UCLA has an acceptance rate of 11%.
For the class of 2026, UCLA had a total of 139,000 undergraduate applications. They ended up admitting just 15,028 applicants, which shows just how selective UCLA has become. As is the case with most selective schools, applying early gives you an advantage if you know that UCLA is your number one school.
When it comes to applying to UCLA, there are a number of factors to consider. First, UCLA is part of the University of California system which means that you will submit one application and rank your choices for which UC campuses you prefer. This means that if you don’t get in to your top school, you may still be offered admission to one of the other UC schools on your list.
What does UCLA expect from their applicants?
In order to give you the best information about how to get into UCLA, we’re going to break this down into the different criteria that UCLA considers when they look at your application. UCLA states that there are a number of factors that they consider very important, while other factors are considered as part of the application process but are not as influential.
According to UCLA: “UCLA welcomes applications from students throughout California, across the nation and around the world. We value a variety of experiences and backgrounds, and we believe that diversity of people and their ideas strengthen everything we do.”
So, you might be wondering how UCLA evaluates these qualities. The key to demonstrating that you are the type of student that UCLA is looking for, you will need to weave these concepts into your personal statement and supplemental essay.
World-renowned as one of the top schools in the nation, UCLA has only been getting more difficult to get into, and because of this, you need to make sure your application is as good as possible. UCLA has some specific benchmarks that applicants must satisfy, but in order to be competitive, you will need to exceed these requirements by having an excellent GPA and test scores, along with a number of other criteria.
UCLA doesn’t publish the average GPA of their admitted applicants, but it’s safe to say that having a GPA of 4.0 or better is necessary. If your GPA isn’t above 4.0, you will need to look for ways to make up for this in other parts of your application. UCLA minimum GPA requirement is 3.0 for all classes taken in the junior and senior years of high school.
In order to maintain a GPA above 4.0, you will likely need to take a rigorous course load in high school including AP, IB, and honors classes. Getting excellent grades in these courses allows you to present UCLA with an impressive GPA, but it does something else as well. The first factor that UCLA considers to be “very important” is class rigor.
Essentially, UCLA want to know that you have challenged yourself in high school. This demonstrates academic integrity as well as intellectual curiosity. UCLA wants to admit students who will go above and beyond in their studies and taking challenging courses in high school shows that you intend to challenge yourself in college as well.
Many colleges are impressed with students who show significant improvement in their grades over their high school career, but highly-selective schools like UCLA want to see that you’ve been committed to academic excellence throughout your entire high school career. Part of the reason for this is they want to see that you value hard work, but they also want students who show sincere intellectual curiosity. Taking more rigorous courses shows that you want to challenge yourself as a student, and this is the kind of motivation they are looking for.
Standardized test scores are no longer considered by UCLA as part of your application. You are still free to submit your test scores, and they will be shared with all of the UC schools to which you have applied. But students should know that not submitting test scores will not affect your chances of being admitted.
Top colleges these days want well-rounded students who have an active life outside of the classroom. But they also want to know what you’ve been doing with this time. If you’re wondering how to get into UCLA, one of the keys is to have extracurricular activities that demonstrate your leadership skills and commitment to your community.
When it comes to your particular extracurricular activities, schools care less about what you did than how you did it. If you took part in community service activities, did you take the initiative to spearhead new projects or ideas? If you spent much of your time outside of school working a part-time job, what lessons did you learn, and how did you make the most of your time at work?
If you participated in sports, were you a leader on and off the field for your fellow players? Maybe you took it upon yourself to start a social justice club at school or you found a way to solve a specific problem in your community. Regardless of how you’ve spent your time, the goal is to show UCLA that you grew both personally and intellectually.
Some students are laser focused on their favorite field of study, and they use their time outside the classroom to dig even deeper into their academic passions. And just because these pursuits were academic, it doesn’t mean they don’t qualify as extracurricular.
Perhaps you spent the summer exploring your passion for Geology by spending a month at working in Moab National Park with researchers. Or you have used your passion for the environment to research new electric vehicle technology. Regardless of your particular passion, UCLA wants to see how your activities contributed to your growth and personal integrity.
While having participated in academic research is not a requirement for admission to UCLA, many of their accepted students have taken part in at least some form of academic research while in high school. Because UCLA is known as one of the top research facilities in the world, many of their academic programs involve some form of research, and their various departments have a number of different research opportunities.
According to UCLA: “Literature professors find new clues to the writings of Oscar Wilde in unpublished letters and journals. Mathematicians create algorithms for more realistic snow and water in animated films. Space scientists explore the subsurface of the dwarf planet Ceres. Biologists, computer scientists and physicians team up to decode complex genetic diseases. Geographers and environmental scientists track the Greenland ice melt. In every discipline and across disciplines, UCLA faculty, researchers and students pursue new knowledge, make discoveries, and change our understanding of the world.”
UCLA provides undergraduates with a vast array of different research options through assisting professors with their research to research libraries that are available to all students. UCLA is currently ranked #1 as the top public research institution in the US.
What does UCLA look for?
In addition to the standard criteria like high school transcripts, test scores, and extracurricular activities, UCLA is looking for students who demonstrate a high level of academic curiosity. When writing about your extracurricular activities, the key is to convey that these are not merely activities in which you have been involved.
Because UCLA is part of the massive UC system, there are a number of ways that they evaluate their applicants, and they have a very specific system for matching students with different campuses. According to UCLA, they base their admissions offers based on the following: “Since UCLA is a competitive campus, satisfying the minimum requirements is often not enough to be competitive for selection. In addition to the basic admission requirements, the campus selects its freshman class through an assessment that includes a holistic review of your academic performance. When you apply for admission, we consider your accomplishments both in and outside of the classroom. In fact, there are 13 criteria that our faculty have approved for freshman admission consideration.” Among the factors we consider are:
- Strong academic performance in a rigorous high school program.
- Special talents, awards or accomplishments.
- Meaningful insights about yourself when answering the personal insight questions.
Personal statement/supplemental essays
Top schools want to see more from students than just numbers on a transcript. Schools like UCLA want to know how you think and how you express yourself. Numbers on a transcript don’t tell a school how your mind works, so making the most of your personal statement and supplemental essays is a vitally important part of your application. Students who wonder how to get into UCLA need to understand that your essays are what give the UCLA undergraduate admissions staff a clear picture of who you are and what makes you special.
Schools like UCLA get plenty of applications from students who have excellent grades and test scores. So, in order to make it through the application process, you need to set yourself apart from the crowd. UCLA is looking for intelligent, hardworking students, but they’re also looking for interesting people. In order to build an extraordinary student body, UCLA needs to know how their applicants approach the world and the experiences that have shaped them. This is the purpose of your essays.
According to UCLA, the main components they look for in your personal insight answers are the following:
- These questions are about getting to know you better, so be open, reflective, find your individual voice and express it.
- Freshman Applicants: You will have eight questions to choose from, you must respond to any four of the eight questions. The questions you choose to answer are entirely up to you.
- Transfer Applicants: There is one required question you must answer; then you answer three out of seven additional questions. Which three of the seven you choose to answer are entirely up to you.
- All applicants: We recommend you select questions that are most relevant to your experience and best reflect your individual circumstances.
- All questions will be given equal consideration in the application review process, which means there is no advantage or disadvantage to choosing certain questions over others.
- Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
The specific personal insight topics can be viewed on UCLA’s website
While it is certainly not required that you have competed in or won any academic competitions, these activities can demonstrate to schools that you have taken your education to a higher level. Academic competitions like the Academic Decathlon, Chemistry Olympiad, and the National Mock Trial are all well-known competitions that can help students confirm just how committed they are to academics and personal excellence.
Students often wonder if these competitions will really help them during the admissions process, and the reality is that it will be more or less influential depending on the school to which you are applying. Academic competitions are especially useful if the competition was in your chosen field of study.
A holistic approach to admissions
Like many schools, UCLA uses a “holistic approach” to their admissions process. This means looking at the whole student rather than just grades and test scores. This means the UCLA undergraduate admissions office will look at your life circumstances in addition to your transcripts and test scores.
Universities know that some students come from backgrounds that offered fewer opportunities, while others may have faced unique challenges, and some simply have extraordinary gifts that schools find attractive. The bottom line is that there is no simple answer to how to get into UCLA University. Instead, your goal as an applicant is to highlight what makes you a strong, unique candidate. UCLA describes their holistic approach as the following:
“We know that every potential freshman has a story that goes beyond their grade point average. Using a process called comprehensive review, we carefully balance many factors to gain a complete sense of every applicant’s achievements. We take into account how hard you’ve worked to take advantage of the opportunities you’ve had to excel, extracurricular activities and your community.
Some factors are more easily quantifiable than others, but you should understand that we use the full range of factors made available to us through comprehensive review in evaluating and admitting freshmen each year. Among these factors are:”
- Grades and GPA (3.93 average unweighted GPA for fall 2020 admits)
- Rigor of your high school curriculum
- Leadership and involvement outside of the classroom
- Your own accomplishments, life experiences and circumstances
Because UCLA is such a selective school, you may have a lot of questions about the application process, and whether your application meets their criteria. At AdmissionSight we have many years of experience guiding students through the college admissions process in order to give them the best possible chance of getting in. Our counselors know what college admissions officers want to see, and they can help tailor your application to make it as competitive as possible. You’ve already done the hard work of excelling in your studies. AdmissionSight can help you get across the finish line