The Best UC Schools Ranked – 2023
In 2023, College-bound California residents are at once the luckiest and unluckiest students in the world. On one hand, the vast array of world-class public universities at a bargain price is unmatched anywhere else in the country. However, such exceptional institutions at a bargain price have, not surprisingly, attracted a deluge of applicants in recent years. Our list of the Best UC Schools Ranked will also share data such as: Undergraduate Enrollment, the Number of Freshman Applicants, Acceptance Rate, and the Middle-50% GPA of accepted applicants.
In ranking the 9 undergraduate degree-granting University of California schools, we want to make crystal clear that all 9 are fantastic schools that produce solid postgraduate outcomes for their alumni. Whether you end up at Berkeley or Riverside, you are receiving a terrific undergraduate education at a price that will set you up for a low-debt future. Our rankings are based on selectivity, number of standout academic programs, career services offerings, and postgraduate outcomes. Again, we encourage our readers not to make too much of the numerical ranking of the schools. These rankings can be a useful tool when trying to take in the admissions landscape, but this doesn’t mean you should automatically pick the 4th best school over the 5th best. Rather, we recommend using these rankings only as a starting point as you investigate the UC campus that will best suit your unique academic and career goals.
For those seeking a quick reference, our UC school rankings are as follows:
- San Diego
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Cruz
Now, let’s transition into a meatier version that features academic, outcomes, and admissions data.
The Best UC Schools Ranked – 2023
*Acceptance rates are from the Class of 2026, unless otherwise noted. These numbers have been released by the university, but are not “official” as of yet.
Among the most selective public universities in the country, UCLA is also the most diverse campus on the planet. By volume, the most commonly conferred degrees are in the social sciences, biology, psychology, engineering, and mathematics. Departmental rankings are high across the board in areas such as computer science, engineering, film, fine and performing arts, mathematics, political science, and many more. Ultimately, employers that snatch up the highest number of recent Bruin grads include Disney, Google, EY, Teach for America, Amazon, and Oracle.
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 32,423
- Number of Freshman Applicants: 149,813
- Acceptance Rate: 8.6%
- Middle-50% GPA: 4.21-4.33
For more admissions-related information, visit How to Get Into UCLA.
2) UC Berkeley
Thanks to its equally esteemed graduate schools, many departments have top international reputations including computer science, engineering, chemistry, English, psychology, and economics. On the admissions front, eye-popping 96% placed in the top decile of their high school class, and the average unweighted GPA was 3.9. Looking at post-graduate outcomes, thousands of alumni can be found in the offices of Google, Apple, and Facebook, and 500+ Golden Bears are currently employed by Oracle, Amazon, and Microsoft.
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 32,479
- Number of Freshman Applicants: 128,225
- Acceptance Rate: 11.4%
- Middle-50% GPA: 4.17-4.31
For more admissions-related information, visit How to Get Into UC Berkeley.
3) UC Irvine
The largest number of degrees at Irvine are conferred in the social sciences, psychology, business, and biology. The Samueli School of Engineering has a solid reputation as does the Bren School, the only independent computer science school in the University of California system. Programs in public health and biological sciences also earn very high marks. Getting into Irvine without placing in the top decile of your high school class is nearly impossible as 99% of recent freshmen earned that distinction. Companies employing the greatest number of recent grads include Boeing, the Walt Disney Company, Google, EY, and Microsoft.
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 28,662
- Number of Freshman Applicants: 119,209
- Acceptance Rate: 21%
- Middle-50% GPA: 4.08-4.29
For more admissions-related information, visit How to Get Into UC Irvine.
Best UC Schools Ranked (Continued)
4) UC San Diego
Altogether, biology has the highest representation of all majors followed by the social sciences engineering, and computer science. UCSD’s computer science and engineering programs have stellar reputations in the corporate and tech communities, and programs in biology, economics, and political science are among the best anywhere. More than 1,000 current Google employees are UC San Diego alumni, and Qualcomm, Amazon, and Apple all employ 500+ each. The median early career salary is $65,000 across all majors,
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 33,096
- Number of Freshman Applicants: 131,245
- Acceptance Rate: 23.7%
- Middle-50% GPA: 4.12-4.30
For more admissions-related information, visit How to Get Into UCSD.
5) UC Santa Barbara
Those entering the university earned an average high school GPA of 4.25, and 96% had a GPA of over 3.75. The school has highly regarded programs in communication, computer science, engineering, physics, environmental science, and the performing arts. Among the top employers of recent graduates are Google, EY, KPMG, Oracle, Amazon, IBM, and Adobe.
- Undergraduate Enrollment:
- Number of Freshman Applicants: 111,000
- Acceptance Rate: 25.9%
- Middle-50% GPA: 4.15-4.31
For more admissions-related information, visit How to Get Into UCSB.
6) UC Davis
The areas of study with the largest number of degrees awarded were biology, the social sciences, psychology, and engineering. Davis attracts droves of students to programs in engineering, computer science, and animal science, all of which are nationally renowned. Most admitted applicants have near-perfect academic transcripts as, in one recent year, 86% were the proud owners of a 3.75 or higher unweighted GPA. The corporations employing 200 or more Aggies include Genentech, Google, Apple, Cisco, Meta, Oracle, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, and LinkedIn.
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 23,459
- Number of Freshman Applicants: 94,759
- Acceptance Rate:37.5%
- Middle-50% GPA: 4.06-4.30
For more admissions-related information, visit How to Get Into UC Davis.
Best UC Schools Ranked (Continued)
7) UC Santa Cruz
Biology is the university’s most popular major followed by the social sciences, computer and information sciences, and psychology. CS is one of UCSC’s most respected programs. Proximity to Silicon Valley helps open doors to companies like Google, Apple, Meta, Genentech, and Cisco, which all employ over 250 alumni. Make no mistake about how competitive Santa Cruz has become on the admission end: 94% of accepted students placed in the top decile of their graduating high school class.
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 17,502
- Number of Freshman Applicants: 66,034
- Acceptance Rate:47.1%
- Middle-50% GPA: 3.94-4.25
8) UC Riverside
Ethnically and socioeconomically, the University of California, Riverside is one of the most diverse schools in the United States. UC Riverside offers 80+ majors across five colleges: the Bourns College of Engineering; the College of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences; the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences; the School of Business; and the School of Public Policy. More than 100 alumni work for major corporations like Kaiser Permanente, Amazon, Wells Fargo, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, and EY.
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 22,911
- Number of Freshman Applicants: 54,687
- Acceptance Rate: 68.1%
- Middle-50% GPA: 3.81-4.20
9) UC Merced
The record number of applicants for a place in the Class of 2027 illustrates the growth in popularity of this UC branch that was founded in 2005. Already cracking U.S. News’ top 100 national universities, this school still offers an extremely high acceptance rate to those looking to enter its 815-acre campus. New programs are still popping up each year at this growing research university still in its formative years. Strong offerings in Engineering, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities and Arts attract an extraordinarily diverse and talented student body.
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 8,343
- Number of Freshman Applicants: 29,914
- Acceptance Rate: 90.4%
- Middle-50% GPA: 3.50-4.08
Best UC Schools Ranked – Additional Resources
Prospective applicants to UC schools may also benefit from exploring some of our previous blogs:
- When are UC Applications Due?
- UC Essay Personal Insight Questions – Prompts and Tips
- How to Write the UC Activities List
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).