Easiest & Hardest UCs and CSUs to Get Into in 2024

April 9, 2024

hardest easiest UC CSU to get into

The University of California and the California State University system schools are some of the most coveted universities to attend in all of California, let alone the rest of the United States. College-bound California students are lucky to have the ability to attend world-class universities at in-state prices. However, these schools can be incredibly competitive, making it difficult for students in their home states to access education in their backyards. If you’re a student searching to go to a UC or CSU school in the coming years, this might lead you to the question: what are the easiest and hardest UCs and CSUs to get into?

In this article, we’ll give you a ranking of all of the University of California schools and some of the hardest and easiest CSU schools. We’ll also provide other pertinent information to help you decide the schools to which you are best suited to apply.

There’s a word of caution, here, however. The University of California advises: “Please be cautious in drawing conclusions from this information. Use it as a general guide to selectivity and not as a predictor of your chance for admission” to any of the UC schools. The same holds true for the CSU campuses listed.

So, while the data is reflective of a statistical overview of each school, do note that there are always people who are rejected every year who fit the statistical overview and students who are accepted every year who we might otherwise think of as outliers.

With that being said, let’s dive into the University of California school rankings.

Hardest UC to Get Into

This is the full list of UC schools and their relevant data, ranked from hardest to easiest to get into, based on acceptance rate. Data comes from the specific university websites and from US News and World Report school profiles.


  • Applicants: 145,904
  • Admits: 12,779
  • Overall Acceptance Rate:  8.8%
  • High School GPA of Middle 25–75% of students: 4.20–4.31

It should come as no surprise that UCLA tops the list. With the lowest number of admitted students in the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, UCLA has rigorous admissions standards. You might be surprised to note that the most selective major for the fall 2023 class was Nursing, with an acceptance rate of only .8 percent. That’s lower than Film and Television, which had a 1 percent acceptance rate; Design and Media Arts, which had a 2.9 percent acceptance rate; and Computer Science, which had a 3.1 percent acceptance rate.

2) Berkeley

  • Applicants: 125,910
  • Admits: 14,566
  • Overall Acceptance Rate: 11.6 %
  • High School GPA of middle 25–75 % of students: 4.15–4.29

Computer Science, Engineering, and Economics are the top three hardest majors to get into at Berkeley, followed by Biology and Political Science. The Computer Science program at Berkeley is one of the top-ranked CS programs in the world, so admission there is no small feat.

3) San Diego 

  • Applicants: 130,841
  • Admits: 32,314
  • Overall Acceptance Rate: 24.7%
  • High School GPA of Middle 25–75% of students: 4.11–4.29

All UCSD students are organized into one of the small colleges on campus, based on preference and ranking. If you choose a “Selective Major” but are out-ranked by other students and the cap on the major is met, you will be sorted into your second or third choice major. UCSD recommends choosing a “Non-Selective” major as your backup option.

Selective Majors are as follows:

  • School of Biological Sciences
  • Data Science
  • Public Health
  • Jacobs School of Engineering, all majors in these departments:
    • Bioengineering
    • Chemical Engineering
    • Computer Science and Engineering
    • Electrical and Computer Engineering
    • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
    • Nanoengineering
    • Structural Engineering

4) Irvine

  • Applicants: 121,095
  • Admits: 31,181
  • Overall Acceptance Rate: 25.7%
  • High School GPA of Middle 25–75% of students: 4.07–4.28

If you’ve got your sights set on a UC school, but aren’t sure about your ability to get in, consider UC Irvine. High-performing community college students are automatically accepted into UC Irvine through the state’s Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) program, if they meet the eligibility requirements. The most popular majors are Social Sciences, Business, Engineering, Psychology, and Computer and Information Sciences.

5) Santa Barbara 

  • Applicants: 110,876
  • Admits: 30,914
  • Overall Acceptance Rate: 27.9%
  • High School GPA of Middle 25–75% of students: 4.13–4.29

UC Santa Barbara is an outstanding school, ranked #12 in Top Public Schools by US News and World Report for 2024. The most popular majors are Social Sciences, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Psychology, and Communications/Journalism.

6) Davis

  • Applicants: 94,635
  • Admits: 39,601
  • Overall Acceptance Rate: 41.8%
  • High School GPA of Middle 25–75% of students: 4.03–4.27

UC Davis is ranked first in the nation for agriculture and forestry, and it is first in the nation for veterinary medicine. The school is second in the nation for ecology and evolutionary biology and third in the nation for biological and agricultural engineering.

Easiest UC to Get Into

1) Merced

  • Applicants: 27,184
  • Admits: 24,016
  • Overall Acceptance Rate: 88.3%
  • High School GPA of Middle 25–75% of students: 3.48–4.08

At UC Merced, the most popular majors are Biology/Biological Sciences, which makes up 15 percent of the student body. Research and Experimental Psychology accounts for 13 percent, Computer Engineering 11 percent, Mechanical Engineering 10 percent, and Business Administration 9 percent.

2) Riverside

  • Applicants: 56,938
  • Admits: 40,054
  • Overall Acceptance Rate: 70.3%
  • High School GPA of Middle 25–75% of students: 3.76–4.18

Social Sciences accounts for 20 percent of students at UC Riverside, followed by Biological and Biomedical Sciences at 18 percent, Business at 14 percent, and Psychology at 10 percent, and Engineering at 7 percent.

3) Santa Cruz 

  • Applicants: 68,821
  • Admits: 43,159
  • Overall Acceptance Rate: 62.7%
  • High School GPA of Middle 25–75% of students: 3.86–4.22

The most popular majors at UC Santa Cruz are Computer and Information Sciences, Psychology, Business/Managerial Economics, Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Sociology. In fact, the schools of Engineering, Physical and Biological Sciences, and Social Sciences account for more than 80 percent of students overall.

Hardest CSU to Get Into

Generally speaking, many consider the California State University schools to be easier to get into than the University of California schools. For one thing, there are many more CSU campuses than there are UC campuses. That means that there are more options for you to consider when thinking about your odds of acceptance—and more places for you to potentially be accepted.

So when you’re rolling the admissions dice, where should you apply? This list isn’t as exhaustive as the UC schools list, but we break down the harder and easier options. Our list uses the most recent admissions data from the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator, where you can go to get the full picture of any of these schools.

It’s worth noting that there are many schools within the California State University system that have acceptance rates above 90 percent. Adding some of these “easier” campuses to your list of colleges could help you feel more secure in your chances at attending a California state school.

1)  Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo had an admit rate of 30 percent for the Fall 2022 semester. A whopping 29 percent of those admitted accepted and enrolled in the school. With a graduation rate of 85 percent, students who get admitted to Cal Poly enroll, and those who enroll stay to graduate. Engineering, followed by Business, had the highest number of admits as overall majors, meaning that they are also highly competitive. If you’re on the fence about your competitiveness, but really want to go to Cal Poly, consider applying with a less populated major, like Foreign Language, Philosophy, or English.

2) San Diego State 

            San Diego State is typically thought of as a tougher CSU school to get into, and with good reason. In the Fall of 2022, the admissions rate was 39 percent. It falls just behind San Luis Obispo in selectivity. Business is going to be the toughest major to get into, with Engineering, the Health Professions, Psychology, and the Social Sciences a bit farther behind (while still being very popular).

3)  Cal Poly Pomona 

The admissions rate at Cal Poly Pomona was 55 percent in Fall 2022. Engineering is certainly the most competitive major, but you do have roughly a 50/50 chance at being admitted at Pomona.

4)  Cal State Long Beach 

Long Beach has a 40 percent acceptance rate, and nearly half of those accepted (18 percent) decide to enroll. At Long Beach, you’ll find yourself competing against a lot of students to study Business or the Visual and Performing Arts.

Easiest CSU to Get Into

1) Cal Poly Humboldt

Cal Poly Humboldt had an admissions rate of 98 percent for the Fall 2022 semester, meaning almost everyone who applied got in. Just 12 percent of those admitted ended up enrolling, however. If you want to go to a Cal Poly school, but are unsure about your level of competitiveness, add Humboldt to your list.

2) Chico State

Chico State has a 95 percent admissions rate, and Business and Psychology are the most populated majors.

3) Fresno State 

Fresno State has an admissions rate of 95 percent. In other words: almost everybody who applies gets in. This is great news if you’re looking for a welcoming in-state school to take you to the next level.

Fifty percent of the applicants who chose to submit SAT scores submitted scores in the 880 to 1140 range. One quarter—or twenty-five percent—of applicants who submitted test scores had scores below 880 and the other twenty-five percent had scores above 1140.

The admissions rate doesn’t mean you’re going to school with everyone who applied, though. Out of the 95 percent admitted, 20 percent enrolled in the 2023–2024 academic year.

4) San Francisco State 

If you want to study in San Francisco, you’ll be pleased to know that San Francisco State had a 94 percent acceptance rate for the Fall 2022 semester. While an overwhelming number of students want to study Business, the Visual and Performing Arts are also very popular.

5) CSU Channel Islands

At the Channel Islands, 90 percent of applicants are admitted, and just seven percent end up enrolling. Psychology is the most populated major, followed by Health Professions and Business.

6) CSU Bakersfield

Bakersfield boasts a welcoming 87 percent admissions rate, with just 9 percent of admitted students going on to enroll. Business, Liberal Arts, and Psychology are the most populated majors, and students tend to take six years to graduate.

Other CSU Schools 

There are still more CSU schools to check out. Here’s the rest of the list of campuses. One of these schools might be the perfect fit for your specific admissions profile!

  • CSU Dominguez Hills
  • Cal State East Bay
  • Cal State Fullerton
  • Cal State LA
  • Cal Maritime
  • CSU Monterey Bay
  • CSUN
  • Sacramento State
  • Cal State San Bernardino
  • San José State
  • CSU San Marcos
  • Sonoma State
  • Stanislaus State