How to Get Into NC State University: Admissions Data and Strategies

February 28, 2022

North Carolina State University is a large public research university that forms one corner of the so-called Research Triangle, along with Duke University and the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. With almost 25,000 undergraduates, NC State’s Raleigh campus is bustling with activity and innovation. The highly-ranked business, engineering, and computer science programs are a huge draw not only for high-achieving North Carolinians, but also standout students from around the United States.

At the turn of the millennium, 65% of aspiring Wolfpack members were accepted and those enrolled had a mean SAT score of 1170. By 2021, the number of applicants had nearly tripled, the acceptance rate had declined roughly 20 points and the average enrolled freshman possessed an SAT score 160 higher than two decades ago. Given this increased level of selectivity at NC State, the following article will seek to provide you with:

  1. An in-depth and realistic understanding of what you are up against.
  2. More data on which to accurately assess your chances of admission.
  3. Advice for how to get your NC State application to stand out, even against other top-of-the-class students.

To accomplish these goals we will touch on the following topics:

  • NC State’s Class of 2025 acceptance rate
  • SAT and ACT scores of enrolled NC State applicants
  • Admissions trends from the Class of 2025
  • NC State’s system for rating applicants
  • A look at the demographics of NC State undergraduates
  • NC State’s yield rate
  • Tips for applying to NC State
  • NC State Supplemental Essay Tips
  • How to assess whether applying to NC State is even worth the $85 application fee (for you)

Many students applying to NC State University may also find the following blogs to be of interest:

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.

NC State Acceptance Rate – Class of 2025

Out of 32,907 total applications submitted for a place in the 2021-22 freshman class; 47% were accepted. This was actually a touch higher than the 46% clip for the Class of 2024.

NC State gives an edge to North Carolina residents in the admissions process. For the Class of 2024, the in-state acceptance rate was 54% compared to just 38% for out-of-staters.

NC State Admissions – SAT and ACT Scores

Enrolled freshman in the Class of 2025 possessed a mid-50% weighted GPA of 4.17-4.48 and an unweighted GPA range of 3.75-3.97. The mid-50% SAT range for this cohort was 1290-1430 and the ACT range was 27-32. The average SAT score was 1330 and the average ACT composite was 29. In terms of class rank, the Class of 2025 saw 45% of its members hailing from the top decile of their high school class.

Admissions Trends & Notes

  • 16% of incoming first-year students were from out-of-state.
  • 52% of enrolled students took advantage of NC State’s test-optional policy and did not include SAT or ACT results with their application.
  • 44% of incoming students were studying non-STEM fields.
  • 43% of students took dual enrollment courses while in high school.
  • There were 188 high school valedictorians and salutatorians in the freshman class of 2021-22.
  • The average unweighted GPA for the Class of 2025 was an astounding 3.83. Clearly, not many students had more than a B or two on their entire high school transcript.

How NC State Rates Applicants

Four factors are rated by NC State as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, class rank, GPA, and standardized test scores (despite being test-optional). Essays are the lone “important” factor.

Straight from the NC State admissions office:

  • “Every student has a different story to tell. Although your academic record is a strong indicator of your future success, and important in our review process, it doesn’t always tell the whole story. We want to hear about your background and the experiences that have shaped you into a competitive applicant and potential member of the Wolfpack.”
  • “We encourage you to take challenging courses your school may offer that align with your academic interests and prove your ability for future success (honors, AP, IB, dual enrollment, etc.)”
  • We also consider diversity, legacy status, first-generation status, and rural areas. NC State is enriched through the varied knowledge and backgrounds of our students and we expect everyone to give of their talents, skills, time and effort to make NC State an environment of inclusive excellence for all.

NC State Demographics

Next’s let’s take a gander at the demographics for the Class of 2025.

Geographically, the Class of 2025 is from:

  • 97 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
  • 39 or the 50 U.S. States
  • 37 different foreign countries
  • 1,422 different high schools
  • 34% of North Carolina students are from rural countries
  • 683 of the 4,983 members are non-residents

Competition is harshest among those hailing from states with endless streams of qualified applicants (the entire Northeast & the West Coast). If you come from a less populated state like South Dakota, Wyoming, or Idaho, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances.

Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown for the Class of 2025 is as follows:

  • White: 70%
  • Asian: 9%
  • Hispanic: 8%
  • African American: 6%
  • Two or more: 4%
  • International: 2%

The countries sending the greatest number of students into the NC State undergraduate body are:

  1. China: 49%
  2. India: 14%
  3. Saudi Arabia: 4%
  4. Korea: 3%
  5. Canada: 3%

The breakdown by gender is as follows:

  • Male: 52%
  • Female: 48%

With fewer women entering the university, female applicants certainly have a significant edge over male applicants. Female Class of 2024 in-state applicants enjoyed a 57% acceptance rate compared to 51% for their male counterparts.

NC State’s Yield Rate

NC State’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 32%. For comparison, other notable tech-centric public research universities sport the following yield rates: Georgia Tech (37%), Purdue (23%), and Virginia Tech (33%).

Tips for Applying to NC State

If you plan on joining the 32,000+ Wolfpack wannabes for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • NC State admits students “directly into the major they select on the application. First-year applicants can select up to two major choices on the application based on your interests…”
  • Make sure to select a back-up major when you apply to NC State. Certain programs are extremely competitive.
  • NC State does not offer any type of in-person or alumni interviews for incoming freshmen.
  • NC State does consider “demonstrated interest” so you may be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit (in non-pandemic times), contacted an admissions officer, etc. Given the school’s lower yield rate (compared to some other elite schools), it is a good idea to reach out to an NC State admissions officer with a question, attend a virtual session, or engage with the school on social media.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental NCSU essays including the three supplemental essays which each have a limit of 250 words:

1) Explain why you selected the academic program(s) above and why you are interested in studying these at NC State.

2) Discuss any other obstacles and/or hardships that you have encountered that have affected you personally or academically and how you dealt with them.

3) NC State University is committed to building a just and inclusive community, one that does not tolerate unjust or inhumane treatment, and that denounces it, clearly and loudly. Please describe what those words mean to you and how you will contribute to a more diverse and inclusive NC State environment.

For our advice on each prompt, visit our blog: NC State Essay Prompts and Tips.

Should I Apply to NC State?

Those best positioned to gain acceptance into NC State will boast a transcript of mostly-A’s in an exceptionally rigorous program of classes. Given their test-optional policy, students with sparkling transcripts can be successful even without SAT or ACT scores. Still, students (particularly those aiming for engineering or CS) need to develop a balanced college list consisting of multiple “safety” and “target” schools to go along with their “reach”/dream schools.