How to Get Into Rice University: Admissions Data and Strategies
Houston, Texas is home to one of the nation’s finest private research institutions—Rice University. No matter how you measure Rice’s performance, this school of roughly 4,000 undergraduates comes out shining bright. The university is consistently ranked in the top 20 among all universities and is known for its exceptional undergraduate engineering program. This well-resourced school boasts a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio and resides near the top of any list ranking quality of academic instruction and quality of campus life.
Excited to apply to Rice yet? Well, welcome to the club. Today, the school received 31,000+ applications and accepted just 8.5% in 2022. Back in 2007-08, the school received just 8,800 applicants and accepted 25%. Given this turn toward increased selectivity over the past decade, you’ll need every advantage you can get. The purpose of this blog is to provide you with:
1) An understanding of the big-picture of Rice University admissions.
2) Data to help you assess your chances of admission with more accuracy.
3) What the Rice University admissions committee looks for and how to get your application to stand out from the crowd.
To accomplish these goals we will touch on the following topics:
- Rice University’s Class of 2026 acceptance rate
- Rice University’s Class of 2026 ED acceptance rate
- SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Rice University applicants
- Admissions trends from the Class of 2026
- The demographics of current Rice University undergraduates
- Rice University’s yield rate
- How Rice University’s admissions officers evaluate candidates
- Tips for applying to Rice University
- Rice Essay Prompts and Tips
- How to assess whether applying to Rice University is even worth the $75 application fee (for you)
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
Rice University’s: Overall Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026
In creating the 2022-23 freshman class, Rice admitted 8.5% of the 31,424 who applied in the 2020-21 admissions cycle. This is down from last year’s 9.3% acceptance rate.
Rice University Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026
Those who are serious about attending Rice should definitely consider applying via binding early decision. They admitted 440 members of the Class of 2026 via ED. However, Rice has not yet released official 2026 ED figures. For the Class of 2025, Rice accepted 18% of ED applicants. They took 478 students out of 2,635 ED applicants.
Rice University Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank
Those enrolled in the Class of 2025 sported middle-50th standardized test scores of 1500-1560 on the SAT and 34-35 on the ACT. An astonishing 93% of Class of 2024 (most recent available) members placed in the top decile of their graduating high school class, while 99% earned a spot in the top quartile.
Admissions Trends & Notes
- The Class of 2026 application total represented a 74% increase from five years prior.
- In admitting 2,700, Rice continues to expand the size of their undergraduate population.
- Applications to join the Class of 2027 will continue to have the option not to include test scores.
- Rice recently introduced a business major which may have led to an uptick in applications.
- The 8.5% acceptance rate narrowly beat out the former record-low 8.7%, set in 2019.
Who Actually Gets Into Rice University?
Let’s look at the demographics of the Rice University Class of 2025:
- 50% of students are from Texas.
- 37% of the students are from other U.S. States and Territories.
- 13% are international students.
- The percentage of Asian students has increased by 7% in the last two years.
- 67 students in the Class of 2025 are international students coming from China.
As at any highly-selective university, competition is toughest 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 Alaska, North Dakota, or Montana, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances. Rice University does like to have a substantial percentage of students from the Lone Star State.
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of members of the Class of 2025 was as follows (many students selected more than one):
- Asian American: 40%
- Hispanic: 17%
- African American: 11%
- White: 48%
- American Indian: 1%
The breakdown by gender of the Class of 2025 is narrowly split in favor of women:
- Male: 49%
- Female: 51%
One would think that women would enjoy an edge given the disproportionate number of men in STEM disciplines, yet the acceptance rates by gender are almost identical.
Rice University’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 44%. For comparison, many other top private universities have superior yield rates such as Northwestern (55%), Duke (54%), and Vanderbilt University (47%).
How Rice University Rates Applicants
There are nine factors that Rice University ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, class rank, GPA, standardized test scores (test-optional for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 cycles), the essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, and talent/ability. “Considered” items are: an interview, first-generation status, alumni relation (legacy), geographical residence, state residency, racial/ethnic status, volunteer work, paid work, and the level of an applicant’s interest in Rice.
In the admissions office’s own words:
“Rice does not view offers of admission as entitlements based on grades and test scores. Our admission process combines an examination of academic ability with a flexible assessment of an applicant’s talents, experiences, and potential, including potential diversity contributions; it precludes any quick formula for admitting a given applicant or for giving preference to one particular set of qualifications without reference to the class as a whole.”
They also factor in the adversity one has faced in life and strive to create a class that diverse across socioeconomic and racial lines. Further, they look “beyond indicators of academic competence” looking for “other qualities among applicants, such as creativity, motivation, artistic talent, and leadership potential.”
Tips for Applying
If you plan on joining the 31,000+ Owl hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- Rice University expects to see evidence of advanced coursework in high school. Taking multiple advanced classes, particularly within your area of academic interest is a must.
- You must apply to one of the six academic schools on your application. Each has different admissions requirements and standards. If your application is denied, you cannot be reconsidered for a second-choice school.
- Rice University does offer optional interviews. They do “recommend an admission interview for freshman applicants as an excellent opportunity to showcase academic and personal successes while learning more about Rice. The Admission Committee values on- and off-campus interviews equally in the admission review process.”
- Rice University weighs “demonstrated interest” in the admissions process. Therefore, you will be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit (in non-pandemic times), contacted an admissions officer, etc.
- Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by Rice. In the 2021-22 cycle they are as follows:
All applicants must answer:
- Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected. 150 word limit.
- Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? 150 word limit.
- Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System and undergraduate life are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What life perspectives would you contribute to the Rice community? 500 word limit.
- In keeping with Rice’s long-standing tradition (known as “The Box”), please share an image of something that appeals to you.
For detailed advice on how to address each essay prompt, visit our blog entitled: Rice University: Supplemental Essay Prompts and Tips.
Should I Apply?
With acceptance rates of 8-10% in recent years, Rice is a school that is looking for students that are at (or above) the 98th percentile on standardized tests and who placed toward the very top of their high school class. Applicants are expected to have earned all “A”s in an AP-heavy curriculum. If Rice University is your aim, make sure to also have a rock-solid backup plan. All students need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to get your counselor’s input during this process.
A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew’s experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans two decades. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep, and advisor to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.