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, as well as in the area of undergraduate engineering. 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 receives 23,000+ applications and accepted just 10% in 2020. 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 of 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 2024 acceptance rate
  • Rice University’s Class of 2024 ED acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Rice University applicants
  • Admissions trends from the Class of 2024
  • 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
  • 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 2024

In aiming to create a freshmen class of 965 students, Rice admitted 10% of the 23,443 who applied in the 2019-20 admissions cycle. This is actually up from last year’s record-low 8.7% acceptance rate. The acceptance rates by individual college for the Class of 2024 are as follows:

  • Architecture: 2%
  • Engineering 37%
  • Humanities 9%
  • Music: 3%
  • Natural Sciences: 30%
  • Social Sciences: 20%

Rice University Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2024

Those who are serious about attending Rice should definitely consider applying via binding early decision. For the Class of 2024, Rice accepted 19% of ED applicants, higher than the previous year’s mark of 15.5%.

Rice University Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank

Those enrolled in the Class of 2023 sported middle-50th standardized test scores of 1470-1570 on the SAT and 33-35 on the ACT. An astonishing 93% of Class of 2023 members placed in the top decile of their graduating high school class, while 99% earned a spot in the top quartile.

Admissions Trends & Notes – (Class of 2024)

  • 32% of accepted students for the Class of 2024 were from Texas, up two points from the previous year.
  • The total number of applications declined from 27,084 to 23,443.
  • Rice received 2,628 ED applications in the 2018-19 admissions cycle and 2,042 in the 2019-20 cycle.
  • Roughly 44% ED admits were from Texas.
  • Rice University continues to rank as one of the best schools for international students.

Who Actually Gets Into Rice University?

Let’s look at the demographics of the Rice University Class of 2023:

  • 40% of students are from Texas.
  • 49% of the students are from other U.S. States and Territories.
  • 11% are international students.

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 2023 was as follows:

  • Asian American: 33%
  • Hispanic: 18%
  • African American: 8%
  • White: 35%
  • Multiracial: 5%

The breakdown by gender of all current undergraduates is notably split in favor of women:

  • Male: 52%
  • Female: 48%

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.

Yield Rate

Rice University’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was 41% for the Class of 2023. For comparison, many other top private universities have superior yield rates such as Northwestern (56%), Duke (55%), and Vanderbilt University (49%).

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 Class of 2021 only), the essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, and talent/ability. No factors are deemed as “important” and “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.”

It definitely helps if you are recruited as an athlete to join one of Rice University’s 14 Division I sports teams. Nine percent of the student population are varsity athletes.

Tips for Applying to Rice University

If you plan on joining the 23,000+ 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 2020-21 cycle they are as follows:

All applicants must answer:

  1. Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected. 150 word limit.
  2. Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? 150 word limit.
  3. 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.

Architecture Applicants Only

Architecture applicants will not be required to answer question #3 (above). Instead, they will answer questions #1 and #2 above, along with #4 and #5:

  1. Why are you determined to study architecture? Could you please elaborate on your past experiences and how they have motivated you to apply to Rice University and the School of Architecture in particular?
  2. Please expand on relevant experiences and motivations outside of your academic trajectory that have inspired you to study architecture, focusing on aspects that are not accommodated by other prompts in the application.

The key to answering #2 is to learn everything you can about Rice and communicate genuine reasons why it is the right place for you. For more, read our blog entitled Mastering the “Why This College?” Essay.

Should I Apply to Rice University?

With acceptance rates of 8-10% in recent years, Rice is a school that is looking for students that are at (ro above) the 97th percentile on standardized tests and who placed toward the very top of their high school class. Just about all “A”s in an AP-heavy curriculum is expected. 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.