How to Get Into Santa Clara University: Acceptance Rate and Strategies

June 11, 2023

Santa Clara University is a mid-sized, private Jesuit institution in California that caters to around 5,900 undergraduate students. Unsurprisingly, given its location, SCU is known for having one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Fortunately, the academic strength of the school is also quite strong. In particular, the Leavey School of Business is highly-respected, and the university has solid computer science and engineering offerings as well. While the acceptance rate at Santa Clara University isn’t as intimidating as some comparable institutions, the admissions standards are still quite stringent.

With the aim of providing future SCU applicants with a deep knowledge of relevant admissions data and strategies, we will touch on the following topics:

  • Santa Clara University’s Class of 2027 acceptance rate
  • Santa Clara University’s ED acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, GPA and class rank of accepted Santa Clara University students
  • Admissions trends at Santa Clara for the Class of 2027
  • The demographics of current Santa Clara University undergraduates
  • Santa Clara University’s yield rate
  • How Santa Clara University’s admissions officers evaluate candidates
  • Tips for applying to Santa Clara University
  • How to assess whether applying to Santa Clara University is even worth the $70 application fee (for you)

Many students applying to Santa Clara University may also find the following blogs to be of interest:

How to Get Into:

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

Santa Clara University’s: Overall Acceptance Rate – Class of 2027

Santa Clara received 18,839 applications for a place in the Class of 2027 and accepted 7,912. This means that the most recent Santa Clara University acceptance rate is 42%. Recent SCU acceptance rates are as follows:

  • Class of 2026: 54%
  • 2025: 54%
  • 2024: 51%

Santa Clara University Early Decision Acceptance Rate

There are two rounds of Early Decision at Santa Clara. The ED I deadline is November 1 and the ED II deadline is in early January. Over 10,500 students applied via ED I or EA to join the Class of 2027. However, official acceptance rates have not yet been released. Looking back to the most recent data available, the ED acceptance rate was an incredibly generous 84%.

Santa Clara University Admissions – SAT, ACT, GPA, and Class Rank

Just 35% of entering freshmen in 2021-22 (most recent available) placed in the top decile of their high school class; 72% were in the top quartile. The median SAT score was 1390 and the median ACT score was 31. Among those admitted into the Class of 2027, the average unweighted GPA was 3.87.

Admissions Trends & Notes Class of 2027

  • 10% are first-generation.
  • 9% are international students.
  • 9% are Pell-eligible students
  • 39% of engineers are female students
  • 5% are students of color
  • 50% of students are from California

Who Gets Into Santa Clara University?

Let’s look at the demographics of current Santa Clara University undergraduates. Geographically, the Class of 2026 is from:

  • California: 50%
  • 40% Out-of-state
  • International: 10%

As at any selective university, competition is toughest among those hailing from states with endless streams of qualified applicants (the entire Northeast & the West Coast). If you hail from a less populated state like Idaho, Wyoming, or Alaska, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances.

Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the Class of 2026 was as follows:

  • Asian American: 21%
  • Hispanic: 19%
  • African American: 4%
  • White: 37%
  • Two or more races: 11%

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

  • Male: 52%
  • Female: 48%.

International students make up 6% of the total undergraduate population at Santa Clara. The greatest number of students hail from the following countries:

  • China
  • India
  • Canada
  • Philippines

Members of the Class of 2025 attended the following types of high schools:

  • Public: 49%
  • Independent: 19%
  • Catholic: 16%
  • Jesuit: 19%

The most popular majors for entering first-year students in fall of 2022 were:

  • Computer science and engineering
  • Finance
  • Biology
  • Marketing
  • Psychology

SCU’s Yield Rate

Santa Clara University’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was 17% last year. For comparison, other CA-based institutions like UCSD, UCSB, and UC-Irvine have very similar yield rates.

How Santa Clara University Rates Applicants

Santa Clara University rates three factors as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, GPA, and the application essays. Eight additional factors are viewed by SCU as “important” in their evaluation of candidates: class rank, recommendations, talent/ability, extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, racial/ethnic status, volunteer work, and first-generation status.

Straight from the Santa Clara University admissions staff:

  • “When we review your application we will consider several elements, from your academic performance and grades, recommendations, activities outside the classroom, life experiences, and if reported, test scores. Our goal is to gain a sense of who you are as a person and as a scholar.”
  • “While the selectivity between our schools and programs does not vary greatly, academic readiness for the program of interest will be gauged based on your expressed interest. For natural science, business, and engineering applicants, readiness at the level of calculus is expected.”
  • “Without test scores, your GPA and course rigor are increasingly important components of the academic side of your application. Not only do we want to see that you have excelled in your classes, but we also want to see that you’ve challenged yourself academically by taking advanced courses like honors, IB, AP, or dual-enrollment courses your school offers.”

Additional Tips for Applying

Should you end up as one of the 18,000+ Santa Clara applicants in the next admissions cycle, you will benefit from being aware of the following:

  • If you are serious about attending SCU, applying ED can yield an enormous admission advantage at this school.
  • Santa Clara does not conduct evaluative interviews, but does offer chances to connect with admissions officers to learn more about the school.
  • Santa Clara University considers “demonstrated interest” as being important in the admissions process. Therefore, you will be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit (in non-pandemic times), contact an admissions officer, follow them on social media, etc.
  • SCU requires one teacher recommendation. For tips on requesting a letter of recommendation check out this blog.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the optional supplemental essay required by Santa Clara. In the 2022-23 cycle, students are required to respond to two prompts. They are as follows:

Prompt 1:

Briefly describe what prompted you to apply to Santa Clara University. Based on what you know about SCU and our Jesuit mission to educate citizens and leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion, how do you envision your life at SCU and beyond? (200 words)

Prompt 2:

At SCU, we push our students to be creative, be challenged, and be the solution. Think about an ethical dilemma that you care about that our society is currently facing. This can be something happening in your local community or more globally. How can an SCU education help you prepare for and address this challenge? (150-300 words)

Santa Clara University Acceptance Rate – Final Thoughts 

As mentioned previously, if you are a borderline applicant (by Santa Clara’s standards), give serious consideration to applying via early decision. In the regular round, unless you have stats that will blow away the admissions committee, you’ll need to also have a rock-solid backup plan. All applicants need to work with their guidance counselor to formulate a balanced college list, containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools.