How to Get Into UC Irvine: Acceptance Rate and Strategies

July 28, 2023

In 1997, UC Irvine received 17,000 applications and admitted two-thirds of that group. By 2007, applications had more than doubled and the acceptance rate had fallen to 56%. Fast-forward to 2022, and over 117,000 individuals applied and the UC Irvine acceptance rate was down to 21%. Need further proof of the school’s increased popularity? Ten years ago, the University of California-Irvine saw 95% of its undergraduates coming from the Golden State; today, roughly one-quarter come from other states/countries. That’s what being ranked one of the top 10 public universities in the United States can do for you.

Today, UC Irvine is a school that is difficult to gain acceptance into even for students with straight A’s in high school. Therefore, all future applicants need to be aware of the latest admissions data as well as how they leapfrog other qualified students. To accomplish this goal we will touch on the following topics:

  • UC Irvine’s Class of 2026 acceptance rate
  • SAT/ACT policy at UCI and GPAs of admitted applicants
  • Admissions trends
  • The demographics of current UC Irvine students
  • UC Irvine’s yield rate
  • How UC Irvine’s admissions officers evaluate candidates
  • Tips for applying to UCI
  • How to approach the UC Personal Insight essays
  • How to assess whether applying to UC Irvine is even worth the $70 application fee (for you)

Many students applying to UC Irvine may also find the following “how to get into” blogs to be of interest:

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent University of California – Irvine admissions data.

UC Irvine: Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026

UC Irvine accepted 25,213 of the 119,210 first-year applicants seeking admission into the Class of 2026. This means that the UC Irvine acceptance rate was 21%, an all-time low.

Recent acceptance rates were a bit higher:

  • Class of 2025 acceptance rate: 29%
  • Class of 2024 acceptance rate: 30%

UC Irvine Admissions – SAT/ACT Policy, class rank, and GPA

As a test-blind institution, UC Irvine does not consider test scores. That moves GPA to center stage, and those admitted into the Class of 2026 possessed a median weighted GPA of 4.22; the median unweighted GPA was a 3.95.

Admissions Trends & Notes

  • The most significant note is that all University of California schools continue to use a test-blind policy.
  • 46% of students who earned degrees in 2023 were first-generation.
  • 37% of students entering Irvine in one recent school year were Pell Grant recipients.
  • Since 2015, applications to UCI have increased by 50%.
  • UCI was number 2 in the entire University of California system in applications from underrepresented minorities and low-income students.

Who Gets Into UC Irvine?

Let’s look at the demographics of UC Irvine students:

Most UC Irvine students hailed from the Golden State and paid in-state tuition. The total geographic breakdown of the Class of 2025 is as follows:

  • Percent California (residents): 76%
  • Other U.S. States (non-residents): 11%
  • Other countries (non-resident, international): 13%

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

  • Asian American: 37%
  • Hispanic: 26%
  • African American: 2%
  • White: 13%
  • Two or more races: 5%
  • International: 15%

UC Irvine Acceptance Rate (Continued)

International students came in the greatest numbers from the following countries:

  1. China
  2. South Korea
  3. India
  4. Taiwan
  5. Indonesia

The breakdown by gender of the entire Anteater student body shows far more women than men:

  • Male: 45%
  • Female: 55%

UC Irvine’s Yield Rate

UC Irvine’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 23%. To compare this school to other elite public institutions, UT-Austin, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UGA all have roughly twice the yield rate of UCI.

How UC Irvine Rates Applicants

There are seven factors that UC Irvine ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, GPA, application essays, talent/ability, extracurricular activities, volunteer experience, and work experience. The only “important” factor is character/personal qualities.

UC Irvine, along with all other University of California campuses, dropped all standardized testing requirements starting with the Class of 2025. This makes the traditionally holistic review process at UC Irvine even more pronounced.

In the words of the UCI admissions office:

  • “Students admitted to UCI excel in their college preparatory courses and will graduate in the upper tenth of their high school senior class. These scholarly achievements are hallmark traits of most Anteaters.”
  • Having good grades matters. But it’s not the only thing we take into consideration when reviewing your application.
  • “Academic accomplishments in light of your experiences and special circumstances, including but not limited to: disabilities, low family income, first generation to attend college, need to work, disadvantaged social or educational environment, difficult personal and family situations or circumstances, refugee status or veteran status.”

Tips for Applying to UC Irvine

If you plan on joining the 119,000+ Anteater hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • While a holistic process, UC Irvine does not offer interviews.
  • UC Irvine does not consider “demonstrated interest” in the admissions process.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by UC Irvine. In the 2023-24 cycle, there are eight total prompts, of which applicants are told to choose four to address. Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.

UC Essays

1) Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

2) Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side. 

3) What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? 

4) Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

UC Irvine Acceptance Rate (Continued)

5) Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

6) Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

7) What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? 

8) Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

The best approach here is to select the four prompts that are the best fit for you and elicit the most compelling and personal responses. For detailed advice, visit our blog entitled How to Master the UC Personal Insight Prompts.

UC Irvine Acceptance Rate – Final Thoughts 

Getting into UC Irvine has never been more a challenging endeavor, as it now requires close to perfect grades (note the median unweighted GPA of 3.95). Without test scores entering the equation, your essays will also be extremely important to your admissions prospects. With very few students able to consider UC Irvine as a “safety” these days, all students need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “reach”, “target”, and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to do this in collaboration with an admissions professional who is aware of the latest trends and strategies associated with your prospective colleges.