How to Get Into UCLA: Acceptance Rate and Strategies

May 31, 2023

The historical trajectory of UCLA admissions can best be understood through a once-per-decade peek at the university’s shifting acceptance rates. In 1980, nearly three-quarters of those who applied were accepted, by 1990, this had dropped to the low-40s. However, by 2000, it had fallen to the high 20s, by 2010, the low-20s, and now, in 2023, the UCLA acceptance rate rests at 11%.

Want some even more intimidating stats? In one recent cycle, of those who sported a 4.39 or better GPA, just 36% were admitted. Those that took 22 or more honors/AP classes in high school found success just 27% of the time. Now that UCLA boasts a similar acceptance rate to the likes of Georgetown and Carnegie Mellon and is even more selective than Berkeley, this begs the question, “What is the secret to getting in!?”

While there are rarely “secrets” in the world of college admissions, an examination of the available data, demographic info, and recent trends can illuminate the process at a given institution. Toward that aim, this article will provide an overview of the following topics:

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

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

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

UCLA: Acceptance Rate – Class of 2027

While official Class of 2027 numbers have yet to be released, we do know that there were 145,882 applicants to the 2023-24 freshman class. Based on this figure alone, we can project that the acceptance rate is likely to be lower than the previous year.

Historical UCLA acceptance rates are as follows:

  • UCLA Acceptance Rate Class of 2026: 8.6%
  • Class of 2025: 11%
  • Class of 2024: 14%

UCLA Out of State Acceptance Rate

The previous year (most recent data available), when the overall acceptance rate was 11%, California residents were accepted at a 14% clip while the out-of-state acceptance rate was just 10%. However, as you will see in the next section, it is actually far more difficult to gain entry as a non-resident than those numbers indicate.

UCLA Admissions – SAT/ACT Policy, and GPA

Among those who enrolled in the Class of 2026, the mid-50% unweighted GPA was 3.95-4.0 and the weighted GPA range was 4.40-4.73.  As a test-blind institution, UCLA does not consider standardized test scores.

Admissions Trends & Notes

  • Applications fell from 149,779 to 145,882 in the last cycle.
  • The most significant note is that all University of California schools continue to operate on a test-blind policy.
  • 27% of the Class of 2026 were first-generation students.

UCLA Acceptance Rate (Continued)

  • Further, 31% of first-years are from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • 69% of the most recent freshman class received need-based aid.
  • Lastly, the yield rate increased from 44% to 50% between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 freshman classes, meaning that more admitted students are choosing UCLA now than in previous years.

Who Actually Gets Into UCLA?

Most UCLA students hailed from the Golden State and paid in-state tuition. The total geographic breakdown is as follows (most recent available):

  • Percent California (residents) – 75%
  • # of other U.S. States (non-residents) – 47
  • # of other countries (non-resident, international) = 84
  • Percent from Southern California: 46%
  • Percent from the rest of California: 29%

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

  • Asian American: 38%
  • Hispanic: 22%
  • African American: 8%
  • Unknown: 4%
  • White: 27%

UCLA Acceptance Rate (Continued)

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

  • Male: 41%
  • Female: 58%

One recent freshman class included students from the following types of high schools

  • Los Angeles County Public: 21%
  • Other CA Public: 40%
  • Los Angeles County Private: 3%
  • Other CA Private: 6%
  • Outside California (Public/Private): 30%

UCLA’s Yield Rate

UCLA’s yield rate is 50%. To compare this school to other elite public institutions, UT-Austin, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UGA have similar yield rates.

How UCLA Rates Applicants

There are only three factors that UCLA ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, GPA, and application essays. Factors rated as “important” are: talent/ability, character/personal qualities, extracurricular activities, volunteer experience, and work experience. “Considered” factors are: first-generation status, geographical residence, and state residency.

UCLA, along with all other University of California campuses, dropped all use of standardized testing starting with the Class of 2025 (those applying in the 2020-21 admissions cycle). This makes the traditionally holistic review process at UCLA even more pronounced.

UCLA Acceptance Rate (Continued)

In the admissions office’s own words: “Selection is based on a comprehensive review of all information—both academic and personal—presented in the application. All applications are read twice, in their entirety, by professionally trained readers. After independently reading and analyzing a file, the reader determines a comprehensive score that is the basis upon which the student is ultimately admitted or denied.”

Possessing one of the premier athletic programs in the country, it most definitely helps if you are recruited as an athlete to join one of UCLA’s 25 Division I sports teams. A great number of incoming students are designated as “recruited athletes” each year, including (according to the most recent numbers available), 85% of the football team. However, recruited athletes possessed GPAs far below the average for the pool of general admits.

Tips for Applying to UCLA

If you plan on joining the 145,000+ Bruin hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:

  • While a holistic process, UCLA does not offer interviews.
  • UCLA does not consider “demonstrated interest” in the admissions process.
  • Lastly, make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by UCLA. In the 2022-23 cycle, there were eight total prompts, and applicants must respond to four.

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.

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 admission to the University of California?

For detailed advice, visit our blog entitled How to Master the UC Personal Insight Prompts.

UCLA Acceptance Rate – Final Thoughts

In conclusion, getting into UCLA has never been more of a challenging endeavor, as it now requires near-perfect (or perfect) grades in 20+ honors/AP/IB courses. Even in-state applicants need to have pristine academic transcripts and other compelling attributes. UCLA is an exceptional, world-class institution with a great number of renowned academic programs. As such, 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 do this in collaboration with an admissions professional who is aware of the latest trends and strategies associated with your prospective colleges.