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, by 2000, it had fallen to the high 20s, by 2010, the low-20s and now, in 2020, the acceptance rate rests at right around 12%.

Want some even more intimidating stats? Among Class of 2023 applicants 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 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:

1) A deep-dive into just how highly-selective the UCLA admissions process truly is.

2) Data that will help you better assess how you measure up to the competition.

3) How the UCLA admissions committee operates and what they look for in a successful candidate.

To accomplish these goals we will touch on the following topics:

  • UCLA’s Class of 2023 acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, and GPAs of UCLA applicants
  • Admissions trends from the Class of 2023
  • The demographics of current UCLA undergraduates
  • UCLA’s yield rate
  • How UCLA’s admissions officers evaluate candidates
  • Tips for applying to UCLA
  • How to assess whether applying to UCLA is even worth the $70 application fee (for you)

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

UCLA: Acceptance Rate – Class of 2023

UCLA admitted just 13,432 of the 108,831 freshman applicants who sought admission into the Class of 2023. This equates to just a 12.3% acceptance rate. California residents were accepted at a 12% clip while out-of-state students were successful 16.4% of the time. However, as you will see in the next section, it is actually far more difficult to gain entry as a non-resident.

UCLA Admissions – SAT, ACT, and GPA

Among those who enrolled in the Class of 2023, California residents possessed a mid-50% unweighted GPA of 4.30-4.60, SAT scores of 1250-1500, and ACT composites of 26-34. Out-of-state admits had a GPA range of 4.35-4.80, SATs between 1390 and 1530, and ACTs of 31-34. Admitted students generally took 17 to 25 honors/advanced courses in high school.  UCLA does not consider class rank.

Admissions Trends & Notes

  • The most significant note is that all University of California schools have adopted a test-optional policy beginning in the 2020-21 applications cycle.
  • The overall SAT range rose from 1240-1490 for the 2017-18 freshman class to 1270-1520 for the Class of 2023.
  • UCLA took 3% fewer students from Los Angeles County Public Schools than in the previous admissions cycle.
  • The average freshman GPA increased slightly from 4.36 to 4.39 from the prior year.
  • The yield rate increased from 37% to 39% between 2017-18 and 2018-19, meaning that more admitted students are choosing UCLA now than in previous years.

Who Actually Gets Into UCLA?

Let’s look at the demographics of UCLA undergraduates:

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

  • Percent California (residents) – 70%
  • # of other U.S. States (non-residents) – 47
  • # of other countries (non-resident, international) = 84
  • Percent from Southern California: 45%
  • Percent from Los Angeles County: 24%
  • Percent from Orange County: 8%
  • Percent from Riverside County: 4%
  • Percent from San Bernardino County: 3%
  • Percent from San Diego County: 6%

Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the entire Bruin undergraduate student body, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Asian American: 28%
  • Hispanic: 22%
  • African American: 3%
  • International: 12%
  • Caucasian: 27%

The breakdown by gender of the 2019-19 freshman class shows far more women than men:

  • Male: 40%
  • Female: 60%

The Class of 2023 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%

The intended fields of study among the newly-arriving Class of 2023 were as follows:

  • Life Sciences: 35%
  • Social Sciences: 22%
  • Humanities: 6%
  • Engineering: 15%
  • Arts & Architecture: 2%
  • Theater, Film, and TV: 2%
  • Music: 1%
  • Nursing: 1%

UCLA’s Yield Rate

UCLA’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was 39%. To compare this school to other elite public institutions, UT-Austin has a 46% yield, UNC-Chapel Hill sports a similar 45%, and UGA comes in at 45%.

How UCLA Rates Applicants

There are only four factors that UCLA ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, GPA, standardized test scores (more on this in a moment), and application essays. Factors are 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, announced that they are dropping all standardized testing requirements 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.

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 most recent numbers available), 85% of the football team. Recruited athletes possessed GPAs and SATs far below the average for the pool of general admits.

Tips for Applying to UCLA

If you plan on joining the 100,000+ 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.

Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by UCLA. In the 2019-20 cycle, there were eight total prompts, of which applicants are instructed to choose four to respond to. Each response in limited to maximum of 350 words.

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 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.

Should I Apply to UCLA?

Getting into UCLA has never been more 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. Of course, you have to aware that, ultimately, approximately 87-88% of applicants will be turned away. 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.