How to Get Into UCLA: Admissions Data and Strategies
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 2022, the acceptance rate rests at 11%.
Want some even more intimidating stats? Among 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’s Class of 2026 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 2026
While official Class of 2026 numbers have yet to be released, we do know that there were 149,779 applicants to the 2022-23 freshman class. Based on this figure alone, we can project that the acceptance rate is likely to be lower than the previous year.
UCLA admitted just 15,028 of the 139,490 freshman applicants who sought admission into the Class of 2025. This equates to just a 11% acceptance rate. The previous year (most recent data available), when the overall acceptance rate was a more favorable 14%, California residents were accepted at a 14% clip while out-of-state students were successful 21% 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 Policy, and GPA
Among those who enrolled in the Class of 2025, the mid-50% unweighted GPA was 3.92-4.0 and the weighted GPA range was 4.36-4.68.
In general, despite enjoying a higher acceptance rate, in-state applicants have lower measurables than their out-of-state counterparts. In one recent cycle (when test scores were part of the application process), 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.
As a test-blind institution, UCLA does not consider standardized test scores.
Admissions Trends & Notes
- The most significant note is that all University of California schools have adopted a test-blind policy.
- 33% of the Class of 2025 were first-generation students.
- Further, 30% of first-years are from underrepresented backgrounds.
- 50% of the most recent freshman class received need-based aid.
- The yield rate increased from 41% to 44% 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:
- 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 2025 was as follows:
- Asian American: 38%
- Hispanic: 22%
- African American: 7%
- International: 10%
- White: 28%
The breakdown by gender of the entire Bruin student body shows far more women than men:
- Male: 41%
- Female: 59%
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—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted was 44%. To compare this school to other elite public institutions, UT-Austin has a 46% yield, UNC-Chapel Hill sports a similar 44%, and UGA comes in at 41%.
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.
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 far below the average for the pool of general admits.
Tips for Applying to UCLA
If you plan on joining the 130,000+ 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 2021-22 cycle, there were eight total prompts, and applicants must respond to four. Each response is 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. For detailed advice, visit our blog entitled How to Master the UC Personal Insight Prompts.
Should I Apply to UCLA?
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. Of course, you have to be aware that, ultimately, close to 90% 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.
A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew’s experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans more than one decade. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep, and advisor to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.