How to Get Into UNC Chapel Hill: Acceptance Rate and Strategies
May 29, 2023
It is rare to find a college, even of the public variety, with an annual tuition figure only four digits in length. It is even rarer to find a university that provides an elite undergraduate education with numerous top-ranked academic programs for such an affordable sum. UNC-Chapel Hill is one the finest higher education bargains in the United States, and, for North Carolina residents, is often a no-brainer first choice. Of course, when you offer a premier product at a bargain price, there inevitably exists a lengthy line of customers waiting to get into the “store.” UNC receives a massive number of applications each year, and the UNC-Chapel Hill acceptance rate is 17%.
While you have to be at the top of your class to be seriously considered, it is relatively “easy” to gain acceptance as a state resident versus as an out-of-stater or international student. Those that seek to don the iconic powder blue gear representing this stellar state school should fully grasp the admissions landscape before them. The intent of this article is to give those considering applying to UNC-Chapel Hill an understanding of the following topics:
- UNC-Chapel Hill acceptance rate
- UNC Out of State Acceptance Rate
- UNC-Chapel Hill’s early action (EA) acceptance rate
- SAT and class rank of accepted UNC-Chapel Hill applicants
- Admissions trends
- UNC-Chapel Hill’s system for rating applicants
- A look at the demographics of current UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduates
- The percentage of accepted students that attend UNC-Chapel Hill (yield rate)
- Tips for applying to UNC-Chapel Hill
- How to approach the UNC-Chapel Hill supplemental essays
- How to assess whether applying to UNC-Chapel Hill is even worth the $85 application fee (for you)
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
UNC-Chapel Hill Acceptance Rate
Class of 2027 data is not yet available. The UNC Chapel Hill acceptance rate for the Class of 2026 was 16.8%. It is important to note that it is far more difficult to gain acceptance to this university if you are not a North Carolina resident. In-state students make up 82% of the student body and the state government has set a hard cap of 18% non-residents, so the school does not have an inch of wiggle room (more in a moment). There were 57,219 total applications received last year.
Historical UNC acceptance rates are as follows:
- Class of 2025: 19%
- Class of 2024: 24%
UNC Out of State Acceptance Rate
Getting into UNC Chapel Hill as a North Carolina resident is far less challenging than doing so as a non-resident. Last year, the UNC out of state acceptance rate was 8% compared to an in-state rate of 43%.
UNC-Chapel Hill: Early Action Acceptance Rate
There is a quantifiable edge to applying early action to UNC-Chapel Hill. The EA deadline for this school is October 15th. EA applicants are generally accepted at around three times the acceptance rate as those in the RD round. For example, in one recent year, the UNC-Chapel Hill Early Action acceptance rate was 7 points higher than the overall acceptance rate.
UNC-Chapel Hill Admissions – SAT and Class Rank
According to the most recent statistics available (Class of 2026), the mid-50% SAT range for enrolled freshmen was 1360-1500. North Carolinians possessed scores in the 1340-1500 range while out-of-state students sported a mid-50% range of 1400-1540. Among enrolled 2022-23 first-year students, an impressive 74% hailed from the top 10%, while 92% earned a place in the top 20%. Twelve percent of freshmen were either the valedictorian or salutatorian of their graduating cohort; 42% were among the top ten students.
Admissions Trends & Notes
- The top 5 majors of incoming students were: Biology, Business, Psychology & Neuroscience, Computer Science, and Political Science.
- 80% of the Class of 2026 plans to pursue an advanced degree.
- 74% of each of the Class of 2026 participated in community service in high school.
- 18% enrolling are first-generation college students.
- Students hail from 98 different North Carolina counties.
- Lastly, the school will remain test-optional through Fall 2024.
How UNC-Chapel Hill Rates Applicants
UNC-Chapel Hill considers eight factors as “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of high school course load, essays, test scores, recommendation letters, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, character/personal qualities, and state residency (being from NC is a major advantage). Items that are “important” as part of the admissions process are: GPA, class rank, volunteer work, and paid work experience. “Considered” factors are: first-generation status, legacy status, and racial/ethnic status.
The admissions staff reads every application carefully and discusses them “at length” before extending an offer of admission. In their own words: “As we sit down to read each application, we really don’t have an ‘ideal’ student in mind. Rather, we like being surprised by each individual applicant’s interests and talents. But some common themes still tend to emerge among our favorites: They’re smart. Motivated. Service-oriented. Curious. Creative. Courageous. The kind of people who will not only flourish in but actively enhance our community while they’re here.”
It is also worth highlighting that recruited athletes enjoy a huge edge. This is because UNC-Chapel Hill takes great pride in their 28 NCAA Division I sports teams. Overall, approximately 870 student-athletes are presently attending the university.
For advice about how to stand out on the extracurricular front, check out our previous blog entitled How Many Extracurricular Activities Do I Need for College?
Who Actually Gets Into UNC-Chapel Hill?
Let’s look at the demographics of the student body. One recent freshman class was comprised of the greatest numbers of students from the following U.S. states:
- North Carolina
- New York
- South Carolina
The fewest number of students came from the following U.S. states:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
Among non-residents, competition is stiffest among those hailing from states with endless streams of qualified applicants (the entire Northeast & the West Coast). If you hail from the Deep South like Alabama or Mississippi or a less-populated state like Wyoming or North Dakota, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances.
UNC Chapel Hill Acceptance Rate (Continued)
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown in the Class of 2026 was as follows:
- Caucasian/White: 65%
- Asian American: 22%
- Hispanic: 10%
- African American: 10%
- American Indian: 1%
Looking at the gender breakdown, the university enrolls far more women than men:
- Men: 40%
- Women: 60%
Percentage of Class of 2025 members who…
- Completed an internship in high school: 17%
- Participated in arts and music: 45%
- Demonstrated mastery on AP tests (by tests not applicant): 85%
- Played varsity sports: 64%
UNC-Chapel Hill’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 45%. This figure is comparable to other powerhouse state universities like the University of Michigan, UVA, and UCLA.
Tips for Applying
If you plan on joining the 57,000+ Tarheel hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- The university does not use interviews as part of their evaluation process.
- If you have a parent (or two) that attended the university, you will get special consideration in the admissions process. Over 20% of undergrads have a mother or father who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill.
- UNC-Chapel Hill also does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
- Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the two short supplemental essays (from the three choices below) required by this school. They are as follows:
UNC Chapel Hill Acceptance Rate (Continued)
- Describe an aspect of your identity and how this has shaped your life experiences or impacted your daily interactions with others?
- Describe a peer who is making a difference in your school or community. What actions has that peer taken? How has their work made a difference in your life?
- If you could change one thing to better your community, what would it be? Please explain.
- 4) Former UNC-Chapel Hill employee, community service member, and civil rights activist Esphur Foster once said, “We are nothing without our history.” Her words are memorialized on the Northside Neighborhood Freedom Fighters monument. How does history shape who you are?
There are also 5 short answers which are as follows:
- 1) One family tradition I cherish:
- 2) If I had an extra hour in every day, I would spend it:
- 3) If I could travel anywhere, near or far, past, present or future, I would go:
- 4) The last time I stepped outside my comfort zone, I:
- 5) People who meet me are most likely to notice, and least likely to notice:
For a detailed look at how to tackle these essays, visit our blog entitled: UNC-Chapel Hill Supplemental Essay Prompts and Tips.
UNC-Chapel Hill Acceptance Rate – Final Thoughts
Those with SAT/ACT scores within the mid-50% range who are also at the very top of their respective high school class are absolutely viable candidates to UNC-Chapel Hill. If you live in North Carolina, your road to acceptance will be much smoother than if you are an out-of-state or international applicant. You will need to bring higher test scores and, possibly, a special skill or “hook” if you do not hail from the Tar Heel State. Of course, it goes without saying that all teens applying to a school of UNC’s ilk also need to also have a proper mix of “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.