How to Get Into the University of Virginia (UVA): Admissions Data & Strategies
Along with institutions like UNC Chapel Hill, the University of Michigan, and the College of William and Mary, the University of Virginia is considered one of the “Public Ivies.” These schools, UVA included, provide an elite education to high-achieving students for a fraction of the price of a top-tier private school.
Founded by Thomas Jefferson in the early 1800s, UVA has long been recognized as a world-class academic institution but, like many of its peers, has seen its degree of selectivity rise rapidly in the past decade. In 2005, the University of Virginia still accepted 38 percent of applicants; today, that number has been sliced almost in half. Applicants from out-of-state face an even steeper climb. Considering the admissions gauntlet that awaits you, the intent of this article is to give those applying to UVA:
1) An understanding of what you are up against.
2) More data on which to accurately assess your chances of admission.
3) Advice for how to get your application to UVA stand out, even against other superb applicants, particularly for those applying from out-of-state.
To accomplish these goals we will touch on the following topics:
- UVA’s Class of 2024 acceptance rate
- UVA’s Class of 2024 Early Decision (ED) acceptance rate
- SAT, GPA, and class rank of accepted UVA applicants
- Admissions trends from the Class of 2023
- UVA’s system for rating applicants
- A look at the demographics of current UVA undergraduates
- The percent of accepted students that attend UVA (yield rate)
- Tips for applying to UVA
- How to assess whether applying to UVA is even worth the $70 application fee (for you)
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
UVA Acceptance Rate – Class of 2024
There were 41,017 applications for admission into the Cavalier Class of 2024. Only 8,420 individuals or 20.5% were accepted. It is important to note that it is far more difficult to gain acceptance to this university if you are not a Virginia resident. Out-of-staters were accepted at just a 15.4% clip, while Old Dominion residents were accepted 32.5% of the time.
UVA: Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2024
There exists a clear-cut edge to applying Early Decision to UVA. While the 2019-20 admissions cycle saw the first Early Decision offering from the university since 2006, the results spoke volumes. The ED acceptance rate for the Class of 2024 was 35 percent, significantly higher than for the non-binding EA or Regular Decision rounds. The ED deadline for this school is October 15th.
UVA Admissions – SAT, GPA, and Class Rank
According to the most recent statistics available (Class of 2023), the mid-50% SAT range for enrolled students was 670-740 on the Reading and Writing section and 670-780 on the Math portion. Admitted students from Virginia possessed an average SAT score of 1419 while out-of-staters held a superior mean mark of 1466. The average SAT for all students that actually went on to enroll in the university for the 2019-20 school year was 1409. On the ACT, the mid-50% Composite range was 30-34.
Among enrolled 2019-20 first-year students, an exceptional 90% hailed from the top 10% of their high school class, while 98% earned a place in the top 25%. Ninety-one percent possessed a cumulative weighted GPA at or above a 4.0 while 5.3% earned between a 3.5 and 3.75.
Admissions Trends & Notes
- 5% percent of all offers of admission for Class of 2024 applicants were to minority students, up from 36.8% the prior year.
- 11.2% of offers of admission into the freshman class of 2020-21 were made to legacy students. However, 26% of those admitted in the ED round had a close relative who was an alum.
- 62% of those accepted in the ED round were Virginia residents.
- The number of applications rose only by a sliver in the 2019-20 admissions cycle.
- The acceptance rate for out-of-state applicants fell to 15.4% from a friendlier 18.8% the previous year.
How UVA Rates Applicants
UVA rates six factors as “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of high school course load, class rank, GPA, recommendation letters, character/personal qualities, and state residency (again, being from VA is a major advantage). Items that are “important” as part of the admissions process are: standardized test scores (UVA is test-optional for the 2020-21 admissions cycle), application essays, extracurricular activities, and talent/ability.
You can rest assured that despite receiving in excess of 40,000 applications each year, your application will receive a holistic and in-depth review. The UVA admission staff reads “the entire application before we render a decision. There are no “cut offs” (remember GPA is not standardized, so that doesn’t make senses in Virginia). We read every file, front to back, before we make our recommendations. We read and double check our files multiple times.” In the words of one admissions officer, the “best way to effectively communicate what holistic admission looks like to me is to compare your application to a puzzle…The largest, most central piece of your puzzle is your transcript. This shouldn’t be a surprise since your transcript represents four years of academic development.”
It is also worth highlighting that recruited athletes enjoy a huge edge. This is because UVA takes great pride in their 27 NCAA Division I sports teams. Overall, approximately 750 student-athletes are presently attending the university. Of course, other outside-the-classroom endeavors can also enhance your application profile. 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 UVA?
Let’s look at the demographics of the current undergraduate student body. Geographically, the greatest percentage hail from the following states:
- Virginia: 73%
- Maryland: 4%
- New Jersey: 3%
- New York: 3%
- Pennsylvania: 2%
- Texas: 2%
- Florida: 2%
- Georgia: 2%
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 at UVA.
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown was as follows:
- Caucasian/White: 57%
- Asian American: 19%
- Hispanic: 6%
- African American: 8%
- Nonresident Aliens: 5%
Looking at the gender breakdown, the Class of 2023 enrolled far more women than men:
- Men: 45%
- Women: 55%
UVA’s Yield Rate
UVA’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 40%. This figure is just a shade below other powerhouse state universities like the University of Michigan (46%), UNC-Chapel Hill (43%), and UCLA (41%).
Tips for Applying to UVA
If you plan on joining the 40,000+ Wahoo hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- UVA 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 (see stats mentioned earlier in this blog).
- UVA 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 main Common App Essay and two short supplemental essays required by UVA. For the 2020-2021 cycle, they are as follows:
- We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words.
- College of Arts and Sciences – What work of art, music, science, mathematics, literature, or other media has surprised, unsettled, or inspired you, and in what way?
- School of Engineering and Applied Sciences – Describe an engineering feat that serves the common good and why it inspires you to study engineering.
- School of Architecture – Describe significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.
- School of Nursing – Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing.
- Kinesiology Program – Discuss experiences that led you to apply to the kinesiology major.
- Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.
- What’s your favorite word and why?
- We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
- Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
- UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
- Rita Dove, UVA English professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate, once said in an interview that “…there are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.” Describe a time when, instead of complaining, you took action for the greater good.
For advice on how to approach your UVA essay, we recommend reading this entry in the UVA Admissions Blog written by one of the Associate Deans in the Office of Admission. Additional tips on how to address supplemental essays can be found on our own website’s blog.
Should I Apply to UVA?
Those with SAT/ACT scores within the mid-50% mark for UVA who are also at the very top of their respective high school class are certainly viable candidates to UVA. If you reside in Virginia, 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 university’s home state. Of course, it goes without saying that all teens applying to a school of UVA’s ilk also need to also have a proper mix or “target” and “safety” schools on their college list. More on creating a balanced college list can be found here.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).