UCLA Admission Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to UCLA’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Mascot: Joe Bruin the Bear

Type: Public Research Institution

Population: 46,000 (31,000 undergrads)

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About UCLA

Located in the heart of Los Angeles, UCLA’s 419 acre campus is sun drenched. With strong athletics, academics, and more than 1,000 extracurriculars, UCLA offers opportunities to all students. Considered one of the “public ivies,” UCLA is consistently ranked as one of the best public colleges in the nation. With all of Los Angeles to explore, UCLA offers opportunities to investigate anything students are passionate about.

UCLA Statistics

Year Founded: 1919

4 Year Graduation Rate: 74%

Gender Distribution: 57% female, 43% male

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Residency: 85% in state, 5% out of state, 10% international

Location Type: Urban

Schedule System: Quarters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 18:1

Average Class Size: 26

Demographics: 29% Asian, 27% Caucasian, 22% Hispanic, 19% Other or Unknown, 3% Black

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National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #1 Best Public Universities
  • #15 Best Undergraduate Engineering Program
  • #20 National Universities
  • #27 Most Innovative Schools
  • #76 Best Undergraduate Teaching

Independent Rankings:

  • #2 Top Public Colleges per Niche
  • #6 Best Value Colleges per Kiplinger
  • #17 World Universities per The Times of Higher Education
  • #20 Best Colleges for Business per Niche
  • #26 Best National Colleges per Money Magazine
  • #26 Best National Universities per The Wall Street Journal 
  • #36 Best Value Colleges per The Princeton Review

UCLA Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

  • Regular Decision: November 30th
  • Transfer Deadline: November 30th

Notification Dates:

  • Regular Decision: Mid-March
  • Transfer: Mid-April

Acceptance Rates:

  • RD: 12%
  • Transfer: 24%

Average Applicant Pool: 111,000

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 14,000

Average Number Enrolled: 6,000

Application Systems: Apply California

Average GPA: 3.9 unweighted

*Test blind.

SAT Scores: 25th% – 1280, 75th% – 1510

ACT Scores: 25th% – 27, 75th% – 34

*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.

Demonstrated Interest:

UCLA does not consider demonstrated interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies:

Letters of recommendation are not required, and UCLA asks that you not submit them. Some majors or programs may require them, but the standard application does not.

UCLA Essay Prompts:

  • Personal Statement (250-500 words) 
  • There are 8 prompts, select and answer 4 of them (350 words each). 
  • Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
  • 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.
  • What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
  • Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  • 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?
  • Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
  • What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  • 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?
  • UCLA Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

  • UCLA has specific admission requirements, consisting of classes which a student must have taken in highschool to be eligible to apply. These are a baseline minimum, and going above and beyond the requirements is recommended. 
  • The School of Arts and Architecture requires supplemental application materials, in addition to the standard application. 
  • The Samueli School of Engineering is more difficult to gain admission to, and has higher academic standards, although the application is the same. 
  • The School of Music has a supplemental application in addition to requiring the standard application. It further requires a portfolio and audition for some majors. 
  • The School of Theater, Film, and Television requires supplemental applications materials.
  • The School of Nursing requires supplemental application materials.


  • Transfer students are only admitted as juniors. 
  • Students are generally only evaluated for their first choice major, and must apply for a specific major.
  • Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.2, some majors have stricter requirements.
  • Students coming from California-based community colleges have additional resources available. The Transfer Alliance Program (TAP) gives a pathway for automatic acceptance for community college students.

UCLA Admission Strategy

Admissions Criteria:

The most important criteria is academic preparation. UCLA recalculates students’ GPAs without their freshman year grades. They also do not count grades from non-academic courses (such as band or gym) when calculating GPA. They do weigh the difficulty of courses, including APs, in their calculation. The average GPA for Letters and Science is 4.2, for Engineering its 4.3. A 3.4 GPA for non-California residents and a 3.0 GPA for residents is required to have the rest of your application considered.

Other factors which are very important are your essays and course rigor.


Factors which are important are: extracurriculars, work experience, volunteering, talent, and character.

Factors which are considered are: first generation status, geographic origin, and state residency.

Being a recruited athlete helps your chances of admission greatly, so long as you meet the academic minimums. Recruited athletes’ average GPAs are far below the general average.

What is UCLA Looking For?

UCLA uses an aggregate points added system to rate candidates, with points being added to the total rating for each category. They look for more well rounded candidates generally, as opposed to the Ivy League, although this does vary some by school. Students must meet academic minimums in order to be considered as candidates as a whole.

Every application which is considered is read at least twice before a decision is made, and many are read more than that. Beyond academic work, they want to see how a student spent their time outside of the classroom, and what their impact was on their school and the broader community they inhabit. They try to determine how the student will benefit and affect the community at UCLA based on their past actions.

Engineering has faculty involvement in the admissions process, and a much higher academic bar. They also like to see research experience and heavy involvement in STEM. Due to attempts to maintain fairly even gender ratios, women have a slightly easier time gaining admission to the school, as there are fewer female applicants overall, and thus a greater percentage is admitted.

Out-of-state students have a slightly higher acceptance rate than in-state students, but this is due to disparate application rates, and it is much harder for out of state students to gain admission generally. International students have a harder time than all domestic students.

UCLA Strategy:

Students applying to a specific major, especially in Engineering, should use one of their essays to discuss how they have already engaged with the major, and why they are interested in it. Evidence of past competence is seen as a marker for future potential.

While all UC schools are forbidden from considering race in college admissions, they do look at socio-economic status, and they want to recruit students who have succeeded academically in spite of hardships they have endured. If you have undergone hardship, you should definitely use the essay question on that topic to address it. This is especially true if hardship you have undergone has affected your academic performance. While it might not completely excuse poor grades, additional context is always helpful.

Leadership is one of the factors the school considers, and as one of the essay topics directly addresses this, if you have leadership experience, you should discuss it here. This is an easy way to add a few points to your application’s total.

Because applications are decided by school (and often by major), your application should reflect why you are a good candidate for the school and major you are applying to. Students applying to study in the sciences in the engineering school should have practical experience, ideally hands-on, in their chosen field. Letters and Sciences also offers many of the same majors, and has an easier acceptance rate, so students who wish to study the sciences but are not as confident about their application should apply there.

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UCLA Academics


Core Requirements:

  • Core requirements vary based on which school students are in. 
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Foundations of Society and Culture 
  • Foundations of Scientific Inquiry
  • Detailed Requirements

Courses of Study: 

  • 130 Majors Offered
  • Option to double major
  • Popular majors include Political Science, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, and Biology
  • Changing majors within a school requires permission from the department. Changing majors between schools is more difficult.
  • Minors Offered
  • Course Catalog

AP Credit Policies:

  • UCLA awards credit for scores of 3, 4, or 5 on most AP exams, and awards 2, 4, or 8 units of credit. They also accept IB exams. What scores are accepted varies by school. 
  • Comprehensive AP Credit Information

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

  • The College of Letters and Sciences has its own honors program; while the other schools do not currently have honors programs, students in the other colleges are allowed to take honors classes in the program. The program has its own admissions requirements. 
  • Departmental Honors (contact individual departments for more information)
  • Graduation Honors (Including Latin honors) based on cumulative GPA
  • Academic Honors Societies

Research Availability:

  • UCLA offers two tracks for undergraduates interested in research, one for sciences, and one for humanities and social sciences.

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • There is no official business school or program for undergrads, but the Business-Economics Major, offered by the Department of Economics, offers an introduction to the world of business.
  • Many students interested in business take classes in the Economics Department.

Pre-Med Options:

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • UCLA Summer Sessions offer students three ways to participate in activities on campus: immersion programs, academic courses, and pre-college summer institutes. Immersion programs offer students a chance to sample college life and coursework, academic courses allow talented high school students to take courses for credit at UCLA, and institutes allow students to explore their interests more deeply through coursework and research.

Student Life at UCLA

School Motto:  Let there be light

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: UCLA’s primary purpose as a public research university is the creation, dissemination, preservation and application of knowledge for the betterment of our global society. To fulfill this mission, UCLA is committed to academic freedom in its fullest terms: We value open access to information, free and lively debate conducted with mutual respect for individuals, and freedom from intolerance. In all of our pursuits, we strive at once for excellence and diversity, recognizing that openness and inclusion produce true quality.
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

Residential Housing System:

There are numerous dormitories on campus, clustered in a group known as “The Hill” which hosts more than 10,000 students. Students are guaranteed a room on campus for up to 3 years if they desire it. Students also live in Greek Life associated buildings and in apartments off campus.

Housing Statistics:

  • 92% of freshmen live on campus
  • 39% of students live on campus overall

Campus & Surrounding Area:  

  • Located in the Westwood neighborhood of LA, the campus is bordered by Sunset Boulevard, with Bel-Air to the North and Beverly Hills to the East. 
  • The campus is divided into North and South, bisected by Bruin Walk, which joins the residential hill to the main campus. 
  • North campus is older, with more traditional romanesque architecture, while South campus is done in a more modern, minimalist style.
  • UCLA is in a generally safe area, although minor thefts and scammers are present.
  • Virtual Tour


  • UCLA subsidizes transit passes, and supports various ways for students to get around campus and into the broader metro area. They have dedicated carpool and vanpool options, but do not guarantee students who drive parking passes, as parking on campus is extremely limited.
  • Parking Information


  • True Bruin Welcome New students are welcomed to campus with a week of events, parties, and activities.
  • Undie RunOn the Wednesday of finals week, students run across campus in their underwear.
  • Spring SingAn annual singing competition where students are allowed to compete.
  • JazzReggae FestivalA two day long festival held over Memorial Day weekend.

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 

  • 13% of students are involved in greek life, including social, service, and academic organizations.


  • The Westwood neighborhood is a common destination, as is the Santa Monica beach.
  • Fraternities and Sororities have parties most weekends.
  • Football games and other sporting events are common, as are activities put on by various student organizations.
  • Considered the #4 party school in California by Niche.

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $65,089
  • Tuition and Fees: $13,239 (+ $29,754 non-resident fee)
  • Room & Board: $16,104
  • Books: $1,314
  • Personal Expenses: $1,422
  • Health Insurance: $2,668

Financial Aid:

All students who apply must complete the Free Application for Federal Student AId (FAFSA), to be considered for aid. Most scholarships and aid are based on financial need, although some are merit based. Priority for funding goes to students who submit applications before June 30th each year.

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


  • There are a number of more selective scholarships, open to students who meet certain criteria. Students must fill out a form on the Apply California site when applying to determine which of these scholarships they are eligible for. Many students change their residency status to California residents in order to qualify for additional scholarships and aid.

Fun Facts

  • The first message sent over the internet was sent from UCLA. It was”LO” (it was supposed to be “login” but the network crashed).
  • Dozens of films and TV shows have been shot on campus, including Legally Blonde and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 
  • UCLA’s school colors are slightly different shades from the rest of the UCs. 
  • Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451 was written in the basement of Powell Library. 
  • The victory bell awarded to the winner of the USC-UCLA game is a tradition which started when USC students stole UCLA’s 295lb bell in 1941. 
  • UCLA will host the wrestling and judo events at the 2028 summer olympics. 
  • UCLA student-athletes have won gold in every olympics since 1932. 
  • UCLA has won 118 NCAA team championships, the second most in the nation. 
  • Notable alumni include composer John Williams, and actors Sean Astin, James Franco, Ben Stiller, and George Takei.
Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

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Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

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In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

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