University of California San Diego

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


San Diego, CA


Private Research Institution

Acceptance Rate:



39,000 (31,000 undergrads)

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Dates + Deadlines


Schools +Colleges
Core Requirements
Special Programs

Student Life

Campus + Area
Student Orgs + Athletics


Financial Aid

About UCSD

Lying just minutes from the beach in Southern California, UCSD was founded with the intention of being a premier research institution, and it continues that lofty tradition today. With a college system based on the Oxford model, UCSD is unique in the UC system, offering a college experience dissimilar to them in culture and traditions, while maintaining a strong academic presence.

The Geisel Library at UCSD at night time with lights

UCSD Statistics

Year Founded


4 Year Graduation Rate:


Gender Distribution

52% male / 48% female

Acceptance Rate:


Location Type:


Schedule System:


Student / Faculty Ratio:


Average Class Size:



Need assistance with the college admissions process?

National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #10 Best Public Universities
  • #20 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
  • #21 Top Performers on Social Mobility
  • #37 National Universities
  • #77 Most Innovative Schools

Independent Rankings:

  • #9 Best National Colleges per Money magazine
  • #31 Global Universities per The Times of Higher Education
  • #37 Best National Colleges per The Wall Street Journal
  • #39 Best Value Colleges per The Princeton Review
  • #79 Best National Colleges per Forbes

UCSD Admissions

Application Deadlines:
Notifcation Dates:
Regular Decision

Nov. 30

Regular Decision:


Transfer Deadline:

Nov. 30​



Acceptance Rates:

  • Regular Decision: 30%
  • Transfer: 54%

Average Applicant Pool: 90,000

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 30,000

Average Number Enrolled: 5,000

Application Systems: Apply California

Average GPA (weighted):


SAT Scores: 25th% – 1280, 75th% – 1460

ACT Scores: 25th% – 27, 75th% – 33

*Test blind.

Demonstrated Interest:

UCSD does not consider demonstrated interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies:

Letters of recommendation are not required, and UCSD asks that you not submit them.

UCSD 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?

UCSD Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

  • UCSD has specific admission requirements, consisting of classes which a student must have taken in high school to be eligible to apply. These are a baseline minimum, and going above and beyond the requirements is recommended.
  • Choice of college has no impact on which majors you can select. The colleges are divided by their general education requirements and culture. When applying, a student ranks the 6 colleges in order of preference, which college they apply to has no impact on admissions.
  • Prospective engineering or biological sciences majors are recommended to submit 2 SAT subject test scores related to their desired major.
  • Some majors are capped, and limit the number of students they will admit.


  • Transfer students must enroll as juniors, 32% of students are transfer students. 
  • There are specific coursework requirements for students to be eligible to transfer. Some majors have additional requirements.
  • Transfer students have their own set of personal insight questions to answer.
  • Students applying to Music, Theatre & Dance, or Visual Arts may submit an optional portfolio as part of their application.

UCSD Academics

Score of 3-5

Required to earn credit for AP tests


Majors Offered


Schools within the university


Core Requirements:

  • Core requirements vary based on which college students are in, although all students are required to take some core classes.
  • Detailed Requirements

Courses of Study: 

AP Credit Policies:

  • UCSD 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 college. 
  • Comprehensive AP Credit Information

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

Most of UCSD's colleges have their own options for honors.

Research Availability:

  • UCSD offers numerous opportunities for undergraduate research.

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

Pre-Med Options:

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • Pre-College programs offer classes and research opportunities for students, where they can learn from faculty and conduct research in a variety of fields, guided by graduate students and faculty.
  • Research Experience for High School Students (REHS) offers high-achieving students a chance to conduct research with guidance from a mentor on campus during the summer.

Student Life at UCSD




of students participate in Greek life


of students live on campus

School Motto: Let there be light

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: UC San Diego is transforming California and a diverse global society by educating, by generating and disseminating knowledge and creative works, and by engaging in public service.
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

Each of the undergraduate colleges at UCSD has its own residential system, so students in the same college will reside together.

Residential Housing System:

Each of the undergraduate colleges at UCSD has its own residential system, so students in the same college will reside together. First year students live in residence halls, while upperclassmen usually reside in student apartments. UCSD offers two years of guaranteed housing to incoming students.

Housing Statistics:


of freshmen live on campus.


of students live on campus overall.

Campus & Surrounding Area:  

  • Located in La Jolla in San Diego, the main campus centers on Geisel library, with the residential colleges surrounding it. 
  • Campus architecture mixes many styles, mostly modernist or brutalist. 
  • The medical center and some student apartments are separated from the rest of campus by the San Diego freeway, which bisects the campus. 
  • UCSD has been ranked as the 71st safest campus in the country.
  • Virtual Tour


  • UCSD runs a shuttle service for free for students and faculty, which connects campus and places in the surrounding city.
  • UCSD also provides the U-Pass which allows students to ride on public transit within San Diego for free.
  • Parking Information


  • Welcome Week New students are welcomed to campus with a week of events, parties, and activities.
  • HullabalooAn annual music festival held on campus each November.
  • Sun God FestivalA day-long art and music festival held every May in the 7th week of Spring Quarter.
  • Watermelon DropA highly ritualized party near the end of Spring Quarter.

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 

  • 11% of students are involved in greek life, including social, service, and academic organizations.


  • Students have many options, both on and off campus, including games, bars and restaurants, and on-campus activities.
  • The Che Cafe holds frequent live musical performances.
  • Downtown San Diego is a popular destination with students.

UCSD Financials

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $62,124
  • Tuition and Fees: $14,480 (+29,754 non-resident fee)
  • Room & Board: $14,680
  • Books: $1,124
  • Personal Expenses: $1,363
  • Transportation: $723

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. UCSD is unable to provide grants or scholarships for non-California residents.

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 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.

UCSD Fun Facts

  • UCSD was originally intended to be a research oriented university, aimed at graduate students alone. 
  • Herbert Marcuse, professor and philosopher, was the first protestor to occupy the administration during a protest organized by one of his students. 
  • There are around 220,000 Eucalyptus trees on campus.
  • UCSD is built on top of two former military bases, Camp Matthews and Camp Callan. 
  • UCSD is considered the top surfing school in the nation. 
  • Notable alumni include show creator Mike Judge and Oakland Athletics owner Billy Beane.

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