The Ivy Scholars guide to UNC’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Mascot: Rameses the Ram
Type: Public Research Institution
Population: 30,000 (19,000 undergrads)
Among the nation’s oldest and most prestigious state universities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only public institution to grant a degree in the 18th century. With a strong program of academics, a proud athletic tradition, and a commitment to research, UNC is one of the South’s preeminent institutions.
Year Founded: 1789
4-Year Graduation Rate: 81%
Gender Distribution: 58% female, 42% male
Acceptance Rate: 24%
Residency: 85% in state, 10% out of state, 5% international
Location Type: College Town
Schedule System: Semesters
Student/Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Average Class Size: 20
Demographics: 62% Caucasian, 11% Asian, 11% Other or Unknown, 8% Black, 8% Hispanic
US News Rankings:
Average Applicant Pool: 39,700
Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 9,700
Average Number Enrolled: 4,400
Application Systems: Common App
Average GPA: 3.83 weighted
SAT Scores: 25th% – 1450, 75th% – 1560
ACT Scores: 25th% – 33, 75th% – 35
*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.
UNC does not consider demonstrated interest.
Recommendation Letter Policies:
One recommendation from a counselor and one from a teacher in an academic subject are required.
UNC Chapel Hill Essay Prompts:
The criteria the school considers very important are: course rigor, test scores, essays, extracurriculars, recommendations, talent, character, and state residency.
The criteria the school considers important are: GPA, class rank, and volunteering.
The criteria which are considered are: legacy status, first-generation status, and race/ethnicity. Chapel Hill considers legacy status more than most other state schools, and around 17% of students are legacies. This does not mean admission is automatic for legacies, but it is a leg up.
Recruited athletes do have an advantage in admission, although this does depend on level of talent and how heavily they are recruited.
What is Chapel Hill Looking For?
The school uses holistic admissions, and every application is read and considered in full before a choice is made on it. They have no automatic cutoffs or thresholds for grades or test scores which will cause automatic acceptance or rejection, although it is much harder to get in with poor academic performance. They discuss this admissions philosophy here on their website.
They are looking for smart, motivated, and curious students, who will both benefit from and add to the community at the school. They want students who will succeed and contribute both in and outside the classroom, and stellar academics alone are not enough to gain admission. That said, 41% of in-state students who apply were accepted last year, while only 13% of out of state students were.
Out of state students are capped at 18% of the student body by law in North Carolina, thus leaving the school very little flexibility in admitting out of state students. It is therefore much easier to gain admission for in-state students, although they are still held to the same academic standards. The school also attempts to ensure students from around the state are admitted, meaning it is easier for students from less inhabited counties than those from more urban areas.
The school has an ongoing commitment to increase the number of low-income students admitted, both via recruitment and new scholarship initiatives. Race and socio-economic status are both considered when admissions decisions are made, although neither is generally the deciding factor. They also have a new commitment to enrolling and supporting veterans or their dependents.
Chapel Hill Strategy:
For in state students, ensuring you are one of the top students in your school is very helpful for your application chances. The school does compete with elite schools around the country for the best students from North Carolina, and their 41% yield rate reflects that. Being a competitive applicant to top colleges generally and a resident of the state makes your chances of admission much higher.
For out of state students, it is much more difficult, but not impossible, to gain admission to the school. Only one letter of recommendation from a teacher is accepted, so if you are requesting letters from multiple teachers, carefully select which one will provide the best view of you as a student and a person. They want to see who you are in a classroom, and what your impact is, in order to understand academic success and potential.
For the essays, authenticity is one of the traits they look for most. The essay should sound like you, and be unique enough to not get lost in the crowd of other essays. The more personal and less generic the essay is, the better it will be received.
Recruited athletes have the best chance of out of state students, but this is a small demographic generally, and only students who truly excel in a sport should consider this a viable approach.
Courses of Study:
AP Credit Policies:
Computer Science Options:
Additional Specialty Programs:
Programs for High Schoolers:
School Motto: Light and Liberty
Mission and Values:
Residential Housing System:
There are 32 residence halls across campus, which are grouped into 15 communities. First years are required to live in first-year-experience halls. Upperclassmen may choose from a variety of halls or living learning communities, which focus on various academic or social aspects. There is some apartment style housing available to upperclassmen as well.
Campus & Surrounding Area:
Yearly Cost of Attendance:
Around 47% of students receive financial aid, with the average award being $19,000. Students are required to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS profile to be considered for aid. While financial aid applications will not be processed until after a student is admitted, they recommend starting early. All incoming students are automatically considered for need-based grants.
Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information
There are additional merit based scholarships available, some of which require additional applications. These include the Morehead-Cain and Robertson scholarships. The school also accepts outside scholarships, and offers work-study opportunities to help students cover personal expenses.