UNC Chapel Hill Guide

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)

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About UNC Chapel Hill

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.

UNC Chapel Hill Statistics

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

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National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #5 Top Public Schools
  • #8 Undergraduate Business Program
  • #10 Best Value Schools
  • #29 National Universities
  • #42 Undergraduate Research
  • #61 Best Undergraduate Business Programs
  • #63 Most Innovative Schools

Independent Rankings:

  • #8 Public Colleges per Forbes
  • #13 Best College Newspaper per The Princeton Review
  • #19 Best Value Colleges per Forbes
  • #21 Best Value Colleges per The Princeton Review
  • #33 National Universities per The Times of Higher Education
  • #45 Top Colleges per Forbes
  • #54 World Universities per The Times of Higher Education

UNC Chapel Hill Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

  • Early Action: October 15th
  • Regular Decision: January 15th
  • Transfer Deadline: February 15th

Notification Dates:

  • Early Action: End of January
  • Regular Decision: End of March
  • Transfer Deadline: End of April

Acceptance Rates:

  • EA: 24%
  • RD: 24% 
  • Transfer: 34%

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.

Demonstrated Interest:

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:

  • Common App Personal Statement (650 words)
  • Choose two of the following to respond to: (200-250 words)
    • Expand on an aspect of your identity  – for example, your religion, culture, race, sexual or gender identity, affinity group, etc. How has this aspect of your identity shaped your life experiences thus far?
    • If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be and why?
    • Describe someone who you see as a community builder. What actions has that person taken? How has their work made a difference in your life?

UNC Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

  • Students applying as Music or Dramatic Arts majors are required to audition.
  • State law requires at least 82% of each year’s admitted class be from North Carolina.
  • Students choose and apply to their major after their first year, including applications to schools beyond the college. All schools beyond the college may only be applied to by transfer students or current UNC students.


  • Around 800 transfer students are admitted each year, and must enter as juniors or seniors.
  • Students must use the Common App.
  • Transfer students must submit official transcripts from high school and every college attended. They must answer the same short answer prompts as first-year applicants.
  • The school does request standardized test scores. They also require one letter of recommendation, although they will allow for an additional one to be included.
  • The school does not offer interviews.
  • Professional Schools have additional transfer requirements.

UNC Chapel Hill Admission Strategy

Admissions Criteria:

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.

UNC Chapel Hill Academics


Core Requirements:

Courses of Study: 

  • 71 Majors Offered
  • Option to double major
  • Popular majors include Communications, Biology, Psychology, Economics, and Health & Physical Education
  • Changing a major within a school is relatively simple, changing majors into a different school requires applying to that school, and may be contingent upon being able to meet all graduation requirements in time.
  • Minors Offered
  • Course Catalog

AP Credit Policies:

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

  • Honors Carolina All incoming students are automatically considered for the honors program with no additional information needed, while current students are able to apply to join the program. The program allows access to honors classes, seminars, and research and mentorship opportunities, plus graduation honors.
  • Departmental Honors (contact individual departments for more information).
  • Graduation Honors Students may earn distinction or highest distinction based on GPA
  • Academic Honors Societies

Research Availability:

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • The business school offers a single major, but students may choose up to two areas of emphasis within that to explore fields of business that interest them.
  • There is also a minor, which is open to students who are not in the business school but wish to pursue business.

Pre-Med Options:

  • While there is no dedicated pre-med major, the majors offered by the School of Public Health try to prepare their students for medical or other professional schools. Students may also major in various scientific fields.
  • Pre-Health Advising

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • Summer School allows high school students to apply for and take courses at UNC during their Summer term.
  • Summer Enrichment Institutes are short programs which allow students to experience what life is like at UNC.
  • Summerfuel is a pre-college program which prepares high school students for the transition to college life.

Student Life at UNC Chapel Hill

School Motto: Light and Liberty

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: Our mission is to serve as a center for research, scholarship, and creativity and to teach a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to become the next generation of leaders. Through the efforts of our exceptional faculty and staff, and with generous support from North Carolina’s citizens, we invest our knowledge and resources to enhance access to learning and to foster the success and prosperity of each rising generation. We also extend knowledge-based services and other resources of the University to the citizens of North Carolina and their institutions to enhance the quality of life for all people in the State.
  • Values: Boldness, Excellence, Responsibility, Service, Relationships, Diversity, Leverage, and Improvement
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials: (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

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.

Housing Statistics:

  • 94% of freshmen live on campus
  • 46% of undergraduates live on campus at any given time.

Campus & Surrounding Area:  



  • Rushing Franklin – Students rush onto Franklin street in a joyous mob to celebrate sporting victories, often starting bonfires as well.
  • Dance Marathon – A 24 hour no-sitting no-sleeping marathon held every Spring in order to raise money for a children’s hospital.
  • Old Well Magic – Legend states that drinking from the old well before your first class of the year will bring good luck, and even a 4.0.
  • Arts Everywhere Day – One day in Spring campus is filled with art installations, performances by more than 60 student groups, and interactive art activities.

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 

  • 18% of undergraduates participate in greek life, including social, academic, and service organizations.


  • There’s frequent live music in town.
  • The town of Chapel Hill has a small but vibrant nightlife scene, and many bars and restaurants
  • Sporting events are also social events, with tail-gating and afterparties being quite common. 
  • Frat and apartment parties are a common weekend occurrence, although Chapel Hill isn’t as prominent a party school as some state schools.

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $51,970
  • Tuition and Fees: $36,000
  • Room & Board: $11,526
  • Books: $972
  • Personal Expenses: $3,472

Financial Aid:

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.

Fun Facts

  • The first dormitory in the US was built at UNC in 1795.
  • UNC was the first publicly chartered university under the US constitution, was the first state-sponsored university, and is one of three universities claiming to be the oldest public university in the US.
  • The university was forced to close during reconstruction due to the number of casualties suffered during the Civil War among the student body and the town of Chapel Hill.
  • The university’s honor code for academic violations is entirely student run and adjudicated.
  • The ram mascot, named Rameses, dates back to 1924, when a student brought a ram to a football game, and the kicker rubbed its head for luck before kicking the winning field goal.
  • The school keeps changing their main rival, as the fortunes of their rival schools change. It has been Duke, UVA, and NC State.
  • President Jame Polk and 13th Vice President William King both graduated from the school.
  • Notable alumni include Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm.
Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

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