University of Virginia Guide

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

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia

Mascot: Cavalier

Type: Public Research Institution

Population: 24,500 (16,500 undergrads)

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About the University of Virginia

Founded by Thomas Jefferson, who was also the primary designer for its 1,135 acre campus, the University of Virginia was founded as an institute for the pursuit of knowledge alone, based on Thomas Jefferson’s principles of lifelong learning and love of knowledge. The university today works to continue this vision, while grappling with the mixed legacy of Jefferson. It’s picturesque campus has served as an inspiration for the design of numerous other universities; in the US and abroad.

University of Virginia Statistics

Year Founded: 1819

4 Year Graduation Rate: 87%

Gender Distribution: 55% female, 45% male

Acceptance Rate: 27%

Residency: 70% in state, 25% out of state, 5% international

Location Type: College Town

Schedule System: Semesters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 15:1

Average Class Size: 17

Demographics: 60% Caucasian, 14% Asian, 12% Other, 7% Hispanic, 7% Black

Need assistance with the college admissions process?

National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #4 Top Public Schools
  • #8 Business Program
  • #23 Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #28 National Universities
  • #32 Best Value Schools
  • #39 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
  • #72 Most Innovative Schools

Independent Rankings:

  • #4 Public Universities per Kiplinger
  • #6 Best Alumni Network per The Princeton Review
  • #7 Public Universities per Money magazine
  • #12 Best Value Colleges per The Princeton Review
  • #19 Best College Library per The Princeton Review
  • #50 National Colleges per The Times of Higher Education

UVA Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

  • Early Action: November 1st
  • Early Decision: October 15th
  • Regular Decision: January 1st
  • Transfer Deadline: March 1st

Notification Dates:

  • Early Action: Mid-February
  • Early Decision: Mid-December
  • Regular Decision: April 1st

Acceptance Rates:

  • EA: 26%
  • ED: 35% 
  • RD: 23%
  • Transfer: 235

Average Applicant Pool: 36,800

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 10,000

Average Number Enrolled: 3,800

Application Systems: Common App

Average GPA: 4.32 weighted

SAT Scores: 25th% – 1370, 75th% – 1530

ACT Scores: 25th% – 29, 75th% – 33

*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.

Demonstrated Interest: UVA does not consider demonstrated interest.

How to demonstrate interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies: One letter from a counselor and one from a teacher of a core academic subject.

University of Virginia Essay Prompts:

  • Common App Personal Statement (650 words)
  • 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 healthcare-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 (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.

UVA Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

  • Students must commit to a specific college when applying.
  • Students who are applying to major in the arts are encouraged to submit a portfolio as part of their application. This is not required, but is recommended.
  • Students who are applying to the architecture program have the option to submit a portfolio. While this may be up to 10 pages, the school recommends only submitting the best pieces.
  • Entering highschoolers may only apply to the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, Education, or Architecture. The other programs can only be transferred into once you are in the school.


  • Students must have completed a full year of coursework before transferring to UVA. Students may not transfer after their third year. Transfer students must live on campus for two years.
  • High school students in dual enrollment or taking college classes do not count as transfers.
  • Each school has its own transfer course requirements.
  • Students in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) can earn guaranteed transfer admission if they meet designated academic benchmarks.

UVA Admission Strategy

Admissions Criteria: 

UVA considers the following factors very important: course rigor, class rank, GPA, recommendations, character, and state residency. Important factors are test scores, essays, extracurriculars, and talent.

In-state applications are more likely to be accepted by UVA, and the majority of the student body is from Virginia. That is not to say Virginia residents will automatically gain access, but their admissions rate is near double that of out-of-states students (in 2019-2020 35% of in-state EA students were admitted, while only 15% of out-of-state students were). This is due to Virginia law requiring two-thirds of each entering class to be made up of Virginia residents.

UVA also practices additional review, where students meeting certain criteria will have their applications looked at a second time. These students are: legacy admits, development cases, first generation students, athletic recruits, children of faculty members, and candidates for the ROTC. Recruited athletes do generally have a slightly easier time getting admitted overall, though they must still have competitive profiles.

What is UVA Looking For?

UVA practices holistic review, and has no automatic cutoff where students below certain GPA levels or test scores are automatically rejected. Every applicant’s file is read in full, multiple times, before a decision is reached. That said, having very low grades or test scores makes your chances of admission increasingly unlikely. 

UVA seeks to recruit top-performing students, both from within Virginia and nationally. Further, they want students who will fit with the ideals and vision of the university, especially the honor code. Indeed, when students apply to the school they must acknowledge that they have read the honor code and pledge to abide by it if they are admitted.

UVA has begun a new initiative to increase recruitment and support of low and middle-income students, along with first generation students. This includes increases in scholarship funding, and a renewed pledge to meet all demonstrated financial need.UVA is also need blind, meaning they do not factor a student’s financial need into their admissions decision.

The school is further planning a new school for Data Science, and are actively looking for graduate students for the program. They plan to add both an undergraduate degree and certificate program once the school is established. They will be looking for talented students to fill the first class of this school.

UVA Strategy: 

While UVA does not conduct interviews or consider demonstrated interest, they began an Early Decision program in 2019. Thus, if UVA is your first choice school, this program will be a great help to you, as the binding commitment will make them consider students who they might pass over in EA pools. This will make EA admissions more competitive, however.

Admission to UVA is much easier if you are a resident of Virginia, financial aid is better for in-state residents as well. Out of state residents who are unable to apply early should have some method of setting themselves apart, either through extracurriculars or other means.

UVA is described by some as “predictable” in their admissions process. While this designation may change as they adjust to ED applicants, in practice it means that students with high grades in challenging classes and high test scores have a very good chance of getting admitted so long as they don’t tank on another section of the application. Thus, the first and most important step to securing admissions to UVA is to ensure your grades and test scores are on par with what they expect. 

The essays are important as well, for they are used to determine whether or not prospective students will fit in with UVA’s culture and values. UVA is an old institution, with long standing customs and a well established culture, and they want to continue nurturing that with each new class of students. Essays, especially the school-specific ones, demonstrate to UVA that a student is compatible with their vision, as well as able to write at the collegiate level.

UVA is very proud of and devoted to their traditions, especially their honor system. Make sure you know what you are signing up for and that you agree with the principles of the honor system before deciding to attend school at UVA.

UVA Academics



Core Requirements:

  • Only the College of Arts and Sciences has General Education requirements. Students may take either the engagements path (8 credits engagements, 21 credits disciplines, variable credits literacies)  or the disciplines plus pathway (30 credits disciplines, variable credits literacies). 
  • Comprehensive Degree Requirement Information

Courses of Study: 

AP Credit Policies:

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

Research Availability:

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • The McIntire School of Business has an undergraduate program, which grants a BS in commerce. Students may only apply to this program in their second year of school at UVA, or as transfer students.
  • Students not in the major may take one of the minors offered; either leadership or entrepreneurship. Students do not need to apply to the business school to take the minors.
  • The program offers career support for both undergraduates and graduate students.

Pre-Med Options:

  • While UVA does not have a dedicated pre-med major, they do have a set recommendation of courses for students interested in pursuing a career in medicine. 
  • Pre-Health Advising

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

  • The School of Engineering hosts the Department of Computer Science, which offers either a BA or a BS in CS. The BA is offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, though the department is in Engineering overall.
  • There is a further BS in Computer Engineering offered, administered jointly by two departments (Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science).
  • There is an optional Cybersecurity Focal Path, for students with an interest in the field. It has additional required classes, but grants the same degree.

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

ams for High Schoolers:

Student Life at UVA

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: The University of Virginia is a public institution of higher learning guided by a founding vision of discovery, innovation, and development of the full potential of talented students from all walks of life. It serves the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world by developing responsible citizen leaders and professionals; advancing, preserving, and disseminating knowledge; and providing world-class patient care.
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

House System:

UVA has both traditional dormitories, and three residential colleges. The residential colleges have their own application systems, and admission is decided on by current residents. The traditional dorms are commonly called the “old dorms” and the “new dorms.” 54 4th year undergraduates are invited to live on “The Lawn” each year, and it is considered a great honor. This building is near the center of campus, and a number of professors live there as well.

Housing Statistics:

  • 99% of freshmen live on campus
  • 30% of undergraduates live in on-campus housing at any given time

Campus & Surrounding Area:  



  • The Honor CommitteeA student-run committee which enforces the school’s traditional code of honor. 
  • Lighting of the LawnThe lawn is covered in lights and illuminated in a celebration in December. 
  • Third Year CeremonyThird year students gather in a spring ceremony and put on class rings.
  • WahoosThe school’s unofficial mascot/nickname, based on their cheer of wa-hoo-wa.

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 

30% of the student body is involved in greek life, including social, service, and academic organizations.


  • Charlottesville has a vibrant nightlife scene, with many bars, restaurants, and shows. 
  • #1 Party School in Virginia per Niche
  • Was named the #1 party school nationally in 2012 by Playboy
  • There are many frat and apartment parties on and near campus, and tailgating for games is tradition.

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $68,610
  • Tuition: $48,036
  • Fees: $3,798
  • Room & Board: $12,150
  • Books: $1,356
  • Personal Expenses: $2,568
  • Note: The cost of tuition can vary by college and year.

Financial Aid:

UVA has programs to provide need-based financial aid, and it requires students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be considered for eligibility. Some merit scholarships and outside aid are available. 

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


Scholarships are awarded to students primarily on the basis of outstanding achievement. There are a number of privately endowed need-based scholarships available. There are a number of more selective scholarships open to students who meet specific criteria. None of the scholarships require separate applications; students are entered for consideration when they apply. As funds are limited, students who apply earlier have a better chance of receiving funding.

Fun Facts

  • The Honor system was created in 1842, after a professor was shot to death trying to break up a conflict between students on the Lawn. 
  • The Rotunda burned down in 1895 due to an electrical fire. Students saved a life-sized likeness of Thomas Jefferson carved from marble, along with some books from the blaze. William Echols attempted to put out the blaze by throwing 100lbs of dynamite onto it. This did not work, and further damaged the building. They still named an honors program after him. 
  • Three presidents (Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe) were involved in the planning of the college. 
  • 1,481 Confederate army officers were alumni of UVA. 
  • UVA has the only US college grounds to be named a World Heritage Site. 
  • Notable alumni include Woodrow Wilson, Robert Mueller, Robert F. Kennedy, Edgar Allen Poe, and Tina Fey.
  • 8 alumni have gone on to be astronauts.
Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

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