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Molly Kiefer

UCSB Admissions: The SAT, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get In

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Type UCSB into Google Images, and you’ll see immediately why the University of California, Santa Barbara is consistently ranked one of the most beautiful colleges in the nation. I mean, just look at the header on this blog post–you’re basically having class on the beach!

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Located 100 miles north of Los Angeles, University of California, Santa Barbara sits atop the Santa Barbara cliffs, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But there’s a lot more to UCSB than the sun and sand.

UC Santa Barbara is divided into three colleges and two professional schools: the College of Letters & Science, the College of Engineering, the College of Creative Studies, the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, and the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. So you have a lot to choose from!

One of the ten major campuses affiliated with the University of California, UCSB is currently ranked as the 8th best public school in the nation and offers its students a high level education for an amazing value (especially if you’re a California resident).

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Before we dive into a thorough discussion of just exactly how you can make Santa Barbara your home, let’s take a quick look at some UCSB admissions statistics. You can also read more about how to get into UCSB here!

UCSB Quick Admissions Statistics (For the Class of 2021)

UCSB SAT scores (average composite score of admitted students)
1210 - 1450 out of 1600 (middle 50% of students accepted)
UCSB ACT scores (average composite score of admitted students)
28 - 33 (middle 50% of students accepted)
3.96 - 4.25 (middle 50% of students accepted)
UCSB Acceptance Rate


First and foremost, here are a few things you should know if you plan to take the SAT and submit your scores to UCSB:

  • UCSB requires that all applicants submit SAT scores take the SAT with Essay.
  • UCSB does not require SAT subject tests, but certain programs recommend taking particular tests to satisfy prerequisite requirements or generally strengthen your application. (For example, the College of Engineering recommends that all applicants take the Math Level 2 subject test.)
  • UCSB does not “superscore” the SAT scores you submit, meaning that–unlike many schools–they will not take the highest scores across all sections across for all testing date scores submitted. Instead, you will have to choose the scores from a single testing date to send in.

So then, what do you actually need to score on your SAT to have a good shot at admission to UCSB?

Historically, the average SAT score of students admitted to UCSB is about 1330.

More specifically:

  • The 25th percentile of UCSB SAT scores is 1210
  • The 75th percentile of UCSB SAT scores is 1450

What does this mean? Well, since the average UCSB SAT score is 1330, if you score lower than 1330 that places you below average compared to other students applying to UCSB. A 1450 will put you above average compared to other applicants. We recommend shooting for that 75% mark and taking the SAT as many times as necessary to get there.

The breakdown for each of the SAT sections are as follows:

Math600 - 750
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing610 - 700
Essay15 - 19

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Here are important some things to know about submitting your ACT scores to UCSB:

  • The Writing portion of the ACT is required.
  • UCSB does not superscore the ACT either, but they will take your highest composite ACT score of all testing dates.

For an excellent chance of getting accepted to UCSB, you’ll want to aim for 33 or higher.

The average ACT score UCSB admitted students is 30, with percentile distribution as follows:

  • The 25th percentile of UCSB ACT scores is 28
  • The 75th percentile of UCSB ACT scores is 33

This means if you score a 28 or below, you’ll placing yourself below average compared the other applicants. A 33 or above and you’re looking good! Again, we recommend taking the ACT as many times as you need to in order to snag that 33.

Liam got a 35 on the act. Get a higher act score.

UCSB GPA Average

The average GPA of students admitted to UCSB is 4.1, which means you’ll want to be performing well in honors, AP, and IB classes to get that extra grade point boost.

Depending on how your school calculates your GPA, high grades in these types of classes can really bump up your overall GPA.

UCSB also has a minimum GPA requirement: 3.0 for California residents and 3.4 for non-residents. However, this GPA is calculated only from certain courses, and only if you took those courses during your sophomore or junior years.

Obviously this isn’t an excuse to slack off your freshman and senior years–but it does give you a little breathing room if you got off to a bumpy start at the beginning of high school.

UCSB Acceptance Rate

UCSB received 81,828 undergraduate applications this year, and admitted 26,879 students. Therefore the UCSB admissions rate is 32.8%.

However, the admissions rate for California residents was more than double that, clocking in at 69.0%. Good news for high schoolers from the Golden State!

UCSB Freshman Profile

The University of Santa Barbara publicly releases some very interesting information on the undergraduate student body. Here are some of the facts and figure about this year’s current freshman class:

Asian, Asian-American, Pacific Islander28%
Black/African American5%
Native American, American Indian,
Native Alaskan, or Native Hawaiian
First Generation42%
California Residents88%
Out of State Residents4%
International Students8%


Check out these FAQs about UCSB undergraduate admissions for more in-depth answers to all your burning questions, but here some of the greatest hits:

How do I transfer to UCSB?

The UCSB Admissions website provides key information for Transfer Applicants.

How does UCSB determine California residency?

This is a tricky one, because UCSB’s definition of residency varies between offices (for example, the admission office and the financial aid office).

However, residency information from these offices is not used to determine residency for tuition purposes–which is probably the kind of residency you’re interested in.

To be considered a California resident, you must:

  • 1) Be continuously physically present in California for more than one year (366 days) immediately prior to the residence determination date of the term for which you request resident status.
  • 2) Prove you have been financially independence from out-of-state parents for at least two years prior to the residence determination date.
  • 3) Be a US citizen or permanent resident of the United States or hold a valid, qualifying nonimmigrant visa.

Where can I find the General Course Catalog?

Right here!!

How to Get Into UCSB

The most important thing to remember about getting into UCSB is that no single portion of the application will be strong enough to carry you through the admissions process all on its own; your application needs to be holistically compelling and should demonstrate that you are a well-rounded candidate.

“Do your best to be involved with a good number of organizations, athletics or clubs in high school. UCSB is a diverse campus full of well-rounded, involved students, and showing that you’re one too will boost your chances. Don’t let that intimidate you–you don’t have to be the president of 6 clubs and a 4-year Varsity athlete AND Valedictorian to be considered a well-rounded student. In my own experience, I chose two or three extracurriculars and sports to focus in on and become the best I could be in those activities while also working hard in my academics. In other words, it’s better to show you can be consistent and committed to something than doing 10 million things.” — evongerichten, AdmitSee

So, let’s recap! Here’s your “How To Get Into UCSB” Checklist…You’ll need:

  • A 1450 or higher on your SAT
  • A 33 or higher on your ACT
  • A 4.1 or higher GPA (but literally a 3.0/3.4 or higher if you’re in-state/out-of-state)
  • A’s in plenty of challenging AP, IB, or honors courses
  • Strong letters of recommendation
  • Extracurriculars that demonstrate your passions
  • An engaging application essay

Since your ACT and/or SAT scores play such a large role in your application, you should definitely start studying as early as possible!

Check out this 1-week SAT free trial as well as a great 1-week ACT free trial to get you started.

Good luck! 🙂

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Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

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About Molly Kiefer

Molly completed her undergraduate degree in Philosophy at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She has been tutoring the SAT, GRE, and LSAT since 2014, and loves supporting her students as they work towards their academic goals. When she’s not tutoring or blogging, Molly takes long walks, makes art, and studies ethics. Molly currently lives in Northern California with her cat, who is more popular on Instagram than she is.

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