How to Get into UC Santa Cruz: Admission Requirements, GPA, and More

glass covered mchenry library at uc santa cruz

What will you find at the University of California-Santa Cruz? Gorgeous hiking trails, recreational vehicles, and top-notch professors, to name just three benefits! If you’re ready to explore these opportunities, read on for a closer look at how to get into UC Santa Cruz: everything from UCSC admissions to their SAT and ACT scores policy!


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Quick UC Santa Cruz Admissions Statistics

Wondering how to get into UC Santa Cruz and just want the facts? Here’s a quick rundown of the admissions data you’ll need!

UC Santa Cruz admissions rate 52%
UC Santa Cruz SAT scores (middle 50%)1200 - 1450
UC Santa Cruz ACT scores (middle 50%)24 - 30
UC Santa Cruz GPA average (middle 50%)3.76 - 4.16

Of course, that isn’t the whole picture for prospective students. For example, average SAT and average ACT scores will be a lot less useful in coming years than your average GPA! Read on for more about UC Santa Cruz admissions.

Before we dive into UC Santa Cruz test scores, know that UC admissions has announced that, they will be going test-blind for fall 2021 admission. They will not look at your SAT or ACT scores for admission purposes. Keep an eye out on our post about test-optional schools and policies to stay updated.
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More About UC Santa Cruz SAT Scores

If you’ve already taken the test and are wondering if your SAT scores are up to scratch compared to current students at UCSC, or if you’re considering applying to UCSC in a few years and want to make sure you have all of your bases covered, it can be useful to look at records of UC Santa Cruz SAT and ACT scores.

Even if you’re applying for admission in fall of 2021, good SAT or ACT scores can definitely still help you with things like course placement and even scholarships (though not the UC Regents and Chancellor’s scholarships, which are now also test-blind). However, they will not be an admissions factor.

If you’re wondering how these scores came into play historically, this table shows the 25th percentile-75th percentile in each section for the admitted class of 2019.

UC Santa Cruz SAT Scores, Composite (Middle 50%)1200-1450
UC Santa Cruz SAT Scores, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (Middle 50%)590-690
UC Santa Cruz SAT Scores, Math (Middle 50%)610-760

The composite score of 1200-1450 is useful to take into consideration, even if you’re applying for admission after the new testing policy has gone into effect. Why? For one, it shows you exactly how strong UC Santa Cruz students are academically. These scores place the middle 50% of admitted students between the 74th and 96th percentiles of all SAT takers. No doubt about it, they’re high achievers!
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More About UC Santa Cruz ACT Scores

Again, just a reminder that UC Santa Cruz will not take ACT scores into consideration for the class of fall 2021. There are no ACT requirements whatsoever.

If you’re trying to figure out your chances of admission, the average ACT score won’t help you. However, there are still reasons to keep this information in mind! Here’s a brief snapshot of the most recent data available for UC Santa Cruz ACT scores:

UCSC ACT Scores, Composite (Middle 50%)24-30
UCSC ACT Scores, English Language Arts (Middle 50%)25-32

Does that mean you shouldn’t take the ACT or SAT if you’re applying to UC Santa Cruz for fall 2021? No! This can be really helpful for getting scholarship money and class placement. It just means that your high school GPA is more important than before.

Also, remember that even though UC Santa Cruz may not be considering your test scores, this might not be true for other colleges you’re applying to.
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UC Santa Cruz Acceptance Rate

UC Santa Cruz’s admission rate shows was 52% (well, 51.5%, to be precise!) in the last admissions cycle. For freshman admission in fall of 2020, the school received 55,868 applications and accepted 28,784 students, yielding an overall admissions rate of 51.5%.
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UC Santa Cruz GPA Average

Admitted students to UC Santa Cruz had weighted GPAs of 3.76-4.16 (middle 50%). The fact that this is the middle 50% of GPAs is key, as it means that the upper 25% of students admitted had GPAs above 4.00s.

How do schools calculate GPAs? Use this process for an unweighted (out of 4.00) GPA:

  1. Look at your high school transcript.
  2. Give yourself points for each grade:
  3. Assign 4 points for each A.
  4. Assign 3 points for each B.
  5. Assign 2 points for each C.
  6. Assign 1 point for each D.
  7. Divide the total by the number of graded courses.

However, you’ll see that UCSC uses weighted GPAs. This happens when schools weight honors or AP courses by assigning 5 points for each A, 4 for each B, and so on. If your school does this, recalculate the above score with the new “weights.”

As UC Santa Cruz admissions moves away from using standardized test scores, grades will likely become even more important in the admissions process.
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UC Santa Cruz Freshman Profile

UC Santa Cruz students constitute an incredibly diverse body in a number of ways. The entire student body is composed of 17,517 undergraduates and 1,977 graduate students. 51.6% are men, 47.5% are women, and 0.9% were other genders or did not reply to the question.

Using UCSC’s categorizations, 4.8% of students are African American, 1.3% are American Indian, 20.7% are Asian American, 29.8% are Chicano/Latino, 0.5% are Pacific Islander, 36.8% are European American, 4.9% are international, and 1.2% did not answer the question.

The vast majority of UCSC freshmen come from California. Only 5.4% came from other states, with an additional 11.2% coming from overseas. The rest are all California residents!
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Other UCSC Admissions Requirements and Information

To be considered for UC Santa Cruz admission, you’ll need to meet the requirements for the UC system overall. One key requirement is the subject requirement (A-G). This means taking 15 year-long courses in high school, getting a minimum grade of a C. 11 must be completed before your final year.

You can also meet some of these UCSC requirements through testing, by the way—so don’t write off those standardized exams just yet!

Important! The letter grade requirement for A-G courses completed in winter, spring, or summer 2020 is temporarily dropped. Pass/Credit grades meet the requirement, but will NOT be part of the GPA calculation (so GPA requirements for A-G classes still apply).

These subject requirements include:
A) History: 2 years, including specific requirements;
B) English: 4 years, including specific requirements;
C) Mathematics: 3 years, including specific requirements;
D) Science: 2 years, including specific requirements (think: biological sciences, laboratory sciences, etc.);
E) Language other than English: 2 years, including specific requirements;
F) Visual and performing arts: 1 year, including specific requirements;
G) College-preparatory elective: 1 year, including specific requirements.

In addition to taking these courses, there are also UC Santa Cruz GPA requirements: to be considered for admission, you need a 3.0 GPA in A-G courses taken in the 10th and 11th grade years for California residents. Non-residents, you’ll need a 3.4 GPA in those subjects.
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UCSC Admissions FAQs

How hard is it to get into UC Santa Cruz?

With an admissions rate of 51.5%, UC Santa Cruz is fairly competitive. U.S.News & World Report classifies it as a “more selective” university. It is rated #97 among U.S. universities nationally and #40 among top public schools.

With that said, if you’re looking at admission statistics, UC Santa Cruz is one of the easier UCs to get into. UC Santa Cruz is significantly less competitive than some other UC schools. UC Berkeley and UCLA, for example, both have admissions rates under 20%. UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara each accept around 30% of applicants. UC Riverside, however, also accepts over 50% of applicants.

What do you need to get into UC Santa Cruz?

  1. To be considered for UC Santa Cruz admission, you’ll need to meet the requirements for the UC system overall, including the A-G requirements described above.
  2. International students from non-native English speaking countries will also need to take either the TOEFL (minimum score of 80) or the IELTS (minimum score of 6.5) for admission.
  3. All applicants will also need to complete the application. This involves answering 4 of the 8 “personal insight” (essay) questions UCSC asks.
  4. Unlike a lot of other college applications, UC Santa Cruz doesn’t require letters of recommendation when you apply. They may ask for one or more recommendations later as part of a “supplemental review” process, but they aren’t a standard requirement.

Does UC Santa Cruz use the Common App?

Nope! None of the UC schools use the Common Application, actually. They use their very own University of California application, instead. As part of the University of California system, this is true of UCSC as well.

Does UC Santa Cruz offer financial aid?

Yes! 51% of UC Santa Cruz students receive need-based aid of some kind, with the average scholarship/grant award for first-year students at $20,355.

Part of the need-based financial aid packages at UCSC include need-based self-help packages (federal loans/work study).

Merit-based scholarships are also available. In this last admissions cycle, first-year students received an average amount of $6,706 in merit-based aid.
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A Final Word: How to Get Into UC Santa Cruz

If UC Santa Cruz is your dream school, you’re not alone! So what do you need to do when applying to ensure that you present the best possible application?

UC Santa Cruz admissions officers review the following characteristics when going over your application.

  • Difficulty of courses taken in high school and grades received in those courses
  • Your personal qualities, such as leadership, motivation, and passion for helping the community
  • Your extracurricular activities
  • Performance in outside of school academic enrichment programs

With all of that said, though, UC Santa Cruz does use a holistic review process to make an admission decision: they look at how the aspects of your application combine to show off who you are, not just what your grades have to say about you.

If you’re a junior or senior, focus on what you can control now: your current grades and activities, and emphasizing your personal qualities, special talents, and performance in various activities on your application. Successful applicants will show off who they are and why they’re a good fit for UC Santa Cruz! Good luck!

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  • Rachel Kapelke-Dale

    Rachel is a Magoosh Content Creator. She writes and updates content on our High School and GRE Blogs to ensure students are equipped with the best information during their test prep journey. As a test-prep instructor for more than five years in there different countries, Rachel has helped students around the world prepare for various standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GRE, and GMAT, and she is one of the authors of our Magoosh ACT Prep Book. Rachel has a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from Brown University, an MA in Cinematography from the Université de Paris VII, and a Ph.D. in Film Studies from University College London. For over a decade, Rachel has honed her craft as a fiction and memoir writer and public speaker. Her novel, THE BALLERINAS, is forthcoming in December 2021 from St. Martin's Press, while her memoir, GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND, co-written with Jessica Pan, was published in 2014 by Penguin Random House. Her work has appeared in over a dozen online and print publications, including Vanity Fair Hollywood. When she isn't strategically stringing words together at Magoosh, you can find Rachel riding horses or with her nose in a book. Join her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

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