How to Get into UCSD: Admission Requirements, SAT and ACT Scores, GPA and More

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From beautiful La Jolla beaches to great academics, the University of California, San Diego has got it all. But how to get into UCSD? In this post, we’ll take a look at UCSD admissions, including UCSD SAT scores and UCSD GPA requirements. Here’s what you need to know if UCSD is one of your dream schools!


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Quick UCSD Admissions Statistics

Just want a quick rundown? Perfect! Here’s the table for you: UCSD admissions statistics in a nutshell.

UCSD SAT Scores (composite, average)1351
UCSD ACT Scores (composite, middle 50%)26 - 31
UCSD Admissions Rate32.3 %
UCSD GPA Average (Weighted)4.03 - 4.28

Before we dive into UC San Diego test scores, please note that UC admissions is going test-blind, meaning they will not take SAT or ACT scores into consideration, starting in fall 2021.
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More About UCSD SAT Scores

Even if you’re applying to the UC system for entry in fall 2021, looking at UCSD SAT scores can still be useful. Why? It gives us a sense of how competitive the school is overall.

As you can see in the quick UCSD admission stats above, SAT scores were pretty high: the average composite (overall) score was 1351. Here’s how this breaks down by section:

SAT Evidence Based Reading & Writing (Middle 50%)640 - 730
SAT Mathematics (Middle 50%)660 - 790

So what does this mean for how to get into UCSD? If you’re applying for fall 2021, it doesn’t mean anything for your test scores—but it does mean that standards at the school are high. Composite scores range falls in the 94th percentile of SAT takers from the past three years. In other words, UCSD admitted students scored, on average, in the top 6% of SAT takers.

The sections scores are similar. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Scores ranged (25th percentile to 75th percentile of admitted students) from the 83rd to the 97th percentiles, while Math scores range from the 88th to 99th percentiles. Keep in mind, though, that the average SAT score at UCSD won’t be useful to future applicants except in showing that standards at UCSD are high.

If you got great scores on the SAT or ACT, does that mean UCSD won’t be interested? Not necessarily! You may still be able to use these test scores (among others, like AP scores) to help with course placement and scholarships (though not the UC Regents and Chancellor’s scholarships, also now test-blind)—so it still may be well worth your while to study for and take the exam.
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More About UCSD ACT Scores

Again, UCSD admissions will not take standardized test scores into consideration for the entering class of fall 2021 onwards. That means that the average ACT score for UCSD isn’t useful for comparison purposes anymore.

However, it can be useful to know that, historically, UCSD accepted ACT scores as well as SAT scores. However, their data on this is slightly more limited.

Here are UCSD ACT scores they’ve released from the most recent admissions cycle:

UCSD ACT Scores: Composite (Middle 50%)26 - 31
UCSD ACT Scores: English Language Arts (Middle 50%)28 - 34

What can we tell about UCSD ACT scores from this data? First of all, that the score range in the ELA category is higher than the ACT composite score. This means that the non-language-based sectional scores (Math and Science) must be low to arrive at the averages. Previous years’ data backs this up; in 2018, UCSD ACT scores for Math ranged from 24-33.

As with SAT scores, the primary useful information UCSD ACT scores can give applicants are around the competitiveness of the school as a whole. Composite scores range from the 82nd to the 95th percentile. This is ever-so-slightly less competitive than SAT scores, but barely. Within ELA, this places admitted students in the 88th-99th percentile range for English and 84th-97th percentile range for Reading.
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UCSD Acceptance Rate

In 2019, the UCSD acceptance rate was 32.3%. In other words, the school admitted about one in three applicants.

Tough? Definitely! But remember that UCSD is a pretty big school, and there are still lots of students who are accepted. For some context, think about it this way: admission data from the last cycle shows that almost 100,000 students (!!) applied. However, more than 32,000 were admitted.
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UCSD GPA Average

As the UC system shifts away from using standardized tests in admissions, they’ll be focusing more on your coursework and the kinds of courses you took (honors? AP? IB courses? A-G requirements—see below for more on this).

This makes your high school GPA one of the key factors in admission, rather than SAT requirements or ACT requirements. Overall, UCSD admitted freshmen had GPAs of between 4.03 – 4.28.

You might be looking at that and thinking…great, but what does that mean? Here’s how you calculate an unweighted GPA (out of 4.00):

  1. Grab your high school transcript.
  2. Assign 4 points to each A you’ve received.
  3. Assign 3 points to each B you’ve received.
  4. Assign 2 points to each C you’ve received.
  5. Assign 1 point to each D you’ve received.
  6. Add up your total number of points.
  7. Divide the total by the number of classes you took. Voila, your GPA!

How does UCSD have an average of above 4.0, though? Because some schools weight certain classes, like APs, out of a 5.0 rather than a 4.0 scale. In that case, each A becomes worth 5 points, each B, 4 points and so on.
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UCSD Freshman Profile

So what does UCSD’s freshman class look like? Gender balance is pretty even: 49.8% of incoming students identify as women, while 49.7% identify as men (0.5% did not answer the question).

The body of current students is ethnically diverse. 2.8% of the class is African American, 21.1% Chicano/Latino, 36% asian, 0.2% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 0.4% American Indian, and 19.2% white (categories are those used by UCSD admissions).

Around 75% of UCSD students come from California. An additional 17.6% of incoming freshman are international, while the remainder come from outside of California.
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Other Admissions Requirements and Information

So you’ve got grades covered. What else do you need to get into UCSD? The answer is: it depends.

UCSD GPA Requirements

If you’re from California, you need to have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA, with no grades lower than a C. If you’re from outside California, you need to have a 3.4+ GPA, with no grades lower than a C.

A-G Subject Requirements (All UCs)

Another important element in your UCSD admission is the subject requirements. To get into UCSD, you’ll need to meet the requirements for the UC system more generally. One of these is the subject requirement (A-G). This means you’ll need to complete 15 year-long courses in high school, receiving a minimum grade of a C. 11 of these courses have to be completed before your final year.

Important! The letter grade requirement for A-G courses completed during the 2020 winter, spring or summer terms, 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 are:

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 (such as laboratory science);
E) Language other than English (second language): 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, remember that there is also a UCSD GPA requirement: to be considered for admission, you need a 3.0 GPA in A-G courses taken in 10th and 11th grade if you are a California resident. Non-residents, you’ll need to meet a 3.4 minimum GPA requirement in those subjects.

What else does UCSD admissions require?

International students from non-native English speaking countries will also need to take either the TOEFL (minimum score of 83) or the IELTS (minimum score of 7) for admission.

All applicants will also need to complete the application. This involves answering 4 of the 8 “personal insight” (essay) questions UCSD asks.

Unlike a lot of other college applications, UCSD 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.
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UCSD Admissions FAQs

Is UCSD hard to get into?

With a 32.3% admissions rate, UCSD is moderately competitive. To put this in perspective, US News & World Report, which ranks schools, classifies this as “most selective.” SAT and ACT scores are high (though these will no longer be used in the admissions process going forward), as are GPAs. It’s not as competitive as, for example, an Ivy League school, but it is still competitive.

Does UCSD use the Common App?

Nope! As part of the University of California system, UCSD uses the UC application. None of these schools accept the Common App.

Does UCSD offer financial aid?

Yes! In the last admissions cycle, around 70% of admitted students received some kind of financial aid. This includes government aid as well as loans, grants, work-study contributions, and scholarships. This last part is particularly strong at UCSD; in the last year, they gave out around $10.77 million in undergraduate scholarship aid.
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A Final Word: How to Get Into UCSD

UCSD admissions officers want to know that you are prepared for the academic environment at their college. Higher GPAs are one way of showing this. However, you’ll need more than just good grades to beat the admissions odds.

They’ll want to see that a successful applicant is talented in a lot of different areas besides school. A strong application will show your personality as part of your application by detailing your extracurriculars and giving your best responses to the “personal insight” questions to show why you’d be a great part of the UCSD community. 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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