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

UNC Admissions - image by Magoosh
The University of North Carolina (UNC) is an excellent school… or rather, an excellent system of schools. Today, we’ll look at how to get into UNC, with a profile of UNC SAT scores, UNC ACT scores, and UNC admissions requirements

Table of Contents

How to Get Into UNC: 16 Campuses, One Great System, Many Different UNC Admissions Policies

The University of North Carolina, as I mentioned, a set of 16 campuses within the state of North Carolina. The jewel of the system is, without question, UNC-Chapel Hill. Within the state of North Carolina, UNC-Chapel Hill holds the number two university rank, second only to Duke. And in US News and World report’s national rankings, UNC is in the 98th percentile of the 1,829 ranked American schools, at #28 for national universities.

Needless to say, the question of how to get into UNC has a unique answer for this especially elite UNC campus. As you can imagine, Chapel Hill has the highest UNC admissions standards. And to be sure, how to get into UNC varies, depending on which UNC school you hope to attend.

A full list of UNC’s campuses can be found here. For this article, we’ll focus on the five UNC schools that are classified as national universities in U.S. News and World Report’s rankings. These schools are: UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Carlotte, East Carolina University, and North Carolina State University. For the matter of how to get into UNC, this article will focus on these top-ranked campuses and their UNC admissions criteria.

Let’s look at a snapshot of how to get into UNC at each of these top 5 UNC schools. The table below lists the various UNC SAT scores, UNC ACT scores, GPA requirements, and acceptance rate. Each school’s US News and World Report national rank is also listed.

(Note: All data in this table about how to get into UNC, including UNC SAT scores and UNC ACT scores, comes either from US News and World Report, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling or the universities themselves.)

CAMPUSUNC SAT Scores (New SAT)UNC ACT ScoresUNC GPA RequirementsUNC Acceptance RatesUNC National Ranks
UNC-Chapel Hill1300-1490
(middle 50%)
27-33 (middle 50%)4.77 weighted (average)
North Carolina State University1344
3.83 unweighted, 4.28 weighted
UNC-Asheville1090-1270 (middle 50%)22-27
(middle 50%)
3.2-3.7 unweighted
(middle 50%)
(middle 50%)
(middle 50%)
3.3-3.8 unweighted,
3.7-4.3 weighted
(middle 50%)
East Carolina University1030-1190
(middle 50%)
(middle 50%)
3.0-3.6 unweighted
(middle 50%)

US News and World Report College Rankings and Data
UNC Admissions Class Profile
ECU School Counselor Guide
Quick Facts: UNC Asheville
North Carolina State University Admissions Profile
Cappex: University of North Carolina at Asheville
UNC Admissions: Charlotte

UNC SAT Scores: A Closer Look at this Aspect of UNC Admissions

So let’s talk a little bit about the deeper meaning of the UNC SAT scores in the table above (note that the info for SAT is more complicated than the UNC ACT scores!). You may notice that not every school posts either average or mid-range scores, without any UNC admissions office explicitly stating minimum UNC SAT scores.

This does not mean that there is no minimum SAT score at these schools, however. In fact, every single UNC campus has a minimum score. Remember, these are state-run schools. This means that even when a UNC campus doesn’t set its own minimum, it still has to follow the minimum standards for the statewide system. And the minimum statewide UNC SAT scores are 1010 for SAT. See this link for details. (This link also includes state minimums for UNC ACT scores, as well as other helpful information.)

While most of the campuses in the table above don’t have their own local minimum UNC SAT scores, it’s worth noting that all of the UNC Admission offices have a middle range or average accepted score significantly above those state minimums.

In any case, you definitely don’t need the perfect SAT score to get into any of the UNC schools. But for the schools that post middle 50% ranges for UNC SAT scores instead of minimums, is it possible to get accepted with an SAT score that’s below mid-range? Absolutely! These schools look at the “big picture” of your application. If other aspects of your application such as extracurriculars, reference letters, GPA, etc. are strong, a lower-end SAT score may still be acceptable. You’ll still need to get at least a 1010 on the SAT to attend though. The state regulations on UNC SAT scores are firm, even if individual schools are flexible regarding UNC admissions!

UNC ACT Scores: An Important Aspect of How to Get Into UNC

UNC ACT Scores, like their counterpart UNC SAT scores, are subject to the state minimums. In the case of ACT, no UNC campus can accept a student whose score is below 19; this is the immutable rule for UNC admissions when it comes to your ACT results.

As with UNC SAT scores, we see a preferred range or preferred average at all UNC campuses. Most schools in the system use the middle 50% ACT score range for accepted students when they set their UNC admissions preferences.

Once again, you don’t need a perfect ACT score. You can certainly get a score below mid-range and still be considered for acceptance. Some people with less than 28 on the ACT are accepted into UNC-Chapel Hill, in spite of its preferences for 28+ UNC SAT scores. Remember though, below a 19 is too low by any UNC admissions standard on any campus.

Keep in mind that UNC also takes ACT superscores into consideration, so you may want to consider taking the test multiple times!

UNC GPA: How to Get Into UNC Involves More than Just Testing

The average GPA scores and ranges you see in the table above are subject to the statewide UNC admissions minimums, just like UNC SAT scores, and UNC ACT scores. You can possibly get in with a GPA below that of the average accepted student. You’re only absolutely ineligible if you drop below the state minimum of 2.5.

Another important note on GPAs: in the chart above, note that UNC’s various campuses may list expectations for weighted GPA, unweighted GPA, or both. Most high schools use unweighted GPAs, but some high schools weight their GPAs. Weighted GPAs are “curved,” taking the difficulty of a given course into account. Such weighted GPAs usually have a 0-5.0 scale. We won’t really look at curved GPAs in this post since they’re not common. But if your GPA is weighted, I have good news. Most UNC schools post their requirements for weighted GPA on their websites. And the ones that don’t still do have weighted GPA standards that you can get by contacting the admissions office.

Not sure what your GPA is? Use our GPA Calculator to help you figure it out!

The UNC Freshman Profile, and What it Says About How to Get Into UNC

I’ve already told you that UNC looks at the “whole picture” when considering applications; they don’t just look at UNC ACT scores, or just focus on SAT performance, for example. But even if your UNC ACT scores or SAT scores are great, you may be wondering if you look like the “picture” UNC wants to see. How much do you resemble a typical UNC freshman? Well, let’s look at the UNC freshman profile.

Every UNC campus has its own unique freshman profile, one that extends far beyond UNC ACT scores or SAT scores. But rather than looking at each of the top 5 ranked UNC schools, it may be useful to just look at the most competitive one. UNC-Chapel Hill, with its 23% acceptance rate, is the hardest UNC school to get into. If you match what they’re looking for, you will likely be a competitive applicant anywhere in the UNC system. Needless to say, Chapel Hill’s high standards have some interesting implications for UNC admissions.

Interested in only applying to UNC-Chapel Hill? Ashley C. from Transizion has some advice for you!

unc admissions -magoosh

“Test scores and GPA are important, but UNC-Chapel Hill emphasizes that they review applications holistically. There are no formulas, cutoffs, or thresholds. The goal is to find intelligent, motivated students with a variety of talents and strengths who will actively enhance the Chapel Hill community.

To demonstrate that you’re one of these students, it’s important to emphasize quality over quantity. Here’s how:

  • Don’t attempt to prove that you’re well-rounded. Instead of being casually involved in many activities, become deeply involved with one or two that you’re passionate about. If you haven’t found your passion yet, explore areas of interest.
  • Ideally, you’ll find leadership roles or opportunities to be of service that are related to your areas of interest.Your application should tell the “story” of your unique talents and strengths. What are you passionate about, and how did you discover this interest? What relevant courses, activities, and opportunities have you explored? How have you used your skills to give back to your school or community? (By extension, the admissions team imagines how you would contribute at UNC-Chapel Hill.)
  • If you’ve already participated in a variety of activities, consider what cohesive story these activities tell. Are they mostly creative pursuits? Athletics? Activities that involve public speaking or performing? In your application, hone in on the experiences that have been most meaningful to you.
  • Emphasizing quality over quantity reveals your area(s) of expertise, allowing the admissions team to picture how you’ll learn, grow, and contribute at UNC-Chapel Hill.”

Check out more from Ashley here!

UNC Freshman Profile: Where are UNC-Chapel Hill students from?

Being “local” works in your favor if you’re applying to Chapel Hill. On this campus, the overall UNC acceptance rate is 23%. However, historically, being a North Carolina high school student nearly doubles your chances of acceptance.

UNC-Chapel Hill students have a wide geographical distribution, despite that. The entering class of 2020 came from 52 countries, 44 states and Washington D.C. Within North Carolina, 97 counties were represented, 36% of them rural.

UNC Freshman Profile: Academic Background at UNC-Chapel Hill

Are you the “leader of your pack” in high school when it comes to grades? Then UNC-Chapel hill might just be the place for you. Aside from its high GPA for applicants, UNC also looks for high-ranking students.

In the 2020 entering class, 12% were ranked 1st or 2nd in their graduating class. 41% were in the top 10 students, with 74% in the top 10% of the class. 92% were in the top 20% of their class.

UNC Freshman Profile: Family Background of UNC-Chapel Hill Students

In America, students whose parents also attended university are much more likely to attend university themselves; this makes a difference not just in UNC admissions but in all school admissions. And Chapel Hill’s freshmen are no exception to this rule. 80 of all UNC-Chapel Hill freshman had parents who graduated from university.

Still, the number of first-generation university students at Chapel Hill is significant. 20% of accepted students–more than 1/5 of the student body–are the first people in their family to attend college.

For more information on the UNC freshman profile at Chapel Hill, go to Chapel Hill’s official Freshman Profile page. Other UNC campuses offer similar profiles on their own official websites.

How to Get Into UNC: Other UNC Admissions Requirements and Info

Now that we’ve gone over general requirements and the freshman profile, I’d like to emphasize that “whole picture” isn’t the same as “perfect picture.” While the requirements and profile give you an idea of the kind of students that are most often accepted into UNC, there is the “wrong” type of student. Even if you don’t perfectly match what UNC seems to be looking for, you still have a chance of getting in. And in fact, once you’re on any school campus, you’ll find plenty of people who don’t perfectly match the freshman profile…and may even be very different from a “typical” admitted student.

Here are a few other things to be aware of as you consider your UNC candidacy:

UNC is looking for diversity.

Yes, UNC’s students are typically local, and often have parents who also attended college. However, every UNC campus is always looking for a wider range of students. Each campus has a goal of increasing its number of first-generation students, international students, and minority students.

Every UNC campus excels in different ways.

While it’s tempting to just go for the UNC schools that are ranked the very highest, university rank isn’t everything. Sure, UNC-Chapel Hill is a fine school. But every school has its own special niches. For example, while Chapel Hill itself is renowned for its Biology education, many feel that the lower-ranked UNC-Charlotte has a better engineering program.

The non-national campuses are worth looking into.

Don’t let the non-national UNC campuses fly completely under your radar. For one thing, these campuses have some very unique offerings. Appalachian State University is doing some very intriguing psychological research. The UNC School of the Arts is a vibrant learning community for students who want to cultivate their artistic talent. Fayetteville State University has an excellent nursing program.

Not only that, but these lower-profile schools also have cheaper tuition and higher acceptance rates. So these places are certainly something to think about as you look at getting into UNC.

How to Get Into UNC (conclusion)

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably a very interested UNC hopeful. I’m glad Magoosh has been able to show you so much helpful information today.

I’ve already touched on this in the article, but I’d like to emphasize it again: if you fall short of the exact requirements we’ve discussed, or don’t “look” like a UNC “profile” freshman, this does not mean you don’t have a good chance at getting in. You’ll want to do your best of course. Aim for the highest SAT or ACT score that you can get. (And it really is an “or;” you don’t need both exams.) Do your best to excel in high school.

But in amongst all that effort, remember that the UNC system is a big one, hungry for students who bring new perspectives to the table, as well as students who are much like the excellent learners they’ve already accepted. No matter who you are, UNC just might have a place for you.

So apply with confidence! And to help you with that confidence, Magoosh has three great tools: our guide on how to ask for a letter of recommendation, our GPA calculator, and our tutorial on writing a college application essay that will delight UNC admissions officers.

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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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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