The admission and selection process for freshmen to UC Santa Cruz reflects the academic rigor and preparation needed for admission to a major research institution. Meeting the minimum qualifications for the university does not guarantee you admission as a freshman. Students are encouraged to achieve well beyond the minimum qualifications to enhance their chances for selection.
UC Santa Cruz uses a holistic approach in selecting freshmen for admission. Applicants are thoroughly reviewed to determine the full spectrum of their academic and personal achievements, viewed in the context of their academic and personal opportunities. UCSC uses 14 faculty-approved criteria to determine an individualized, single score for each applicant.
Important Note for Prospective Engineering Students:Choice of major does not influence the selection of first-year students, except for those applicants interested in a major offered by the Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE). Freshmen who are interested in a BSOE program should be sure to indicate a BSOE proposed major. Students who do not indicate a BSOE program or who apply as undeclared might not be able to pursue a BSOE program.
Minimum Qualifications for the University of California
The UC admissions guidelines are designed to ensure students are well-prepared to succeed at the University of California. If you are interested in entering the university as a freshman, you need to satisfy the following minimum requirements:
Complete a minimum of 15 college-preparatory courses ("a-g" courses), with at least 11 finished prior to the beginning of your senior year.
The 15 courses are:
a. History/social science
d. Laboratory science
e. Language other than English
f. Visual and performing arts
g. College-preparatory elective*
*chosen from the subjects listed above or another course approved by the university
If you attend an accredited high school in California, you can check the courses at your school that may satisfy the “a–g” pattern by consulting ucop.edu/agguide.
- Earn a grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 or better (3.40 or better for a non-resident of California) in these courses with no grade lower than a C.
- Meet the examination requirement by taking the ACT Plus Writing or the SAT with Essay no later than December of the senior year. UCSC does not use the SAT Subject Tests for selection purposes, but certain programs on some UC campuses recommend them, and you can use SAT Subject Tests to satisfy the "a-g" requirements listed above.
There are two ways to qualify for admission to the University of California. First, you can "qualify by the statewide path." Second, if you rank in the top 9 percent of your class in participating high schools in California, you may gain admission through what is called "qualifying by the local path." You can find more detailed information by visiting: admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/freshman.
—Qualifying by the statewide path—
(California Residents Only)
You must achieve a minimum GPA of 3.00 in the "a–g" courses. The GPA is only calculated on courses meeting the “a-g” requirements in the 10th, the 11th, and, if completed, the 12th grades.
You must also complete the examination requirement, the ACT Plus Writing or the SAT with Essay (SAT exams taken prior to March 2016 will also be accepted). The scores you report for each section of the SAT must be from the same sitting. UCSC Code for ACT: 0460. UCSC Code for SAT: 4860.
A UC Score is calculated based on your GPA and your test scores. See the UC Admissions Index chart for further information.
—Qualifying by the local path—
(California Residents Only)
Students who rank in the top 9 percent of students in their California high school class — if the high school participates in our Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) program —qualify for admission to UC.
If your school participates in the ELC program — which most California high schools do — UC will identify the top 9 percent of students on the basis of GPA in UC-approved coursework completed in the 10th and 11th grades. To be considered for ELC, you must have a minimum GPA of 3.00 and complete a pattern of 11 "a-g" courses prior to your senior year. Further information is available at universityofcalifornia.edu/admissions/freshman/california-residents/local-path/index.html.
Our requirements for out-of-state applicants -- subject, examination, and scholarship -- are nearly identical to our requirements for California residents. The only difference is that non-residents must earn a minimum GPA of 3.40. You may also qualify by examination alone. Please see our Out-of-State Admissions website at admissions.ucsc.edu/apply/out-of-state-students/index.html.
UC has slightly different admission requirements for international students. For freshman admission, you must:
- Complete 15 year-long academic courses with a 3.40 GPA:
- 2 years of history/social science (In place of U.S. History, history of your country)
- 4 years of composition and literature in language in which you are instructed
- 3 years of math including geometry and advanced algebra
- 2 years of laboratory science (1 biological/1 physical)
- 2 years of a second language
- 1 yearlong course of visual and performing arts
- 1 additional course from any subject areas above
- Meet other requirements specific to your country
- Take the ACT Plus Writing or the SAT with Essay by December 2017
In addition, students with very high test scores may qualify by their examination scores alone.
You can find more detailed information by visiting admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/freshman.
Also, you must acquire necessary visas and, if your schooling has been in a different language, you must show proficiency in English. Please see our International Admissions website at admissions.ucsc.edu/apply/international-students/index.html.
As a selective campus, UC Santa Cruz is unable to offer admission to all UC-qualified applicants. UCSC offers admission to freshman applicants according to the selection policy described in this document.
Calculating Your "UC Score"
UC uses an admissions index to determine if you fall in the top 9 percent of students who qualify in the statewide context. For more information, please see admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/freshman/california-residents/admissions-index/instructions.html
Selection Policy for UC Santa Cruz
Professionally-trained Admissions readers conduct an in-depth review of your academic and personal achievements in light of the opportunities available to you and your demonstrated capacity to contribute to the intellectual and cultural life at UCSC. The 14 factors we consider are:
Grade-point average (GPA)
Academic grade-point average in all completed "a-g" courses, including additional grade points for completed UC-certified honors courses.
Scores on the ACT Plus Writing or SAT with Essay.
Number of, content of and performance in academic courses beyond the minimum "a-g" requirements.
Number of and performance in UC-approved honors. Courses approved for UC honors include Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, UC-transferable college courses, and UC-approved honors courses (California high schools only).
Eligibility in the Local Context
Identification by UC as being ranked in the top 9 percent of your high school class at the end of your junior year (Eligible in the Local Context, or ELC).
Quality of senior-year program of study
Quality of your senior-year program as measured by the type and number of academic courses in progress or planned.
Educational opportunities in high schools
Quality of your academic performance relative to the educational opportunities available in your high school.
Performance in academic subject areas
Outstanding performance in one or more academic subject areas.
Achievements in special projects
Outstanding work in one or more special projects in any academic field of study.
Improvement in academic performance
Recent, marked improvement in academic performance as demonstrated by academic GPA and the quality of coursework completed or in progress.
Special talents, achievements, and awards
Special talents, achievements and awards in a particular field, such as visual and performing arts, communication or athletic endeavors; special skills, such as demonstrated written and oral proficiency in other languages; special interests, such as intensive study and exploration of other cultures; experiences that demonstrate unusual promise for leadership, such as significant community service or significant participation in student government; or other significant experiences or achievements that demonstrate the student's promise for contributing to the intellectual vitality of a campus.
Participation in educational preparation programs
Participation and persistence in academic enrichment programs, including but not limited to those sponsored by the University of California.
Academic accomplishment within life experiences
Demonstrated academic achievement in light of significant life issues. Life experiences include but are not limited to disability, low family income, first generation to attend college, need to work, and other special circumstances.
Geographic diversity as defined by the location of your secondary school and/or residence.
Admission by Exception
Admission by Exception is granted to a very small percentage of applicants who do not meet UC requirements. Such factors as academic accomplishments in light of your life experiences and/or special circumstances, socioeconomic background, special talents and/or achievements, contributions to the community, and your answers to the Personal Insight Questions are taken into consideration.
Transferring from a California community college
About 25 percent of UCSC students do not begin their career as freshmen, but choose to enter the university by transferring from a community college. Transferring is an excellent way to achieve your UCSC degree, and UCSC gives top priority to qualified junior transfers from a California community college.
—Qualifying as a transfer (California residents)—
To qualify for admission to UC as a junior-level transfer student, you must fulfill both of the following criteria. Keep in mind that meeting these requirements is not sufficient to gain admission to UCSC and/or the major of your choice.
1. Complete at least 60 semester units or 90 quarter units of UC-transferable college credit with a minimum GPA of 2.40. No more than 14 semester/21 quarter units may be taken on a pass/no pass basis.
2. Complete the following course pattern requirements, earning a grade of C (2.00) or better in each course:
- Two UC-transferable college courses (minimum 3 semester or 4 quarter units each) in English composition; and
- One UC-transferable college course (minimum 3 semester or 4 quarter units) in mathematical concepts and quantitative reasoning; and
- Four UC-transferable college courses (minimum 3 semester or 4 quarter units each) chosen from at least two of the following subject areas: the arts and humanities, the social and behavioral sciences, and the physical and biological sciences.
—Selection criteria for non-residents of California (transfer students)—
The selection criteria are nearly identical to those used for California residents, except that you must have a minimum GPA of 2.80 in all UC-transferable college coursework.
Major Preparation Selection Criteria
Transfer Admission Planner
For further information, including information on UCSC's Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) program, please see admissions.ucsc.edu/apply/transfer-students/index.html.
Transfer Preparation Program
Application filing period
Financial aid and scholarships
Contact your Representative
Prospective students and their families in California, as well as California community college counselors, may contact an Admissions Regional Representative for more information. Please see our Regional Representatives page. Out-of-state students may contact email@example.com, and international students may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Starting with the fall 2017 Application, the University of California replaced its essay section (formerly called the Personal Statement section) with a new section called Personal Insights. The section includes more specific questions with more flexibility in which questions students choose to answer.
While academic criteria (grades, courses taken, test scores) are most important, the Personal Insights are also a very important part of the application and selection process. The Personal Insight questions are about getting to know you better – your life experience, interests, ambitions, and inspirations.
Freshman applicants will have eight questions to choose from, and they must respond to four of the eight questions. Each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
Transfer students will have one required question, plus seven additional questions, and they must answer three out of those seven questions. As with the freshman application, each response is limited to a maximum of 350 words.
Additional information about the Personal Insight section