Uc San Diego College Essay

Undergraduate Admission

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[ international baccalaureate (IB) credit chart (PDF) ]
[ intersegmental general-education transfer curriculum (IGETC) ]

Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools
Fourth Floor Student Services Center  (858) 534-4831
http://www.ucsd.edu/admissions

UC San Diego is a popular campus with an international reputation for excellence. Each year the campus receives more applications from eligible students than can be accommodated and, as a result, is highly selective. Successful applicants must exceed the minimum UC admission criteria. The campus does not admit students on the basis of academic major or choice of UC San Diego undergraduate college.

Applying for Admission

To apply for admission to UC San Diego, complete the UC Application for Admission and Scholarships. Find the application online at the University of California website. Admission at UC San Diego begins with fall quarter.

One application is used for the nine UC campuses with undergraduate programs. Students apply to one UC campus for a nonrefundable application fee; an additional fee is charged for each additional campus.

When to Apply

The application filing period is November 1–30 of the prior year; the application is available online beginning August 1.

Definition of an Undergraduate Applicant

You are an undergraduate applicant if you are a student who wishes to complete a program of study leading to a bachelor of arts degree, a bachelor of science degree, or a combination degree offered to undergraduates.

Entrance Requirements

The university’s minimum undergraduate admission requirements, which are the same for all UC campuses, are based on three principles. They are

  1. the best predictor of success in the university is high achievement in previous work
  2. the study of certain subjects in high school gives a student good preparation for university work and reasonable freedom in choosing an area for specialized study
  3. standardized assessment tests provide a broad base for comparison and mitigate the effects of differing grading practices

Academic preparation is the principal basis for gaining admission to UC San Diego. Students are encouraged to pursue the most rigorous academic curriculum possible, including honors classes, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, in order to prepare for the university experience. High test scores are necessary in conjunction with strong performance in classes and a consistent pattern of courses. Applicants who have not had the opportunity to take AP or IB courses or who have not taken exams for these courses will not be disadvantaged.

The academic requirements for admission are minimum entrance standards. Students admitted to UC San Diego are chosen from a large number of highly competitive applicants, most of whom will have greatly exceeded the minimum requirements. Selection, therefore, depends on additional factors. For details see http://admissions.ucsd.edu.

Reapplication

An application for admission is effective only for the year for which it is submitted. If you are ineligible for admission, or if you are admitted and do not enroll in classes for that admission term, you must file a new application to be considered for a different year. The selection criteria in effect for the new term must be met.

If you were admitted to the university, enrolled and paid tuition, but did not attend, you need to contact your undergraduate college to withdraw from the university. Contact the Registrar’s Office for information on refunding your tuition.

Second Baccalaureate/Limited Status Applicants

UC San Diego does not accept applications from students who have earned a four-year degree.

Admission as a Freshman Applicant

Definition of a Freshman Applicant

You are a freshman applicant if you are a student who is currently enrolled in high school and will graduate at the end of the current academic year. You are also considered a freshman applicant if you have graduated from high school and have not yet completed UC-transferable courses during a regular term at any accredited college-level institution. This does not include attendance at a college summer session immediately following high school graduation.

Minimum Requirements for Freshman Applicants

To be eligible for admission to the university as a freshman you must meet the examination requirement and the subject requirement as described below.

You must also have earned a diploma from a high school in order to enter the university as a freshman. In lieu of the regular high school diploma, the certificate of proficiency (awarded by the California State Department of Education upon successful completion of the high school proficiency examination), proficiency tests from other states, or the General-Education Development (GED) certificate, will be accepted.

If you were educated outside the United States, see the international diploma equivalents webpage.

Examination Requirement

To apply as a freshman, you must submit the following test scores:

  • ACT Assessment plus ACT Writing Test

or

  • SAT Reasoning Test with critical reading, mathematics, and writing scores

All applicants for admission to UC San Diego who apply for the fall term must take these tests no later than December of their senior year, preferably earlier. Students who take the ACT must take all components including writing in the same sitting.

Review the UC guidelines for the examination requirement.

Subject Requirement

You must complete a minimum of fifteen college-preparatory courses with at least eleven of the courses finished prior to your senior year in high school. These are called “a through g” courses (“a–g”) and include:

  • History/Social Science—two years
  • English—four years
  • Mathematics—three years (four years recommended)
  • Laboratory science—two years (three years recommended)
  • Language other than English—two years (three years recommended)
  • Visual and performing arts—one year
  • College-preparatory electives—one year

The approved courses for high schools in California are specific to each high school and lists are available through your high school’s counseling office and on the University of California Doorways web page.

The requirement may also be satisfied by completing college courses or earning particular scores on SAT, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams. See the UC web page for “a–g” courses.

For detailed information about the content of acceptable “a–g” courses, refer to the UC admissions web page for freshman a–g requirements.

You must earn a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher, or 3.4 or higher if you are a nonresident applicant. See “Freshman Admission Requirements.”

Applying as a Nonresident Student

You are considered a nonresident applicant if you are a student who lives outside the state of California. You will be required to present higher academic credentials than California residents in order to be eligible for admission to the university, in addition to paying the nonresident tuition.

Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and UC-transferable college courses are the only courses considered honors courses for admission purposes for non-California resident applicants. For additional details about freshman requirements, please see the UC web page for out-of-state students.

Details about residency for tuition purposes can be found at the Registrar’s Office website.

Applying as an International Student

International applicants must meet the same requirements for admission as any other applicant with the exception of English proficiency. See the international pages on the UC Admissions website.

If you were educated outside the U.S. where the language of instruction is other than English, you will be screened for a level of English language proficiency. Rather than relying on a single factor for identifying English language proficiency for non-native speakers of English, the Office of Admissions applies a more comprehensive approach to assess proficiency.

  • Standardized tests considered for proficiency include the TOEFL and IELTS as well as the SAT and ACT.
    • For UC San Diego selection, the minimum recommending scores are 83 for TOEFL and 7 for IELTS.
    • For freshman applicants, English Writing scores on the SAT or ACT will also be reviewed.
  • Additional indicators of English language proficiency are:
    • Advanced Placement (AP) exams or International Baccalaureate classes showing an acceptable result
    • AP English exam—score of 3 or better
    • IB English A—6 or better for Standard Level, or 5 or better for Higher Level
  • Along with the standardized measures, the student’s UC-transferable college courses are reviewed.
    • Any such course work needs to include two courses in English composition.
    • The student must have received a grade of B or better in both courses.

In addition to an adequate English-language background, international students must have sufficient funds available to cover all fees, living and other expenses, and transportation connected with their stay in the United States. The Explanation of Registration Fees web page describes the types of fees.

Additional Credit

Advanced Placement (AP)  

The university grants credit for all College Board Advanced Placement Tests on which you score 3 or higher. This may be subject credit, graduation credit, or credit toward general-education or breadth requirements. Credit is expressed in quarter units. For details, see the Advanced Placement credit chart for both campuswide and college-specific requirements

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The university grants credit for International Baccalaureate exams. Only Higher Level Exams are accepted for credit by UC; Standard Level Exams are not given credit. The IB credit limit at UC San Diego is thirty units. For details, see the International Baccalaureate credit chart for both campuswide and college-specific requirements.

College Courses

Many high schools have arrangements with nearby postsecondary institutions, allowing you to take college-level courses while you are still in high school. These courses may be accepted by the university exactly as they would be if you were a full-time college student. If you are admitted to UC San Diego, you must provide a transcript of all courses taken, including those at the college level.

No matter how many college units you earn before graduating from high school, you will still be considered a freshman and apply as such.    

Admission as a Transfer Applicant

Definition of a Transfer Applicant

You are a transfer student if you enrolled in a regular session (fall, winter, or spring) at a college or university after high school, other than a summer session immediately following high school. As a transfer applicant, you may not disregard your college record and apply for admission as a freshman.

Applying as a Transfer Student

To be eligible for admission to UC San Diego as a transfer student, you must meet certain requirements. The acceptability of courses for transfer credit is determined by the Office of Admissions. For details on transfer admission requirements, visit the transfer admission web page.

Minimum Requirements for Transfer Applicants

The following are minimum eligibility requirements for the University of California. Because the San Diego campus has been unable to accommodate all minimally eligible applicants, in order to be considered for admission you must exceed these requirements:

  • Achieve junior-level standing (a minimum of ninety UC-transferable quarter units/sixty semester units) by the end of spring term, prior to fall admission
  • Maintain a competitive GPA in UC-transferable courses and be in good academic standing.*
  • Meet UC eligibility by completing these UC-transferable college courses:
    • Two: English composition
    • One: mathematical concepts and quantitative reasoning
    • Four: courses from at least two of the following:
      • Arts and humanities
      • Physical and biological sciences
      • Social and behavioral sciences
    • Strongly recommend completion of all lower-division preparation for your major as well as completing all lower-division breadth and general-education requirements (B/GE) prior to transfer.

*Nonresidents may be held to a higher GPA.

California Residents

If you are a transfer student who was classified as a resident of California at your previous school, do not assume that you will be classified as a California resident for tuition purposes at UC San Diego. Details about resident status for tuition purposes can be found on the Registrar’s Office web page for residency.

Definition of a Domestic Nonresident Applicant

You are considered a nonresident applicant if your course work was completed outside the state of California. Additional details about residence for tuition purposes can be found online.

Definition of an International Applicant

You are an international applicant if you are a student who holds or expects to hold any nonimmigrant visa.

International Transfer Requirements

International applicants must meet the same requirements for admission as any other applicant with the exception of English proficiency. All applicants educated outside the U.S. where the language of instruction is other than English will be screened for a level of English language proficiency. Rather than relying on a single factor for identifying English language proficiency for non-native speakers of English, the Office of Admissions applies a more comprehensive approach to assess proficiency.

  • Standardized tests considered for proficiency include the TOEFL and IELTS as well as the SAT and ACT.
    • For UC San Diego selection, the minimum recommending scores are 83 for TOEFL and 7 for IELTS.
  • Additional indicators of English language proficiency are:
    • Advanced Placement (AP) exams or International Baccalaureate classes showing an acceptable result:
    • AP English exam—score of 3 or better;
    • IB English A—6 or better for Standard Level, or 5 or better for Higher Level.
  • In lieu of standardized measures, UC-transferable college courses are reviewed.
    • any such course work needs to include two courses in English composition; and
    • the student must have received a grade of B or better in both courses.

In addition to an adequate English-language background, international students must have sufficient funds available to cover all fees; living and other expenses; and transportation connected with their stay in the United States (see “Fees and Expenses”).   

Credit from Other Colleges

The university gives unit credit to transfer students for courses they have taken at other accredited colleges and universities, including some extension courses. To be accepted for credit, the courses must be equivalent to those offered at the University of California, as determined by the Office of Admissions. UC San Diego admits transfer applicants at the junior level only; applications from students who have more than 135 quarter units (ninety semester units) of transfer credit will not be considered for admission.

For information on senior standing, see the Admissions website for transfer requirements.

UC San Diego does not give credit for CLEP examinations.

Military Credit

UC San Diego will grant transfer credit, postadmission, for military training when there is an equivalent course taught at a UC campus. In most cases, when applicable, elective credit will be awarded for course work deemed UC transferable. Students will be required to submit their Sailor/Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript (SMART), Army/American Council on Education Registry Transcript System (AARTS), or equivalent military transcript to the Office of Admissions.

Transfer Agreement: UniversityLink

UniversityLink provides guaranteed admission to high school seniors and first-year college students who sign an agreement and successfully complete academic and program requirements at a participating community college. Because the UniversityLink program and its requirements are reviewed each year and subject to change, interested students should check the Admissions web pages for transfer preparation information and the latest UniversityLink updates.

IGETC (Intersegmental General-Education Transfer Curriculum)

Transfer students from California community colleges can fulfill the UC lower-division breadth and general-education (B/GE) requirements by completing the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC). Completion of IGETC will satisfy the lower-division/GE requirements for the following undergraduate colleges: Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, Sixth, and John Muir. For Eleanor Roosevelt or Revelle College, courses completed prior to transfer will be applied toward the college’s own lower-division requirements. Please refer to individual college websites for more information.

Transfer students should obtain the IGETC certification from their community college and submit it to the Office of Admissions. Students must provide this certification prior to the start of classes at UC San Diego.

It should be noted that completion of IGETC is not a requirement for transfer to UC nor is it the only way to fulfill the lower-division general-education requirements of UC prior to transfer. IGETC certification is not available to freshman applicants.

UC Transfer Reciprocity Agreement

Transfer students who have attended any campus of the University of California and satisfied lower-division breadth and general-education (B/GE) requirements at that campus prior to transfer may consider the requirements satisfied for the following undergraduate colleges: Earl Warren, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall, Sixth, and John Muir. For Revelle College, courses completed prior to transfer will be applied toward the college’s own lower-division requirements. Please refer to individual college websites for more information.

Articulation

UC San Diego has major-preparatory agreements with California community colleges for all majors. These agreements can be found at the ASSIST website, which shows how course credits earned at one public California college or university can be applied when transferred to another. ASSIST is the official repository of articulation for California’s public colleges and universities and provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about student transfer in California.

UC San Diego Undergraduate Colleges

When filling out the UC application, rank all the colleges in order, starting with your first preference. Although there are no guarantees, the Office of Admissions makes every effort to place students in one of their top choices, as enrollment quotas permit. Applicants who do not indicate any college preference or alternate choices, will be assigned to a college.

Read about UC San Diego’s six colleges on our website; you will also want to look at the individual college websites linked from that page.

Notification of Admission

UC San Diego communicates with applicants and admitted students by e-mail. Make sure the e-mail address we have for you is current. Application decisions are posted on UC San Diego’s application status portal, MyApplication. If you are a freshman applicant and you filed your application on time, UC San Diego will notify you between mid-March and March 31. If you are a transfer applicant and you submitted your application on time, UC San Diego will notify you between mid-March and April 30.

Accepting the Offer of Admission

To accept UC San Diego’s offer of admission, complete and submit the Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) and the online Statement of Legal Residence (SLR) through the application status portal, MyApplication. The $100 nonrefundable deposit accompanying your SIR (if required at that time) is applied toward payment of tuition.

MyApplication guides you through the steps online. If needed, you can print out the SIR and mail it to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. If you do not submit (or have your SIR postmarked) before the deadline, you will be denied enrollment due to space limitations. The deadlines for return of your SIR and SLR are:

May 1—freshmen
June 1—transfer students

Official Documents

If you are admitted and you accept UC San Diego’s offer of admission, you must arrange to have final, official transcripts sent to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions between May 1 and no later than July 1. Other documentation is due by July 15. Request transcripts from your school(s). If you attended school outside the United States, see additional information below.

AP/IB Exam Results: If you took AP or IB exams, you must arrange to have your official exam results sent to UC San Diego.

Transcripts and other documents that you submit as part of your application become the property of the university; they cannot be returned to you or forwarded in any form to another college or university.

Applicants Who Have Attended School Outside the United States

In the United States, the academic record is called a transcript. In other countries, it may be called by another name—such as leaving certificate, maturity certificate, bachillerato, or baccalauréat. See the admissions web page showing US high school diploma equivalents.

The Office of Admissions may have made a preliminary evaluation of your application based on the information you provided. Once you are admitted, however, we must receive an official* academic record directly from each institution you attended, beginning with grade nine, and up to and including the school or college/university you currently attend. Each academic record must list

  • dates you attended the institution
  • titles of courses and examinations you completed
  • grades (marks) you received
  • credits, hours, or units earned
  • any degree or diploma you may have received

*Official record means an original transcript sent from the institution in a sealed envelope. Photocopies or opened envelopes are invalid records and may jeopardize your enrollment until you can provide an official record.

The university recognizes that it may be difficult to obtain international records in the event of political upheaval or natural disaster; however, these situations are rare. Failure to provide official records may jeopardize your enrollment at the university.

US Air Force ROTC Program

The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is a three- or four-year program designed to equip students with leadership skills and commission officers for tomorrow’s air force. Required course work includes lectures, a leadership laboratory practical component, panel discussions, dialogues, problem solving, and physical training. All course work is completed on-site at or near San Diego State University (SDSU), with the exception of a four-week summer field training encampment conduced on a military base between the student’s second and third year. UC San Diego does not have a ROTC program; however, under the provisions of a special agreement, students may participate in the ROTC program hosted at SDSU. Students may enroll and attend ROTC classes at SDSU by contacting the SDSU Department of Aerospace Studies at (619) 594-5545. Scholarships may be available for qualified cadets. The credits in these classes may be transferred as electives to meet degree requirements. Upon successful completion of the program and all requirements of a bachelor’s degree, cadets are commissioned as second lieutenants and serve a minimum of four years in the active duty air force.

http://www.airforce.com/

Fees and Expenses

The exact cost of attending UC San Diego will vary according to the personal tastes and financial resources of the individual. It is possible to live simply and to participate moderately in the life of the student community on a limited budget. The university can assist the student in planning a budget by indicating certain and probable expenses. For planning and budgeting purposes, sample budgets are available and are subject to change.

Financial Assistance

For information regarding student employment, loans, scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid at UC San Diego, see the finances web pages and the website for the Financial Aid Office.

If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.

The acceptance rate at UCSD is 38%. For every 100 applicants, 38 are admitted.

This means the school is very selective. If you meet UCSD's requirements for GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and other components of the application, you have a great shot at getting in. But if you fall short on GPA or your SAT/ACT scores, you'll have a very low chance of being admitted, even if you meet the other admissions requirements.

Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.

The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school's average GPA for its current students.

The average GPA at UCSD is 4.

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.

With a GPA of 4, UCSD requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants. Furthermore, you should be taking hard classes - AP or IB courses - to show that college-level academics is a breeze.

If you're currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 4, you'll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.

Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.

You must take either the SAT or ACT to submit an application to UCSD. More importantly, you need to do well to have a strong application.

UCSD SAT Requirements

Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school's average score.

Average SAT: 1350 (Old: 1912)

The average SAT score composite at UCSD is a 1350 on the 1600 SAT scale.

On the old 2400 SAT, this corresponds to an average SAT score of 1912.

This score makes UCSD Moderately Competitive for SAT test scores.


UCSD SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)

The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1250, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1450. In other words, a 1250 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1450 will move you up to above average.

Here's the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:

SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
Math700640760
Reading323035
Writing343236
Composite135012501450

UCSD SAT Score Analysis (Old 2400 SAT)

The 25th percentile Old SAT score is 1750, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 2073. In other words, a 1750 on the Old SAT places you below average, while a 2073 puts you well above average.

Here's the breakdown of old SAT scores by section:

SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
Math675620730
Reading605550660
Writing632580683
Composite191217502073

SAT Score Choice Policy

The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.

UCSD has the Score Choice policy of "All Scores."

This means that UCSD requires you to send all SAT scores you've ever taken to their office.

This sounds daunting, but most schools don't actually consider all your scores equally. For example, if you scored an 1300 on one test and a 1500 on another, they won't actually average the two tests.

In fact, we researched the score policies at UCSD, and they have the following policy:

We require all scores and will use the highest scores from a single administration.

Source

Some students are still worried about submitting too many test scores. They're afraid that UCSD will look down on too many attempts to raise your score. But how many is too many?

From our research and talking to admissions officers, we've learned that 4-6 tests is a safe number to submit. The college understands that you want to have the best chance of admission, and retaking the test is a good way to do this. Within a reasonable number of tests, they honestly don't care how many times you've taken it. They'll just focus on your score.

If you take it more than 6 times, colleges start wondering why you're not improving with each test. They'll question your study skills and ability to improve.

But below 6 tests, we strongly encourage retaking the test to maximize your chances. If your SAT score is currently below a 1450, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You don't have much to lose, and you can potentially raise your score and significantly boost your chances of getting in.


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UCSD ACT Requirements

Just like for the SAT, UCSD likely doesn't have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.

Average ACT: 29

The average ACT score at UCSD is 29. This score makes UCSD Moderately Competitive for ACT scores.

The 25th percentile ACT score is 26, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 31.

Even though UCSD likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 26 or below, you'll have a very hard time getting in, unless you have something else very impressive in your application. There are so many applicants scoring 29 and above that a 26 will look academically weak.

ACT Score Sending Policy

If you're taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.

Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.

This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school's ACT requirement of 31 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you're happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.

ACT Superscore Policy

By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.

We weren't able to find the school's exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to UCSD, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 31.


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SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements

Both the SAT and ACT have a Writing section that includes an essay.

UCSD requires you to take the SAT/ACT Writing section. They'll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.


SAT Subject Test Requirements

Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.

We did not find information that UCSD requires SAT subject tests, and so most likely it does not. At least 6 months before applying, you should still doublecheck just to make sure, so you have enough time to take the test.


Our Expert's Notes

We did more detailed research into this school and found the following information.


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