Freshman Admission and Selection: Fall 2021

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 13 faculty-approved criteria to determine an individualized, single score for each applicant. 

Computer Engineering and Computer Science: Students interested in computer engineering or computer science must select the major as their first choice on the UC Application. Applicants are encouraged to have a solid background in advanced high school mathematics. A student not selected for computer engineering or computer science may be reviewed for admission to an alternate major if one was selected.

Minimum Qualifications for 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. For a full list of "a-g" requirements and information on courses in California high schools that meet the requirements, please see the Office of the President's A-G Policy Resource Guide.

  • 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.

UC Santa Cruz will no longer use standardized exam scores (ACT/SAT) in our holistic review and selection process. Like all UC campuses, we consider a broad range of factors when reviewing a student's application, from academics to extracurricular achievement and response to life challenges. No admission decision is based on a single factor. Exam scores may still be used to meet area b of the a-g subject requirements as well as the UC Entry Level Writing requirement. 

—Statewide Guarantee—
(California Residents Only)

UC is committed to ensuring enrollment opportunities for all qualified California high school graduates.

UC will not consider SAT or ACT test scores as a factor in admissions decisions for fall 2022-2024 applicants. In light of this change, the University of California has revised the index that we use to determine eligibility for the statewide guarantee, effective fall 2022. The updated Statewide Index will continue to identify California-resident students in the top 9 percent of California high school graduates and offer these students a guaranteed space at a UC campus, if space is available.

For more information on the Statewide Guarantee, please see the UC Office of the President’s website.

Out-of-state Applicants

Our requirements for out-of-state applicants are nearly identical to our requirements for California residents. The only difference is that non-residents must earn a minimum GPA of 3.40. Please see our Out-of-State Admissions website.

International Applicants

UC has slightly different admission requirements for international students. For freshman admission, you must:

  1. 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
  2. Meet other requirements specific to your country

In addition, students with very high test scores may qualify by their examination scores alone.

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.

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.


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. For more information, please see the UC Office of the President's page on How Applications Are Reviewed.


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

Many 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.

Further information

Screening Major Selection Criteria

Transfer Admission Planner

For further information, including information on UCSC's Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) program, please see our Transfer Admissions website.

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 Admissions Representatives page


See Also