Easiest UC to Get Into [and the Hardest]

California residents have many options when it comes to choosing a college or university for their higher education. There are hundreds of institutions in the state. Among these, the University of California (UC) college system stands out as a special group. However, not all UC schools are easy to get into. So, in this post, I will show you the easiest UC to get into, as well as the hardest by acceptance rate percentage.

The UC system is home to several public four-year colleges, some of which are ranked among the best in the United States. While some UC colleges can be quite competitive to get into, they also offer affordable tuition costs for students who live in California.

To help you understand which colleges in the UC system are the easiest to get into, the Work After School blog has analyzed the admission rates of all the schools in the UC system to show you the easiest to get into.

How Many Schools Are in the UC System?

The University of California system is made up of 9 schools that provide education for both undergraduate and graduate students. The 10th school is UC San Francisco, however, it is a graduate and professional school only.

These schools are known as UC schools and they are big public universities that focus on research.

People often think of UC schools as some of the top public universities in the United States. There are almost 300,000 students and around 230,000 faculty and staff members in the UC system. The 9 schools (excluding the UC San Francisco) that are part of the UC system are:

  1. UC Berkeley
  2. UC Davis
  3. UC Irvine
  4. UCLA
  5. UC Merced
  6. UC Riverside
  7. UC San Diego
  8. UC Santa Barbara
  9. UC Santa Cruz

Easiest UC to Get Into

All 9 of these colleges have a lot in common, such as having the same basic tuition rate for everyone. But, the total cost of tuition can be different at each university because they all have their own extra fees that students need to pay on top of tuition.

Also, students who don’t live in California have to pay a lot more for tuition compared to students who do live in California.

Here’s a table that shows the UC colleges in order from the one with the highest admission rate to the one with the lowest. The information comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the websites of each college:

CollegeAcceptance Rate
University of California, Merced89%
University of California, Riverside69%
University of California, Santa Cruz47%
University of California, Davis37%
University of California, Santa Barbara26%
University of California, San Diego24%
University of California, Irvine21%
University of California, Berkeley11%
University of California, Los Angeles9%

Based on the undergraduate population and student to faculty ratio:

CollegeUndergraduate PopulationStudent-to-Faculty Ratio
University of California, Merced8,32119 to 1
University of California, Riverside22,86824 to 1
University of California, Santa Cruz17,86424 to 1
University of California, Davis31,65721 to 1
University of California, Santa Barbara23,09117 to 1
University of California, San Diego33,34319 to 1
University of California, Irvine29,44918 to 1
University of California, Berkeley31,81420 to 1
University of California, Los Angeles32,12218 to 1

Based on in-state tuition and out of state tuition fees:

College2024-2025 In-State Tuition and Required Fees2024-2025 Out-of-State Tuition and Required Fees
University of California, Merced$14,840$47,414
University of California, Riverside$14,282$44,036
University of California, Santa Cruz$15,288$47,862
University of California, Davis$15,274$46,300
University of California, Santa Barbara$15,666$48,240
University of California, San Diego$18,480$51,054
University of California, Irvine$14,339$45,365
University of California, Berkeley$15,444$48,018
University of California, Los Angeles$14,478$47,052

The acceptance rates for undergraduate students at UC system colleges change. Almost all of these colleges have become more selective.

If you’re looking for the UC school that’s easiest to get into, that would be the University of California, Merced. From the data, the University of California, Merced, is the easiest UC system to get into. Its acceptance rate is 89%. But it doesn’t mean that UC Merced is any less of a good school. If you love fast food, there aren’t any national fast-food chains within 2 miles of UC Merced.

UC Merced opened in 2005, making it the newest UC campus. It’s known for being tough academically and for its commitment to research. The school has three main areas:

  1. Engineering
  2. Natural Sciences and Social Sciences
  3. Humanities and Arts

They offer a bunch of different programs for undergrads, grads, and even doctoral students. The faculty is top-notch, with many being leaders in their fields.

UC Merced is also big on sustainability and was the first UC campus to be LEED certified. When it comes to admissions, they look at everything from your grades to your personal accomplishments and challenges you’ve faced. It’s not all about your SAT or ACT scores.

Hardest UC to Get Into

The hardest UC to get into is UCLA, with its 9% acceptance rate. That’s even more selective than Berkeley. UCLA stands out because its admission rate dropped to a super competitive 9%. Following UCLA is the University of California, Riverside, with an acceptance rate of 69%.

Three factors that make UCLA rank so high in terms of ‘hardest’ are based on their admissions process, which are rigor of secondary school record, GPA, and application essays.

You also have to meet important factors such as:

  • Talent/ability
  • Character/personal qualities
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Volunteer experience, and
  • Work experience

How to Apply to UC schools

Getting into a UC school takes some planning ahead of time, whether it is one with the easiest or the hardest acceptance rate. Many of the UC campuses are really competitive, so you might need more than just the basic admission requirements to be accepted.

First, make sure you understand the admission process of the UC school you want to go to. You should also apply to more than one campus to increase your chances of admission.

1. Check the Admission Requirements

At the very least, you need to complete 15 college-prep courses and have a GPA of at least 3.0 if you live in California, or 3.4 if you’re from out of state.

If you’re a California resident and you’re in the top 9% of all high school graduates in the state, or the top 9% of your high school, you’re guaranteed a spot at a UC school.

2. Fill Out an Application

You only have to fill out one UC application, no matter how many UC schools you want to apply to. There are seven sections in the application.

These sections ask you about the campuses you want to apply to, the majors you are interested in, and your academic history. There is also a personal insight section where you can talk about your awards, honors, extracurricular activities, life experiences, and future goals.

3. Submit Your Application to Each Campus

Once you’ve finished your application, you can send it to any or all of the nine undergraduate UC schools. It costs $70 to apply to each school ($80 if you’re an international student). But, you might be able to get a fee waiver, which means you can apply to up to four campuses without having to pay.

4. Know the Deadlines

It’s important to remember the deadlines for your application. You need to send in your application by November 30 if you want to start in the fall term. There are a few other dates you should keep in mind too. If you’ve decided on a campus and want to register there, make sure you do that by May 1.

Don’t forget to send in your official transcripts by July 1. If you’re planning on applying for financial aid, you’ll need to get those applications in by March 2.


The easiest UC to get into is the University of California, Merced while the hardest UC to get into is the UCLA in the UC system. When deciding which UC college is for you, you need to think about how much it will cost. For people who live in California, the tuition and fees at most UC schools are pretty reasonable and similar to each other. But if you’re from out of state, the cost goes up a lot, with all 9 UC universities charging over $40,000 per year.

Read alsoWorst Universities in California

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