What Does it Take to Get Into UC San Diego?

Strategies by School
July 16, 2020
Many Students Are Drawn To UC San Diego For The Scenic Landscape, But There’s Much More To This University Than Its Location…

Here, some of the brightest minds from across the world have gathered to help guide the next generation in academics, leadership, and community responsibility.

At UC San Diego, your child will be given the opportunity and resources to live their passions and make a difference. By providing such a unique experience, UC San Diego has cemented itself as one of the most popular, and therefore competitive, public colleges in the state of California. Read on to discover what your child can do to maximize their chances of being accepted into UC San Diego.

What You’ll Find In This Article

UC San Diego's Ideal Student

UC San Diego is one of the most popular colleges in the University of California system for a variety of reasons - from the location to the immense spirit of school pride that drives students to do better every day. Despite having a relatively high admission rate, UC San Diego is considered competitive due to the sheer number of applicants they receive. Because of this, students need to make sure their academic scores are in line with the average incoming UC San Diego first-year student:

  • GPA: 3.8
  • SAT: 1260-1470
  • ACT: 27-33

While the diversity of the student body at UC San Diego is one of the many qualities that draw students in, despite these differences a general thread holds UC San Diego’s students together. While everyone attends UC San Diego for different reasons, many students share a set of common values that drew them toward the school in the first place. If your child displays any of the following values, they may be a close match to the ideal UC San Diego student.


A strong understanding of right and wrong will lead a student to great success at UC San Diego. While many students can claim to have integrity, both academic and otherwise, it is another challenge entirely to hold onto one’s values and morals when tempted or challenged. If your student has a track record of doing the right thing no matter what they are faced with, their integrity will serve them well throughout their college years.

  • Does your child have a strong moral compass? What drives this?
  • How often do you see your child making the morally correct choice, even when it may not be in their own best interest?


Being a leader goes beyond being the boss of others, and the ideal UC San Diego student knows this. If your child’s leadership style and experience have them being a leading voice, assisting as part of the team, and driving the group’s goals forward, their experience will lead them on to great success at this university.

  • How can you display your child’s track record of leadership on their application?
  • What type of leadership roles is your child drawn to? How have those roles given your child valuable experience?
  • What draws your child toward wanting to lead?


Respect for themselves, their peers, and the world around them is paramount to a student’s success at UC San Diego. Respect is a two-way street, and throughout campus, students are taught to give and earn respect with everyone they interact with.

  • How does your child go out of their way to include others?
  • What is your child’s natural reaction to conflict? How do they handle disagreements with others while still showing respect?


UC San Diego is known for its wide variety of programs and excellent instruction. For students who are unsure what their future calling is, the variety offered at UC San Diego gives them more leeway to decide what their major will be later on if they haven’t decided before entering their freshman year. Regardless of what your child chooses to study, there are many excellent programs including:

  • Communications
  • Economics
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Performing Arts


Overall, there is no one type of ideal student for this university. This inherent diversity is one of the things that make UC San Diego special - many current and former students cite the vibrant and amazing student body as one of the school’s best aspects.

However, in order to truly feel like they belong at UC San Diego, your child’s ambitions and goals should align with the values of the university. This will not only help them feel more confident and at home with their choice, but it will also help lead your child to real personal and academic growth on campus.

What You Need To Get Accepted Into UC San Diego


The University of California uses one application for all nine of their college campuses. Make sure you sit with your child and go over the University of California Application guidebook with them to ensure they’re familiar with the system. The earlier your child starts filling out the application, the more time they will leave themselves to double-check and perfect their application.


All students applying to UC San Diego are required to submit either the ACT + Writing or the SAT with the essay portion of the test in order to apply. Students must also submit their high school GPA as well as their performance in any AP, Honors, or college courses. Make sure you talk with your student so they understand why colleges take these scores into consideration and what they can do to make their GPA and test scores reflect their hard work.


Students are given 8 different possible questions to answer and must only respond to 4 of them. Your student should select the questions that provide the most unique and insightful responses tailored to their experiences, talents, and skills. Make sure to go over the questions and your child’s responses in order to provide clarity, catch mistakes, and be supportive.


Students are required to submit a $70 non-refundable fee to apply to UC San Diego, or will need to receive a waiver from the school if the fee would cause financial burden to them or their family.

UC San Diego's Campus Life


With a sprawling and sunshine-filled campus, UC San Diego has built a reputation for being a picturesque four-year college. The campus takes up more than 1,000 acres in the scenic La Jolla neighborhood located in the northern part of San Diego, and makes a perfect homebase for students eager to learn and explore their surroundings. The campus is filled with state-of-the-art learning centers and lecture halls, historic libraries, and breathtaking public spaces where students can take a moment to relax and enjoy the weather.


With 45 different fraternities and sororities to choose from, students will have no end to their possibilities in Greek Life. Students who go Greek will not only build lifelong skills and relationships, but they will also come together with their brothers and sisters to have an immediate impact on the community around them through leadership, service, and community projects.


Housing at UC San Diego is kept separate by the six different colleges. First-years are housed together in traditional dormitory style residence halls, while upperclassmen are given a bit more freedom to choose on-campus housing ranging from dorms to campus apartments. Regardless of the style of housing a student is in, UC San Diego works hard to make sure every student feels right at home while they study.

The variety of food available directly on-campus or within walking distance of campus can’t be understated. Students can choose from a vast array of traditional college cafeterias to local eateries, small on-campus convenience stores, and food delivery from a wide range of restaurants.

Due to the large size of campus, UC San Diego offers plenty of student parking and alternative methods of transportation. Free bike rentals, walking paths, and bus services are available to students to make getting around campus a bit easier.


The San Diego Tritons are a force to be reckoned with, and students can represent their school in everything from women’s basketball and water polo to men’s track and golf. The school is currently in the process of transferring into the Big West Conference, where it will be pitted against many other well known universities. In addition to division sports, there are nearly 30 club teams that students can choose to participate in as well.

With such a large student body, it’s no surprise that UC San Diego has over 500 different student organizations. Every organization provides students an opportunity to grow beyond the classroom, connect with like-minded peers (who may become lifelong friends and connections), and experience life beyond the walls of their dorm room.

From Application To Career: What You'll Experience At UC San Diego


Because the University of California San Diego uses the same application as all other UC schools, it may help your student to take the time to read over the guidebook and become familiar with the app, especially if they plan on applying to more than one campus. Take the time to review their application with them to help them feel more confident.


In order to have the best chances of being admitted into UC San Diego, your child should take care to read the essay prompts completely and respond to them in full. For many students, crafting a cohesive yet short college entrance essay can take some practice. Be sure to sit with them and go over their UC San Diego essays before they turn them in - an extra pair of eyes can catch mistakes that your child may gloss over after spending hours writing.


While studying at UC San Diego, your child will be surrounded with like-minded peers and those that challenge them to see the world from a different point of view, innovative and thoughtful faculty and staff, and state-of-the-art facilities. All of this combined will help set your child up with a strong educational foundation, a network of connections, and the experiences of a lifetime.


As an alumni of UC San Diego, your child will join the list of names including Nick Woodman, the founder of GoPro, and Billy Beane, the owner of the Oakland Athletics. Career-wise, your child’s future will look bright, with positive outcomes for UC San Diego students in the following companies as well as many others:

  • Tesla
  • U.S. HHS
  • Boeing
  • General Atomics
  • NBC Universal

Your Student's Future At UC San Diego

If your child is serious about attending UC San Diego, whether they’re enticed by the sun or the experience or the education, they will need all the support they can get. UC San Diego’s admissions are challenging not because the school is exclusive, but because so many students want a chance to experience what the school can offer.

There are many reasons why a student may be drawn to a large school like UC San Diego, but whatever your child’s reasons are, we are here to support them. Reach out to our WeAdmit counselors to see what we can do to help make your child’s journey through college admissions easier. We have experience working with the University of California app and can help your student every step of the way!



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