ACT Scores for Admission to Public Universities in North Carolina

A Side-by-Side Comparison of College Admissions Data

Forney Building at UNCG
Forney Building at UNCG. ThoughtCo. / Allen Grove

North Carolina's public universities offer excellent value, especially for in-state students. The state's many universities vary widely in both selectivity and personality, so be sure to shop around to find the university that is the best match for your credentials, academic interests, and personal preferences. Below is a side-by-side comparison of ACT score data for all 16 four-year universities in the North Carolina system.

North Carolina ACT Scores (mid 50%)
(Learn what these numbers mean)

Composite 25% Composite 75% English 25% English 75% Math 25% Math 75%
Appalachian State University 23 27 23 28 23 27
East Carolina University 20 24 19 24 18 24
Elizabeth City State University 16 20 14 19 16 19
Fayetteville State University 17 20 15 20 16 20
North Carolina A&T State University 17 22 15 21 17 22
North Carolina Central University 17 20 15 20 16 20
North Carolina State University 26 31 25 32 25 30
UNC Asheville 22 28 22 29 21 26
UNC Chapel Hill 28 33 28 34 27 32
UNC Charlotte 22 26 20 25 21 26
UNC Greensboro 20 25 19 25 18 24
UNC Pembroke 18 21 16 21 17 21
UNC School of the Arts 22 28 22 31 20 26
UNC Wilmington 23 27 22 27 21 26
Western Carolina University 19 24 18 24 18 24
Winston-Salem State 16 19 14 19 16 18

See the SAT version of this table.

Admissions Standards for Public North Carolina Universities

An average ACT composite score is about 21, so you can see how much the admissions standards vary within the North Carolina public university system. At a school like Winston-Salem State University, the majority of students scored below the national average. At a highly selective university like UNC Chapel Hill, nearly all students scored well above average.

In general, if your scores are within or above the ranges presented in the table, you're on target for admission to that university. Also keep in mind that 25 percent of students scored below the lower number, so you shouldn't give up hope of getting in if your ACT scores are less than ideal. That said, it becomes much more challenging to receive an acceptance letter with low standardized test scores.

Realize, of course, that ACT scores are just one part of the application. The most important piece of your application will be a strong academic record. High grades in college preparatory classes will strengthen your application considerably. AP, IB, Honors, and dual enrollment courses can all play a significant roll in the admissions process, for these courses are a much better predictor of college success than any standardized test.

 At some of the more selective universities such as UNC Chapel Hill, the admissions folks will also want to see a winning essay, meaningful extracurricular activities and good letters of recommendation. At NC State, these more holistic measures are optional, but they are clearly a good idea if your ACT scores aren't quite what they should be.

If you're interested in the UNC School of the Arts, an art portfolio is going to be an important part of your application. A stunning portfolio can help make up for less-than-ideal ACT scores.

A Diverse Group of North Carolina Universities

The universities in the UNC system represent excellent values. Tuition is roughly half of what you'll find in states like California and Michigan, and the cost is competitive when compared to any state in the country. Another plus is the diversity of schools in the state system. Consider some of the options available to students:

  • Over half of the schools have NCAA Division I athletic programs including the UNC Tar Heels.
  • Five of the schools are historically Black colleges or universities.
  • The size of the institutions ranges from the UNC School of the Arts with about 1,000 students to NC State with over 34,000 students.
  • UNC Asheville ranks among the country's best public liberal arts colleges.
  • UNC Chapel Hill can always be found ranked highly among the very best public universities in the country.
  • Admissions standards vary from extremely selective to highly accessible.

For the great majority of high school students, the UNC system offers at least one university that will be a good match on both the academic and non-academic fronts.

More College Options

If you're drawn to the University of North Carolina system because of the low tuition, keep in mind that the price tag doesn't tell the whole story if you qualify for financial aid. A private institution such as Davidson College or Duke University may have a price tag around $70,000, but the schools also have lots of resources for financial aid. You may even find that an expensive private college ultimately costs less than a public institution once financial aid is awarded.

Be sure to check out these top North Carolina colleges and top southeastern colleges for more options. The lists include a diverse mix of public and private institutions.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "ACT Scores for Admission to Public Universities in North Carolina." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). ACT Scores for Admission to Public Universities in North Carolina. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "ACT Scores for Admission to Public Universities in North Carolina." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).