A Comparison of the University of California Campuses

Acceptance Rates, Graduation Rates, Financial Aid, Enrollment and More

California Hall at Berkeley
California Hall at Berkeley. Photo Credit: Marisa Benjamin

The University of California system includes some of the best public universities in the country. Acceptance and graduation rates, however, vary widely. The chart below puts the 10 University of California schools side-by-side for easy comparison.

Click on a university's name for more admission, cost, and financial aid information. Note that all of the University of California schools are quite pricey for out-of-state students.

The data presented here is from the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Campus Undergrad Enrollment Student / Faculty Ratio Financial Aid Recipients 4-Year Graduation Rate 6-Year Graduation Rate
Berkeley 29,310 18 to 1 63% 76% 92%
Davis 29,379 20 to 1 70% 55% 85%
Irvine 27,331 18 to 1 68% 71% 87%
Los Angeles 30,873 17 to 1 64% 74% 91%
Merced 6,815 20 to 1 92% 38% 66%
Riverside 19,799 22 to 1 85% 47% 73%
San Diego 28,127 19 to 1 56% 59% 87%
Santa Barbara 21,574 18 to 1 70% 69% 82%
Santa Cruz 16,962 18 to 1 77% 52% 77%

Admissions Data

Campus SAT Reading 25% SAT Reading 75% SAT Math 25% SAT Math 75% ACT 25% ACT 75% Acceptance Rate
Berkeley 620 750 650 790 31 34 17%
Davis 510 630 540 700 25 31 42%
Irvine 490 620 570 710 24 30 41%
Los Angeles 570 710 590 760 28 33 18%
Merced 420 520 450 550 19 24 74%
Riverside 460 580 480 610 21 27 66%
San Diego 560 680 610 770 27 33 36%
Santa Barbara 550 660 570 730 27 32 36%
Santa Cruz 520 630 540 660 25 30 58%

*Note: The San Francisco campus only offers graduate study and is therefore not included in the data listed above.

You can see that acceptance rates and admissions standards vary widely from campus to campus, and universities such as UCLA and Berkeley are among the most selective public universities in the country. For all campuses, however, you're going to need strong grades, and your SAT or ACT scores should be average or better. If your academic record seems on the low side for the UC campuses, be sure to check out some of the excellent options among the 23 California State University campuses -- many of the Cal State schools have a lower admissions bar than the UC schools.

Also be sure to put some of the above data into perspective. UCSD, for example, has a four-year graduation rate that seems a bit low given the selectivity of admissions, but this can be partly explained by the school's large engineering programs which nation-wide tend to have lower four-year graduation rates than programs in the liberal arts, social sciences, and sciences. Also, UCLA's lower student/faculty ratio doesn't necessarily translate into smaller classes and more personalized attention at the undergraduate level. Many of the faculty at top research universities are devoted almost entirely to graduate education and research, not undergraduate instruction.

Finally, be sure to not limit yourself to public universities strictly for financial reasons. The UC schools are some of the most expensive public universities in the United States. If you qualify for financial aid, you may find that private universities can match or even beat the price of the University of California. It's worth looking at some of the private options among these top California colleges and top West Coast colleges.