SAT Scores for Admission to Public Universities in North Carolina

A Side-by-Side Comparison of College Admissions Data

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North Carolina's 16 public universities range from highly selective to highly accessible. SAT scores for the schools are similarly wide-ranging. The table below presents a side-by-side comparison of scores for the middle 50% of enrolled students. If your scores fall within or above these ranges, you're on target for admission to one of these public universities.

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

Reading 25% Reading 75% Math 25% Math 75%
Appalachian State University 560 640 540 630
East Carolina University 520 590 510 590
Elizabeth City State University 430 500 430 490
Fayetteville State University 440 510 430 510
North Carolina A&T State University 470 550 460 540
North Carolina Central University 450 520 450 510
North Carolina State University 610 680 620 710
UNC Asheville 550 650 530 610
UNC Chapel Hill 640 720 630 740
UNC Charlotte 560 630 550 640
UNC Greensboro 520 600 510 580
UNC Pembroke 460 540 450 530
UNC School of the Arts 560 660 520 630
UNC Wilmington 600 660 585 650
Western Carolina University 510 610 510 590
Winston-Salem State 450 510 440 510

See the ACT version of this table

Admissions Standards for North Carolina's Public Universities

The two most selective schools in North Carolina are private: Duke University and Davidson College. Wake Forest University also has highly selective admissions, but the school has a test-optional admissions policy, so typical SAT scores aren't reported, nor is the exam required for applicants.

Several of the public universities in North Carolina also have highly selective admissions. At UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, and North Carolina State University, nearly all applicants have grades and SAT scores that are significantly above average (an average SAT score is a little over 500 for each section).  To be competitive, applicants who want to attend the flagship campus at Chapel Hill will need an "A" average and a 1300 or higher combined SAT score. Note that for out-of-state applicants, the admissions bar tends to be even higher than what you see in the table.

If your SAT scores are below the numbers presented in the table, don't lose all hope. Keep in mind that 25% of applicants have scores that are below those presented here. Even universities that have stated minimum requirements for admission will sometimes enroll students who fail to meet those requirements if the applicants show promise of college success. A strong high school GPA and/or high class rank can help make up for less-than-ideal SAT scores.

In general, it's important to keep in mind that SAT scores are just one part of the application, and they are never the most important part. Good grades in college preparatory classes are a better predictor of college success than SAT scores, and colleges will be impressed by students who do well in challenging courses. Success in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Honors, and Dual Enrollment courses will show that you are prepared for the challenges of college academics.

The more selective public institutions in North Carolina will also look at holistic measures when evaluating students. A strong application essay, meaningful extracurricular activities and glowing letters of recommendation all help make an application stand out. At UNC School of the Arts and arts programs at other schools, a portfolio or audition can also plan an important role in the admissions equation.

North Carolina's Diverse Group of Public Universities

North Carolina's public university system offers a diversity of school types with wide-ranging admissions standards. This is good news for state residents: there's a very good chance that one of the 16 universities will be a good fit for an applicant academically, professionally, and personally. The other piece of good news is that North Carolina has done a good job keeping the cost of higher education down compared to many states. UNC Chapel Hill's tuition, for example, is about half of what you'll find at the University of Michigan and the University of California system. This is true for both in-state and out-of-state applicants.

To get a sense of the diversity of the University of North Carolina system, consider the following:

  • Size ranges from just a thousand students at the UNC School of the Arts to over 34,000 students at NC State.
  • UNC Chapel Hill consistent ranks among the top public universities in the country.
  • Five campuses in the system are historically Black colleges or universities: Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, NC A&T, North Carolina Central, and Winston-Salem State.
  • UNC Pembroke has a was founded to educate American Indian teachers, a heritage the school still embraces.
  • North Carolina A&T ranks as one of the nation's top historically Black colleges and universities.
  • UNC Asheville is one of the top public liberal arts colleges in the country.

Expand Your College Search

If you're a strong student, don't feel like you need to restrict your college search to North Carolina's public universities. You should also look at other top North Carolina colleges. A little further from home, check out the top Middle Atlantic colleges and top Southeast colleges

One of the attractive features of North Carolina's public universities is the relatively low cost. Keep in mind, however, that students who qualify for financial aid will often find that the actual cost difference between public and private institutions is negligible. In some cases, in fact, the private institution will be less costly since it may have more financial aid resources. Duke University, for example, may have a total cost over $70,000, but the school also has an $8.5 billion endowment, and the average grant award is close to $50,000.

Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics

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Grove, Allen. "SAT Scores for Admission to Public Universities in North Carolina." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). SAT Scores for Admission to Public Universities in North Carolina. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "SAT Scores for Admission to Public Universities in North Carolina." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).