Application Review Process for Freshmen

Each year, many more students apply to UCLA than we can possibly admit. Many freshman applicants have strong academic records. Using the admission review process, we focus on successful applicants who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, leadership, initiative and tenacity. They are the students who would contribute the most to the UCLA learning community. They are the students who would make the most of immersion in UCLAs dynamic learning environment.

Although grades and curriculum are important indicators of academic achievement, we know they only tell part of the story. So we consider a broad range of criteria in evaluating students for admission.

UCLA is a public, land grant institution of higher learning. California’s future depends heavily on its future leaders. So UCLA has a mandate to serve the State of California by educating those future leaders — in research, industry and the arts. 

California law prohibits the consideration of an applicant’s race and/or gender in individual admission decisions. However, student diversity is a compelling interest at UCLA. Diversity contributes to a rich and stimulating learning environment. That environment best prepares future leaders for the challenges and opportunities they will face.

Admission Review Process

Our comprehensive admission review process is based upon the 13 criteria approved by our faculty. These criteria include both quantitative and qualitative, academic and personal accomplishments by the student along with consideration of the context of those accomplishments and opportunities afforded to the student. Professionally trained readers review all freshman applications at least twice, in their entirety. After independently reading and analyzing an application, each reader determines a holistic rank for the applicant.  

Senior admission staff conduct multiple checks for consistency and completeness throughout the reading process. Extensive reader training, comprehensive reading of all applications, and careful monitoring procedures ensure reliability and consistency in our review process. 

Application readers employ the following faculty-approved criteria in reviewing an application. Criteria do not carry pre-assigned weights:

  • The applicant’s full record of achievement in college preparatory work in high school. This includes the number and rigor of courses taken and grades earned in those courses. Positive factors can include completing courses beyond the University’s a-g minimums and choosing a strong senior year course load. We also consider performance in honors, college level, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate Higher Level (IBHL) courses to the extent that such courses are available to the applicant. To assess achievement levels, we look at individual grades earned and the pattern of achievement over time. We compare an applicant’s achievement to those of others in the same high school. We follow the guidelines of the University of California Eligibility in the Local Context program.
  • Personal qualities of the applicant. We value leadership ability, character, motivation, tenacity, initiative, originality, creativity, intellectual independence, responsibility, insight, maturity, and demonstrated concern for others and for the community. Traditional measures of academic achievement may not capture these qualities. But the reader may find them elsewhere in the application. We consider these qualities to be positive indicators of the student’s ability to succeed at UCLA and beyond.
  • Likely contributions to the intellectual and cultural vitality of the campus. We look for a broad range of intellectual interests and achievements. We value evidence of ability and desire to contribute to the campus, and to its diversity: cultural, socioeconomic, and intellectual. We consider the likelihood that a student will interact socially and intellectually with faculty and fellow students, inside and outside the classroom.
  • Achievement in academic enrichment programs. This includes University of California programs as well as national and local programs. We measure achievement in several ways. Time and depth of participation is one indicator. Academic progress during the program is another. The intellectual rigor of a program is also a consideration.
  • Other evidence of achievement. We recognize exemplary, sustained achievement in any field of intellectual or creative endeavor. Examples include accomplishments in the performing arts and athletics; employment; leadership in school or community organizations or activities; and community service.
  • Opportunities. We consider all achievements, both academic and non-academic, in the context of the applicants actual opportunities. Readers base their assessments on how fully the applicant has taken advantage of those opportunities. To gauge the strength of the high school curriculum, we look at the school’s resources; the availability of honors, AP, and IBHL courses; and the total number of college preparatory courses available. When they can, readers compare the achievements of students in the same applicant pool who attended the same high school. These applicants are likely to have similar opportunities to achieve.
  • Challenges. Some applicants have faced hardships or unusual circumstances. Readers consider the way the applicant has responded to or overcome such challenges. They look for evidence of maturity, determination and insight. Readers also consider other factors that bear directly on the applicant’s achievement. Some of these factors are the language spoken in the home and the parents education level.

In applying the criteria listed here, readers look at the entire application. That includes the academic record, the list of honors and achievements and the applicant's response to personal insight questions. Personal insight questions show the reader your personality, background, interests and achievements in your own unique voice. 


UCLA is among the most selective universities in the country. Admission is highly competitive for freshman applicants. Each year UCLA receives more than 100,000 applications.

Major selection does not play a role in the admission process for freshman applicants applying to the College and Luskin School of Public Affairs. Our other schools at UCLA consider the following (which includes the holistic review conducted by Undergraduate Admission):

  • The Samueli School of Engineering considers students by declared major. “Engineering, undecided” is also an option. Engineering does closely consider performance in the areas of math and science.
  • The School of Nursing likewise emphasizes science and math preparation. You must submit a supplemental application directly to the School of Nursing.
  • The School of the Arts and Architecture, Herb Alpert School of Music and the School of Theater, Film and Television consider students by declared major. These schools also closely consider the talent presented by the student through a portfolio, audition or supplemental information collected through a school-specific application. This talent plays a critical role in the selection process. 
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