Best Value in the Nation
If UNC-Chapel Hill is your dream school, you’re not alone. UNC is rated by Forbes as the “Best Value” University in the nation. The value that this university offers is recognized by Kiplinger: “At UNC-Chapel Hill, an academic superstar that competes with the Ivies, the annual in-state cost for students with financial need comes to a dirt-cheap $5,912.”
The school offers a rare combination of excellent climate, an incredible sports program, a top 30 national rank, and one of the most quintessential college towns. UNC-Chapel Hill was also recently rated by Forbes as the most entrepreneurial campus in the nation.
Two Tiered Admission
First things first—we need to make a clear distinction between the admission chances of North Carolina residents vs. non-North Carolina residents. UNC is a state-sponsored school, meaning that much of its funding comes from NC state tax revenue. As a result, the admissions board reserves around 80% of its available spots for NC residents.
This is not to say that in-state applicants don’t have to be competitive to get in. As a matter of fact, due to the recent economic recession, this public ivy has become exceedingly selective. In the words of a NC high school teacher:
“As a North Carolina High School teacher, I can tell you that many of the top kids in our school were not accepted to UNC-Chapel Hill. The university this year has turned away students with 4.3 GPA’s and high SAT scores. The university has been and continues to be most selective. They want students who have high achievements and leadership skills. We had a great deal of in state students who were upset when they did not get in. With the financial crises in our country not getting any better, UNC-Chapel Hill offers an amazing education. I know students who got into Duke, but not Chapel Hill. The private universities will lose many of their outstanding students due to costs. Many of these students go onto graduate school and do not want to carry debt along with them. If your child is fortunate enough to get into such a great school UNC-Chapel Hill, they are doing themselves and their parents a favor.”
So it goes without saying that if in-state applicants need to stand out to gain admission, out-of state admissions are infamously competitive. This article will deal with applicants with in-state residency. For those inquiring from out of state, refer to the article How to get into Emory for a more accurate analysis of academic requirements. The non-academic components of this post obviously still apply. The following chart quantifies the distinction between in-state and out-of-state students.
|In-State||Out-of-State||All First Year Undergraduate
|Scores Not Available||48||1.5%||85||11.7%||133||3.4%|
So, what does it take to get into UNC? First, let’s start with the obvious; the class profile from the most recent year available.
7,342 admitted (32%)
Rank in Class
75.8% reported a high-school rank in class
79.6% ranked in top ten%
13.6% ranked in second ten%
7.4% ranked first
18.3% ranked first, second, or third
43.8% ranked in the top ten
91.7% reported a high-school GPA
89.2% had GPA of 4.0 or higher
Average GPA was 4.47*
*For those students from high schools that report GPAs on a weighted 4.0 scale
96.6% reported at least one SAT I score
Middle 50% ranges for the three subscores:
Critical Reading: 590–700
32.6% reported at least one ACT score
Average score was 28.7
Middle 50% scored between 26 and 31
79.2% submitted at least one AP exam score
71.7% submitted three or more scores
53.3% submitted five or more scores
28.0% submitted seven or more scores
Enrolling Class Activities
95.0% participated in community service in high school
68.0% founded an organization, captained a varsity sport, or served as class, club, or student-body president
60.0% participated in music, drama, or other arts
Digging into the details highlights some of the key indicators for what the UNC admissions board insists upon seeing; it quickly becomes evident that UNC expects much more than grades and test scores. The following UNC-specific insights are requirements for understanding (and capitalizing on) how the university selects its students.
1. UNC is a community outreach oriented, public University. UNC prides itself as being simultaneously “elite” and “public”. The University embraces the two seemingly contradictory concepts through its dedication to the betterment of the community. For this reason, writing “participated in community service” on your UNC application is equivalent to writing “showed up for class”. It’s assumed that you have; it’s your unique approach, experience, and initiative that the UNC is interested in. If your community service isn’t so unique, this school might not be a good match for you. 95.0% participated in community service in high school is not a coincidence, and it isn’t a formality. It’s an applicant eliminator. One of the primary reasons UNC has lower SAT 25%-75% ranges than its public ivy peers is due to the admission board’s tendency to select applicants that spent their time after school shaping their communities instead of reading SAT prep books.
2. UNC thrives on student leadership and initiative. The UNC Honor Court is one of 5 student-run Honor Courts in the nation (the others being UVA and the 3 military academies). This should illustrate the extent to which the University has turned over the reigns of power to the students. As a result, UNC is actively foraging its applications for peer-selected leaders that have demonstrated said leadership publicly. The astounding 68.0% founded an organization, captained a varsity sport, or served as class, club, or student-body president statistic demonstrates that UNC views genuine leadership as a critical facet of an admitted student—a priority derived from necessity rather than ostentation.
On a related note, National Honor Society membership, which requires applicants to demonstrate a significant background in both service and leadership, is a common thread among the majority of UNC admits.
3. UNC seeks students that choose a rigorous academic schedule. Some colleges disclose average unweighted GPA of the incoming class. UNC is not one of them. Instead, it advertises average weighted GPA exclusively, and (if that wasn’t direct enough already) supplements it with % of students submitting multiple AP scores. For those that can’t read between the lines: If you’re not taking the hardest classes your high school offers, you’re not going to be competitive. This deduction can be made by combining the two following statistics from the Class Profile: 79.6% ranked in top ten%, 89.2% had GPA of 4.0 or higher. How can 90% of admitted students have a GPA of over 4.0? It’s all about the weighting. If your hard classes are boosting your GPA to astronomical heights, UNC will cheer you on all the way. If your school offers AP courses and you’re settling for AG classes, your class rank will take the resulting punishment. The published Average GPA was 4.47 averages out to being roughly a 3.7-3.8 unweighted GPA with 7 AP courses (depending on other weighted courses on your transcript). The 53.3% submitted five or more AP scores statistic is actually understated as it doesn’t account for students sending in IB tests (a comparable test that is very popular among several prominent NC High Schools).
For more information, or for personalized strategies on how to get into UNC, feel free to use the comment section below to contact us or to share your personal experience regarding the UNC admissions process. The UNC undergraduate admissions blog can be found here.