How To Get Into San Diego State University

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Do you want to know what it takes to get into San Diego State University? Read on!

San Diego State University is the third largest university in the state of California. This university offers a research-oriented, high-quality education in a warm and gorgeous location that’s just a short distance from the Pacific Ocean. 

The competition is tough, and preparation is key. In this guide, we’ll share information and advice that will help you strengthen your application and increase your chances of acceptance.

About SDSU

San Diego State University was founded in 1897 as the San Diego Normal School, which focused on training elementary school teachers. The school relocated to its current location on Montezuma Mesa in 1931. Today there are more than 35,000 students studying at SDSU. The Fall 2021 student to faculty ratio is twenty-five to one. 

SDSU offers over two hundred degree programs. There are close to 90 majors and 80 minors available to undergraduates. There are over three hundred student organizations on campus, and over three thousand SDSU students study abroad each year. 

The main campus is just a short distance from downtown San Diego, sandy beaches, and mountain adventure. The Imperial Valley campus offers ten options to undergraduates as well as a nationally-acclaimed teacher education program. SDSU also has a campus in the Republic of Georgia that offers internationally accredited Bachelor of Science programs.

Students coming from high schools outside of the university’s local admission area will be required to live on campus for two years. Students who live on campus tend to do better in school. Research shows that their GPAs are over ten percent higher than those of students living off campus, and students living in residential learning communities are twice as likely to graduate in four years.

Is it Hard to Get into SDSU?

San Diego State University is a competitive school, but not as crazy competitive as schools like Stanford and MIT. Close to forty percent of applicants are admitted each year. 

Because SDSU is expanding – they recently broke ground on another campus – they’ve been able to increase enrollment at a similar rate to the steady increase in yearly applications, keeping their admittance rate steady while admittance rates at other schools continue to decline. 

67,660 first-time freshman applied in 2021 and 25,646 were admitted. That’s an admittance rate of 38%. Applications rose to 76,821 in 2022 and 30,231 – 39% of applicants – were admitted. 5,269 freshmen enrolled in 2021, and 6,514 enrolled in 2022. 

Students who aren’t accepted to SDSU will be redirected to an alternate CSU campus

GPA and Test Scores

The average GPA for students who enroll at SDSU is 3.82 on a 4.0 scale. In 2021, 24% of SDSU freshmen had a 4.0 highschool GPA. Nearly all of them had a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Students coming from out of state must have a GPA of at least 3.0 in order to be eligible. The minimum GPA for California students is 2.5.

Over ninety percent of students who enroll in SDSU were in the top fifty percent of their graduating class. Roughly a quarter of them were in the top ten percent. 

Students who wish to study nursing at SDSU must maintain a GPA above 3.0. They’re also required to earn a B or better in specific classes – we’ll cover that in more detail further on. The incoming average GPA for first-time freshman admitted to the School of Nursing has been over 4.0 (on a 5.0 scale) for many years. Admitted students in 2020 had an average GPA of 4.21.

Test scores are not required by Cal Apply. You can submit SAT and ACT scores, but they won’t be used to determine who is admitted. If you are accepted, SDSU may use official test scores to determine placement into math and English courses.

Only 13% of freshman students enrolled in Fall 2021 submitted SAT scores. Their middle fifty percent range was 1130 to 1320. Only 6% submitted ACT scores, and their middle fifty percent range was 22-29. 

What is SDSU Looking For?

An excellent academic record is key to getting into SDSU, but a high GPA on its own won’t be enough. SDSU will also consider your character, your extracurricular pursuits, and your overall involvement in the world around you. Your extracurricular activities should demonstrate responsibility, compassion, and your ability to work collaboratively with others.

SDSU favors “students who have overcome life obstacles, participated in college preparatory programs, and attend high schools within SDSU’s local admission area.”

Students who attend high school or community college in SDSU’s local admissions area are given priority consideration during the admission process. Community colleges in this area include Cuyamaca, Grossmont, Imperial Valley, San Diego City, San Diego Mesa, San Diego Miramar, and Southwestern.

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What Should You Do in High School?

Here are some things that you can do in high school to show SDSU that you would be a great addition to their next class. 

Excel in Challenging Classes

If you want to go to SDSU, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can handle the most difficult coursework available to you. We recommend that you take the most challenging possible course load that you can manage while still maintaining an unweighted GPA of 4.0 (or as close to 4.0 as possible). 

The minimum required coursework is as follows: 

A‑G Subject Years Specifications
A Social Science 2 years required Must include one year of U.S. history and government.
B English 4 years required Acceptable courses must include substantial reading of classic/modern literature and writing of structured papers. Elective courses do not fulfill the English requirement.
C Mathematics 3 years required;

4 recommended

Acceptable courses include algebra I, algebra II, geometry, and other advanced courses that require algebra and geometry as prerequisites. Computer programming courses do not fulfill the math subject requirement.
D Laboratory Science 2 years required;

3 recommended

Must include one year of biological science and one year of physical science. Both must have a laboratory component.
E Foreign Language 2 years required Must be the same language. (Subject to waiver for applicants demonstrating equivalent competence.)
F Visual and Performing Arts 1 year required Must be a year-long visual and performing arts course selected from visual art, dance, drama/theatre, or music. May complete two semester-long courses from the same discipline.
G Electives 1 year required

You have to choose a major in order to apply to SDSU, and the university will consider preparation towards your area of intended study as part of the admissions process. While in high school, you should take challenging courses and earn excellent grades in the subjects that you’re interested in pursuing in college. 

Prospective nursing students will need to earn a B or better grade in high school intermediate algebra, biology, and chemistry with lab courses. These students must also maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Don’t forget that you need to keep your grades up in your senior year as well. The courses listed on your application have to be completed with grades of C- or higher, or any offer of admission may be withdrawn. They can also withdraw their offer of admission if your overall GPA drops. 

Given that SDSU does not consider standardized test scores, teacher recommendations, or essays, your coursework and GPA are of paramount importance. 

We have more advice on keeping your grades up here.

Pursue Your Passions

You won’t have the chance to write heartfelt or quirky essays as part of your Cal State application process, but you will get the chance to tell them how many hours you spend pursuing work and passion projects outside of school. 

Get out of your comfort zone and find what lights you up. And then dive deep. It’s better to pursue a small number of passions wholeheartedly than to occasionally clock in on a long list of extracurriculars. You want to be able to demonstrate community involvement, intellectual vitality, and an overall zest for life. 

Check out this article for ideas on great extracurriculars to explore. If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself what you can do to better the lives of those around you. 

Serve Your Community

Community service activities are an excellent way to show prospective colleges that you work well with others and would be a valuable addition to any community. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by dabbling in dozens of different projects. Do find something that you truly care about and can contribute to in a meaningful way.

Remember that community service can look different for everyone. Steady jobs or familial responsibilities are just as valid as community service projects. The important thing is that you’re involved in the world around you in a positive way. 

SDSU Application Process and Checklist

Applications to SDSU are submitted through Cal State Apply, as are applications to 22 other universities in California. Students who aren’t accepted to SDSU are redirected to an alternate CSU campus. 

You’ll need these before you can apply:

  • Your major of choice – you must choose one to apply. 
  • Unofficial transcripts: all courses you’ve completed, grades as they appear on your transcript, those currently in progress, and any you plan to take. 
  • Your citizenship status.
  • Your social security number if you have one.
  • Credit card or PayPal for application fees.
  • Test scores (optional).
  • Annual income – either yours or your parents.
  • Your parents’ employment background and two recommendations are needed to apply to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).
  • Average number of hours spent working and volunteering in the past year.

Applicants who wish to study dance, music, or musical theater must pass an audition. 

Does SDSU Require Essays?

The Cal State University system does not require essays as part of its admissions process. 

Should You Apply Early to SDSU?

SDSU accepts applications between October 1 and November 30. It’s always smart to plan ahead and apply early to make sure that everything is polished and turned in on time. You want to start early and take your time to avoid stressing or rushing the process. 

Final Thoughts: How to Get into SDSU

There are far more students interested in SDSU than the school is able to admit. Over half of all students who apply to SDSU are turned away each year. In recent years, less than forty percent of first-year applicants have been admitted to each new class. 

If you exceed all of their coursework options and maintain an unweighted GPA of nearly 4.0, you have an excellent chance of admittance. Keep those grades up, and devote your spare time to meaningful extracurriculars that build you teamwork and leadership skills. 

We wish you the best of luck – and if you have any questions about the college application process, please reach out. We’re here to help.

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