The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) is a public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s ranked the No. 5 public university in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and No. 28 overall, and it’s considered one of the best value universities in the nation. Over 19,000 undergraduate students attend UNC-Chapel Hill.
With UNC-Chapel Hill’s academic excellence, gorgeous campus, and quality of student life, it’s no surprise that over 50,000 applicants apply to the university each year. UNC-Chapel Hill isn’t an easy school to get into, but we’re here to help. This guide includes all the data, information, and tips you need to increase your chances of getting into UNC-Chapel Hill!
About UNC-Chapel Hill
The nation’s first public university, UNC-Chapel Hill is known for its historic and beautiful atmosphere, innovative teaching, and especially excellent STEM and business programs. It aims to “prepare a diverse student body to become creators, explorers, innovators, and leaders in North Carolina and throughout the world.”
UNC-Chapel Hill is also recognized for its accessibility, with the Carolina Covenant promising a debt-free education to low-income students. The university is beloved by its students, who take great pride in being Tar Heels. It offers 95 bachelor’s degree programs, over 800 clubs and organizations, and fun traditions like University Day and the Bell Tower Climb.
Undergraduates also have a wide range of resources and opportunities to participate in research. After graduation, UNC-Chapel Hill’s top-notch alumni network ensures students have valuable connections as they embark on their careers.
Students enjoy spending time on the beautiful campus and at surrounding concert venues, bars, and restaurants. Nearby Franklin Street is a favorite spot, along with the cities of Raleigh and Durham, both 15-30 minutes away. Cheering on the highly successful Tar Heel basketball team is another popular pastime at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Is It Hard to Get Into UNC-Chapel Hill?
UNC-Chapel Hill has an acceptance rate of 22.6%. For every 100 applicants, about 23 are admitted. The other 77 applicants receive a rejection letter.
In comparison to other universities, UNC-Chapel Hill’s acceptance rate makes it very selective. However, it’s less competitive than Ivy League schools and many other prestigious universities.
GPA and Test Scores for UNC-Chapel Hill
Students admitted to UNC-Chapel Hill have an average GPA of 4.39. To have a competitive GPA for admission, you’ll need to take AP and IB classes and earn all A’s or mostly A’s.
If you’re a freshman or sophomore with a lower GPA, you have time to improve your grades before applying. But if you’re already a junior, focus on earning a high SAT or ACT score to compensate.
UNC-Chapel Hill is currently test-optional, meaning you aren’t required to submit SAT/ACT scores for admission. Still, we highly recommend submitting your scores unless you feel they reflect poorly on your academic ability.
The average ACT score for admitted students is 30. The 25th percentile score is a 27, and the 75th percentile score is 33. To make your application more competitive, aim for a score in the 75th percentile, especially when applying to a selective university like UNC-Chapel Hill.
Now, let’s look at an SAT score breakdown for students admitted to UNC-Chapel Hill.
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
You know your chances increase with a score in the 75th percentile, so aim for a 1470 on the SAT, with a 760 in Math and a 730 in Reading.
Based on this data, you should strive for a:
- GPA of 4.39 or higher
- ACT score of 33, OR
- SAT score of 1470
Of course, our data shows that applicants with lower numbers still have a chance of getting admitted to UNC-Chapel Hill. Having a high GPA and test scores in the 75th percentile will make you a more competitive applicant. But UNC-Chapel Hill’s website states that “greatness is the sum of our parts.”
There is “no single score,” “secret formula,” or “special skill” that will make you a Tar Heel. UNC-Chapel Hill will evaluate your application comprehensively and holistically to determine who you are and how you will contribute to the university.
What Other Qualities Does UNC-Chapel Hill Look For?
UNC-Chapel Hill is on a mission to prepare a diverse student body to become creators, explorers, innovators, and leaders. So, it makes sense that the admissions committee looks for applicants with the potential to step into these roles.
In addition to GPA and test scores, the admissions committee values:
- Pushing your intellectual and inquisitive boundaries
- Pursuing your interests and absorbing life outside of the classroom
- Participating in your community
- Being authentically and enthusiastically you
- Taking part in activities, responsibilities, and opportunities in ways that are meaningful to you
Test scores and GPA matter, but UNC-Chapel Hill looks beyond the numbers. They look at your experiences, skills, perspectives, passions, and personal characteristics to determine how you will uniquely contribute to their campus community. As their website states, “When you apply, we’ll consider everything we learn about you from reading your application. You’re a unique individual, and we want to treat you as you deserve to be treated—with care, appreciation, and respect.”
What Should You Do in High School?
Now, let’s talk strategy! Based on the data and information we’ve shared so far, what should you do in high school to increase your chances of earning a UNC-Chapel Hill acceptance letter?
Excel in Challenging Classes
UNC-Chapel Hill’s website explains that they look for students who challenge themselves by taking the advanced coursework that’s available in their schools.
So, take and excel in the most challenging classes your school offers. Take advantage of the AP, IB, and dual-enrollment courses offered to you. But if your school doesn’t offer these, UNC-Chapel Hill encourages you to “seek out ways to broaden your horizons and gather new knowledge,” whether that’s through classes at a local community college, summer programs, or other opportunities for independent study.
You’ll also need to meet the following minimum course requirements:
- 4 units of English
- 4 units of college preparatory math (2 algebra, 1 geometry, 1 higher-level math course)
- 2 units of a single foreign language
- 3 units in science (1 life or biological science, 1 physical science, 1 laboratory course)
- 2 units of social science (including 1 in U.S. history)
As the school’s website notes, however, “Admission to Carolina is competitive, and successful applicants typically go far beyond these minimum requirements.”
Position yourself for success by taking notes in class and reviewing them weekly, turning in all assignments on time, and brushing up on your study skills. If you find yourself struggling to understand the material or falling behind, be proactive. Ask for help from your teacher, a tutor, or a classmate who’s excelling in the class.
Earn High SAT/ACT Scores
Standardized tests give you another opportunity to showcase your academic ability. UNC-Chapel Hill accepts both the ACT and the SAT, with no preference for either test.
Unlike most universities, UNC-Chapel Hill also superscores both ACT and SAT scores. This means if you send scores from multiple test dates, the admissions committee will take your highest score from each test section and consider those scores as they evaluate your application.
UNC-Chapel Hill is currently test-optional, but you should still take test prep seriously and aim for a strong score. Begin preparing for the ACT or SAT several months in advance. We recommend the following test prep process:
- Take practice tests for both the SAT and ACT to see which exam you perform best on.
- Once you decide which test to focus on, use information from the practice test to create a customized study plan. Note which question types and skills are most difficult for you.
- Set aside time each week to read high-level texts, work on practice questions, and sharpen the skills that challenge you.
- About a month before your test date, start drilling down on your areas of weakness.
- Keep taking timed tests to practice your pacing and adjust your study plan as needed.
- If your first test score is lower than you hoped, use your score report to help you determine how to improve, then take the test again.
Remember that if you never get a score you’re happy with, you aren’t required to include test scores in your application to UNC-Chapel Hill. Still, high test scores are highly beneficial, so do your best to earn a test score worth including with your application.
Pursue Your Passions
UNC-Chapel Hill’s website says they want you to “participate in your community, feed your curiosities, ask how things work, and explore the world around you.” This doesn’t mean you need to buy into the idea of being “well-rounded.” In fact, the school’s website also states, “Forget well-rounded.”
According to UNC-Chapel Hill, you could have a wide range of interests and excel in many types of activities, or you could focus on one or two things. Most people, the website says, fall somewhere in between. Regardless of how many activities you participate in, UNC-Chapel Hill cares that you’re engaged in things that genuinely interest you.
So, pursue your passions and engage in activities that you truly enjoy. Commit to your favorite activities long-term, aiming to take on leadership roles and make significant contributions. If possible, earn recognition and awards, demonstrating that you’re both passionate and talented in your areas of interest.
Along the way, keep a record of your involvement so you can accurately and thoroughly discuss your extracurricular participation when you apply to UNC-Chapel Hill. List when your involvement begins, the leadership roles you hold, how you contribute, and any awards and recognition you receive.
Engage with the World
Beyond extracurricular activities, engaging with the world means doing your part to make it a better place. UNC-Chapel Hill wants you to combine your passions with commitment, so find meaningful ways to contribute to your school, community, or the world.
Think about problems in your school or community that you can help resolve. What do you enjoy what are you good at, and how can you use it to help others? What social issues do you care about the most? And what can you do about it? Join existing organizations or initiatives that serve your community, or start your own. Many applicants to competitive schools even start their own nonprofit organizations.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re giving back in a way that’s close to your heart. And just like you do with your extracurricular activities, keep a record of your community service involvement so you can describe it accurately on your application.
UNC-Chapel Hill Application Process and Checklist
UNC-Chapel Hill accepts the Common Application and the Coalition Application, with no preference for either form.
Whichever form you choose, your application will include:
- Official transcript and School Report
- Self-reported SAT or ACT scores (optional)
- Activities list
- Letter of recommendation from a teacher in a core academic area
- Common App or Coalition App essay
- UNC-Chapel Hill Questions
UNC-Chapel Hill does not offer interviews for admission. All applicants are automatically considered for scholarships. When you apply, you can also indicate research programs and global opportunities you’d like to be considered for.
UNC-Chapel Hill Questions
In addition to the Common App or Coalition App essay, you’ll have to answer two short answer prompts and four fill-in-the-blank questions.
The short answer prompts are 200-250 words, and you’ll choose two of the following:
- Describe a peer you see as a community builder. What actions has that peer taken? How has their work made a difference in your life?
- Describe an aspect of your identity (for example, your religion, culture, race, sexual or gender identity, affinity group, etc.). How has this aspect of your identity shaped your life experiences thus far?
- If you could change one thing to better your community, what would it be? Why is it important and how would you contribute to this change?
- Former UNC-Chapel Hill employee, community service member, and civil rights activist Esphur Foster once said, “We are nothing without our history.” Her words are memorialized on the Northside Neighborhood Freedom Fighters monument. How does history shape who you are?
You will also complete all four of the following fill-in-the-blank questions in 25 words or fewer:
- One family tradition I cherish:
- This I believe:
- The quality I most admire in myself:
- The protagonist I most identify with:
Tips for Answering the UNC-Chapel Hill Questions
With these brief questions, the UNC-Chapel Hill admissions committee is trying to get to know you. So, don’t overthink the questions. Give honest, authentic answers that show who you are and what you care about.
For the short answer questions, you have enough space to provide an answer and a brief explanation. Be creative and show your personality!
Our other tips for the UNC-Chapel Hill questions are:
- Avoid information you’ve already mentioned in your application. These additional questions are an opportunity to learn new information about you, beyond what you’ve mentioned elsewhere in your application. Highlight areas of your personality and your life that the admissions committee doesn’t know yet.
- Answer the question completely. These questions were specifically chosen by the admissions committee, so make sure you’re addressing the topic and telling them what they want to know. Your word count is limited, so avoid lengthy introductions and unnecessary tangents.
- Write in your genuine voice. Your essays should “sound like you.” You don’t get to have an interview with the admissions committee, so this is your chance to let them know who you are. Instead of trying too hard to impress, try to be authentically you.
- Include specific details. Vivid, specific details allow you to write an essay that only you could write. Don’t write a generic essay that the admissions committee has probably read 100 times already. Use memorable language and details that set you apart from other applicants.
- Be creative. Don’t be afraid to venture outside the box. Have fun and get creative! When you let yourself have fun answering these questions, your energy and enthusiasm will shine through.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread. You want to put your best foot forward, so review each question multiple times for spelling, grammar, punctuation, word usage, concision, and clarity. Ask a family member, teacher, or trusted friend to review your essay too—and to let you know if it sounds like you.
Should You Apply Early to UNC-Chapel Hill?
You can apply to UNC-Chapel Hill Early Action or Regular Decision. The deadline for Early Action is October 15, and applicants receive an admissions decision by January 31. The Regular Decision deadline is January 15, and applicants receive a decision by March 31.
Early Action at UNC-Chapel Hill is non-binding. That means you aren’t required to enroll if accepted. And just like Regular Decision students accepted to Carolina, you have until May 1 to make your decision.
So, does applying early give you an advantage in the admissions process? The Early Action acceptance rate to UNC-Chapel Hill is typically 25%-30%. This is slightly more favorable than the Regular Decision acceptance rate of 22.6%.
Applying early shows you’re serious about attending UNC-Chapel Hill, and you’re compared to a smaller pool of applicants. It also enables better planning by giving you more time to consider your options for college.
Because Early Action is non-binding, there’s nothing to lose by applying early—and plenty to gain. If you’re enthusiastic about UNC-Chapel Hill and ready to apply by October 15, we recommend Early Action.
Final Thoughts: How to Get Into UNC-Chapel Hill
UNC-Chapel Hill is a selective school, so you’ll need a strong GPA and test scores to be competitive for admission. But the admissions committee also values authenticity, leadership, curiosity, passion, and a willingness to challenge yourself and engage with the world.
Take the most challenging classes offered at your school and excel in them. Aim for a GPA of at least 4.39 and an ACT score of 33 or an SAT score of 1470. If you don’t get a score you’re happy with, however, you don’t have to include it in your application because UNC-Chapel Hill is test-optional.
Commit to a few extracurricular activities you’re passionate about and strive to take on leadership roles, make valuable contributions, and earn awards and recognition. Serve your school, community, or the world in meaningful ways that are close to your heart. Remember to keep a record of both your extracurricular and community service involvement.
When you answer the UNC-Chapel Hill questions, be authentic and creative, writing in your genuine voice. Answer the questions completely, avoid information you’ve already included in your application, use specific details, and proofread carefully.
If you’re truly excited about UNC-Chapel Hill, apply Early Action. It’s non-binding and can give you a better chance of admission.
Follow these tips and strategies, and you’ll increase your chances of becoming a UNC-Chapel Hill Tar Heel!