Wellesley college is a private, nonprofit women’s liberal arts college in Wellesley, Massachusetts, 12 miles west of Boston. It’s ranked the No. 5 liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. 2,383 students attend Wellesley on its scenic 500-acre campus.
Beyond providing an excellent education, Wellesley is known for its gifted faculty (No. 24 Professors Get High Marks, Princeton Review), unique campus culture, and strong alumni network — sometimes called the “most powerful women’s network in the world” (No. 7 Best Alumni Network, Princeton Review). For its limited number of seats, the college receives over 8,000 applications each year.
The application process is competitive, but this guide is all about how to get into Wellesley. We’ll share all the data, information, and tips you need to put your best foot forward when applying to Wellesley.
For over 150 years, Wellesley has provided ambitious young women with a hands-on education in the liberal arts, offering more than 50 majors and hundreds of funded internships all over the world. The school has a cross-registration program with MIT and is part of the Twelve College Exchange Program, allowing students to spend a semester at another college in the Northeast.
Wellesley’s 8:1 student-faculty ratio allows for class sizes of just 17 to 20 students. Small class sizes create a personalized learning experience, and it’s not uncommon for professors to take their students out to restaurants or invite them to their homes for a meal. Students say that professors “truly value building relationships with their students.” Wellesley students are actively involved in the college, serving on the Board of Trustees, participating in faculty searches, and contributing to strategic planning. The college’s career advisors work with students throughout their lives.
Abundant opportunities for research and leadership take place on Wellesley’s notoriously beautiful campus (No. 15 Most Beautiful Campus, Princeton Review). It features a lake, woodlands, an arboretum, and open meadows. It’s also home to the nation’s second oldest physics lab, a hallmark of its strong science programs. Campus housing is guaranteed to freshmen, and most students live in one of the 21 residence halls for all four years.
In addition, students can participate in over 150 student organizations. Instead of sororities, Wellesley has “societies” that serve as social and academic clubs. They attend weekly cultural shows, lectures, and Thursday pub nights, and they “intensely love what they do” in their extracurricular activities. A bus provides easy transportation into Boston, and weekend trips to other east coast cities and states are popular.
Is It Hard to Get Into Wellesley?
Most recently, Wellesley’s acceptance rate was 13%. For every 100 students who apply, 13 are admitted. The other 87 receive a rejection.
In comparison to other colleges and universities, Wellesley’s acceptance rate makes it extremely competitive. It’s less selective than Ivy League universities (4%-8%), but more selective than most other schools.
GPA and Test Scores
Wellesley does not release official GPAs for admitted students, but we can assume it’s close to 4.0. 91% of admitted students are ranked in the top 10% of their graduating classes, and 99% are ranked in the top 20%.
To compete with other applicants, you’ll need to earn nearly straight A’s and be at the top of your high school class. It’s also important to challenge yourself with AP and IB classes, which can boost your GPA and show that you’re prepared for the rigor of Wellesley coursework.
Wellesley is test-optional through 2024, meaning you aren’t required to include SAT or ACT scores with your application. About 40% of students admitted to the class of 2026 did not submit test scores for review. Still, we recommend submitting test scores unless you think they reflect poorly on your academic ability.
Half of applicants admitted to Wellesley have an SAT score between 1430 and 1550 or an ACT score between 33 and 35. More specifically, the middle 50% of admitted students scored 720-770 on SAT Reading and 710-780 on SAT Math.
25% of admitted students have higher scores, and 25% have lower scores. To increase your chances at a highly selective school like Wellesley, it’s best to score in the 75th percentile (the top quarter).
So, based on the data provided, you should aim for a:
- GPA around 4.0
- SAT score of at least 1550 (with a 770+ in Reading and a 780+ in Math), OR
- ACT score of 35
These scores are nearly perfect, but the data shows students with slightly lower scores can get into Wellesley too. And the college’s admission process goes beyond numbers, considering your accomplishments, personal story, and potential to contribute to the Wellesley community.
What Other Qualities Does Wellesley Look For?
Wellesley reviews applications holistically and within the context of the applicant’s school and home environment. The college’s website says, “We read every single thing that you share with us about your life and who you are.” They assess your academic, co-curricular, and personal accomplishments, along with considering how you’ll contribute to the Wellesley community.
The admissions committee will also look for:
- Ambition and drive
- Intellectual curiosity
- Willingness to challenge yourself
- Passion for community service and social change
- Your personality and personal story
Wellesley’s website says, “There is no typical Wellesley student. We’re looking for people who are looking for more than a credential — people who are looking for a lifelong community.” It’s important to show that you can excel at Wellesley, but who you are as a person and how you’ll engage on campus matters too. Don’t focus so much on the numbers that you neglect other aspects of your application or convince yourself you don’t have a chance of admission.
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What Should You Do in High School?
Now that we’ve shared data and information about Wellesley, let’s talk strategy. What can you do in high school to increase your chances of acceptance?
Excel in Challenging Classes
At Wellesley, you’ll take rigorous classes and have a challenging course load. To show you’re prepared to succeed at the college, you must excel in the most difficult classes available at your school. Take AP, IB, and/or dual enrollment classes if available.
Remember that most students admitted to Wellesley were in the top 10% of their high school class, and almost every admitted student was in the top 20%. You’ll need to earn nearly straight A’s. Take notes in all your classes and review them weekly, study for your tests (no cramming), turn in assignments on time, and ask for help if you start to fall behind or struggle with the material.
Wellesley doesn’t require a fixed plan of high school courses. However, admitted students have normally completed classes in:
- Clear and coherent writing
- Interpreting literature
- Mathematics (typically four years)
- Competence in at least one foreign language (usually four years)
- At least two laboratory sciences
The college’s website states, “There are often exceptions to this, and we will consider an applicant whose educational background varies from this description.”
Earn Strong Test Scores
The SAT and ACT give you another opportunity to showcase your academic preparation and ability. Although Wellesley is currently test optional, we encourage you to take test prep seriously and aim for the highest score possible.
Start preparing a few months in advance using the following process:
- Take the ACT and SAT to determine which test is best for you. It’s helpful to take the official exams to get a feel for test conditions. But the exams are expensive, so taking timed practice tests is also an option.
- Once you’ve decided on an exam, use information from your score report or practice test to create a personalized study plan. Pay attention to your strengths, weaknesses, and the skills or question types you struggle with.
- Consider purchasing a test prep guide with practice tests, sample questions, and test-taking tips.
- Set aside time each week to drill practice questions, brush up on the skills that challenge you, and read high-level texts.
- Keep taking practice tests to work on your pacing and track your progress. Adjust your study plan as needed.
- With one month remaining until your test date, focus solely on your area(s) of weakness.
- If you’re not happy with your score, create a plan for improvement using your score report. Use your new study plan to repeat this test prep process and retake the exam.
Of course, if you never get a score you’re proud of, remember that you aren’t required to submit it to Wellesley. Still, exceptional test scores can make you a more competitive applicant, so do your best to earn a score you’re happy to include in your application.
Pursue Your Passions
Wellesley aims to build a diverse class of students who will engage with the campus community and the many opportunities it offers. They want your application to represent “who you really are” and give insight into your authentic story, personality, values, and passions.
That means instead of trying to collect extracurricular activities that you think will sound impressive, you should simply pursue your passions. Commit to a few activities you truly enjoy and strive to take on leadership roles, make significant contributions, and earn related achievements.
Don’t worry if your passion isn’t robotics, physics, or debate. If you get excited about writing short stories, reading Russian literature, or playing the flute, pursue it wholeheartedly. Deepen your skills and involvement over time and seek out new experiences and opportunities in your area(s) of interest.
Keep a record of your extracurricular participation throughout your high school career. Note when you started participating in the activity, any formal leadership roles or significant contributions you made, and related awards or recognition. Detailed notes will make it easier to accurately report your involvement on your application to Wellesley, and it may even spark inspiration for an excellent essay.
Serve Your Community
Wellesley values students who want to make a difference in the world. They look for applicants who have a vision of the world they want to live in, then work to make that vision a reality.
Serving your school, community, and the world is not only important and valuable, but it also demonstrates that you’re an excellent fit for Wellesley.
Join an existing service organization or initiative, or launch one of your own. Many successful applicants to highly selective schools have launched their own nonprofit organizations, spearheaded initiatives in their community, or contributed to a social justice movement.
Whatever you do, make a positive impact on others in a way that is meaningful and inspiring to you. Think about problems in your school or community that you consider most pressing and social justice issues that are close to your heart. What can you do to make a difference?
As you track your extracurricular participation, you should also keep a record of your community service involvement. Record what you did and why, the impact you made, and how many hours you spent. Your drive to impact your community as a high school student shows you’ll make a positive impact at Wellesley, and in the wider world after graduation.
Wellesley Application Process and Checklist
You can apply to Wellesley through the Common Application. Unlike most colleges, Wellesley has no application fee. It’s completely free to apply.
The application includes:
- Official high school transcripts
- Self-reported test scores (optional)
- List of activities and achievements
- Two teacher evaluations
- School Report completed by guidance counselor
- Common App essay
- Wellesley-specific essay
Applicants with talent in art, music, or theatre may submit an optional arts portfolio. Wellesley no longer offers interviews as part of the admissions process.
In addition to writing the Common App essay, Wellesley applicants must respond to the Wellesley-specific essay:
When choosing a college community, you are choosing a place where you believe that you can live, learn, and flourish. Generations of inspiring women have thrived in the Wellesley community, and we want to know what aspects of this community inspire you to consider Wellesley. We know that there are more than 100 reasons to choose Wellesley, but the “Wellesley 100” is a good place to start. Visit The Wellesley 100 and let us know, in two well-developed paragraphs, which two items most attract, inspire, or energize you and why. (Not-so-secret tip: The “why” matters to us.)
Essentially, this question is asking you, “Why Wellesley?” with a specific focus on The Wellesley 100. The Wellesley 100 is a “constantly evolving list of 100 marvelous things about Wellesley, including an invented language class, particle physics, and many women who permanently alter, for the better, the way the world works.” You can click on each item on the list to learn more information.
Start by browsing the list and jotting down any points that spark your interest or stand out to you. Next, consider why these items grabbed your attention. Why do they make you feel excited or inspired? How do they relate to your life? How do they connect to your goals?
As you write your essay, try to highlight how the opportunities Wellesley provides will help you reach your goals. You can also share how your values and personal experiences align with Wellesley’s values. In this way, you’ll give the admissions committee concrete examples of why you’re a great fit for Wellesley.
You only have two paragraphs for this essay, so devote one paragraph to each of your favorite items on The Wellesley 100. For each item, share part of your story: why it energizes or inspires you, how it connects to your personal story/values/goals, and a brief reflection on what this says about you and your fit for Wellesley.
Most importantly, let your genuine enthusiasm for Wellesley shine through. The admissions committee wants to know that you’re excited about attending their school. Write in your authentic voice. Your essay should be polished, but it should also sound natural and conversational, like you’re excitedly telling one of your teachers or relatives why you would love to go to Wellesley.
Additional Essay Tips
Wellesley’s website shares three key tips for writing both your personal essay and the Wellesley-specific essay:
- Set reasonable expectations. You don’t have to have had extraordinary experiences or done incomparable things to write an interesting essay. Essays about small, seemingly insignificant events are often the most powerful.
- Follow a reasonable process. After writing a draft, let it sit for a few days before revisiting it and editing. Share drafts with people you trust, asking if it sounds like you and whether it’s interesting from the start. The site mentions, “You know you’re done when you’ve used only the words you need to use to say only what you wanted to say.”
- Give yourself a pep talk. Wellesley encourages you to remind yourself to use your voice, have fun, and be yourself.
As always, any college essay you write should also:
- Be clear and concise.
- Directly answer the question (without straying off topic or going on lengthy tangents).
- Use specific details that result in an essay only you could write.
- Use expressive language and interesting vocabulary.
- Reflect on why the topic is important to you, how it has impacted you, and/or what you’ve learned from the experience.
- Avoid repeating information you’ve already shared elsewhere in your application. Share something new about your background and who you are.
- Proofread carefully and have a trusted teacher, family member, or friend proofread too. You want to submit error-free essays!
Should You Apply Early to Wellesley?
Wellesley offers Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision. Here’s a breakdown of the deadlines for each plan:
|Application Plan||Application Deadline||Notification|
|Early Decision I||November 1||Mid-December|
|Early Decision II||January 1||Mid-February|
|Regular Decision||January 8||Late March|
Both Early Decision plans at Wellesley are binding. If accepted, you must withdraw any other applications and enroll at Wellesley. For that reason, you should only apply early if you’re certain that Wellesley is your top choice.
But will applying early help your chances of admission? Wellesley typically accepts about 40% of Early Decision applicants, more than double the overall acceptance rate.
According to Wellesley, “It is true that a slightly higher percentage of applicants who apply Early Decision get in, but that is not because there are different standards for those applicants. It’s simply because Early Decision applicants tend to be a pool of highly qualified students who are certain that Wellesley is a good fit for them—and they are often right.”
So, it’s unclear exactly how much applying early can boost your chances. We do know that you’ll be compared to a smaller pool of applicants, and you’ll have the benefit of receiving a decision from Wellesley sooner. If Wellesley is your top choice, we recommend applying early. If you’re unsure, don’t make a binding commitment; apply Regular Decision.
Final Thoughts: How to Get Into Wellesley
Wellesley is an extremely selective liberal arts school for women. Successful applicants are academically talented, ambitious leaders who engage with their communities and strive to help others.
Here’s how to get into Wellesley, or at least maximize your chances:
- Earn straight A’s or nearly straight A’s in the most challenging classes available at your school.
- Score a 35 on the ACT, OR a 1550 on the SAT, with a 770+ in Reading and a 780+ in Math
- Commit to a few extracurricular activities you’re passionate about. Aim to take on leadership roles, make significant contributions, and earn awards or recognition in your area(s) of interest.
- Serve your school, community, or the world in ways that are meaningful to you and impactful to others.
- Write your essays in your authentic voice. Include specific details, be clear and concise, and let your personality shine through. Proofread carefully!
- If Wellesley is your first choice, apply Early Decision I or Early Decision II.
By following these tips, you’ll increase your chances of becoming a future Wellesley student.
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