UNC is a powerhouse university with a rich history that alumni, faculty, and staff take pride in. The University of North Carolina was established way back in 1789 and holds the distinction of being the first public university in the United States. The cornerstone for the first building was laid in 1793; by 1795, the first students arrived.
Today, UNC is a top-ranked national university, ranking fifth among public universities for the 22nd year in a row on the coveted annual list by U.S. News & World Report. It also claims the first-place spot in the “best value” category among public institutions.
If your ultimate goal for college is to attend the University of North Carolina and become a Tar Heel, you’ll need to earn a high GPA through all four high school years, take a rigorous course load, and graduate near the top of your class.
Part of knowing how to get accepted into UNC includes learning as much as possible about the university itself and the kind of students the admissions staff is searching for. A good way to prepare is by retaining professional UNC admission help early on in high school.
As with other colleges, UNC is looking for students who are passionate about their potential future alma mater, so make sure you brush up on your UNC history.
Following are several of the top questions students ask about how to get into UNC.
What Schools Make Up the UNC System?
The School of Law was established in 1845, and graduate programs started in 1876. A medical program began in 1897, and over the next 100 years, 11 additional professional schools were added:
- The School of Pharmacy (1897)
- The School of Education (1915)
- The School of Commerce (1919)
- The School of Public Welfare (1920)
- The School of Library Science (1931)
- The Institute of Government (School of Government) (1931)
- The School of Public Health (1936)
- The Division of Health Affairs (1949)
- The School of Dentistry (1949)
- The School of Nursing (1950)
- The School of Journalism (1950)
The Association of American Universities (AAU) welcomed the University of North Carolina in 1922. In 1931, a more expansive university was formed by merging three colleges into one. The new university was composed of the North Carolina State College at Raleigh, the Woman’s College at Greensboro, and the Chapel Hill campus.
The UNC system as we know it today was created in 1972 by merging 17 state colleges and universities.
UNC Application Help: What Does the Admissions Committee Look For?
Unlike some other major universities and colleges, the University of North Carolina offers tips for how to get into UNC right on its website. The system-wide minimum admission requirements for the school include three core metrics that are taken into consideration:
- College entrance exam scores
- Grade point average in high school
- Rigor of high school courses
While these are the minimum requirements for the entire system of 17 school locations, the main UNC campus in Chapel Hill looks at many additional factors, which will be listed below.
What Minimum Requirements Does UNC Have?
It’s important to note that even if an applicant meets the criteria for those top three requirements, that won’t guarantee admission. The Board of Governors for the University of North Carolina has provided specifics on the minimum requirements for eligibility to attend the university.
In order for students to be considered for admission, they must earn a 2.5 weighted GPA in high school or a minimum score of either 1010 on the SAT or 19 on the ACT. Students who meet these requirements will be eligible for review under any of the 17 UNC system locations. (Again, the Chapel Hill campus has its own separate guidelines.)
To be considered for admission to UNC, you must submit valid copies of your test scores as part of your complete admission application package. Remember that meeting the test score and GPA requirement doesn’t guarantee admission.
UNC Admission Help: What Test Scores and GPA Do You Need?
As with almost all other universities, the UNC system considers how well applicants have performed in high school, as shown by GPA scores and national entrance exams like the ACT and SAT.
In addition, the admissions committee works to serve students at every stage in their life, professional development, and intellectual development. This means that the university gives attention to everyone, from military veterans and transfer students to non-traditional students and those who are older.
Does UNC Have Special Considerations for Certain Students?
Yes, UNC recognizes the immersive learning experiences that many applicants have gone through — experiences that enhance their academic histories.
What does this mean for you and all other applicants who are interested in learning how to get accepted into UNC? It means that the school’s expectations regarding test scores and GPAs differ depending on a person’s military experience, age, previous college experience, and which university system they are applying to.
Specifically, for students who are 20 years old and younger with fewer than 24 college credits, the minimum high school GPA is 2.5, and the minimum test scores are an SAT score of 1010 or an ACT score of 19.
If a student is 21 years old or older, they are exempt from the test score requirements, GPA requirements, and course requirements. The same holds true for active duty service members and veterans with at least three years of active duty service under their belts.
This exemption also includes applicants of any age who have at least 24 transferable college credits. However, that doesn’t include IB, AP, or credits by exam.
If you take the SAT multiple times, you should know that UNC will take the highest score you ever receive on the reading portion and combine it with the highest score you ever earn on the math portion.
Likewise, if you take the ACT, the highest scores for individual sections will be combined to calculate a composite score that the university will use during its admission decisions.
How to Get into UNC-Chapel Hill: The Most Important Factors
In addition to the three core factors previously mentioned, there are five additional factors that UNC considers very important for admissions. When the admissions committee is selecting the next round of traditional first-time students, it looks at:
- Admission application essays
- Character and personal qualities
- Letters of recommendation
- Talent and ability
- Weighted GPA
- Rigor of high school course load
- Entrance exam scores
- Extracurricular activities
Remember that UNC has 17 different universities in the system; different schools maintain different admissions criteria. Pay particular attention to the UNC-Chapel Hill admissions process.
UNC-Chapel Hill: A Special Note About Admissions
A traditional student planning to become a Tar Heel at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus needs to be at the top of their class, with a much higher GPA and test scores than what is required for non-traditional students at some of the other UNC university system locations.
The average GPA of incoming students there is 4.39 (weighted). You need to make sure that you take difficult classes during high school, including honors, IB, and AP courses.
You should also aim for higher test scores: an ACT score of at least 33 or an SAT score of at least 1470. While the acceptance rates at the other universities in the UNC system are much higher, UNC-Chapel Hill admission is the most selective, with an early acceptance rate of 25.7% and an overall acceptance rate of 19%.
What Classes Should You Take in High School to Prepare for UNC?
The reason it’s so advantageous to take the most rigorous courses available at your high school is that the admission committee is looking for students who rise to challenges. When it comes to how to get into UNC, the committee expects you to be ready for college-level courses.
In addition, at the very basic level, you will need to complete core high school classes. UNC requirements include:
Six units in language:
- Four in grammar, literature, and composition
- Two in a language apart from English
Four units of math from any combination of the following:
- Algebra I and II and two units higher than algebra II
- Algebra I and II, along with geometry and one unit higher than algebra II
- Integrated math I, II, and III, along with one math unit that extends beyond integrated math III
Three units of science courses, including:
- At least one unit in physical sciences (chemistry, physics, etc.)
- At least a single unit in a biological or life science (like biology)
- At least one laboratory science course
In addition, the university requires all applicants to take at least two units of social studies, including one in U.S. history.
UNC Application Help: How Do You Write the Application Essays?
The writing prompts that accompany UNC admission applications change from time to time. The university has released the prompts given to applicants for the 2022–2023 application round (shown below).
When you write your answers to the essay prompts, make sure that you use your own voice and write in a way that expresses your true self. These prompts are meant to be a way for applicants to help the admissions staff get to know them on a personal level, above just GPAs and test scores.
UNC Short Answer Prompts
In no more than 250 words each, answer two of the four prompts below:
- Discuss an aspect of your identity and how it has impacted your life experiences or daily interactions.
- Talk about someone making a difference in your community and how their work has impacted your life.
- If you could change one thing about your community, what would you change and why?
- How does history shape who you are?
In addition, there are five fill-in-the-blank responses you must complete in 25 words each:
- One tradition I cherish is:
- If there were 25 hours in a day, I’d spend the extra hour doing:
- If I could travel anywhere, in any time period, I’d go to:
- The last time I stepped outside of my comfort zone, I:
- People who meet me are most likely and least likely to notice:
The University of North Carolina accepts the Common Application, and you will need to choose one prompt included there to answer in no more than 650 words. It also has an optional prompt asking you to write about how COVID-19 affected you.
Be careful not to repeat information you’ve already included in other application sections. Above all else, keep in mind that UNC wants to learn what it would mean to you to become a part of the community there.
The university states that your responses to all of these essay prompts will be used for more than just admission evaluation purposes. They can also be used to put you forth as a candidate for scholarships and other opportunities at the school.
UNC Admission Help: Application Decisions and Deadlines
You can apply for either Early Decision or Regular Decision to UNC. The deadlines to apply are October 15 and January 15, respectively. There are four possible decision outcomes applicants will receive:
- Carolina Global Launch
If you’re invited to join the Global Launch program at UNC, you can study abroad during the fall semester of your freshman year and then enroll at the school for the spring semester.
If you are waitlisted, it means the school cannot yet determine whether it will offer you a spot. You will be notified of the decision after the May 1 enrollment deadline.
If you are denied admission but are still determined to go to school at UNC, you can apply in the future as a transfer student.
If you are accepted to UNC, congratulations! You’ll be able to tap into the school’s special resources to help you decide whether being a Tar Heel is the best decision for you. Along the way, you’ll continue to learn what it means to be a UNC student and how to benefit the campus as it benefits you.