The primary factor in admission decisions is your academic achievement. CU Boulder focuses on your grade point average (GPA) in core academic and prerequisite courses (if you're a transfer student), the rigor of your course selection and your best combination of scores on the SAT or ACT.
You are also reviewed for any grades of D or F or deficiencies in any of the Minimum Academic Preparation Standards (MAPS) if you are a domestic student. MAPS are required for all domestic students and any international students who have completed more than four semesters of U.S. schooling. International students with four or less semesters of U.S. schooling should refer to their country's specific requirements.
Whether you are a freshman or transfer applicant, the grades you have earned play the most important role in determining your competitiveness for admission to CU Boulder.
For freshman applicants: Since there are many different grading scales and weighting methods, we use the total weighted GPA provided by your graduating high school, using a standard 4.00 scale. GPAs that are not on a 4.00 scale are converted accordingly.
If your high school does not provide a weighted GPA but provides a total unweighted GPA, we will use your total unweighted GPA on a standard 4.00 scale. If your high school does not provide a GPA or the GPA provided does not include all completed high school courses, we will recalculate the GPA according to the grading scale in use at your high school at the time the course was completed. When recalculating a GPA, we will not add weight for honors, AP and/or IB curricula because there is not a standard format for the designation or grading scale for these courses. However, we do consider the number of honors, AP and/or IB courses a student takes when determining the rigor of their overall curriculum.
The level of academic rigor in your course selection is also a major factor in influencing your admission to CU Boulder. At a minimum, by policy of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, all freshman applicants, and transfer students who graduated from high school in 1988 or later, must complete the Minimum Academic Preparation Standards (MAPS). MAPS are required for all domestic students and any international students who have completed more than four semesters of U.S. schooling. International students with four or less semesters of U.S. schooling should refer to their country's specific requirements.
To be competitive, challenge yourself by pursuing the most rigorous courses available that are appropriate to your level of ability in each academic area. The number of courses taken beyond the minimum requirement of 17—as well as those designated as advanced, honors, gifted, AP or IB—will be considered in the admission process.
For transfer applicants: For information about courses, grades and performance, refer to the prerequisite information for the college, school or program in which you are interested.
Please note: a challenging schedule will not outweigh a non-competitive GPA, as your grades ultimately remain the single most important factor in your admission decision. Additionally, any grades of D or F on your transcript—especially in your junior or senior year—would be cause for concern and should be addressed in your application.
CU Boulder requires all freshman and transfer students (including U.S. citizens attending high school or college outside of the U.S) with fewer than 24 credits completed to submit an official score report for either the SAT or the ACT. International students only need to submit an SAT or ACT if they are graduating from a U.S. high school or wish to be considered for merit scholarships. Scores will be considered official if submitted electronically by the testing agency or if they are included on your official high school transcript. We receive electronic transmissions of SAT or ACT scores from the testing agencies each week, and we will automatically update your application with any new scores received by our application deadlines.
Your highest scores are used in the admission decision. If you take the same test more than once, we combine your highest score from each subsection to give you the highest overall score. Results from SAT or ACT tests taken in December or later may not be received in time if you wish to be considered for summer or fall admission of the following year. Achievement tests (or the SAT II) are not required or considered.
We do not have a preference between the SAT and ACT. However, we often recommend that you attempt each test at least once. Used in combination with your grades and rigor of curriculum, both have proven equally reliable in predicting academic success at CU Boulder.
CU Boulder's SAT code is 4841 and the ACT code is 0532. Learn about the 2016 SAT redesign.
Please note: as with rigor of curriculum, a high score on the SAT or ACT will not compensate for a non-competitive GPA. Your record in three to three-and-a-half years' worth of rigorous academic work in the classroom will be the primary focus of any admission decision.
While academics and test scores play a large role in your admission decision, we want students who are actively involved in their schools and communities. We place importance on secondary factors beyond academic achievement to assess the overall qualities of an applicant.
What makes you stand out? Be thoughtful and use your required essays and your letter of recommendation to highlight your school and community activities, leadership positions and awards, participation in athletics, work experience, summer activities and special circumstances. Please note: we do not accept or use portfolio or audio/video submissions in our admission process.
Your personal essays give you the opportunity to tell us more about yourself. They provide insight into your challenges and triumphs in a way that transcripts and test scores simply cannot. When reading your essays, we are looking for sincerity and authenticity. It’s easy to tell when a student’s essay is something he or she cares deeply about, compared to a student who writes what he or she thinks we want to hear. A funny or interesting story doesn’t hurt, either!
There are two required essays for freshman applicants and one required essay for transfer applicants. As you write your essays, consider reflecting on challenges that you've overcome, your family or cultural heritage, your academic or cocurricular achievements or specific moments that have defined your character. There are no 'correct' answers to these questions; your responses should reflect the unique aspects and experiences of your life.
What we are looking for:
- Be yourself. Drop the formalities and write about something that is meaningful to you.
- Be specific. Stand out by telling us a specific story.
- Be honest. Show us how you're unique and if you've stumbled academically, own up to it.
- Be clear. Good writing skills are not sought; they are expected.
Just like your essays give you the chance to tell us more about you, a letter of recommendation gives someone else the opportunity to speak to your academic strengths and cocurricular involvement. This is the one chance in your application where we get to learn about you from someone other than you, so choose someone who knows you well. Many students ask a teacher or school counselor to write their letter of recommendation.
- Student’s academic ability and college readiness
- Student’s overall performance in class and attitude
- Why the student would be a good fit for CU Boulder