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Freshman Criteria for Admission

CU-Boulder's aim is to build a freshman class of highly qualified, intellectually curious, and actively involved students who have demonstrated high levels of maturity and personal integrity as well as a commitment to serving their communities. To achieve this, we practice a holistic admission review process taking into account a variety of primary academic factors as well as secondary factors as they relate to your ability to be successful in our competitive academic environment. While admission is competitive, you will be considered on an individual basis relative to a prediction of your academic success in the college to which you apply.

The primary factor in admission decisions for freshmen is high school academic achievement. CU-Boulder focuses on your grade point average (GPA) in core academic courses, the rigor of your course selection, and your best combination of scores on the SAT I and/or ACT. You are also reviewed for deficiencies in any of the Minimum Academic Preparation Standards (MAPS), as well as any grades of D or F.

Visit the sections below to see charts that show the academic qualifications of the middle 50% of the fall 2013 admitted freshman class at CU-Boulder in terms of high school GPA, rank in class, and standardized test score averages. Use the charts to compare your academic standing and test scores to those of the freshman class. We do not have minimum GPA, rank, or test score requirements.

High School Performance

The grades that you earn in your high school courses play the most important role in determining your competitiveness for admission to CU-Boulder. 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 4.0 scale. GPAs that are not on a 4.0 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 4.0 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. 


Standardized Tests

CU-Boulder requires that you send an official score report for either the SAT I or the ACT. Scores will be considered official if submitted electronically by the respective testing agency or if they are included on your official high school transcript. We receive electronic transmissions of ACT and SAT I scores from the testing agencies on a weekly basis, 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 scores on each subsection to give you the highest overall score. Results from SAT I or ACT tests taken in December or later may be received too late 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 ACT and SAT. 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.
Please note: As with rigor of curriculum, a high score on the SAT I 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.


Academic Rigor

The level of academic rigor in your course selection is also a major factor influencing your chances for admission to CU-Boulder. At a minimum, by policy of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, all freshman applicants must complete the Minimum Academic Preparation Standards (MAPS), which consists of 17 academic units in English (4), Mathematics (4), Natural Science (3), Social Science (3), and Foreign Language (3).

Students interested in business or engineering have additional MAPS requirements and should review this information carefully.

To be competitive, challenge yourself by pursuing the most rigorous courses available in your high school that you, your family, and your guidance counselor deem 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.

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.

Middle 50% of Fall 2013 Admitted Freshman Applicants by College

College of Arts and Sciences Leeds School of Business
HS GPA 3.21 - 3.88 HS GPA 3.49 - 3.94
Percentile Rank 60 - 89% Percentile Rank 70 - 90%
SAT Total* 1090 - 1320 SAT Total* 1120 - 1280
ACT Composite 23 - 29 ACT Composite 25 - 30
College of Engineering and Applied Science College of Music
HS GPA 3.80 - 4.0 HS GPA 3.50 - 4.0
Percentile Rank 84 - 97% Percentile Rank 65 - 95%
SAT Total* 1230 - 1380 SAT Total* 1130 - 1340
ACT Composite 28 - 32 ACT Composite 24 - 31
Program in Environmental Design Program in Journalism and Mass Communication
HS GPA 3.29 - 3.92 HS GPA 3.43 - 3.94
Percentile Rank 63 - 90% Percentile Rank 69 - 90%
SAT Total* 1085 - 1250 SAT Total* 1120 - 1260
ACT Composite 24 - 29 ACT Composite 24 - 29

* Range includes critical reading and math scores only

Additional Factors

CU-Boulder also places importance on secondary factors beyond academic achievement to assess the overall qualities of an applicant. As such, we consider information gathered from a number of different sources beyond your transcript and test scores. These secondary factors include, but are not limited to the following: your two required essays; school and community activities; leadership positions and awards; participation in athletics; work experience, summer activities, and special circumstances; and the letter(s) of recommendation. The Office of Admissions does not accept or use portfolio or audio/video submissions in its admission process.

Qualification by College and School

When you apply, you will be asked to choose a major in one of CU-Boulder's colleges or schools. You will then be considered on an individual basis relative to a prediction of academic success in the college to which you apply. Some of the colleges typically have more qualified freshman applicants than there are openings, and only students with the highest qualifications are selected. If you apply to and are not selected for admission to architecture and planning, business, or engineering, we will automatically consider you for admission to the College of Arts and Sciences.

Nontraditional Applicants

Applicants whose records reflect nontraditional grading systems, unusual criteria, no rank-in-class information, or high school equivalency through the GED will receive careful consideration and are encouraged to apply.