How to Get Into Rice University: Tips and Tricks

Applying to Rice? Make sure to check out these tips on Rice University admissions from a college admissions expert and admitted Rice students.
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Applying to college is stressful. And it's even more stressful when you're trying to get into a highly selective school like Rice University. If you're wondering how to get into Rice University, you're not alone.

Rice uses a committee-based evaluation that considers your entire application when making admission decisions. But what does that mean? What factors does Rice rank highest? And how can you stand out from the other 31,000 applicants? Our tips and resources will answer all your questions — and help you put your best foot forward when applying to Rice.

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5 Tips for Getting Into Rice University

Picture this: You're sitting in front of your Rice University application, trying to figure out what's most important. Should you include your SAT scores? How much time should you spend on the essays? Who should you ask for letters of recommendation?

There's good news. Sasha Chada, founder of Ivy Scholars, has extensive experience helping students apply to Rice and other competitive universities. Chada and admitted Rice students share their tips and tricks for how to get into Rice University.

1. Demonstrate Academic Excellence

It's no secret that you'll need a strong academic record to get into Rice. The university's median SAT score was 1530 for the 2022 admission cycle — and the 25th percentile was still a 1500. The median ACT score was 35.

These high standardized test scores can be intimidating, but keep in mind that Rice is test-optional, so if standardized tests aren't your strong suit, focus on your GPA and course rigor.

The make-or-break factor for admitted Rice students is academic performance, Chada says. This does not mean you need to be your school's valedictorian or get straight As, but you do need to take challenging classes and do well in them.

2. Hone Your Passion

While Rice cares about academics, that isn't the only factor in getting an acceptance letter. Aside from academic performance, all accepted students at Rice are passionate about something, Chada explains.

What does that mean in practice? Rice looks for students with a hobby or interest that will contribute to the campus community. And you don't need to be the world champion in your extracurriculars; Rice is looking for passionate and engaged students who put effort toward their interests.

As Chada relates, What passions you choose to pursue matters less than what you do to follow them and what you accomplish with them.

3. The Essay Is Everything

Get ready to write because Rice asks for three essays and heavily relies on them to make admission decisions. The most common mistake applicants make when applying to Rice is not spending enough time on their essays, Chada warns.

For the 2023 admission cycle, Rice asks for two short explanations of your academic interests and why Rice appeals to you. Make every word count because you'll only have 150 per question.

Then, you'll write a longer essay on how your background, life experiences, and unique perspectives will contribute to the community of change agents at Rice.

Admitted Rice student Emily F. recommends showcasing your personality, the way you think, and your overall unique story in the essays. Colleges want unique perspectives in their classes, which is why you shouldn't fall into the trap of writing what you think colleges want to hear.

4. Strong Letters of Recommendation

Rice ranks letters of recommendation as one of seven very important factors for admission. You'll need to submit three letters of recommendation: two from teachers and one from a school counselor.

You can also submit a supplemental letter from someone with unique, personal knowledge about your achievements or talents. For example, an athletic coach, mentor, supervisor, or advisor can write a supplemental recommendation.

What does Rice look for in the letters? Rice Class of 2019 grad Gabby A. says the letters are a great way to understand how you impact the community as well as the classroom from an external perspective. She recommends choosing teachers you've worked with closely, particularly ones related to your prospective major.

5. Request an Interview

An interview is optional, but it can make a big difference at Rice. In fact, the university encourages first-year applicants to reach out for an interview.

So, who interviews you? Rice seniors conduct the majority of interviews. You can also interview with alumni. In 2023, interviews are all virtual.

Interviews are a great way to communicate your knowledge about Rice and an excellent opportunity to showcase academic and personal successes while learning more about the campus experience, Rice says in its application instructions.

If that sounds intimidating, keep in mind that you'll be talking with Rice students. Be sure to let your personality shine through, says Grace C. We're excited to get to know you in the interview!

Most colleges, Rice included, want a well-rounded student, not a rehearsed robot — be yourself in your interview.

Rice University Admission Factors

Every college considers slightly different factors when admitting students. Rice uses a holistic review process that weighs several different factors.

When it comes to Rice University admissions, the school ranks seven factors as very important:

  • Rigor of high school record
  • Academic GPA
  • Application essay
  • Recommendations
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Talent and ability
  • Character and personal qualities

Rice also considers factors such as standardized test scores and interviews, which are both optional. Other important factors include work and volunteer experience, first-generation college student status, and interest in the school.

Even though standardized test scores are optional, over half of Rice applicants (53%) submit SAT scores, while 23% submit ACT scores. If you took the SAT or ACT more than once, Rice does superscore, so they'll take the highest score from each section.

Rice's committee-based evaluation process means that two admission officers read each application. They assess the strength of the student's file, articulation and alignment to their academic areas of interests, and knowledge of the Rice undergraduate experience. The evaluation also considers the challenges applicants have faced.

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Rice University Acceptance Rate

Admissions at Rice are more selective than ever. In 2022, the Rice University acceptance rate set a record low with a 7.7% acceptance rate. In comparison, Rice admitted 8.56% of applicants in 2021 and 9.3% in 2020.

In fact, between 2006 and 2018, the admission rate at Rice University dropped 60%, with 27% of applicants receiving an admission offer in 2006, according to the Houston Chronicle. That number only continues to shrink today.

The class profile for 2027 graduates shows Rice's emphasis on diversity. While 35% of enrolled students come from Texas, 13% are international students and the majority, 52%, are from outside of Texas.

Among domestic students, Asian Americans make up 34% of the new class, while white students make up 27%, Hispanic or Latino/a learners make up 21%, and Black students make up 9%.

Applying to Rice: Early Decision vs. Regular Decision

Rice offers both early decision and regular decision admissions. If Rice is your top school, you're likely debating between the two.

Early decision reports a significantly higher acceptance rate. Of the nearly 3,000 early decision applicants in 2022, Rice accepted 16.5%. The university reported a 7% acceptance rate for its 28,000 regular decision applicants.

But early decision at Rice is binding. That means that if you get accepted as an early decision applicant, you'll need to commit to Rice by Jan. 1 and withdraw other applications. Rice can also defer early decision applicants and consider them with the regular decision pool or deny admission altogether.

Early decision applicants need to submit their application by Nov. 1. Rice then conducts interviews for early decision candidates throughout November. If you apply regular decision, you'll have until Jan. 4 to submit your materials.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rice University

What type of student does Rice look for?

Rice looks for engaged, passionate students with strong academic records. The Rice University admissions process evaluates applicants based on their academic record, interests, accomplishments, and character.

Rice looks for students who will contribute unique perspectives to the campus community. Requesting an interview with a Rice senior can help you demonstrate interest and showcase your strengths.

Does Rice University look at SAT scores?

Yes, Rice looks at SAT and ACT scores when evaluating applications — but standardized test scores are optional.

Whether you should submit your scores depends on how well you did. If you're below the 25th percentile, which is 1500 for the SAT and 34 for the ACT, it might not help your application. Keep in mind that Rice does superscore, so they'll combine your best section scores across multiple tests.

What major is Rice University known for?

Rice is known for its strong majors in STEM fields. The school's most popular majors include computer science, mechanical engineering, and bioengineering. Rice also has strong liberal arts programs, including popular majors in economics and psychology.

Is Rice considered an Ivy League School?

Rice is not part of the Ivy League, which only includes private colleges in the Northeast. However, Rice is considered one of the best universities in the country and is often called a Hidden Ivy. It's also among the most selective, with a 7.7% acceptance rate in 2022.

Where is Rice University located?

Rice University is located in Houston, Texas. The private university's 285-acre campus features scenic architecture and a canopy of oak trees. Rice is across the street from the walkable Houston Museum District. The residential college system divides the university into 11 colleges.

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Portrait of Sasha Chada

Sasha Chada

The founder and CEO of Ivy Scholars, Sasha has guided hundreds of students through the college application process. He is driven by a desire to help students achieve their academic desires and find the college that will work best for them. He is an expert on all things college admissions; building a list of schools, what activities colleges are looking for, what grades you need for a top school, or how to write the perfect essays. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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