UT-Austin Computer Science Acceptance Rate and Application Tips

 View from Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal

View from Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal

Studying Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin is a tremendous opportunity. That means there are many applicants competing for a limited number of admissions spaces. UTCS sees a record number of applicants each year not just from Texas but from out-of-state and foreign applicants.

UT Computer Science and Turing Scholars Admissions Statistics

Applicant numbers to Computer Science have skyrocketed since 2010. Assuming a similar rate of increase, it's possible that more than 3,800 students attempted to gain admission for about 570 spaces in Fall 2018.

It's safe to assume that less than 15% of UT Computer Science applicants will gain admission for Fall 2019 first-time freshman applicants. That makes UTCS on par with some of the most selective programs nationwide.

There's no getting around it, admission to UT Computer Science is ridiculously difficult.

 Data requested and received from the Office of Admissions, December 2016.

Data requested and received from the Office of Admissions, December 2016.

Competitive applicants to Computer Science at a minimum come from the top 10% of their senior class scoring at least 1450 on the SAT. I've seen applicants with stronger credentials than this who routinely get denied.

Applicants interested in Turing Scholars Honors should have almost perfect academics meaning a ranking higher than 2% in your senior class scoring around a 1550/34 on the SAT/ACT. A Turing admitted student reported that in their welcome orientation session, Turing staff said they admitted only 14 out of 80 valedictorians (82% denied).

Being number 1 in your class and/or scoring perfect on the ACT/SAT unfortunately won't be enough for most Turing applicants. Reviewers are looking for a particularly deep interest in computer science with a demonstrated track of independent study, personal projects, and/or succeeding at the national/international level. Taking AP Computer Science and even scoring a 5 isn't enough.

Gaining admission to Turing is comparable to getting into most selective programs like UC-Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Cal Tech, and MIT.

If you have below average rank or test scores, it may be possible to gain admission if you submit a particularly compelling application that will bring a different perspective to the classroom and Honors community.

I present this data not to discourage you but to provide context for your chances of gaining admission. It's important that you submit your strongest application possible. 

Maximizing your UT-Austin Computer Science admissions chances

Reviewers are looking for a demonstrated commitment to activities and interests related to computer science. Because so many students apply, they can be selective about who they choose. Although CS/Programming/Robotics experience is not necessary to get in, it definitely helps.

The reality is that, with access to a ton of independent study and resource options that are either free or inexpensive, today's teenager has access to way more opportunities than when I was applying to college. Admissions staff regularly sees applicants with a high level of competency, so it's important that you set yourself apart.

Even though applicants may be doing really neat things, they're not always good at expanding upon their activities in their resume or elaborating on their interests and showing how they're a good fit for computer science in their essays.

Like any other program, reviewers are looking for self-starters, students who can work independently and/or in groups, curiosity and passion about their future studies. Reviewers want to see that you spend your free time tinkering and exploring just because it will help your admissions chances but because you can't imagine doing anything else.

There is a huge range of successful kinds of Computer Science applicants, and most of them won't have a typical resume of leadership experience, volunteer hours, or your standard list of extracurricular activities.

All things equal, independent study will almost always look more impressive than joining an organization or contributing to an already established project.

Possible activities and information to include in your Apply Texas Essay A, UT Short Answers, and your expanded resume

This is not an exhaustive list, but it should give you an idea of some things to consider in your own portfolio based on what I've seen other successful applicants submit. You need to be as explicit as possible about:

  • Which programming languages and software you know
  • What resources you've used to learn and your level of competency (elementary, intermediate, proficient, expert)
  • Any independent projects, applications, or games you've developed
  • Leadership positions in niche or underrepresented communities like women in STEM or a Hispanic robotics team
  • Advanced mathematics beyond high school calculus like linear algebra or differential equations
  • STEM extracurricular activities like robotics, Technology Student Association, Science Olympiad, Intel ISEF, etc.
  • Consider including your personal site if you want to give reviewers the chance to look at your work (they won't always do so)
  • If you've conducted research with a professor, note any publications that may be in progress, the journal, and if you're a sole or co-author
  • Unpaid internships or paid employment with technology companies or start-ups
  • Certificates, open-source courses, or university credits you have earned and the approximate number of hours it took for completion
  • Related community service or volunteer projects (like building a website for a non-profit, creating a record keeping software for an animal shelter, constructing and managing a mailing list, etc)
  • Experience and/or demonstrated competency in graphic design, video editing, search engine optimization, online marketing, digital publishing, cryptocurrency, architectural/engineering/statistics software, music production, 3D printing
  • Unconventional activities that are important to you but may be unfamiliar to your reviewers yet are important to you
  • Special circumstances or obstacles you've overcome, i.e. not having AP Computer Science at your school, no access to mentors with relevant experience, starting your own club, not having internet at home

For activities or interests that are most interesting to you, consider spending at least some parts of your essays providing context why they interest you, how it helps shape your current and future academic/professional goals, and why you would be a good fit for your choice of major.

You should also consider discussing why UT-Austin specifically is a great fit for you. I suggest that you explicitly identify at least a few resources, student organizations, professors, research labs, upper-division coursework, and professional opportunities in Austin and why you are uniquely interested in UT.

Many applicants competing for spaces at most selective universities nationwide don't do enough to say why they are applying besides just "it's ranked really high" and "it might make me a lot of money in the future." 

If you feel that Computer Science is too competitive, you might try related majors like Computational Engineering, College of Fine Arts, Arts and Entertainment Technology, or studying an unrelated major and earning an 18 hour certificate from the Computer Science Department.

I hope that you find this information helpful and constructive.

If you're interested in building your best application, let's work together. complete my questionnaire to get started.