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Freshman: Admission Requirements

Admission to the CSU as a freshman takes into account the specific courses you completed in high school, your grades in those classes, your test scores on the ACT or SAT, and graduating from high school.

Admission Requirements

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Freshman Admission Requirements for California Residents

Admission offices at the 23 campuses use three factors to determine eligibility.

Most applicants who are admitted meet the standards in each of the following areas:

Specific high school courses (referred to as the “a-g” courses)

Grades in “a-g” courses and test scores

Graduation from high school

Many CSU campuses have higher standards for particular majors or for students who live outside the local admission area. Because of the number of students who apply, several campuses have higher standards (supplementary admission criteria) for all applicants.

Many CSU campuses use local admission policies for students who graduate or transfer from high schools and community colleges that are historically served by a CSU campus in that region. See CSU Local Admission & Service Areas for each campus here (PDF).

FRESHMAN ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS FOR STUDENTS WHO ARE NOT RESIDENTS OF CALIFORNIA

The three factors used to determine the admissibility of nonresident students are the same as those used for California residents.

The primary difference is that the eligibility index (a combination of grades and test scores) is somewhat higher. Nonresident students need to complete the same pattern of courses, but need a higher grade point average (GPA) and test score combination. See the Eligibility Index for Nonresidents for more details.

Please note that California residents receive priority whenever admission space is limited.


High School Course Requirements (“a-g” courses)

The CSU requires a minimum 15-unit pattern of courses for admission as a first-time freshman. Each unit is equal to a year of study in a subject area. A grade of C or better is required for each course you use to meet any subject requirement.

​Area ​Subject ​Years
​a. History and Social Science (including 1 year of U.S. history or 1 semester of U.S. history and 1 semester of civics or American government AND 1 year of social science) ​2
​b.​ English (4 years of college preparatory English composition and literature) ​4
​c. Math (4 years recommended) including Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, or higher mathematics (take one each year) ​3
​d. Laboratory Science (including 1 biological science and 1 physical science) ​2
​e. Language Other Than English (2 years of the same language; American Sign Language is applicable - See below about a possible waiver of this requirement) ​2
​f. Visual and Performing Arts (dance, drama or theater, music, or visual art) ​1
​g.
College Preparatory Elective (additional year chosen from the University of California "a-g" list) ​1​
​​​ ​​Total Required Courses​​​ ​15​

There are career and technical education (CTE) courses that can be used to meet any of the subject area requirements listed above. Please refer to the University of California’s Course List Search for the entire listing of approved courses.

WAIVER OF "LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH" REQUIREMENT

If you can demonstrate competency in a language other than English that is equivalent to or higher than that expected of students who have completed two years of language other than English study, you may be allowed a waiver for this language requirement. For further information, contact the CSU campuses to which you are applying.

HOW TO MAKE UP MISSING COURSES

If you didn't take all the required high school courses or earned D or F grades in some of them, you have several options to make up these courses and qualify for CSU admission.

You can complete appropriate high school courses with a grade of C or better either in summer school or in adult school. Courses in this category must be those found on the high school or adult school UC "a-g" course lists. Some adult schools may not have “a-g” course lists.

You may also complete college courses with a grade of C or better in the missing subject areas. Finally, you can earn an acceptable score on examinations such as the SAT subject examinations, Advanced Placement (AP) examinations, or International Baccalaureate examinations.

If you are unable or do not choose to make up your subject deficiency, you may earn at least 60 units, including 30 semester units of general education from a California Community College or other college and transfer as an upper-division transfer student, where only your college performance is considered for admission.

SUBJECT REQUIREMENT SUBSTITUTION FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

All freshman applicants are encouraged to complete 15 units of college preparatory subjects.

If you are otherwise qualified but unable to complete certain subjects because of your disability, you should contact the director of Services to Students with Disabilities at the CSU campus(es) you wish to attend to receive further information.


Grades in "a-g" Courses and Test Scores

The grades you earn in high school are the most important factor in CSU admission decisions. Your high school grade point average is calculated using your grades in all your college prep "a-g" classes completed after the 9th grade.

Test scores are required unless you have a grade point average (GPA) above 3.00 and are a resident of California. The CSU uses a calculation called an Eligibility Index that combines your high school grade point average with the score you earn on either the SAT or ACT tests.

Even if you have a GPA above 3.00, it is useful to take either an SAT or ACT as the score may indicate if you do not need to take English and math placement tests after you are admitted and before you enroll at the CSU. The Eligibility Index for out-of-state students is higher and admission requirements for international students are somewhat different.

While SAT/ACT test scores are not required to establish the admission eligibility of California residents with a high school GPA of 3.00 or above (for nonresidents GPA must be 3.61 or above), impacted campuses and impacted first-time freshmen enrollment categories often include test scores among the supplemental criteria required of all applicants to those campuses and enrollment categories. If you have your high school GPA and the results of your SAT or ACT test, then you can calculate your eligibility index. From there you can quickly see whether you meet the minimum admission standards. Remember, some campuses have higher standards for particular majors or for students who live outside the local campus area.

WHICH TEST SHOULD I TAKE?

CSU campuses use either the ACT or the SAT in the calculation of your eligibility index.

Below are some differences between the ACT and SAT. Speak to your high school counselor to determine which test would be a better measure of your strengths and readiness for college classes.

ACT

The ACT covers four areas: English, mathematics, reading and science. The ACT composite score is used for admission to the CSU. The ACT also offers, as an option, the Writing Test. The CSU does not require the score from the Writing Test for admission purposes.

For more information about the ACT and to register for the test and send scores, go to www.act.org.

If you list a CSU campus as an ACT score report recipient, your test scores will be sent to all campuses to which you submit an application.

SAT

The SAT currently consists of two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math. Scores from Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math are combined and used for admission to the CSU. Scores from the Writing section will not be used for admission purposes to the CSU.

CSU campuses will accept old and current SAT scores for admission through 2020. Applicants may submit scores from either test.

Visit Collegeboard.org to learn more about the SAT tests and to register online to take the SAT test.

Once you’ve taken the SAT test, you should list the Cal State Apply institution code, so that Cal State Apply can store your scores for any CSU campus to retrieve. The Cal State Apply institution code for the SAT is 3594.


Graduation from High School

For admission to the CSU, graduation from high school and receipt of a high school diploma are admission requirements.

For most CSU freshman applicants, the other basic admission requirements — high school coursework and grades and test scores — should be the focus of your attention.

GRADUATION OPTIONS

It's always best to stay in high school to receive your high school diploma. Sometimes, though, that’s just not possible to do. There are options for completing the equivalent of a high school diploma. So if you cannot earn your diploma, consider the General Education Development program (GED), High School Equivalency (HiSET), or Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) exams. These are examinations that, upon successful completion, offer the equivalent of a high school diploma.

Remember that completing any of these exams does not eliminate the high school course requirements or the grades and test requirements.

HONORS COURSES

The CSU assigns extra points for up to eight semesters of approved honors level, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses taken in the last three years of high school: A=5 points, B=4 points, C=3 points.

No more than two approved honors level courses taken in the 10th grade may be given extra points. A grade of D in an honors IB or Advanced Placement course does not earn extra points.

Approved high school honors level courses means that the courses are identified as honors level on your official high school “a-g” course list. You can find your school's course list at the University of California’s Course List Search.

Extra points are also awarded for college courses used to meet CSU "a-g" requirements. However, no more than eight (8) extra points may be awarded to any one applicant.


The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)

The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) is designed to improve access and retention of historically low-income and educationally disadvantaged students. The program provides admission and academic assistance to EOP-eligible undergraduate students. In many cases, the program also offers financial assistance to eligible students. Campuses tailor their programs to accommodate the needs of their student population.

Every CSU campus has an EOP for low-income undergraduate students who are California residents or qualify for an AB540 non-resident tuition exemption and are disadvantaged because of their economic and educational backgrounds

EOP accepts students who do not meet regular admission criteria, as well as those who qualify for regular admission. Be sure to indicate on the undergraduate application for admission if you are applying through EOP and ensure you complete the supplemental EOP Application along with the two letters of recommendation by the deadline determined by the campus.

Note: The criteria for acceptance to the EOP program at the CSU are more restrictive than those of the Extended Opportunity Program & Services (EOP&S) program at California Community Colleges. Therefore, you may not be accepted to an EOP program at the CSU even though you may be an EOP&S student at a California Community College.

More information about the EOP program is available at Calstate.edu.

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Impacted Majors & Campuses Search

When the number of applications received by a ca​​mpus or a major exceeds the number of available spaces, the campus or major is considered "impacted."

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E​ligibility Index

Your Eligibility Index -- part of the admission process to the CSU -- is calculated by a combination of your grade point average (GPA) and your ACT/SAT score.

Learn More

The California Promise Program

This program enables some CSU campuses to establish pledge programs for first-time students who are interested and able to complete a baccalaureate degree in four years​.

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If You’re Not a California Resident

The Eligibility Index is somewhat higher for non-residents, and California residents receive p​riority whenever admission space is limited at a CSU campus.

Learn More​​