Rutgers University: Things You Need to Know Before Applying

A holistic review process evaluates an applicant based on traditional measures of academic achievements and non-traditional criteria such as extracurriculars, personality, talent, and unique experiences.

Such gives students plenty of room to make up for some of the weakest parts of their application.

One example of an institution of higher education that reviews applications holistically is Rutgers University, a public research university in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Officially known as Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, RU is considered a Public Ivy League with a Carnegie R1 designation, which indicates very high research activity.

With an acceptance rate of 66%, it’s somewhat easy to get into Rutgers.

There is no minimum Rutgers GPA requirement necessary for the evaluation of your application.

Similarly, it has no application deadline because it has a rolling admissions policy. It’s a must, though, to remember that admission is on a space-available basis — apply early on when there are still plenty of slots available!

Here are the things that can make it easier to get into RU:

  • SAT score of 1270 to 1480
  • ACT score of 28 to 33
  • Required college prep courses
  • Standout application essay
  • Great extracurriculars
  • Outstanding or unique character

Challenge Yourself by Taking College-Level Courses

Pushing yourself in high school academically can help get you into RU.

There are two factors that admissions officers consider more important than everything else:

  • Academic rigor
  • GPA

Enrolling in challenging AP classes can increase your chances of college acceptance.

You might also want to consider taking AP exams in high school. Doing so allows you to earn credit that you can use in college toward your bachelor’s degree.

However, Rutgers only awards credit to AP exams with a score of 4 or 5.

So, in other words, anything lower won’t earn you any credit, although it may still add value to your application because you at least gave it your best shot.

Usually, the higher your AP exam score, the more credit you can get.

For instance, a 4 in AP Chemistry can earn you 5 credits. But scoring a 5 in the exam can give you 9 college credits!

However, keep in mind that it doesn’t always work that way.

For example, a 4 or 5 on AP Calculus AB will let you get your hands on 4 credits.

Complete Required High School Courses

RU Admission officers want students who will graduate from high school with at least 16 units.

Worry not because they are all from classes included in a standard core high school curriculum, and they are also known as college prep courses — your high school offers those courses.

The following are the high school units Rutgers requires:

Foreign Language2

Please note that a single unit is equivalent to one year.

There are some critical matters to know about required high school courses.

What you need to bear in mind will depend on your intended academic major or department.

For instance, if you plan on applying to an engineering program, you must have 4 units of mathematics instead of 3. It’s also a must to have 1 unit of chemistry and 1 unit of physics.

Meanwhile, you should have 1 unit of biology and 1 unit of chemistry if you wish to apply to a nursing program.

Got a High GPA? You’re A-OK!

First things first:

Like the rigor level of your high school record, GPA is the most crucial admission factor.

Unfortunately, Rutgers does not report the average GPA of the most recently admitted first-year students — it’s neither on its website nor the latest Rutgers Common Data Set (CDS).

Different websites have different guesses as to which GPA is the minimum requirement.

It’s a good thing that RU has this to say:

Ideally, it likes students to have a GPA>3.2, although it will consider all applicants regardless of their GPA.

Does this mean that having a 2.0 GPA or something far from a perfect 4.0 is fine?

I don’t think so!

A few academic years ago, Rutgers posted the academic profile of its undergraduate students, including the GPA range of those who got admitted to its various schools or departments.

Let’s take a look at some of those figures:

School/CollegeMinimum GPA of Admits
Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy4.0
School of Nursing4.0
Rutgers Business School3.8
School of Engineering3.8
School of Arts and Sciences3.7
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences3.7
Mason Gross School of the Arts3.6

Given that GPA has a massive role in the admission process, having a high one is a plus.

I Say Your Essay Should Be Brilliant

Next to academic rigor and GPA significance-wise is the application essay.

Unlike other institutions of higher education that require students to submit multiple written compositions, RU only requires aspirants to submit one essay.

Such is true whether you apply through the Common App or the Rutgers Application.

How long your essay should be will depend on the application you use.

Are you planning to apply via the Rutgers Application?

Your essay should be no more than 3,800 characters long — including all spaces. That’s around 500 words, making it as long as supplemental essays other colleges require from applicants.

Or do you prefer to apply using the Common App?

Your Common App essay is going to serve as your Rutgers-specific essay. Like all Common App essays, your composition should be no more than 650 words and no less than 250 words long.

Below are the summaries of some of the prompt options:

  • Talk about something so meaningful that your application would be incomplete without it.
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged an idea or belief.
  • Reflect on what someone has done for you that has surprisingly made you thankful or happy.
  • Write an essay on any topic of your choosing.

Class Rank: Not a Top-Ranking Criterion

While class rank is a consideration in the admission process at Rutgers, it’s not as important as the criteria we have discussed thus far: academic rigor, high school GPA, and application essay.

Also, admissions officers check it out only when submitted by the applicant.

So, in other words, there’s no need to fret if your high school does not rank its students.

Not too many admitted first-year students submitted their class rank with their application, anyway — according to RU’s most recent CDS available, only around 14% of them did.

Let’s see how many admitted first-time, first-year students graduated at the top of their class:

Graduating ClassPercentage of Admits
Top 10%29%
Top 25%62%
Top 50%91%
Bottom 50%9%
Bottom 25%1%

Since most of those who got into RU graduated in the top half of their graduating class, it’s safe to assume that your chances of getting in are high if you are better than 50% of your high school classmates.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Should You Submit Your Test Scores?

Rutgers is one of the nearly 2,000 postsecondary institutions that are test-optional.

It means that you can hand in a complete application if you failed to sit for the SAT or ACT or are not that proud of your most recent standardized test scores.

However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Admissions officers will consider test scores if submitted
  • Around 50% of admitted first-year students submitted their SAT scores

So, will submitting yours help you get in?

Well, yes. But not necessarily.

Submitting your test score gives RU one more reason to send an acceptance letter your way — your SAT or ACT scores can prove that you are college-ready and have a high academic knowledge level.

However, it’s a different story if your test scores are lower than everybody else’s.

To have an idea as to whether or not you should include your standardized test score in your college application, you should take a look at the SAT or ACT scores of those who successfully got in.

Here are the test score ranges of the incoming first-year class at Rutgers:

  • SAT: 1270 to 1480
  • ACT: 23 to 33

The closer your test score to the higher end of the range, the better your application will look.

On the other hand, you should probably keep your SAT or ACT score to yourself if it’s closer to or below the lower end of the range. That’s because it may do you more harm than good.

Recommendations are NOT Considerations

College admission officers want as much information about applicants as possible.

That is why many institutions require the submission of recommendation letters.

It’s not uncommon for some schools to ask college-bound teens to submit two to three letters of recommendation, with at least one coming from the high school counselor.

You will be more than happy to learn that applying to RU means obtaining one less document — it does not use recommendations when deciding whether or not to admit an incoming freshman.

It adds that the Rutgers Application gives students multiple opportunities to discuss their academic successes, personal achievements, noteworthy experiences, and unique qualities.

Extracurriculars Can Give Your Application That Extra Oomph

Among non-academic criteria, two have the most weight in admissions:

  • Extracurriculars
  • Character or personal qualities

College admissions officers ask for a list of your extracurricular activities (EAs) to learn more about your passions and interests and also what skills you have acquired and developed during your high school career.

Community and volunteer work are two of the things that RU wants to see on your application.

Both extracurriculars demonstrate civic duty, dedication, and commitment. Such indicates that you will be engaged and involved on the Rutgers campus, to which you will make a great addition.

Other Admission Factors Considered and Not Considered

There are a few other things that Rutgers considers, although not as important as the first few academic factors discussed earlier, particularly academic rigor, high school GPA, and application essay.

Other than extracurriculars, your character is another non-academic factor that counts a lot.

According to Inside Higher Ed, around 70% of colleges and universities consider one’s character of considerable or moderate importance in the admission process — RU shares their sentiments.

The following are the remaining important non-academic criteria in the admissions process:

  • Interview
  • Talent
  • First generation
  • Geographical residence
  • State residency

On the other hand, RU does not care at all about the following:

  • Alumni relation
  • Religious affiliation
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Demonstrated interest

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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