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Last updated August 2, 2023

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How to Use the Occidental College Common Data Set

Key Takeaway

Occidental College values a strong high school record, including a high GPA, course rigor, and a compelling essay. Demonstrating interest in the college can also give you an edge in the admissions process.

If you're setting your sights on Occidental College, the Occidental College Common Data Set will be your new best friend. This resource gives you a glimpse into what admissions officers at Occidental are looking for. In this post, we’ll explore how to use this information to assemble an application that tells a compelling story.

Ready? Let's jump in.

How Occidental Evaluates Applicants — based on CDS data

Occidental College admissions officers pay attention to various factors such as GPA, class rank, extracurriculars, and more. As you can see, each factor carries a different weight of importance.

The top three most important considerations are your course rigor, academic GPA, and your application essay.

Next up, admissions officers will evaluate things like your class rank, recommendations, extracurriculars, personal character, and volunteer and work experience.

While your state residency and religious affiliation aren’t considered at all, the remaining factors—including things like standardized test scores, the admissions interview, demonstrated interest, and more—are “considered.”

  Very important Important Considered Not considered
Rigor of Secondary Record X      
Class rank   X    
Academic GPA X      
Standardized test scores     X  
Application Essay X      
Recommendation(s)   X    
Interview     X  
Extracurricular activities   X    
Talent/ability     X  
Character/personal qualities   X    
First generation     X  
Alumni/ae relation     X  
Geographical residence     X  
State residency       X
Religious affiliation/commitment       X
Racial/ethnic status     X  
Volunteer work   X    
Work experience   X    
Demonstrated interest     X  

Does Occidental track demonstrated interest?

Yes, they do! Occidental values your interest in their college during the application process. So, go ahead and visit the campus, attend college fairs, and make sure you open those emails to show you're excited about the prospect of joining them.

Does Occidental care about standardized test scores?

Yes, your standardized test scores matter at Occidental. While they might not be a top priority, they are certainly part of the admissions process. Strong scores will improve your admissions chances.

Does Occidental care about essays?

Yes, without a doubt. Essays play a key role in the Occidental application process—that’s why they’re one of the few “very important” factors. Your essays provide admissions officers a peek into your strengths, your character, and your unique qualities. So crafting standout college essays should be a top priority, since they lay the groundwork of your application's narrative.

What GPA do I need to get into Occidental?

The GPA data of enrolled first-year students gives us a sense of the grades you should be aiming for if Occidental is on your college list.

GPA Percent of Enrolled Students
4.0 8%
3.75-3.99 42%
3.50-3.74 29%
3.25-3.49 15%
3.00-3.24 4%
2.50-2.99 1%
2.0-2.49, 1.0-1.99, Below 1.0 0%

As you can see, half of first-year students had a GPA above 3.75. At the same time, only 8% had a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Looking at class rank, 83% of enrolled first-year students ranked in the top quarter of their high school graduating class, with 54% in the top tenth.

From these data, it's clear that a high GPA and a strong class ranking can boost your chances at Occidental.

Occidental Acceptance Rate

Occidental received 6,305 applications, of which 2,484 students were accepted, resulting in an acceptance rate of 39.4%. That’s pretty competitive.

Out of these accepted students, 531 joined Occidental as first-year students.

Occidental Early Decision Acceptance Rate

Occidental offers a binding Early Decision (ED) option, which could slightly improve your admission chances.

Out of the 407 students who chose the ED path, Occidental welcomed 241, resulting in an ED acceptance rate of 59.2%—quite a bit higher than the normal acceptance rate.

What’s the right application option for you?

Although the Early Decision acceptance rate at Occidental is higher than Regular Decision, applying ED requires careful thought. It's more than just a quick decision. Make sure you feel confident about Occidental's academic environment and campus culture before choosing to apply ED.

Most Popular Majors at Occidental

The Common Data Set might not directly list popular majors, but we can deduce this information from the percentage of degrees awarded in various fields. The chart below represents the distribution of degrees at Occidental.

Major Percent of Degrees Conferred
Social sciences 30.5%
Biological/life sciences 10.8%
Visual and performing arts 10.1%
Psychology 7%
Interdisciplinary studies 6.8%
Computer and information sciences 6.5%
Foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics 5.9%
Physical sciences 4%
Philosophy and religious studies 3.8%
Natural resources and conservation 3.4%

Social sciences take the lead at Occidental, accounting for 30.5% of the degrees. Other popular choices include biological and life sciences, and visual and performing arts. This information can guide you in assessing whether Occidental aligns with your academic interests and how much competition you might encounter in your chosen major.

Say you're applying for visual and performing arts; it's a sought-after field, so ensure your application showcases your distinct talents and experiences. Conversely, fields like natural resources and conservation, or philosophy and religious studies, see less competition, which can offer you a chance to stand out from others in the applicant pool.

What should you do with all this information?

With an acceptance rate of 39.4% at Occidental, it's crucial your application stands out. Here are a few key points to remember:

  • A strong high school record and a high GPA are important for Occidental.
  • The college highly values your essays, GPA, and course rigor.
  • Showcasing your interest in Occidental can give you an edge, so let them see your enthusiasm!

In short, if you're hoping to study at Occidental, understanding the Common Data Set can arm you with the crucial information you need to design a winning application strategy. Keep in mind the multi-stage review process that Occidental likely follows. Good luck!

For more Common Data Set data and comparisons between schools, head over to the Data Room.

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