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Last updated March 21, 2024

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How to Use the Rice Common Data Set

Key Takeaway

The Rice application evaluation process values both academic and soft factors—not too unexpected for a top school. Your application can stand out through essays, extracurriculars, and even your Rice interview. You may also find that an Early Decision application will give you a boost. 

The Rice Common Data Set is a goldmine of admissions information. In this post (one of many on the Common Data Sets), I go through the Rice Common Data Set so you don’t have to.

I’ll let you in on all the key details and show you how to use it to make your Rice application stand out.


How Rice Evaluates Applicants — based on CDS data

We’ll begin with one of the best parts of the Rice Common Data Set: the “Basis for Selection” section. In this section, the Rice admissions office has ranked each of their main admissions criteria by importance. That’s great news for you, Rice applicant, because it gives you insider information about how Rice admissions officers will be reading your application. Let’s take a look.

Very important Important Considered Not considered
Rigor   Interview Religious affiliation
Class rank   First generation  
GPA   Alumni/ae relation  
Test scores   Geographical residence  
Essay   State residency  
Recommendation(s)   Racial/ethnic status  
Extracurriculars   Volunteer work  
Talent-ability   Work experience  
Character/personal qualities   Level of applicant interest  

As you’d probably expect, Rice very highly values all of the standard academic criteria: rigor, rank, GPA, and test scores. You’ve also got those “soft” factors like extracurriculars, talent, and personal character ranking at the “very important” level, too.

Interestingly, your letters of recommendation rank just as highly as your academic and personal factors. If you’re applying to Rice, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got recommenders who will sing your academic (and personal!) praises.

Also note that interviews are considered in your application evaluation. If you can, you should sign up for one. Come prepared to answer (and ask) lots of questions. We’ve got a whole post about admission interview strategy if you need help preparing.

Not too many surprises in Rice’s evaluation process, but, as you can see, there are a few places where you might be able to eke out a leg up.

Does Rice track demonstrated interest?

Yup–Rice tracks demonstrated interest. It’s “considered” in their application process, so that means that their applicant tracking system is paying attention to whether you’re opening emails and attending virtual or in-person events. It’s worth your time to engage in those activities.

Does Rice care about standardized test scores?

Yes. Rice is still test-optional for now, but that doesn’t mean that your scores aren’t important. Rice actually ranks them “very important.” With test-optional admissions, that importance gets passed along to your other academic factors. But a good score can help your application a lot. And successful Rice students know this: of all the enrolled first-year students, 46% submitted an SAT score, and 29% submitted an ACT score.

Does Rice care about essays?

Uh, yeah. A lot. Your essays are just as important as your GPA, class rank, and course rigor, so they need to be good if you want to get in. That means that your personal statement AND your Rice supplementals should knock your admissions officer’s socks off. If you want to know more about how to do that, see our college essay writing guide and our Rice supplemental essay guide.

What GPA do I need to get into Rice?

Sadly, Rice isn’t too transparent with GPA data in the Rice Common Data Set. But we do learn a little bit by looking at class rank. Get this: a full 100% of enrolled first-year students who reported class rank were in the top half of their high school graduating classes. Every single one of them. What’s more, 97% were in the top quarter, and 92% were in the top tenth. Those are some academic powerhouses. To join their ranks, your GPA should be top-of-your-class worthy.

Rice Acceptance Rate

Believe it or not, Rice gets more applications than Dartmouth and Georgetown. They received 29,544 to be exact.

Any guesses how many they admitted? A meager 2,802. That’s an acceptance rate of (drumroll) 9.5%. Oof—that’s right alongside schools like Tulane and almost as low as Cornell’s.

(And for those yield rate nerds out there, Rice enrolled 1,226 students, making for a yield rate of 43.8%.)

Rice Early Decision Acceptance Rate

Is there any hope for Early Decision applicants? Yes—you can let out a small sigh of relief. But just a small one, because the boost isn’t that much higher.

The Rice Common Data Set informs us that 2,635 students applied ED, and 478 of them got in. Some quick math, and we can figure out that the ED acceptance rate was 18%—nearly double the standard admit rate.

What’s the right application option for you?

As you probably know, applying Early Decision is a commitment. You’re essentially signing a contract that requires you to attend the school in question if you’re admitted. If you’re going to apply ED to Rice, you need to be ready to make that commitment.

While the 18% ED acceptance rate may seem tantalizing, remember that ED applicants to Rice are, for the most part, already great academic and cultural fits for the institution. If your application doesn’t already hold up to the evaluative criteria we went over at the beginning of this post, then an Early Decision application plan isn’t likely to help you out much. We break all the Early Decision nuance down in our ED strategy post, so look there if you need some more advice.

In short, if you’re not ready for the commitment, or if it’d be more strategic to use your Early Decision application elsewhere, then Regular Decision might be the better option.

Most popular majors at Rice

The Rice Common Data Set doesn’t exactly tell us what students tend to major in, but we can get at the same information by looking at the “Degrees Conferred” section in the Rice Common Data Set. This section lists the percentage of degrees awarded in each major academic field. Like I said at the beginning: a goldmine!

Major Percent of Degrees Conferred
Engineering 14.4
Social sciences 14.1
Computer and information sciences 10.9
Biological/life sciences 10.1
Parks and recreation 7.6
Mathematics and statistics 6.1
Psychology 4.7
Visual and performing arts 4.5
Physical sciences 3.9
Interdisciplinary studies 3.6

As you can see in the table, engineering tops the list, accounting for 14.4% of all Rice degrees awarded this year. Next is social sciences, followed by computer and information sciences and biological or life sciences.

This information is valuable for two reasons: 1) you can see what majors Rice is best known for, and 2) you can see where the most application competition is. The more students interested in a major, the better the program—but the higher the competition. Don’t be afraid to apply to Rice if you want to study engineering, social sciences, or computer science, but know that your application will probably have to work a little harder to stand out.

What should you do with all this information?

So you’ve made it through all the big Rice Common Data Set data. Now what?

By this point, you should be more familiar with how Rice admissions officers will review your application, you should have an idea of what kind of applicant profile tends to be successful in Rice admissions, and you should be starting to think about what all this data means for your own Rice application strategy.

And that strategy is where we’ll head next. Hop on over to our How to Get into Rice guide to learn more about how to put this data into action. See you there!



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