Clemson University – Acceptance Rate, GPA, Requirements, and More

Quality of life can be as important as academics in the search for the perfect college experience. 

Clemson University in South Carolina offers a rigorous, nationally-respected academic program featuring a full complement of popular majors, but it also boasts one of the happiest campuses in America

Adjacent to scenic Lake Hartwell and a short drive from the Blue Ridge Mountains, Clemson’s campus gives students a beautiful natural backdrop for study and countless opportunities for outdoor activities. 

Over 500 campus clubs and organizations provide ways for students to meet one another and become involved in their community. Clemson even has undergraduate dormitory communities for students with common interests; these facilities have their own staff, resources, and programming tailored to student needs.

A land-grant, research-focused university, Clemson’s resources allow undergraduates opportunities to participate actively in research through their Creative Inquiry program. 

The Calhoun Honors program beckons to the most academically motivated students, with small classes and mentorship. 

The Cooperative Education Program gives students valuable career experience, as well as the chance to learn and earn. Clemson also provides its students with a professional development and support program ranked first in the nation.

Clemson sports teams are legendary, but the school also offers exceptional Sports Management degree programs, ranking in the top 20 nationally. In Agricultural Sciences, Clemson breaks the top 10. Superior Nursing, Architecture, Business, and Engineering programs also make Clemson a great choice for many diverse undergraduate study paths.

What began as a military school for men only in 1889 now shines as one of the top state colleges in the country. 

Noteworthy alumni include sports heroes like Deshaun Watson and Jonathan Byrd, CEOs like Gary Parsons of XM Radio, and many legislators and politicians, including the former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina Harvey Gantt, who first integrated Clemson in 1963.

Clemson Acceptance Rate

Clemson University
CantoV, Clemson University Outdoor Theater and Cooper Library, CC BY-SA 4.0

The 2021 incoming Freshman class came out of an admissions season with a 51.3% rate of acceptance, while the projection for 2022’s acceptance rate is projected to be 45.8%, the lowest in five years, reflecting an overall trend along with an unusually high number of applicants.

Clemson has no Early Action or Early Decision deadlines. Students can choose to submit application materials by the “priority” deadline in December, ahead of the standard May deadline; priority deadline applicants are usually notified of an admissions decision by mid-February. 

Most scholarships at Clemson require application by the priority deadline, but Clemson Admissions reports that applying by the priority deadline does not increase a student’s chances at acceptance over students who apply by the standard deadline.

Out-of-State Acceptance Rate

Since it’s a public university, Clemson strives to keep its student body distributed at 65% in-state students and 35% out-of-state students. 

Each year, the current student body distribution numbers – which fluctuate based on transfers, students who leave the program, and other factors – influence the out-of-state acceptances figures as the admissions department works to maintain the ideal proportion. 

While the school does generate more revenue from out-of-state tuition, the chief goal is to sustain an overall 65-35 student body distribution profile.

Separate numbers for out-of-state acceptance rates prove challenging to estimate, since the number of total applicants isn’t broken down by state of residence. 

Once accepted, in-state students are far more likely to enroll than out-of-state candidates

Clemson’s adoption of the Common Application and the Coalition Application has increased the number of out-of-state applicants. In contrast, the number of in-state applicants has stayed roughly the same. 

Therefore, to maintain the 65/35 mix of in- and out-of-state students, Clemson offers acceptance to fewer out-of-state candidates.


Class rank and GPA rate highly in Clemson’s admissions evaluation process; in fact, Clemson most often reports “high school record,” “GPA,” or “rigor of coursework” as the cornerstone to their selection procedure. 

Most accepted candidates have an unweighted GPA above 3.7, and more than half rank in the top 10% of their high school classes. Nearly all admitted Freshmen rank in the top half of their home high school class.

Clemson encourages future students to choose the strongest offerings at their high schools: International Baccalaureate programs, Advanced Placement courses, dual enrollment or college courses. 

Any student planning to attend Clemson should work with their high school counseling department to make sure they enroll in the school’s most rigorous curriculum. Once students engage with challenging coursework, they’ll need to maintain a strong A average to compete in the Clemson selection process.

SAT & ACT Requirements

Having determined that performance on the SAT and ACT represents an accurate picture of success in the program, Clemson weighs test scores seriously. 

Average SAT and ACT scores of accepted students climbed steadily over the last decade as Clemson’s applicant pool increased. Most admitted students (88% of the 2021 freshman class) scored above 1200 on the 1600 SAT scale. 

For SAT numbers, Clemson admissions does “superscore” results, meaning the highest section scores from different test dates are combined to create the best picture of student performance. 

Half of the incoming ACT takers scored between 27 and 32. With respect to standardized test scores, Clemson ranks as one of the more selective state institutions nationwide. 

Since the Clemson admissions process does not require essays or letters of recommendation, test scores and GPAs perform a central function in student evaluations.

The standardized test requirement for 2021 and 2022 Clemson freshmen is waived, but the school made it clear that the decision to suspend mandatory SAT and ACT scores is temporary. Students can still submit test scores if they can take the tests under safe conditions.

Requirements & Admission Tips

Clemson University
Chris Pruitt, CU Godfrey Hall, CC BY-SA 3.0

Students intent on Clemson need to focus on maximizing standardized test scores

Excellent test preparatory programs exist online, in person, and in self-guided book and workbook form. 

Whether it’s learning how to read and approach SAT questions with systems and strategies, or practicing for a particular section of the test, spending the time to prepare for test day pays off in higher scores. 

Taking the test multiple times benefits students, since Clemson practices “superscoring,” or taking the highest section scores from each test, rather than the single overall highest test score.

Clemson studies student high school coursework for evidence of rigor. Taking high level courses, AP classes, or participating in programs like International Baccalaureate can send the important message that a candidate seeks and meets academic challenges with enthusiasm.

Since the school currently considers standardized tests optional, students can and should make use of the Personal Statement option to explain not only the absence of SAT or ACT scores, but also to highlight any academic indicators that might take the place of those scores as evidence of future success at Clemson. 

A strong strategy would be to focus on coursework performance in your stated intended major, any previous performance on standardized tests, like the PSAT, and any academic awards and honors not covered in the transcript (strong showings at science fairs and math competitions can be incredibly persuasive).

The Clemson application asks prospective students to select two intended majors. Depending on the year, some advantage may exist if one of the student’s selected majors turns out to be an under-sought choice. 

These demographics can change quickly, and in-state students receive priority placement in popular majors or majors with limited seating. It’s a calculated risk, but listing a less popular major as a first or second choice might give an out-of-state applicant or a prospective student with a slightly below-standard GPA a better chance at acceptance. 


Clemson’s own application does not require an essay, nor does it require or recommend letters of recommendation. 

Students may add a Personal Statement to their application bundle. Still, candidates should keep in mind that this statement option does not represent the same kind of essay aspect as other applications. 

This option is available primarily if you have unique circumstances or conditions that can illuminate parts of your existing application and are not addressed elsewhere. 

When writing a personal statement for the Clemson application, students should omit flourishes and move directly to the substantive conditions that could influence the way admissions readers interpret the data in the student’s application itself.

Both the Coalition App and Common App include personal essay sections. Each format includes a list of essay topics designed to elicit specific personal narratives with the most meaningful information to college admissions boards.  

Most students applying to more than one college complete the essay portion, even if some of the individual college admissions departments don’t require it.

The separate application for Clemson’s Honors College requires a more traditional essay and letters of recommendation. Students in the Honors College have access to program-specific courses, research opportunities, and study abroad opportunities.

Is Clemson Right for You?

Clemson University
Mkt324, Tilman Hall, Clemson University, CC BY-SA 3.0

With robust programs in a wide range of majors, opportunities for research and work/study programs, as well as an array of scholarship opportunities, Clemson deserves serious consideration from students with strong academic performance to stand out in the admissions process.

Students from South Carolina enjoy a unique advantage, as the school maintains a higher distribution of in-state students. 

To serve that goal, Clemson introduced the Bridge to Clemson, a cooperative program with Tri-County Community College. Students invited to participate in Bridge to Clemson live on the Clemson campus but enroll at Tri-County for courses. 

Once a year of academic requirements are satisfied with 30 transferable credit hours and a 2.5 GPA, Bridge students can be admitted to Clemson without reapplying.

Clemson graduates around 83% of admitted students within six years of admission, demonstrating its commitment to retention and student success. 

If a student is looking for a “big school” experience without being lost in the crowd, with solid science and technology programs but a fun campus with strong activity programming, and academic rigor along with practical work experience, Clemson satisfies all these requirements and more.

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