Rice University


Established in 1912, Rice University is one of the youngest and most dynamic of America’s highly competitive universities. Although it may not boast the lengthy history of many of its peer institutions, it has taken advantage of the unique opportunity to create an ideal college environment by analyzing and emulating the successful attributes of its predecessors. Well before the first students matriculated, Rice’s founders commissioned a study of the premiere educational institutions of the world. After visiting seventy-eight institutions in fifteen countries, the traveling party returned to Texas and combined the best attributes of each into their own vision of a utopian university on the outskirts of the young city of Houston.

The Rice of today has achieved international prominence among educational institutions by adapting itself to the needs of the twenty-first century while remaining loyal to the well-crafted vision of its founders. That vision focuses on three guiding principles:

  • A focus on undergraduate teaching and research led by world-class faculty.
  • A commitment to making the Rice educational experience affordable to all qualified students.
  • Development of a vibrant yet close-knit academic and social community based on an inclusive residential college system.

As a result, Rice students benefit from an atmosphere of learning that infuses the campus, both within and outside of the classroom, and that allows them to stimulate their intellectual curiosity while forging lifelong friendships with classmates and faculty alike. Perhaps what makes Rice most revered by its students, however, is its ability to provide a challenging and rewarding academic environment without stifling the fun-loving nature of its 3,001 undergraduates. The administration is known for being particularly tolerant of the mischief that often results from the collaboration of some of the nation’s most creative young minds.

The intensity and frivolity of the Rice experience are combined on a 300-acre wooded campus in the heart of Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city. The campus itself, which is closed to through-traffic and is bounded by an eight-foot hedge and live oak trees, is surrounded by the world’s largest medical center; an impressive museum district (offering student discounts); a city park that is home to a zoo, an outdoor amphitheater, and a public golf course; an upscale residential neighborhood; and a lively pedestrian shopping district that includes both conventional and quirky shops and a diverse array of restaurants and pubs. Though students do not have to set foot outside of the campus or the adjacent neighborhoods for learning opportunities or weekend entertainment, they do not hesitate to venture out to exciting venues throughout the lively and very navigable city of Houston. Whether students are enjoying the city’s internationally-recognized performing arts scene, internship opportunities at Fortune 500 companies, research projects in the medical center, or live music at the city’s numerous concert venues, they consider the city of Houston to be a very important partner in their Rice educational experience.

Rice students enjoy many luxuries during their undergraduate careers, including small classes, personal interactions with professors, first-rate research opportunities, an inclusive social structure, and a collaborative student environment. But what students come to appreciate most during their years at Rice is the culture of personal responsibility and self-determination that pervades the campus. The Rice administration treats its students like adults from the very first minute of orientation week through the end of graduation day. This trusting environment is evidenced throughout all aspects of student life, from the Honor Code and the flexible academic curriculum to the emphasis on student government, and the absence of hall monitors and curfews in the residential colleges. Such freedoms provide students with the ideal environment to mature and develop as intellectuals and as human beings. Although there will certainly be stumbles and challenges along the way, Rice students leave campus as some of the happiest and most self-aware, confident, and capable college graduates in the country.


Information Summary

Ranks 1st in Texas and 10th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 99.0
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $65,150
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 35 / 1560
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 10 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 97% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 7,124


The aim of the Rice education is not simply to increase students’ knowledge but to improve their capacity to learn and ability to think critically through teaching, research, testing, and experience. Whether students are studying in the schools of Engineering, Architecture, Music, Humanities, Social Sciences, or Natural Sciences, they are pushed toward this objective by accomplished faculty members who have come to Rice because they enjoy and are challenged by the exchange of ideas that takes place in its classrooms. A recent quote by Nobel Prize winner Professor Robert Curl typifies the attitude of the Rice faculty: “Teaching strengthens and nourishes research . . . [by] forcing one to think and rethink the very foundation of one’s discipline, year after year.”

The Rice Curriculum

The focus on producing well-rounded graduates who think independently is enhanced by the flexible Rice curriculum. Although students are asked to indicate a preferred area of concentration upon entrance to the university, Rice recognizes that intellectual development often leads to new ideas and new interests. Thus, the Rice education is designed to provide undergraduates with the maximum amount of flexibility to change their courses of study or pursue multiple and/or novel majors during their undergraduate careers.

I came to Rice fairly intent on majoring in political science and economics, and I entered my first academic advising session with a schedule full of poli and econ classes ready for the professor’s approval. While acknowledging my eagerness, the professor shared with me the Rice philosophy of intellectual exploration and encouraged me to take a more diverse course load. Thanks to his advice, I broadened myself by enrolling in Introduction to Art History, Survey of African American Literature, Contemporary Moral and Legal Issues, and Sexuality and the Social Order, and developed a newfound appreciation for Rice’s flexible curriculum.

Students are particularly encouraged to explore the university’s diverse course offerings during their first two years on campus. In fact, they are not required to declare a major until the spring semester of their sophomore year, and many change majors well after that time. With the exception of the Architecture and Music schools, there are no special entrance requirements, so changing majors can be as simple as submitting a form to the registrar. Even after students have declared a major, the relatively flexible degree requirements (particularly in the social sciences and humanities) allow them to continue to take classes in a broad array of disciplines or, in many cases, pursue a second or third major in other subjects. Other students find themselves intrigued by a multitude of interrelated fields and choose to pursue (or create!) an interdisciplinary major. As an added incentive to seek out academic challenges, Rice allows undergraduates to take up to four courses under the pass/fail designation. Regardless of their chosen field of study, all Rice students are required to complete at least twelve hours in each of the general disciplines of science, social science, and the humanities. Most satisfy this requirement effortlessly.

Sample Listing of Interdisciplinary Endeavors at Rice

  • Nanotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Asian Studies
  • Chemical Physics
  • Study of Women and Gender
  • Medical Ethics and Health Policy

Student-Faculty Relationships

Rice’s esteemed faculty members teach ninety percent of undergraduate classes, and students benefit from a student-faculty ratio of five to one and a median class size of fourteen students. However, student-teacher interactions are certainly not limited to the classroom. The majority of professors are also affiliated with one of the residential colleges, thereby fostering more personal relationships between students and faculty. It is common to find faculty members playing on college softball teams, lunching in the college dining halls, inviting students to their homes, and bringing their children to campus on Halloween night to trick-or-treat. In addition, professors’ affiliations with the colleges facilitate academic advising for underclassmen. During orientation, freshmen are assigned to faculty members from their colleges who teach in their areas of interest and will counsel them on course selection and other scholastic matters until they declare a major at the end of their sophomore year.

Rice professors also collaborate with their students in the many research laboratories on campus. The university’s size, resources, and reputation combine to create ample opportunities for undergrads to complement their classroom experiences with firsthand research opportunities in a variety of disciplines. Professors and students alike frequently work closely with researchers from the Texas Medical Center, NASA, other governmental agencies, and numerous private companies. Because so many research opportunities exist on campus, many students find that all they have to do to get involved is volunteer.

Largely because of the factors cited above—small classes, the residential colleges, and research opportunities—the faculty are integral members of the Rice community and are uncommonly accessible. Few students leave Rice without having connected with one or more professors either through classes, the college system, or research opportunities. Thus, most students have several academic mentors to consult for advice on course selection, recommendations for graduate school, and career guidance.

The Honor Code

The Honor Code is a distinct feature of academic life at Rice. All undergraduates are schooled in the expectations of the Honor Code during orientation, and they are required to sign a pledge to refrain from giving or receiving unauthorized aid on each assignment. The success of the Honor Code provides Rice students with uncommon freedoms, including unproctored tests, take-home examinations, and self-scheduled finals. To most students, the Code is indispensable because of the trusting, accommodating environment it produces.

The success of the Honor Code depends entirely upon student enforcement of its tenets. In the rare instances when students observe others violating the Code, they are required to report the infraction to the student-led Honor Council. The Council considers all alleged violations and imposes appropriate punishments, ranging from loss of credit on an assignment to suspension from the university.


The grade inflation that has been widely reported at other universities is unknown at Rice. However, while students should enter Rice expecting to work hard, they can also expect to find every possible resource to help them succeed, including a flexible curriculum, accessible professors, and a trusting environment. In addition, students will find a network of support among their peers, for the Rice environment has always favored collaboration over competition. In the end, Rice graduates are rewarded with the admiration of top-notch graduate schools and employers who recognize that a Rice degree is a symbol of aptitude for success.

Most Popular Fields of Study


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Rice prides itself on having a student body that is diverse in every sense—from ethnic, religious, and geographic backgrounds to socioeconomic status and political tendencies to musical and athletic prowess. As a result, admissions at Rice is a very individualized process that endeavors to compile a class of unique individuals who will challenge and learn from each other during their four years at Rice and throughout their lives.

First and foremost, Rice seeks to admit students who are intellectually prepared for and eager to participate in the Rice community. Although grades and test scores can be helpful in determining a student’s likelihood of success, other factors that illustrate a student’s motivation, such as course selection, teacher recommendations, and extracurricular involvement, are equally important. In fact, in its attempts to compile a diverse but symbiotic class, the Admission Committee may forgo a technically superior candidate in favor of another qualified individual with the capacity to make a unique impact on campus life. Thus, strong academic candidates who use their applications to tell their personal stories and demonstrate commitment and perseverance within and outside of the classroom typically have the best chance for success. Nonetheless, the competition is rigorous: of the 8,968 applicants for a recent freshman class, only 2,251 (twenty-five percent) received an offer of admission.

Rice requires its applicants to submit the customary application components: SAT plus two SAT Subject Test scores, or the Act with writing: an official high school transcript, recommendations from high school teachers and counselors, the Rice application, and a $50 application fee. An interview is also recommended and can add a personal touch to an application while providing the candidate an opportunity to learn more about life as a Rice student. Applicants to the schools of Architecture and Music are also required to submit a portfolio or perform a live audition, respectively.

Rice uses the Common Application, which collects basic information, and, like many selective colleges, also requires a Common Application Supplement. The Common Application Supplement provides students with multiple opportunities to express themselves, including several short-answer questions, a thought-provoking essay, and an empty two-dimensional box that applicants are asked to fill with something that appeals to them (an excellent opportunity to make an impression on a reviewer!).

Note: Each component of the application receives a thorough review, so be sure to answer each question carefully, choose conscientious teachers to write your recommendations, and watch those typos!

Decision Plans

To help alleviate the anxiety surrounding the college admissions process, Rice offers three decision plans for its applicants.

  1. Students who are confident that Rice is their first choice school and would like to complete the application process early may apply via the Early Decision Plan by November 1. While awaiting the December 15 notification date, students may continue to prepare and submit applications to other schools as long as no other early decision applications are filed. Students admitted under the Early Decision Plan are required to either commit to Rice or withdraw their applications by January 2. Nonadmitted students may be deferred for later consideration or denied admission.
  1. Students using the Regular Decision Plan must postmark their applications by January 2 and will receive notification by April 1. Offers of admission must be accepted by May 1. In most years, a number of talented applicants are initially placed on the waiting list, and later, some may receive an offer of admission, filling spaces that become available in May and June. Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars Program

Each year, Rice and the Baylor College of Medicine offer a select group of students concurrent admission to an eight-year combined undergraduate and doctoral degree program. Admitted students enjoy access to special programs at Baylor during their four years at Rice and are offered automatic acceptance (i.e., no MCATs!) to Baylor College of Medicine upon their graduation. Interested students must submit the Common Application with the Rice Supplement and the Rice Baylor Medical Scholars Application by December 1.

Getting to Know Rice

One cannot fully appreciate the beauty and intimacy of the Rice campus without paying a visit to the university, so prospective students and their families are encouraged to schedule a trip to Houston if at all possible. The hospitable Admissions Office is open yearround, but visits during the school year can provide the best insight on campus life. Visitors will quickly learn that one of the biggest indications of Rice students’ love for their school is their enthusiastic participation in campus recruiting activities. Each year, hundreds of undergraduates volunteer to host prospective students on overnight visits, lead campus tours, and visit high schools to share information about Rice. In addition, students play a key role in the annual “Owl Days,” when all admitted students are invited to spend a day and night on campus to experience life as a Rice student. While you are considering Rice, these student volunteers will be one of your best sources of information, so be sure to ask the Admissions Office about these student-sponsored programs.

With less than two weeks remaining to make my college decision, I headed to Houston for Owl Days, utterly confused about my future. I was fortunate enough to have been admitted to several universities, but deciding among them seemed to be an even more monumental task than completing the applications. Once I reached the campus, however, I relaxed and allowed myself to become immersed in the Rice experience. I became fast friends with other prospectives, met enthusiastic students and professors, attended stimulating classes, and learned about the endless opportunities for campus involvement. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I felt at home in the Rice community. The next morning, I called my mom and asked her to cancel my reservation at another college recruiting event that weekend—I had decided on Rice! Thanks to Owl Days, I was able to make a truly informed college decision that I have never regretted.

Financial Aid

Rice is committed to attracting and retaining talented students regardless of their financial backgrounds, and it has established a three-pronged strategy to support this aim. Rice uses its large endowment to discount tuition for all students gaining recognition on a national level as being one of the best values in higher education. Rice administers a needblind admission process so that students’ applications for admission and financial aid are considered separately. Rice meets 100 percent of a student’s demonstrated financial need through a combination of loans, grants, work-study programs, and scholarships. For families with less than $80,000 in total income, Rice meets all demonstrated need with grants and work study—no loans.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 2674th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Texas.


The Colleges

The Rice community revolves around and is distinguished by its unique residential college system. The colleges serve as Rice’s alternative to the Greek organizations and social clubs typically found on other American campuses, which are expressly forbidden by the Rice charter.

The inclusive college system randomly assigns all new students to one of the nine colleges upon their acceptance to the university. In any given year, seventy to seventy-five percent of Rice students reside in their residential college, and the remaining students enjoy the benefits of membership despite their nonresident status. Since each college reflects the diversity of the entire student body, the system encourages friendships among students of different ages, races, backgrounds, and interests.

Each college is a separate physical structure similar to a dormitory that houses its own dining hall, computer lab, library, recreational lounges, and laundry room. In addition, a college is a self-governing body that provides opportunities for student leadership, innovation, and artistic expression through student government organizations, theatrical productions, athletic teams, social committees, and other activities.

The college system also facilitates student-faculty interaction. In addition to the nonresident faculty affiliates described above, each college has two resident associates and a college master who are members of the faculty or staff of the university. The RAs live in modified dorm rooms within the college itself, and the master, along with his or her family, lives in an adjacent house. All are present on a daily basis to enhance and participate in the college experience, not to patrol the activities of the residents.

My parents loved Rice almost as much as I did. They anxiously awaited the annual Families Weekends so they could attend classes, mingle with my professors at social events, and get to know my friends over dinner at Houston’s fabulous restaurants. However, they first realized the true importance of the Rice community during the middle of my freshman year when my grandfather passed away unexpectedly. Having met the Resident Associate at my college several times before, they knew they could call on him to be there for me when I heard the news, provide transportation to the airport, and inform my professors of my absence. My Rice ‘family’ made that difficult time a little easier for all of us.

From the minute Rice students set foot on campus during orientation week, they feel like part of their residential college family. Upperclassmen eagerly welcome their new “siblings” to Rice and coach them on their respective college traditions. The college bond continues to grow over the course of the Rice experience because members eat, study, compete, and relax together on a daily basis. Not surprisingly, the rivalries among the colleges are deeprooted and fierce. The antagonism always begins with friendly pranks (called “jacks”) that frequently occur between rival colleges during orientation week and continues through the annual spring ritual of Beer Bike, a bike-racing, beer and water (for underage competitors) chugging contest among the colleges.

Campus Clubs and Organizations

Rice is home to over 200 campus clubs and organizations, and because of the school’s size, there are endless opportunities for campus involvement. It is not at all unusual to see motivated students assuming important campus roles such as newspaper reporter, radio disc jockey, or student association representative within just weeks of enrollment. Rice students also enjoy the advantage of an administration that expects and encourages student involvement in campus decision-making processes.

Other Student Interest Groups

In addition to athletics, many campus activities revolve around traditional student interest groups such as religious and social groups, political affiliations, service organizations, and academic and artistic pursuits. However, students also busy themselves throughout the year with such off-the-wall traditions as the Marching Owl Band, the school’s satirical nonmarching marching band; Baker 13, a bimonthly campus run led by shaving cream-clad daredevils; the legendary Rally Club, the unofficial, raucous cheering squad for the Owl athletic teams; and elaborate theme parties, including the infamous Night of Decadence (“NOD”) at Halloween.

Social Activities

Social life at Rice is as varied as the students themselves. On a typical weekend, a host of activities keep students entertained without ever leaving the campus, such as a theme party thrown by one of the colleges, a theatrical production, live music at the coffeehouse, a pool tournament at the campus pub, or an Owl athletic event. One reason why social life revolves around the campus is that students of legal age are allowed to drink alcohol at Rice. Although unusual, the “wet” alcohol policy is consistent with the school’s emphasis on student responsibility and is supported by the Rice community because it discourages drunken driving. In addition, many students believe the open policy results in less peer pressure to drink.

When students do venture off campus, the dance clubs, theaters, sporting and concert venues, restaurants, and art galleries of Houston provide them with limitless choices for quality entertainment. On long weekends or special occasions, students are inclined to take road trips to the beach (less than an hour away), nearby state parks, or a college-student haven such as Austin or New Orleans.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


Athletic events are some of the most popular activities on campus for both participants and spectators. Rice has the distinction of being one of the smallest universities to compete in Division I-A athletics but remains competitive despite its size. In recent years, the baseball team has won six consecutive conference titles, made three trips to the College World Series, and won the NCAA National Championship in 2003. The women’s track team has garnered several individual national titles, and the Owls have generally finished in the top tier in Conference USA, in the sports in which they compete including basketball, cross-country, football, golf (men), track, soccer (women), swimming (women), tennis, and volleyball (women).

Rice also offers varying levels of competitive sports for nonvarsity athletes ranging from the casual competition of intramurals to intra-college contests that aggravate rivalries to the club teams that compete against other universities. Spectating remains a popular sport as well— friendships developed in the residential colleges translate into support on the field, whether for a roommate in a championship game or a neighbor in his or her first intramural match.


After four years of hard work, students graduate from Rice with a sharpened intellect, a true sense of accomplishment, and outstanding prospects for future success. Regardless of whether they elect to pursue graduate studies, international scholarship competitions, or employment opportunities, Rice grads can be sure that their undergraduate records will be held in high regard.

Graduate Studies

Past records show that approximately forty-four percent of graduates continue their studies immediately after Rice in some of the most prestigious graduate schools in the country. Often with the help of the preprofessional advising programs at Rice, these students have compiled impressive applications for graduate admissions and completed an undergraduate course of study that will enhance their graduate experiences. In fact, in a recent study, more than seventy percent of continuing students received an offer of admission to their first-choice graduate program, and ninety-three percent of medical school applicants were accepted to at least one program. In addition, Rice students are becoming increasingly successful at winning prominent national and international scholarships such as the Rhodes, Fulbright, Marshall, and Watson scholarships.

Employment Opportunities

Other students choose to pursue employment opportunities after Rice, and the university helps them to be equally prepared for the demanding interview process. Each year, more than 250 companies and organizations come to the Rice campus to recruit, and hundreds more alumni volunteer to mentor graduates in their disciplines. Within months of graduation, Rice students discover that their classmates have spread across the globe to pursue their varied interests in computational engineering, nonprofit organizations, business, environmental research, and other worthwhile pursuits.

Regardless of where the road to success might take them, however, most graduates remain in contact with their beloved Rice throughout their lives.

Prominent Graduates

  • Bill Archer, ’46 Congressman since 1971, Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee
  • Clay Armstrong, ’56 Neurobiologist, Member of National Academy of Scientists, Albert Lasker Award for Research
  • Lance Berkman, ’98 Major League Baseball Player, Houston Astros, 2001 National League All-Star Team
  • Garrett Boone, ’66 CEO and Founder of the Container Store, 1999 Retail Innovator’s Award from the National Retail Federation
  • William Broyles, ’66 Journalist, Screenwriter (including Planet of the Apes)
  • Nancy Cole, ’64 Educator, Former President, Educational Testing Service
  • Robert Curl, ’54 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
  • John Doerr, ’73 Venture Capitalist
  • William Maurice Ewing, ’26, ’27, ’31 Geophysicist and Oceanographer; Laid Foundation for Plate Tectonics Concept
  • Marshall Gates, ’36 Chemistry Educator, First to Synthesize Morphine
  • James E. Gunn, ’61 Astrophysics, National Academy of Scientists, Gold Medal from Royal Astronomical Society, Heinemann Prize from American Astronomical Society
  • William P. Hobby, Jr., ’53 Lieutenant Governor of Texas (1973–1991)
  • Anita Jones ’64, Former (1993–1997) U.S. Department of Defense’s Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Vice Chair of National Science Board, Member, Defense Science Board *E. Fay Jones, ’51 Architect, American Institute of Architects Gold Medal Winner; Buildings Listed on National Register of Historic Places
  • Ken Kennedy, ’67 Served as cochair of the Federal Advisory Committee on High-Performance Computing and Communications, Information Technology, and the Next Generation Internet, directs the GRADS Project
  • Larry McMurtry, ’60 Author of more than twenty books including Lonesome Dove (1987 Pulitzer Prize), Terms of Endearment, and The Last Picture Show
  • Seth Morris, ’35 Architect, numerous public buildings including Astrodome in Houston
  • Jim Newman, ’84 NASA Astronaut
  • Hector Ruiz, ’73 President and CEO Advanced Micro Devices, Fortune 500 Company in Sunnyvale, California
  • Frank Ryan, ’58 NFL Quarterback (1958–1970); Former CEO of Contex Electronics; Former Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Case Western, Yale, and Rice
  • Robert Wilson, ’57 Nobel Laureate in Physics

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