The 30 Hardest U.S. Colleges To Get Accepted Into


Some schools in the United States have long stood out from others when it comes to prestige. These colleges and universities tend to attract thousands of applicants each year, all of whom are hoping that they’ll be able to call the school home the next fall. Unfortunately, top schools are also very picky and often select just a very small portion of applicants to attend. Here are some of the schools with the stingiest acceptance rates in the entire U.S.

Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College was founded in 1957 and originally had temporary classrooms which doubled as the professors’ living quarters. It’s safe to say that much has changed since then. Now Harvey Mudd is a prestigious school that accepts just 13% of all applicants each year, with each freshman class totaling about 800 students.

Cornell University

Cornell University is a part of the prestigious Ivy League and has carved out a special niche for its historic decision to allow both men and women many decades ago. Founded in 1865, the college’s alumni include actors and actresses such as Jane Lynch, Christopher Reeve, and Gillian Anderson. Only 14% of applicants are accepted.

Amherst College

Amherst College has been around since 1821 and has always been very progressive, as there was no discrimination based upon race or religion as long as students met the academic requirements. Well, unless you were a woman – women weren’t accepted until 1975. Amherst accepts only 14% of its applicants.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University has had alumni that include Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Schwimmer, Splendiferous Finch, and Stephen Colbert. The university began in 1853 with a purchase of 379 acres of land that would host just ten students at first. Today, over 8,000 undergraduate students attend, although just 11% of all applicants are accepted.

Pitzer College

In 1963, Pitzer College was founded as a liberal arts school for women. It became a coed institution in the 1970s. As a Claremont College, the California school is quite picky about who attends. Just 13% of all applicants are accepted to study at Pitzer College.

Pomona College

In 1887, Pomona College was founded. As one of the seven Claremont Colleges and an original founding school of the consortium, it’s a very prestigious place. Today, you’ll need a great scholastic record to get in as only 9% of applicants are accepted.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University was founded in 1873 and was part of the Methodist Episcopal Church originally. Things have changed, especially since the school wasn’t originally labeled as a coed university. While men and women are all allowed today, it’s easier said than done to get in with an acceptance rate of just 11%.

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Many schools have their specialties, and for Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, that specialty is quite obvious. The school has only been around for just over 20 years but is already known as a top engineering school. Just 8.8% of all applicants are accepted to Franklin W. Olin.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College is one of the oldest learning institutions in the U.S., having been founded in 1769 to help educate Native Americans. You certainly know some of the famous alumni of Dartmouth, which include Dr. Seuss himself and actresses Connie Britton and Mindy Kaling. Only 11% of those that apply to Dartmouth get in.

Duke University

In 1838, Duke University was founded, although there was just one building in all of campus. That’s not the case anymore, as the several-thousand-acre campus is home to over 6,000 undergraduate students. It has earned a reputation not only for scholastics, but also for sports. Only 9% of applicants are accepted.

Claremont McKenna College

In 1946, Claremont McKenna College was founded as an all-male learning institution. In 1976, the college also began accepting female students, and today Claremont McKenna is one of the top schools in the nation. Only about 1,000 students attend at any given time, and the school accepts 9% of all applicants.

University of Pennsylvania

Benjamin Franklin founded this school as Franklin’s College of Philadelphia, which was the first public university in U.S. history. In 1780, the name was changed to the University of Pennsylvania. Not only did famous entertainers such as John Legend and Sharon Stone go to school here, but also more billionaires come from Penn than anywhere else. Penn accepts 9% of applicants each year.

United States Military Academy

In 180s, the United States Military Academy was founded by then-President Thomas Jefferson. The institution gave male and female students alike the chance to earn a college education in a military setting. This may not appeal to every young person, but thousands each year apply to get in, with just 10% accepted.

University of Chicago

Back in 1890, John Rockefeller’s donations to the American Baptist Education Society made the University of Chicago possible. Today, the University of Chicago is well known for its outstanding arts and sciences programs. If you want to go to school here, keep in mind that only 8% of applicants are accepted!

California Institute of Technology

Amos G. Throop founded the California Institute of Technology in 1891. The school, which is often referred to as CalTech, is one of the best in the world for science and engineering, with many successful alumni in those fields. Only 8% of those who apply to CalTech are accepted.

Brown University

Brown University was founded in 1764 in Providence, Rhode Island. The school set itself apart immediately by accepting students of all religions. Only 9% of applicants are accepted into this Ivy League school, whose prestigious alumni include eight billionaires and seven Nobel Prize winners.

College of the Ozarks

The College of the Ozarks isn’t the most famous school on this list by any means, but it does have an acceptance rate of just 12%. That’s because it’s a tuition-free school and attracts many applicants. Students attend this school and often participate in work programs. The school was founded in 1907.

United States Naval Academy

Annapolis, Maryland’s United States Naval Academy is one of the more storied learning institutions in all of the U.S. It’s the second oldest service academy and one of the hardest schools to get into nationwide, with a 9% acceptance rate. Only students from ages 17 to 23 are accepted.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Often known as M.I.T., this school was founded in 1860 and has quickly developed a reputation for excellence. Science and technology are what the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is all about, and the school has a long list of experts in many fields to its name. Only 7.9% are accepted into the school, which occupies 168 acres on the bank of the scenic River Charles Basin.

Princeton University

Way back in 1746, Princeton University was founded. In the past 270+ years, the school’s reputation for excellence has gone unchallenged, with U.S. Presidents and celebrities such as Michelle Obama and David Duchovny listed among alumni. Just 6.5% of all applicants are accepted into the undergraduate and graduate programs.

Alice Lloyd College

Alice Lloyd and June Buchanan founded Alice Lloyd College in 1923, which has long required all students to participate in its work-study program. Since the 1980s, the school has offered four-year bachelor’s degrees. Only 7% of applicants are accepted into the school.

Columbia University

In 1754, King’s College was founded in New York. Now, the state’s longest tenured higher education institution is known as Columbia University. It has a student body of 30,000, but only 6% of those who apply get in. Many international students choose Columbia University for its academic excellence and location.

Yale University

Yale, like rival Harvard, is a famous Ivy League school. Yale University was founded in 1701 and consists of 12 colleges with their own curriculum. The school is extremely rich, with an endowment of $25.6 billion and alumni that include actor Edward Norton and actress Claire Danes. Just 6.3% of those who apply are accepted.

Harvard University

Harvard University has become the poster child of prestige in the U.S. higher education world, and it has earned that reputation by accepting just 5.4% of applicants. In 1636, the school was founded, making it the oldest higher education institution in the entire United States. Eight U.S. presidents and over 60 living billionaires got their education at Harvard!

Stanford University

For smart kids who prefer California to the northeast, Stanford University can’t be beaten. It has an amazing reputation for academic and athletic excellence and wealthy alumni that have contributed to its $21.4 billion endowment fund. Only 4.8% of those who apply to get into Stanford are accepted, which is astonishingly low.

Johns Hopkins University

As a private research university, Johns Hopkins University has earned a lot of respect in the medical field. It’s a top notch school for those studying medicine and has turned out a lot of excellent doctors over the years. About 11% of those that apply to Johns Hopkins are accepted.

Washington University of St. Louis

Located in St. Louis, scenic Washington University is a school that has reached a high level of excellence in several areas, including law, social work and public health. Twenty-five Nobel laureates have attended the school since 1853, and just 16% of those who apply are granted access to the school’s rich academic resources.

Rice University

Rice was founded in Houston, Texas, in 1912 and is one of the top colleges in the south when it comes to academics. Many highly regarded scientists earned their education from Rice and the school is often linked to top NASA projects, too. In addition, many CEOs have attended Rice, which accepts about 14% of applicants.

Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College isn’t a household name, but has built a solid reputation since 1794. The school offers 33 majors and has a beautiful landscape that attracts many thousands of hopefuls. Just 14% are accepted each year to Bowdoin College, which is ranked as the 6th best liberal arts school in all of the U.S.

Williams College

Williamstown, Massachusetts, has been the home of Williams College since its inception in 1793. Ephraim Williams was the school’s original investor and namesake. It’s a private liberal arts college that has produced Pulitzer Prize winners and many others that are notable for their accomplishments in the humanities. Each year, the college accepts about 17% of applicants.