The Toughest Colleges To Get Into In America

Published on February 12, 2018
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When it comes time to look at different colleges to study at, there are hundreds of options in the U.S. Some colleges are easier to get into whereas others are like trying to get out of Alcatraz prison – yeah, almost impossible. Here is a list of the toughest colleges to get into in America.

Harvey Mudd College

Let’s start this list with Harvey Mudd College. Since they only accept 12.9% of applicants it’s no wonder that the liberal arts college in California is one of the most elite colleges in the U.S.

Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College

Cornell University

This Ivy League university decide to take about 14.2% of all applicants which just tells us how difficult it is to get in. Since they opened their doors in 1865, they have been providing top-notch education from their premises in Ithaca, New York.

Cornell University

Cornell University

Amherst College

Some might know them by their “mammoth” mascot, and others may know them by their very selective acceptance program. Only 14% of potential students will make it into this liberal arts college in Massachusetts.

Amherst College

Amherst College

Vanderbilt University

If you’re ever in Nashville, Tennessee, try pop past the famous Vanderbilt University. This institution got its name from a charitable man who donated $1 million to its creation in 1873. Although there was a lot of money put into this college, there weren’t too many students entered. On average, 13.1% get in.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University

Northwestern University

If anyone asks you if you know who attended Northwestern University, you can tell them that Hugh Hefner did. But it wasn’t just the Playboy entrepreneur who attended classes here, many other politicians, actors, activists and artists did too. They made the 15.1% cut to get in.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University

Pitzer Colllege

Some of you may remember that Pitzer Colllege once opened its doors to women only, but today it’s a mixed gender institution. It was in the 1970’s that the faculty decided to take on more students – but not too many, apparently. 13% of applicants make it past the registration phase.

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Pitzer College

Pomona College

For most people living in Claremont, California, Pomona College is one of the best colleges out there. There is such a great demand to study at this liberal arts college that applicants are already sending in registration forms for 2020! Most people expect that they will have to be part of a 9.1% acceptance number to get in.

Pomona College

Pomona College

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

When it comes to prestigious colleges we usually imagine a long lineage of big names and even bigger legacies. But did you know that Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering isn’t even 20 years old yet? It opened in 2000 and has made a name for itself as one of the most prestigious colleges in the United States. Currently they accept about 12% of college applicants.

Franklin W. Olin College Of Engineering

Franklin W. Olin College Of Engineering

Dartmouth College

“You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Who said this? Dr. Seuss did! He knew what he was talking about when he chose to complete his studies at Dartmouth College. He was also one of the lucky 11.5% who made it into this college.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College

Duke University

Everyone knows that college tuition is not cheap. But even if you have the $50,000 you need to pay for your studies at Duke, you’ll still need to get past admission. Approximately 9% of student wanna-be’s get in. The rest have to go search elsewhere.

Duke University

Duke University

Claremont Mckenna College

If you’re looking for a college to go to that will make you happy, then this is definitely the place! Claremont Mckenna College in Los Angeles took second place as the university with the happiest students. At least we know that 10.8% of everyone who applied to get in are happy.

Claremont McKenna College Kravis Center

Claremont McKenna College

University of Pennsylvania

If you go to the University of Pennsylvania will you become a multi-billionaire? Well that’s an excellent question and I’m not sure that I could answer that for you, but some others can. President Donald Trump, Elon Musk and Warren Buffet are just some of the alumni of this private university. They also happen to have been included in the 10.4% of students accepted to study here.

University Of Pennsylvania

University Of Pennsylvania

United States Military Academy

The United States Military Academy is willing to give you free tuition, if you’re willing to give yourself to the service of your country. Hey, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? But even if you’re willing to put in your all, they’re not willing to take all. The U.S.M.A. only accepts 9.5% of applicants.

United States Military Academy

United States Military Academy

University of Chicago

Believe it or not, the University of Chicago is located in Chicago, Illinois. The private research institute chooses to take in 8.8% of their applicants and has maintained a status of elite since it opened in 1890.

Some Things Never Get Old

University Of Chicago

California Institute of Technology

Some call it “Caltech”, others call it the California Institute of Technology, and others just call it a distant dream. Only 8.1% can call it home, but those aren’t just nobodies. 34 alumni members have won the Nobel Prize with another 71 who have won the United States National Medal of Science or Technology.

California Institute Of Technology.png

California Institute Of Technology

Brown University

Among the 8.7% of students who applied and got into Brown University, was Emma Watson. I know what you’re thinking, and it was a shock to us too – she didn’t go to Hogwarts. Another notable figure who attended this university was John F. Kennedy Junior.

Brown University

Brown University

Cooper Union

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Who said this? Thomas Edison did! And he also said, “Wow, I’m so happy that I am one of the 7.7% of students who got accepted to this joint.” Alright, alright, he probably didn’t say that, but you get it.

Cooper Union

Cooper Union

Curtis Institute of Music

There’s no doubt that the Curtis Institute of Music is serious about their music mission. They believe that they should give the world’s most talented young musicians a haven to learn by doing. Even though their school might be small since they take only 4.8% of applicants, they have the results to prove their mettle.

Curtis Institute Of Music

Curtis Institute Of Music

Emory University

“The wise heart seeks knowledge”, is what they’re all about. Emory University chooses to take in 25.2% of all applicants. But just getting in isn’t enough. The Atlanta-based private research university pushes its students to pass boundaries they believe they can never pass.

Emory University

Emory University

Georgetown University

Georgetown is a private Catholic research university which can be found in Washington D.C. This university is adamant to give its students premier education. If a student can’t afford tuition fees and has made it past the 17% acceptance limit, then the university will ensure that he/she can study without a worry.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University

Princeton University

Princeton is synonymous with Ivy League colleges, and it’s for a darn good reason that it is. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, James Madison and JFK all attended this superior institution so it’s no wonder it has such an auspicious name. When it comes to enrolling students, Princeton accepts a low percentage of only 6.5% of applicants.

Princeton University

Princeton University

Spring Hill College

When it comes to sporting colleges, Spring Hill is a top option. Although they accept 40% of applicants, they are still choosy about who makes up that number. Spring hill College has 19 varsity sports teams and 11 of them are women’s.

Spring Hill College

Spring Hill College

Columbia University

Would it surprise you that former president Barack Obama went to school at New York’s Columbia University? Well the truth is that it shouldn’t because many others like him have too. 20 of the world’s billionaires and 5 of the American Founding Fathers came here to study. Now it makes sense that only 7% make it in.

Columbia University

Columbia University

Yale University

Get out your calculators because I’m about to drop some numbers for you. Yale University boasts 52 Nobel laureates, 243 Rhodes scholars, 5 Field medalists and 118 Marshall scholars. Whew! Aside from having to pay about $50k tuition, you’d have to make the cut of 6.3% approved applicants to get the opportunity to study at this Connecticut-based university.

Yale University

Yale University

Harvard University

Like father, like daughter for Malia Obama who attended Harvard just like her dad did (this university too). Natalie Portman, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Matt Damon are just another bunch of famous people who found a home at Harvard. The list of names goes on and on (I recommend checking this one out). They were also chosen as part of the 6% who Harvard accepts.

Harvard University

Harvard University

Stanford University

Can you believe that Stanford only accepts 4.7% of applying students? If you make the cut then you can feel like a million bucks, or spend it there. So who graduated from this prestigious school that we know? Let’s see… John F. Kennedy, Reese Witherspoon, Tiger Woods, Elon Musk. Did you know that the best cardiovascular surgeon graduated at the top of her class at Stanford University? Her name is Cristina Yang.

Stanford University

Stanford University

Juilliard School

In the Upper West Side of Manhattan sits a college by the name of the Juilliard School of Performing Arts. Knowing that stars like Robin Williams and Kevin Spacey make up part of their alumni just makes this place that much more appealing. Since its establishment in 1950, they have been providing top education for the 7.2% of students who actually make it in.

Juilliard School

Juilliard School

Johns Hopkins University

If you’re looking to make your dreams come true, then JHU might the place to start. One step is making the 11.4% cut, and then working your butt off, I’m sure. Baltimore proudly hosts this unique and premier private research facility.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

Washington University of St. Louis

To start, they gave this university its name because of the first American president, George Washington. Based on that information alone, we can understand that this private university is probably world-class. Out of the 17% acceptance rate, 25 Nobel laureates have graduated from Washington University of St. Louis.

Washington University Of St. Louis

Washington University Of St. Louis

Rice University

With such a huge campus of 295 acres, you would expect that they could host many students. However, those ‘many’ students are made up of only 16% of applicants. When it comes to their success, we can definitely give them a round of applause. Many of their alumni have gone on to work for NASA and have even traveled to space!

Rice University

Rice University

Alice Lloyd College

Alice Lloyd College has adopted “A light unto the mountains” as their official motto. In 2016, 619 students took this as their own after they made the 30% admission limit. This Kentucky college puts a great focus on sports and athletics.

Alice Lloyd College

Alice Lloyd College

Bowdoin College

Although it might seem like a small college at first, understanding the access rate might help understand why that is. When they decide that only 14.8% of their applicants will get in, we realize that there’s something special here. This small liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine has produced some of the most influential figures of our time.

Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College

Williams College

This college gets its name from Ephraim Williams who invested in it all the way back in 1793. But that wasn’t the only big name that made this one of the most prestigious colleges in the U.S. President James Garfield is one of the many other great figures who studied here. But even for an Ivy League college, it accepts a high 18% of applicants.

Williams College

Williams College

Jarvis Christian College

8% of applicants trying to get into Jarvis Christian College, which is one of the first pre-dominantly black colleges, will actually get in. Bearing a strong connection to the Disciples of Christ, the Texas-based college is one of the most difficult colleges to get into in America.

Jarvis Christian College

Jarvis Christian College

College of the Ozarks

CSI: Miami star stands side-by-side with retired four-star Marine Corps general, Terrence R. Dake as this college’s notable alumni. Bearing the promising name of “Opportunity Avenue”, we understand that the opportunity they promise to all, is actually to all 12% of applicants who get in.

College Of The Ozarks

College Of The Ozarks

Tufts University

Tufts University is kind of tuff’ to get into, har har. No but really, only 14% of applicants can get it. The $51,000 they require from students for tuition is only one element of getting into this private research university in Massachusetts.

Tufts University

Tufts University

Briar Cliff University

Although only 15% of those who register make it in, rumors are saying that they are going to accept more students soon. Briar Cliff University is a private, Franciscan, Roman Catholic, liberal arts university (now that’s a mouthful) based in Sioux City, Iowa, United States.

Briar Cliff University

Briar Cliff University

Middlebury College

What makes Middlebury College different from other colleges? Well, for one it chose 1800 to be the year of its opening, and it was the first college in Vermont. It took them 83 years to decide to convert their institution into a coed university. They also differentiate themselves from other colleges by accepting only 16% of applicants.

Middlebury College

Middlebury College

Barnard College

When it comes to Barnard College, we can pin some of the most interesting and colorful celebs of our time to it. I’m talking about Martha Stewart, Joan Rivers and Lauren Graham as prime examples. All of them made the admission cut of 16.7% and went on to become stars after attending the New York college.

Barnard College

Barnard College

Wesleyan University

Some people might know that Wesleyan University, Amherst College and Williams College are all part of the “Little Three” colleges. But it’s not just this tri-alliance that brings them mutuality, they all have a very difficult entry process. 17.7% is this college’s lucky number.

Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University

Atlanta Metropolitan State College

If you were to go to this college now, you would be able to count 2,582 students. Although that number seems high, it is much lower than the number of students the college has turned down. Since they only take in 10.1% of applicants, the Atlanta Metropolitan State College stands out among many other colleges.

Atlanta Metropolitan State College

Atlanta Metropolitan State College

Colby College

Colby College is proud to have students flock in from more than 60 countries to study there. The private liberal arts college only receives 17.5% of those applying. Aside from their acceptance terms, they have another claim to fame and that is that it is the 12th oldest U.S. university.

Colby College

Colby College

University of Notre Dame

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you will not find the Hunchback here. What you will found however, is a massive 1,250-acre campus that shows off iconic landmarks like the Golden Dome, the Notre Dame stadium and the Basilica. But unless you want to see them from afar, you should pass the 18.2% vetting percentage in order to get in.

University Of Notre Dame

University Of Notre Dame

Grinnell College

Interestingly enough, Grinnell College made the list of the 30 “Hidden Ivies” by the New York Times in 2006. The private liberal arts college have an acceptance rate of just 18% and they aren’t changing that any time soon.

Grinnell College

Grinnell College

Paine College

Getting into this Georgia college is a “pain”… right, let’s move right along. When it was established in 1882, it was supposed to serve as a private black college. Today they accept only around 32% of students which is quite a high number for this list.

Paine College

Paine College

Florida A&M University

Do you know who Tyrese Gibson is? Aside from his exemplary role in “The Fast and The Furious”, he is also a graduate of Florida A&M University. This university which focuses on agriculture and mechanics takes around 31% of signing applicants.

Florida AM University

Florida AM University

Wake Forest University

You might be wondering where this university got its name, and the answer lies in its location. The Wake Forest University chooses to accept 29.8% of all applicants who sign up. If you can’t make it into this school, take a look at the rest of the list for many other options.

Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University

University of Virginia

Are you a space cadet? Someone who would like to reach for the stars and then actually reach them? Well then, perhaps Kathryn C. Thornton could be an inspiration to you since she spent close to 1,000 hours in space. However, she did spend a little more time studying at the University of Virginia. But she didn’t close the door on her university, rather she went back after her retirement to become a professor there. 29.2% of students make it in, but I wonder how many professors they accept.

University Of Virginia

University Of Virginia

Scripps College

These famous people, Gabrielle Giffords, China Chow, Serena Altschul and Beth Nolan are all names that were once students’ names at Scripps College. All of these alumni members are women, and there’s a good reason for that. The California college of liberal arts is exclusively for women, however it is not for all women. Only 28.4% of women trying to get in will actually make it.

Scripps College

Scripps College

Howard University

Would you have guessed that P. Diddy made the cut of 30% to get into Howard University? Well if you didn’t, you could now. The good news about this institution, is that it doesn’t ask for ridiculously high tuition like many others on this list.

Howard University

Howard University

Calumet College of St. Joseph

Let’s dive into another state, the state of Indiana. The Calumet College of St. Joseph, which strongly affiliates with the Roman Catholic church, is a college that mixes studies with sport. They also mix it up with a low percentage of granted entries to applicants (33.8%).

Calumet College Of St. Joseph

Calumet College Of St. Joseph

Bucknell University

One of the highest honorary alumni members of Bucknell University is Peter Balakian. Now if you don’t know who he is, then let me just say 6 words – 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry. Are you impressed yet? You would really need to impress the board of directors at this private liberal arts university in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania if you want to make the 24.8% cut.

Bucknell University

Bucknell University

Wellesley College

This Massachusetts college was the home to Diana Sawyer, Madeleine Albright and believe it or not, presidential candidate – Hillary Clinton! It’s no surprise that these women made it past the 28% admission rate and went on to graduate from this private women’s liberal arts college.

Wellesley College

Wellesley College

Webb Institute

The Webb Institute isn’t too fond of getting too many students caught in their web. Only 33% of applicants will become students at this New York school. Only 80 students enrolled in 2010 which makes it quite a small college.

Webb Institute

Webb Institute

Skidmore Colleges

1903 was the birth year of the private, independent liberal arts college for women in Saratoga Springs, New York. It took them more than half a century to include men as viable applicants to their school, but there are still limitations to applicants. Their acceptance rate is 28.2%.

Skidmore College

Skidmore College

Northeastern University

“Evening Institute for Younger Men” was the original name for Northeastern University. Since then it hasn’t only changed its name, it has also made its acceptance policies a lot stricter, allowing only 28% of applicants in.

Northeastern University

Northeastern University

Medaille College

What we haven’t spoken about on this list, is online college degrees. Medaille College was one of the first colleges to offer such degrees, but not from their inception in 1937. Today the private liberal arts college accepts a tight 29% of applying students.

Medaille College

Medaille College

Colgate University

No, this isn’t the university of toothpaste, I don’t even think that one exists. Colgate University is the 12th best liberal arts college in the United States. Their 575-acre campus is home to only 28.7% of students who are accepted.

Colgate University

Colgate University

Boston University

Even though Boston University only accepts 29% of students who apply, they produce a mass of notable figures. Their alumni proudly boasts 3 Pulitzer Prize winners, 10 Rhodes scholars, 6 Marshall scholars, 48 Sloan Fellows, 9 Academy Award winners, and some Emmy and Tony Award winners. The likes of Martin Luther King Jr. studied here.

Boston University

Boston University

Haverford College

Non doctior, sed meliore doctrina imbutus… No, I didn’t just curse you in Latin. Rather, I just showed you the college’s ethos which actually means, “Not more learned, but steeped in a higher learning.” This college stands out by its unique approach to studying, allowing students to choose their own curriculum and even their own exam dates. But in order to become an “exam-date chooser”, you’ll have to make it in with the 21% of those who make it.

Haverford College

Haverford College

United States Coast Guard Academy

What an impressive academy the United States Coast Guard Academy is! One example that we can touch on is an astronaut by the name of Daniel C. Burbank. He has spent over 6 months in space, which is a little more impressive than having past the admission bottleneck of 16%.

United States Coast Guard Academy

United States Coast Guard Academy

Carnegie Mellon University

With a collection of Nobel laureates, actors, architects, artists and other influential figures, Carnegie Mellon University have a wide array of top alumni. After its founding in 1900, Andrew Carnegie boosted the private research institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to become one of the top U.S. colleges. Since they accept 13.7% of applicants, there is a chance of getting in.

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

Art Academy of Cincinnati

When their motto reads, “Make art, make a difference,” you have to imagine this private art college as something reputable. With its main focuses on art, design and art history, the Cincinnati art academy has been making impressions since 1869. 24.3% is their acceptance percentage.

Art Academy Of Cincinnati

Art Academy Of Cincinnati

Florida Memorial University

When it comes to sport colleges, the “fighting lions” of Florida Memorial University are ready to dominate across most sports fields. Baseball, basketball, cross-country, track & field and volleyball are just some of those sports. But let’s take a sidestep from sports and talk about a notable FMU graduate by the name of Barrington Irving, Jr. He was the youngest and first African-American pilot to fly solo around the world. He was also one of 20.5% of students to be accepted to FMU.

Florida Memorial University

Florida Memorial University

Babson College

If you’re looking to become an entrepreneur, then this should be your next home. Not only do they rank as the most prestigious entrepreneur college in the U.S., but they also only accept 26% of applicants. Massachusetts is lucky to have such an institution as their own.

Babson College

Babson College

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