Top 100 Colleges with Lowest Acceptance Rates (updated 2022)

Colleges With The Lowest Acceptance Rates

It’s every student’s dream to gain admission into a prestigious college, but let’s be candid, the supply of open seats often doesn’t meet the ambiguous demand from applicants; some schools have a high acceptance rate, and gaining admission to the schools can be very challenging. While some colleges and universities will accept almost anyone who applies, these schools on this list pride themselves on being very selective and you have to meet and surpass all criteria to even be considered. 

Ivy League colleges post record low acceptance rates - Mar. 30, 2012
Source CNN

Below you will find our list of the top 100 colleges with the lowest acceptance rates

School NameLocationAcceptance Rate
Curtis Institute of MusicPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania4.2%
Stanford UniversityStanford, California4.8%
Harvard UniversityCambridge, Massachusetts5.4%
Juilliard SchoolNew York City, New York6.2%
Yale UniversityNew Haven, Connecticut6.3%
Princeton UniversityPrinceton, New Jersey6.5%
Columbia UniversityNew York City, New York6.8%
Alice Lloyd CollegePippa Passes, Kentucky7.1%
University of ChicagoChicago, Illinois7.9%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)Cambridge, Massachusetts7.9%
Top 10
California Institute of TechnologyPasadena, California8.1%
United States Naval AcademyAnnapolis, Maryland9%
Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmore, Pennsylvania9%
Brown UniversityProvidence, Rhode Island9.3%
Pomona CollegeClaremont, California9.4%
University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania9.4%
Claremont McKenna CollegeClaremont, California9.4%
United States Military AcademyWest Point, New York10%
Franklin W. Olin College of EngineeringNeedham, Massachusetts10.2%
Dartmouth CollegeHanover, New Hampshire10.6%
Top 20
Northwestern UniversityEvanston, Illinois10.7%
Vanderbilt UniversityNashville, Tennessee10.7%
Duke UniversityDurham, North Carolina10.8%
Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore, Maryland11.8%
Colby CollegeWaterville, Maine12.1%
Tulane UniversityNew Orleans, Los Angeles13%
Harvey Mudd CollegeClaremont, California12.9%
Pitzer CollegeClaremont, California13.7%
Amherst CollegeAmherst, Massachusetts13.7%
Cornell UniversityIthaca, New York14.1%
Top 30
College of the OzarksPoint Lookout, Missouri14.2%
Bowdoin CollegeBrunswick, Maine14.8%
Cooper UnionNew York City, New York15.1%
Rice UniversityHouston, Texas15.1%
University of California-BerkeleyBerkeley, California16%
Mississippi Valley State UniversityItta Bena, Mississippi16.2%
The United States Air Force AcademyUSAF, Colorado16.6%
Washington University in St. LouisSt. Louis, Missouri17.1%
Middlebury College Middlebury, Vermont17.3%
Tufts UniversityMedford, Massachusetts17.3%
Top 40
Georgetown UniversityWashington, DC17.4%
Rust CollegeHolly Springs, Mississippi17.6%
Colorado CollegeColorado Springs, Colorado18%
University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, California18%
The United States Coast Guard AcademyNew London, Connecticut18.1%
University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA)Los Angeles, California18.5%
Williams CollegeWilliamstown, Massachusetts19.4%
Washington and Lee UniversityLexington, Virginia19.6%
Liberty UniversityLynchburg, Virginia20.3%
Florida Memorial UniversityMiami, Florida20.5%
Top 50
New York UniversityNew York City, New York21%
University of Notre DameNotre Dame, Indiana21.5%
Davidson CollegeDavidson, North Carolina21.7%
Missouri Valley CollegeMarshall, Missouri22.2%
United States Merchant Marine AcademyKings Point, New York22.4%
Carleton CollegeNorthfield, Minnesota22.8%
Vassar CollegePoughkeepsie, New York23.5%
Barnard CollegeNew York, New York23.7%
Wesleyan UniversityMiddletown, Connecticut23.9%
Fort Valley State UniversityFort Valley, Georgia24.2%
Top 60
Art Academy of CincinnatiCincinnati, Ohio24.3%
Robert Morris UniversityChicago, Illinois24.4%
Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh, Pennsylvania24.6%
Haverford CollegeHaverford, Pennsylvania24.7%
Kenyon CollegeGambier, Ohio25.1%
Bates CollegeJackson State UniversityLewiston, MaineJackson, Mississippi25.4%
Colgate UniversityHamilton, New York26.1%
Warner UniversityLake Wales, Florida26.2%
Babson CollegeWellesley, Massachusetts26.4%
Hamilton CollegeClinton, New York26.4%
Top 70
Emory UniversityAtlanta, Georgia26.8%
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, Ohio27%
Lincoln UniversityLincoln University, Pennsylvania27.1%
Edward Waters CollegeJacksonville, Florida27.3%
Scripps CollegeClaremont, California27.4%
California Institute of ArtsValencia, California27.7%
CUNY–Baruch CollegeNew York City, New York28%
Grinnell CollegeGrinnell, Iowa28%
College of New RochelleNew Rochelle, New York28.5%
University of North Carolina–Chapel HillChapel Hill, North Carolina28.5%
Top 80
CUNY–Lehman CollegeBronx, New York29%
University of VirginiaCharlottesville, Virginia29%
Hampton UniversityHampton, Virginia29.1%
Lafayette CollegeEaston, Pennsylvania29.8%
Chicago State UniversityChicago, Illinois30%
Calumet College of St. JosephWhiting, Indiana30.3%
Wellesley CollegeWellesley, Massachusetts30.5%
Bucknell UniversityLewisburg, Pennsylvania30.7%
California Polytechnic State University-San Luis ObispoSan Luis Obispo, California30.9%
Hope International UniversityFullerton, California31%
Top 90
Wilson CollegeChambersburg, Pennsylvania31.4%
Southwestern Adventist UniversityKeene, Texas31.5%
University of RichmondUniversity of Richmond, Virginia31.9%
Northeastern UniversityBoston, Massachusetts32%
University of Michigan–Ann ArborAnn Arbor, Michigan32.3%
Ohio Valley UniversityVienna, West Virginia32.5%
Oberlin CollegeOberlin, Ohio32.7%
College of William and MaryWilliamsburg, Virginia33%
Trinity CollegeHartford, Connecticut33%
Webb InstituteGlen Cove, New York33%
Top 100

What to Consider When Researching College’s Acceptance Rates

Acceptance rates only provide a single data about a school. Applicants should consider other factors such as the school’s average GPA, the SAT/ ACT scores, how many students apply to the school, the enrollment rate, and other data to fully understand the acceptance rate.

A 5% acceptance rate from Stanford may seem intimidating, but applicants should consider the total number of applicants and what that 5% acceptance really means. So, if for instance, Stanford admits 5% of applicants, but the school receives 100,000 applications, that just means that 5,000 students will be accepted. In contrast, if you apply to a school with a 50% acceptance rate, but that school only receives 10,000 applicants, the school will admit 5,000. 

So, even though the acceptance rates differ greatly, the number of applicants is the same. Applicants should keep data in perspective when comparing schools, rankings, and data points.

Most universities often accept more students than they can take. This is due to the fact that not all students who are accepted will enroll. Assessing the percentage of students who enroll against students accepted provides additional information. If the school has a 50% acceptance rate, but 80% of students enroll (40% of the total applicants), then you may have a different perspective on the college, knowing that most accepted students wish to attend.

Benefits of Low College Acceptance Rates

The colleges with the lowest acceptance rates also naturally feature prestige and name recognition. This explains why several Ivy League schools appear on our list of colleges with the lowest acceptance rates.

1. Career Opportunities

Attending a selective school can translate into networking and career opportunities after graduation. Thanks to prestigious alumni networks, many of these schools help professionals advance their careers long after graduation. Many of these schools also focus on academic research, investing in state-of-the-art technologies, and carrying out cutting-edge experiments. Students interested in research careers benefit from attending these schools.

2. Salary Benefits

Attending a selective school can also bring salary benefits. Graduates from Ivy League schools report higher earnings than other graduates. Ten years after gaining admission, an Ivy League grad receives double the salary of grads from other colleges.

Applying to Colleges with Low Acceptance Rates

All colleges have different standards. Juilliard, for example, requires different qualifications than Stanford or Harvard, and applicants to the performing arts school must pass an audition to gain admission.

In a competitive applicant pool, how can you make your application stand out?

1. Strong GPA

Schools with the lowest acceptance rates look for a strong academic record. Students can boost their GPA by taking AP classes. Transcripts should show the admissions committee that applicants can handle college-level work. Dodging hard classes can backfire. Taking practice tests or an SAT or ACT prep course can help students perform better on their standardized test scores.

2. Be more than academic

In addition to academics, schools look for well-versed applicants who bring something unique to the student body. Highlighting volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, and work experience can help applicants stand out.

3. Write a great essay

College essays also play a key role in admissions. Applicants should devote several weeks to writing and reviewing their essays. Ask for feedback from teachers or mentors to improve the essays, and make sure to personalize the essay for each school.

4. Have a solid recommendation letter

Recommendation letters can actually make or break an application. Students should pick teachers or mentors who know them well. Contact letter writers at least one month before the application deadline. Rather than just asking for a recommendation letter, provide as much information as possible. Students should offer a list of their academic achievements, extracurriculars, or papers they wrote for the class.

5. Review as much as you can

Before submitting any application, students should review the entire application as much as they can. Sloppy errors draw the wrong kind of attention during the admissions process. You don’t want to lose out on admission because of spelling errors.

FAQ on College with Lowest Acceptance Rates

u003cstrongu003eIs Brown University prestigious?u003c/strongu003e

Yes. The school is.

u003cstrongu003eWhat is the hardest university in the world and why?u003c/strongu003e

Stanford. They have limited slots and a lot of applications, so the slot is given to the best of the best.

u003cstrongu003eHow can I get accepted into top universities in the US?u003c/strongu003e

Have great grades. Do some extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and have great recommendation letters and essays.

u003cstrongu003eHow hard is it to get into a top U.S. university?u003c/strongu003e

Quite hard. You have to understand that thousands of top-notch students are also applying to the school, so you have to have the WOW factor to get accepted.

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