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The 29 hardest colleges in America to get into


From a young age, many of us dream of applying to some of the most prestigious schools in the country and opening the acceptance later after we’ve absolutely smashed our exams and achieved our coveted 4.2 GPA. Although, in today’s techno-loving world, it’s normally an email rather than a letter, but this is our dream so we can make up our own story. Unfortunately, for some of us, those dreams will be left in our bedrooms – because getting into the most prestigious colleges in America isn’t easy.

Nowadays, high SAT scores and a 4.0 Grade Point Average just isn’t enough to stand out of the crowd; especially if you’re aiming for any of the Ivy League universities. Universities such as Harvard, Brown, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell and Yale are now looking for so much more and are becoming increasingly selective. Alongside working your… err… backside off to maintain your sky-high test scores throughout your high school years, universities are now looking for a whole host of extra curricular activities on your transcript, as well as examples of your community engagement AND work experience. Basically, they want you to be the best you can be. However, with so much pressure and so many expectations, it’ll be hard to ward off an emotional breakdown (but it can be avoided by eating lots and lots of ice cream, and it’ll definitely be worth it when you get in. Trust us!)

So if you’re looking at colleges for next year, you need to weigh up all of your options; where you want to go, whether that goal is achievable, and the acceptance rate. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of the 30 hardest colleges in America to get into to help you out… because we’re nice like that.

Williams College

Let’s be honest; this campus is absolutely amazing. Located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College has been teaching students since 1793. This private liberal arts college has become increasingly popular over the last decade, as word of its incredible campus, the 100 teaching buildings and its sound prospectus have reached undergraduates across the US. However, you’ll need to put the work in to get accepted here – as Williams College only accept 18% of their applications each year.

Washington University of St. Louis

Considering this college was named after the former president, George Washington, it’s no surprise that this private research university is kind of a big deal (okay, it’s a really big deal). The school was established in 1853 and has brought us some of the world’s leading figures in medicine, public health, law and social work – including 25 Nobel Laureates! But getting in isn’t as easy as it sounds, as the Washington University of St. Louis only offers a 17% acceptance rate.

Rice University

Yep, Rice University is just as impressive as it looks. Located in Houston, Texas, Rice University offers its students a whopping 295 acres of campus and has been teaching some of the brightest sparks in the US – many of which have gone on to work for NASA (I mean, how cool is that?) or take advantage of the world-class business school to make their millions. The university offers an acceptance rate of 16%, meaning it’s the hardest college to get into in the state of Texas.

Bowdoin College

Bow-you-doin? Bowdoin College is one of the best private liberal arts college in the US – and it’s not hard to see why considering students have 33 incredible majors to choose from. The college was established in 1794 and has recently become even more desirable to students across America. Because of this, Bowdoin is having to tighten their acceptance rates, and currently only accept 15% of their applicants each year. But it’s definitely worth a shot!

Cornell University

Cornell is one of the most historic universities in the US, as it was the first university in the whole of the country to become co-ed! (They said a big Y-E-S to equality. We dig that) The college was first established back in 1865 and has since become one of the big eight Ivy League schools. However, getting into an Ivy League school isn’t easy – and with an acceptance rate of just 15%, you’ve got to stand out.

Johns Hopkins University

If you’re looking to enter the world of medicine, Johns Hopkins University is one of the best in the world for its school of medicine. The school was named after the legend himself, Johns Hopkins (bet you didn’t guess that) who donated the money to get the ball rolling on the university in 1876. He also donated money to establish the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where many of the medical students gain their experience. It’s competitive, though – and only 14% of applicants are accepted each year.

Amherst College

Amherst boasts one of the most beautiful college campuses in the US – and Massachusetts in fall is definitely a must-see. The college was established way back when in 1821 and was the first college in the US to accept people of all religions and ethnicities, but only became co-educational in 1975 (it’s okay, we can forgive them). Although Amherst College is many prospective students’ first choice, only 14% of applicants manage to get a place!

Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College currently holds the record as the most expensive college in the US – but it’s also one of the hardest to get into (Yikes, they just won’t give us a break). The actual college is pretty small, which means they can only let in a small number of applicants each year. If you fit the bill and have all of the skills Harvey Mudd want from you (fingers crossed), you could be one of the lucky 13% of applicants who gets accepted.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University had pretty humble beginnings. In 1853, the Northwestern founders bought the 379 acres of land the campus now stands on, employed their first two faculty members and opened their doors to ten students a few years later (we’d definitely get more work done in that kind of class size). Now, the college is a popular American institution with two extra campuses, 12 schools of education and a 13% acceptance rate. Not bad considering it was just a pile of mud, ey?

Pitzer College

The city of Claremont, California is bursting with liberal arts colleges – seven, in fact! So you know where to go if you fancy a career in English or science. Pitzer is one of the most selective of the Claremont seven, accepting just 13% of its applicants each year. The college was established in 1963 with the sole purpose of educating women. However, the college took a step towards equality in 1970 and began to accept men as well.

Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt name is known all across America for their role in the shipping and railroad world – and this college was named after the Vanderbilt legend, Cornelius Vanderbilt who provided the school with its first $1 million endowment (yup, that’ll do). Nowadays, the Vanderbilt University is known for its research centers; including an off-campus observatory! However, with such high standards to keep up, the Vanderbilt University only accepts 12% of their applicants each year. Ouch.

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

As you can probably tell, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering isn’t a liberal arts college specializing in everything from Law to Social Studies. Instead, these college is solely dedicated to the art, science, and business of engineering. The college is still relatively new and was only established in 2000. However, in less than two decades the college has proven itself to be highly successful – which means they can be extra scrupulous when picking their applicants. Their acceptance rate is just 12%.

College of the Ozarks

As well as having a pretty unique name, the College of the Ozarks also has a pretty unique ethos. All full-time students who attend this college can avoid paying their tuition fees, as long as they take part in the student-directed work problem in exchange for tuition and board. The college focuses on liberal arts and teaches just over 1,400 students across their whopping 1,000-acre campus. However, getting in isn’t as easy as sending in your resume. College of the Ozarks accepts just 12% of applicants each year.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College is another Ivy League school located in Hanover, New Hampshire (who doesn’t dream of going to college in New Hampshire?) The college was initially founded in 1769 as an institution to teach Native Americans and became a private educational facility in 1819. Nowadays, the Dartmouth name is one of the best in the country, with thousands of students applying each year to this Ivy League school. However, Dartmouth only accepts 11% of their applicants. We’re not sure how we like those odds.

Duke University

Is there anyone in the world who hasn’t heard of Duke University’s incredible basketball team? This college was founded in 1838 and started with a modest and small schoolhouse where they taught a small number of students. Since then, the college has expanded and moved numerous times to larger campuses. Today, the college teaches 14,500 students everything from medicine to divinity, to engineering, to environmental studies (and, of course, basketball). Currently, Duke University accepts just 11% of their applicants.

Claremont McKenna College

As you can probably tell from the name, the Claremont McKenna College is another of the seven colleges in Claremont, California (shocking, right?) The private liberal arts college was only established in 1946 but has since made a name for itself in the US, and has consistently topped the top 20 colleges chart. Despite its reputation, the college is fairly small and has just over 1,000 students – which means the chances of getting in are slim. Only 11%, in fact.

Pomona College

Are you sure this is a college? Because Pomona College looks just like a hotel – and we reckon we could be very happy there (is there room service? Just kidding). Pomona College is another of the Claremont seven (we’ll give you two guesses where it’s located) and was founded back in 1887. Nowadays, the college has expanded and become extremely desirable. With its name preceding itself, Pomona College only lets in a tiny number of applicants, with a 10% acceptance rate.

University of Pennsylvania

Yep, it’s another Ivy League! And yes, it’s super hard to get into! (We don’t know why we’re excited about that) The University of Pennsylvania takes the biscuit as the first ever university in America after it was changed from Benjamin Franklin’s College of Philadelphia between 1779 and 1991. This Ivy League is notorious for bringing us some of the most powerful and rich businessmen and celebrities in the US, but they only accept 10% of their applicants, so you better work darn hard.

United States Military Academy

Many people believe you only learn military skills at the United States Military Academy – but this just isn’t true! Undergraduates are all given the opportunity to work towards a Bachelor of Science degree alongside their military leadership skills. The College is often called West Point and accepts both men and women. However, it’s not easy to get in, with the United States Military Academy only accepting 9.5% of their applicants each academic year. Yikes.

California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology is often referred to as Caltech and was founded in 1891 by Amos G. Throop. As you can tell by the name, Caltech offers its students some of the best research facilities and resources for their science and engineering degrees – and is regarded as one of the best in the world for these fields. Many notable scientists have graduated within these walls, with many students aiming to follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, many won’t get the chance as the acceptance rate is just 9%.

Brown University

Brown University – another Ivy League. Despite its free-spirited and lenient reputation, Brown University is notoriously difficult to get into. Brown is one of the oldest colleges in the US and was established in 1764. Since then, the university has produced some of the most famous people in the world – including a whopping SEVEN Nobel Prize winners. Could you be next? Well, you’ll have to cross your fingers because only 9% of applicants are accepted here each year.

University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is known across the world as one of the best colleges for science and the arts, meaning thousands of students apply each year. (Not to mention their incredible library, which is ridiculously drool-worthy). The University of Chicago is often ranked in the top 20 of the best schools in the US, which means that the competition is high and they are incredibly strict on their applicants. Because of this, only 8% of applicants get the chance to study here.

United States Naval Academy

Out of all of the service academies in the US, the United States Naval Academy is perhaps one of the most prestigious out of all of them. This college offers a 4-year course to those who wish to enter the Navy or Marine Corps and is known for its thorough teaching method – which we reckon is easier if you have over 500 faculty members! This college accepts just 7.9% of applicants each year, and they must be aged between 17 and 23 to apply.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is often referred to as MIT and is one of the most prestigious research universities in the US and the world (Wowza). The college primarily focuses on physical sciences, engineering and natural sciences and has produced some of the most notable scientists in history – including 34 astronauts and an incredible 82 Nobel Laureate winners. As if that wasn’t enough, the campus is equally as impressive! You’ll need to put in the hard work, though, as MIT only accept 7.9% of their applicants.

Princeton University

You don’t need to be a genius to know that Princeton is one of the most prestigious and most successful universities in the US. Founded in 1746, this Ivy League boasts an incredible 500 acres of campus, ridiculously large (and posh) lecture halls and famous alumni – including 41 Nobel Laureate winners and 2 American presidents! However, getting into Princeton is no mean feat, and you’ll have to battle it out with the other applicants for this 7.4% acceptance rate.

Alice Lloyd College

Alice Lloyd College in Massachusetts is another college with a unique twist – as it is another work college. Rather than paying tuition fees, these students not only put in hard work in the classroom but also in the cafeteria or offices where they pay their way. This liberal arts college has offered 4-year courses since the 1980s – although it was first established in 1923 as the Caney Junior College. Alice Lloyd College only accepts 7% of their applicants each year, so you better get studying!

Columbia University

New York, New York, it’s a hell of a town – if you can get in! Established in 1754, Columbia University is another Ivy League college and takes the record as the oldest higher education institution in America. Columbia is huge, with over 30,000 students attending 20 schools (let’s see you try and remember all those names and faces) across the whole university. For some, Columbia is the dream university – but only 7% of applicants get accepted each year.

Yale University

Who else loves the Bulldogs?! Yale University is one of the most impressive Ivy League colleges out of them all. The college offers 12 schools of study and is one of the richest colleges in the world (that can’t be a bad thing). As if that wasn’t enough, the Yale library is world-renowned and offers a whopping 15 million volumes (that is the dream) for the students to peruse. The college is extremely prestigious and has taught five previous American presidents! But attendance is highly selective, and they only accept 6.3% of applicants each year.

Harvard University

Let’s be honest, Harvard is the bomb diggity. As one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the United States, there aren’t many colleges that compare to this Ivy League school. The college was founded in 1636, is split into 11 academic schools and offers THE BIGGEST college library in the US. I mean, we’re sold. Harvard has brought us 62 current billionaires as well as 8 former American presidents, so you could say it is a big deal. However, with an acceptance rate of just 6%, it’s the second hardest college to get into in the US.

Stanford University

So there you have it, ladies and gents; the hardest college in America to get into! Stanford was established in 1885 and started teaching its students six years after. Since then, the 8,810-acre campus (I mean, why do you even need that much space?!) has made a name for itself as one of the most prestigious and one of the most expensive colleges in the US. If you’re setting your sights high, you’ll have to make sure you can beat the competition, as Stanford only accepts 4.8% of their applicants. Good luck!