25 Hardest College to Get into 2024

As we begin the 2024-25 school year, getting into top American colleges is more competitive than ever. Colleges that are considered “elite” are getting more applications than they ever have before. One reason for this is that many colleges have stopped requiring test scores, so more students feel they have a chance and apply. Another reason is the Common Application, which makes it easy to apply to many colleges at once. This means that the hardest college to get into have more people trying to get in than ever before.

How Do We Decide Which Colleges Are the Hardest to Get Into?

When we look at which colleges are the hardest to get into, we consider a few things:

  1. Overall Acceptance Rate: This is the percentage of students who get accepted out of those who apply. For example, if a college gets 10,000 applications and accepts 1,000 students, the acceptance rate is 10%. Colleges with low acceptance rates are very selective.
  2. Early Decision Acceptance Rate: Some colleges have an Early Decision option where students apply early and agree to attend if accepted. Colleges like this because they know these students will come, which helps their planning. Often, more students get accepted through Early Decision than through Regular Decision.
  3. In-State vs. Out-of-State Acceptance Rate: Public colleges often accept more students from their state than from other states. For example, the University of North Carolina accepts a lot more students from North Carolina than from other states. This makes it harder for out-of-state students to get in.
  4. Admissions Trends: We look at how acceptance rates have changed over the years. If a college’s acceptance rate has been getting lower and lower, it’s a sign that it’s getting harder to get into.
  5. Accepted Student Academic Profile: We also look at the academic achievements of students who get accepted. The hardest colleges to get into usually accept students with very high grades and impressive extracurricular activities.

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Things to Keep in Mind

Just because a college has a low acceptance rate doesn’t mean it’s better than another college. All the colleges on our list provide an excellent education. Also, some colleges might lower their acceptance rates by encouraging more students to apply, even if many of those students aren’t qualified.

In conclusion, the hardest colleges to get into have high standards and accept only the best students. If you want to get into one of these colleges, you’ll need to work very hard in high school to stand out.

25 Hardest College to Get into

Getting into some of America’s top colleges can feel like trying to climb Mount Everest without any climbing gear. These universities are super selective, meaning they only pick a small fraction of the many, many students who apply. Let’s take a look at what makes getting into these schools so tough, using a few examples.

1) Caltech

Caltech, known for its focus on science and technology, is super picky about who they let in. They don’t even look at SAT or ACT scores right now! Instead, they care a lot about your high school grades, essays, teacher recommendations, and what kind of person you are. Last year, they only took in about 315 students out of a whopping number of applicants.

2) Harvard University

Harvard, the dream school for many, has a slightly higher acceptance rate than Caltech, but don’t let that fool you. They get tons of applications—over 54,000 for the last school year! Harvard doesn’t rank which parts of your application are most important, but they do consider everything from your grades to your essays. What’s interesting is that a huge 83% of students who get in decide to go there.

3) Stanford University

Stanford, in Silicon Valley, is a hub for smart and ambitious students. They love perfect grades—94% of their new students had a GPA of 4.0 or higher in high school! But even with great grades, it’s really hard to get in. Only about 7% of applicants who had those top grades got accepted in recent years.

4) Yale University

Yale looks for students who will use all their resources well and make a big impact on campus. They want future leaders and geniuses. Last year, they accepted only 9% of students who applied early, showing how tough it is to stand out among all the smart applicants.

5) MIT

MIT is all about finding the brightest minds in science, engineering, and math. They don’t care if your parents go there; they want to see your achievements. Nearly perfect SAT or ACT scores and a strong passion for science outside of class are key to getting in.

6) Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt, in Nashville, Tennessee, is super selective, especially in the South. They pay a lot of attention to your grades, test scores, essays, and what you do outside of school. Every student they accept has shown leadership in their activities.

7) Columbia University

Columbia is famous for its low acceptance rate—it hasn’t been in double digits for years! They look at everything: your grades, test scores, essays, recommendations, and what kind of person you are. Applying early can boost your chances a lot.

8) Princeton University

Princeton is known for its extremely competitive admissions process. They expect near-perfect test scores and grades from their applicants, along with something unique that makes you stand out.

9) University of Chicago

The University of Chicago used to be known for its academics, but now it’s even harder to get in. They accepted only 4.8% of students who applied last year. That means out of almost 39,000 applicants, only a small fraction got accepted. If you want to go there, you’ll need really good SAT or ACT scores.

10) Duke University Duke

Duke University is another tough one. It’s so popular that over 54,000 students applied for the Class of 2028, and only 5.1% got in. They look for students who not only have top grades and test scores but also stand out in other ways, like with special talents or impressive essays.

11) Brown University

Brown University is in Rhode Island, and it’s also very hard to get into. They accepted just over 5% of applicants for the Class of 2028. Many of the students they accept are at the top of their high school class and have a strong curiosity for learning.

12) The University of Pennsylvania Penn,

The University of Pennsylvania as it’s called, received over 65,000 applications recently. They’re becoming more selective each year, accepting only 5.8% of students for the Class of 2027. To get in, you need great grades, test scores, and a standout application.

13) Dartmouth College

Dartmouth’s acceptance rate used to be higher, but now it’s down to 5.3%. They look for students who are ready to dive into hands-on learning and contribute to their community.

14) Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland, is very competitive too. They accepted about 6.2% of applicants recently and value leadership and community service.

15) Pomona College

Pomona in California is known for its strong liberal arts education. They accepted about 6.8% of applicants for the Class of 2027, looking for students who excel academically.

16) Colby College

Colby has seen a big increase in applications. They accepted about 6.6% of students last year and consider grades and personal qualities very important.

17) Northwestern University

Northwestern, near Chicago, accepted around 7.5% of applicants recently. They’re known for their rigorous courses and high standards.

18) Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College has become much more selective over the years. They now accept only 7.5% of students who apply. If you’re thinking about applying, make sure your grades, test scores, and personal qualities stand out. Applying Early Decision gives you a better chance, with about 25% of ED applicants getting accepted.

19) Rice University

Rice University is known for its strong academics and research. They accept about 7.5% of applicants, and many of their students were at the top of their high school classes. If you’re aiming for Rice, you’ll need top-notch grades and test scores.

20) Bowdoin College

Bowdoin is getting harder to get into, with only a 7% acceptance rate. They look for students who excel in school and have high test scores. Applying Early Decision can boost your chances, as they accept about 13% of ED applicants.

21) Barnard College

Affiliated with Columbia University, Barnard is an all women’s college in New York City. They accept about 7% of applicants and look for strong grades, test scores, and personal qualities. Almost 60% of their students were admitted through Early Decision last year.

22) Williams College

Williams College, one of the oldest and most prestigious liberal arts colleges, accepts about 7.5% of applicants. They seek diverse students who excel academically and contribute to a close-knit community. Around a quarter of their Early Decision applicants are accepted.

23) Cornell University

Cornell is part of the Ivy League and very selective, accepting about 7.9% of applicants. They consider a range of factors, including grades, test scores, essays, and extracurricular activities. They’ve been reducing the number of students accepted through Early Decision to around 30%.

24) Amherst College

Amherst offers a unique curriculum and accepts about 9% of applicants. They look for top students with exceptional grades and test scores. Over 30% of their Early Decision applicants are typically accepted.

25) Tufts University

Tufts accepts about 10% of applicants and values strong grades, AP classes, and impressive essays. They’re looking for students who stand out academically and personally. Applying Early Decision can be an advantage.

What are the Hardest Colleges to Get into – Conclusion

Getting into top U.S. colleges is a big challenge because so many students apply, and these schools have very high standards. They look for students who not only have excellent grades and test scores but also stand out in other ways, like with impressive essays, recommendations, and personal qualities. If you dream of attending one of these prestigious colleges, start working hard now. Focus on doing well in school, participating in extracurricular activities, and developing your unique talents and interests. Remember, applying Early Decision can sometimes give you an extra edge. Keep aiming high, and with dedication and effort, you can make your college dreams come true!