What are the hardest colleges to get into? A look at the acceptance rates of America’s most prestigious schools

Tyler York

America is home to some of the best colleges in the world. Many of American colleges are hard to get into, especially when it comes to the Ivy League Schools. To help you apply for these colleges, we’ve gathered the acceptance rates of some of the hardest schools to get into. Here’s a quick guide to the acceptance rates of the hardest colleges to get into in America, ordered by Acceptance Rate from lowest to highest.

Looking for something a little easier? We also have guides for the easiest colleges to get into:

Stanford Acceptance Rate

Located in Stanford, California, Stanford University is considered the number one school for athletics in 2022. It has top programs in law, psychology, and is known for being at the heart of Silicon Valley, where it has a strong network in the startup and venture capital communities. Stanford University has an acceptance rate of 4%, an average ACT score of 33, and enrolls 6,366 students.

Harvard Acceptance Rate

Harvard acceptance rate

Harvard College is one of the country’s most prestigious schools, known for its world-renowned law school, medical school,, and medical research. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard’s acceptance rate is at 5%, it holds an ACT average score of 34, and enrolls about 5,222 students.

Brown Acceptance Rate

Brown acceptance rate

Located in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown University has an acceptance rate of 5%, an ACT average score of 34, and enrolls 7,125 students. Brown University is known for its English program, as well as its medical and history programs. 

Princeton Acceptance Rate

Princeton acceptance rate

Princeton University is one of the best research universities in the world. Additionally, the Ivy League school is known for its prestigious engineering program. Located in Princeton, New Jersey, this university has an acceptance rate of 6%, an ACT Average Score of 34, and enrolls 5,267 students.

Yale Acceptance Rate

Yale acceptance rate

Yale University is located in New Haven, Connecticut. This college is considered one of the best schools for engineering, mathematics, history, statistics, biomedical sciences, and social services. Yale University has an acceptance rate of 7%, they hold an ACT average score of 34, and they enroll about 6,494 students.

University of Chicago Acceptance Rate

Based in Chicago Illinois, the University of Chicago has popular majors for economics and computer science. It’s well known for its quirky student body and the wildest essay topics required for applying freshman. The University of Chicago has a 7% acceptance rate, an average ACT score of 35, and enrolls 6,989 students.

CalTech Acceptance Rate

The California Institute of Technology (CalTech) is located in Pasadena, California, and is considered one of the best small colleges America has to offer. CalTech has a 7% acceptance rate, a 36 average ACT score, and enrolls 901 students.

Columbia Acceptance Rate

Columbia acceptance rate

Based in New York City, Columbia University is a research university known for its alumni, who have won many Pulitzer prize awards and giving birth to the Beat movement in American Literature. Columbia University’s acceptance rate sits at 7%, an ACT average score of 34, and enrolls 8,842 students. 

MIT Acceptance Rate

MIT acceptance rate 2

Located in Cambridge Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the best colleges in the United States, especially for math and computer science. MIT has a 7% acceptance rate, an ACT average score of 35, and enrolls 4,361 students.

Duke Acceptance Rate

Duke acceptance rate

Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University is well known for its high-quality athletics programs and public-policy education. The acceptance rate at Duke university is 8%. Duke has an average ACT score of 35, and enrolls 6,717 students.

Dartmouth Acceptance Rate

Dartmouth acceptance rate

Dartmouth College is one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges in America. Well known for its robust study abroad program, Dartmouth is located in Hanover, New Hampshire, and has an acceptance rate of 9%, an ACT average score of 34, and enrolls 4,170 students.

UPenn Acceptance Rate

UPenn acceptance rate

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is one of the world’s most powerful research and teaching institutions today. It’s also known for boasting one of the most prestigious business colleges in the US: the Wharton Business college. UPenn has an acceptance rate of 9%, an ACT average score of 34, and enrolls about 10,106 students.

Claremont McKenna Acceptance Rate

Located in Claremont, California, Claremont McKenna College is popular for its economics degree. Claremont McKenna college has a 9% acceptance rate, an average ACT score 34, and enrolls 1,477 students.

Pomona Acceptance Rate

Pomona College is based in Claremont, California, and is considered the best liberal arts college in America. Pomona College has a 9% acceptance rate, an Average ACT score of 34, and enrolls 1,477 students.

Bowdoin Acceptance Rate

Bowdoin College is located in Amherst, Massachusetts, and is recognized as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Bowdoin has a 9% acceptance rate, an Average ACT score between 30 to 34, and enrolls 1,777 students.

Swarthmore Acceptance Rate

Swarthmore college acceptance rate

Located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College is named in the top five National Liberal Arts Colleges and has the top five Best Undergraduate Teaching programs. Swarthmore college has a 9% acceptance rate, an average ACT score of 33, and enrolls 1,437 students.

Rice Acceptance Rate

Located in Houston, Texas, Rice University is ranked among the best schools for studying physical therapy and sports management. Rice university has an 11% acceptance rate, an average ACT score of 35, and enrolls 4,076 students.

Cornell Acceptance Rate

Cornell acceptance rate

Cornell University is an Ivy League school based in Ithaca, New York. Cornell has multiple awards in journalism, veterinary medicine, and electrical and industrial engineering. Cornell has an acceptance rate of 11%, an ACT average score of 34, and enrolls 15,503 students. While still an incredibly tough college to get into, Cornell has the highest acceptance rate of all the Ivy League schools.

Johns Hopkins Acceptance Rate

Johns Hopkins University is located in Baltimore, Maryland, and has a popular public health major. Johns Hopkins University has an 11% acceptance rate, a 35 average ACT score, and enrolls 6,331 students.

Amherst Acceptance Rate

Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, Amherst College is known for its rigorous academic climate, and offers more than 100 student organizations. Amherst has a 12% acceptance rate, an average ACT score of 34, and enrolls 1,745 students.

UCLA Acceptance Rate

Based in Los Angeles, California, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is one of America’s top public colleges. UCLA has a 14% acceptance rate, an average ACT score of 32, and enrolls 31,636 students. However, like other schools in the UC system, the college is currently test-blind. 

Washington University in St. Louis  Acceptance Rate

Located in St. Louis Missouri, Washington University in St. Louis is known for having the best college campuses and dorms in America. Washington University in St. Louis has a 16% acceptance rate, a 34 average ACT score, and enrolls 7,653 students.

USC Acceptance Rate

University of Southern California (USC) is based in Los Angeles California and is regarded as one of the best American colleges for design, film, and photography. USC has a 16% acceptance rate, an average ACT score of 32, and enrolls 19,606 students. USC is a private college and not part of the UC system.

UC Berkeley Acceptance Rate

Based in Berkeley, California, this university is known for left-leaning politics and progressive culture. University of California, Berkeley (also known as “Cal”) has a 17% acceptance rate, an average ACT score of 33, and enrolls about 31,814 students.  However, like other schools in the UC system, the college is currently test-blind.

Carnegie Mellon Acceptance Rate

Carnegie Mellon University is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is ranked number one among the best colleges for information technology. Carnegie Mellon University has a 17% acceptance rate, an ACT score of 34, and enrolls 7073 students.

Georgetown Acceptance Rate

Georgetown University is based in Washington, DC, and is one of the higher-ranking Catholic universities for academics and diversity. Georgetown University’s acceptance rate is 17%, an average ACT score of 33, and enrolls 7,357 students.

Harvey Mudd Acceptance Rate

The Harvey Mudd College is located in Claremont, California and is popular among people who want to go for engineering and applied mathematics majors. Harvey Mudd College has an 18% acceptance rate, a 35 average ACT score, and enrolls 854 students.

Notre Dame Acceptance Rate

Located in Notre Dame, Indiana, the University of Notre Dame is considered one of the best Catholic colleges in the world. The University of Notre Dame has an acceptance rate of 19%, an average ACT of 34, and enrolls 8,874 students.

NYU Acceptance Rate

New York University (NYU) ranks among the top universities in the world for accounting, finance, mathematics, and law. Located in New York City, NYU has a 21% acceptance rate. NYU has an average ACT score of 33, and enrolls 29,700 students.

Conclusion

Getting admitted into college is already a hard enough endeavor on its own. Applying to the schools in this list is even harder, but it doesn’t have to be. Knowing the acceptance rates of these schools can help you implement a reliable application strategy which will increase your chance of admission. You know what grades you need to get and what test scores you need to have. If you’re looking to improve your ACT score, we recommend Achievable’s great ACT prep course to help you improve.

Achievable ACT - $129 $99
Early access sale!

Achievable's ACT course includes endless math quizzes, 10 english practice exams, and our easy-to-understand online textbook with proven strategies to hit your target score. Currently discounted as we build out material for the science, reading, and writing sections!
View course
Desktop and mobile screenshots of
All rights reserved ©2016 - 2022 Achievable, Inc.