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The 20 Hardest Colleges to Get Into in the United States

Columbia University

Some of the best colleges and universities in the world today exist in the United States. If you're fortunate, you will have completed the stringent requirements for admission by earning the top grades in your class during your high school years, being involved in community and extra-curricular activities, and studying a foreign language.

The admissions policies vary from one school to another, but all maintain strict rules for the type of candidate they consider over the thousands of applications received annually. Acceptance to some institutions requires online and paper applications, and some may also perform in-person interviews to select the cream of the crop.

Competition is high at the most prestigious colleges, and lids on enrollment result in many not making the first cut in the selection process for admissions. Here are the 20 hardest colleges to get into n the United States, ranked by order of their reputation and the acceptance rates.

Cornell University

20. Cornell University

Cornell University is in Ithaca, New York. The climate is unforgiving during the winter, but it's one of the most prestigious institutions in the country. Getting into Cornell, however, is not an easy feat.

The required score on your SAT must land between 1390 on the low end and 1540 to be considered for admission. Living in Ithaca to attend classes is also a requirement. Only 11 percent of applicants get into Cornell University, according to Cosmopolitan.

Johns Hopkins University

19. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, is the leading research hospital in the country today. It's one of the most prestigious medical schools. Students marvel at the pristine and beautiful library, where they spend hours preparing for exams. They accepted only 11 percent of the applicants at this world-class institution of higher learning and research.

Claremont McKenna College

18. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College is the top 20 hardest college in the United States to get into. The school specializes in finance, international relations, public affairs, economics, and government majors. It's one of the top schools in the state of California, located in the city of Claremont, but the competition is high. Students love the year-round warm weather, but they accepted only ten percent of applicants for admission. You can bet these guys aren't using ExamLabs in their admissions process. 

Colby College

17. Colby College

Colby College is a small liberal arts institution in the city of Waterville, in Maine. The school requires an SAT score with a minimum of 1380 to 1520. Competition is high with only ten percent of students applying for admission accepted for matriculation. This is one of the older schools in Maine, established in 1813. It's one of the top-rated schools in the nation, but the competition is stiff.

Bowdoin College

16. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin is even harder to get into than Cornell or Johns Hopkins. The acceptance rate is just 9.2 percent of all applicants. Bowdoin is a prestigious yet small liberal arts school graduating just 1,800 undergrads annually. It's in Brunswick, Maine, and is higher on the top college list than Colby College. It's in a lovely coastal city and has graduated the likes of Reed Hastings of Netflix and other successful entrepreneurs.

Swarthmore College

15. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College is in the town of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. It is one of the smallest colleges on our list, but it is also one of the hardest in the USA to get into. The graduation average is just 1,554 in its history. They founded the college in the late 1800s. It requires an SAT score that is over 1450 to be considered for acceptance. Even then, the competition for admission is stiff. It's a small school but has a strong reputation.

Vanderbilt University

14. Vanderbilt University

According to Niche, Vanderbilt University is one of the hardest schools in America to get into. The institution is in Nashville, Tennessee, and offers 4-year undergraduate degrees in liberal arts. It's one of the most highly rated universities, but you must have SAT scores between 1460 and 1560 to be considered for admission.

They rate the academics and environment high, and so is the basic cost of tuition at $25,855 per year. With an acceptance rate of just 9 percent, they declined most applicants.

Rice University

13. Rice University

Rice University is one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in Houston, Texas. It's a four-year school that gets an A+ rating as one of the top universities in the country. The competition for placement within enrollment caps is extremely high.

Although it's not an Ivy League school, it is one that people clamor to get into. The school rejects 91 percent of applicants, accepting only those that meet the stringent enrollment criteria and have accomplished the highest GPA and test scores on their SATs. We know the school for its inclusiveness and its STEM program. Its annual enrollment is just below 7000 students. On average, the cost of tuition is $20,335 per year, with a required SAT testing score of 1470 to 1570 for consideration.

Dartmouth College

12. Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College is another prestigious school that has an A+ rating for its high academic standards and solid reputation. If you thought it was hard to get into the other schools on our list, this college is even harder to get an acceptance letter from. They approved only 8 percent of applicants for enrollment. For consideration of admission, you must have minimum ST scores between 1440 and 2560. The basic cost of tuition is $23,869 per year.

University of Pennsylvania

11. University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is located in Philadelphia The historical significance of the city is immense. It is a four-year school known for its research and academics. It offers a liberal arts program at the school and other areas with multiple academic degree programs offered. It's a four-year school that is ranked as one of the top in the nation.

You must have SAT scores that fall in the range of 1450 to 1560 to be considered for admission. The annual cost of tuition is $24,771.

Duke University

10. Duke University

Duke University is located in Durham, North Carolina. It is a 4-year school that offers multiple academic degrees with a flexible learning environment. The school also sponsors study abroad programs and four-year and post-graduate opportunities. You must have SAT scores of 1880 to 1570 to qualify for consideration to become a Duke University student. The cost of tuition is $24,386 annually.

University of Chicago

9. University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is in Chicago, Illinois. It is a private research university and one of the oldest in the state. They established the institution in 1890. The previous year's enrollment was just under 18,500 students, with 10,893 graduate students and 7,559 undergrads. Competition is tough to gain admission to this school.

Brown University

8. Brown University

Brown University is a 4-year institution with an A+ rating. The University is located in Providence, Rhode Island. Students are passionate and hard-working. The school has an open curriculum atmosphere, giving students autonomy and freedom to choose among many classes that interest them.

It's possible to pursue several fields or to specialize in a subject. The academic environment is welcoming and conducive to enjoying learning. Getting there is the hard part. The annual cost of attendance is $27,218. You must achieve a minimum of 1440 to 1570 on your SAT testing before you receive consideration for acceptance. The acceptance rate of all applicants for admission to Brown University is seven percent.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is among the most prestigious schools in America today. It's in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It's one of the best schools for research and academics. MIT is one of the hardest schools to get into. It has a 7 percent acceptance rate for applicants.

Only the highest achieving students get considered for admission. The minimum SAT score range for consideration is 1510 to 1570. The cost of tuition is $20,465 annually. They consider only the brighter and best for enrollment as the staffing process thousands of applications from top students throughout the world. It's one of the most highly competitive tech institutes in the world today.

Pomona College

6. Pomona College

Pomona College is located in Claremont, California. It's one of the toughest four-year institutions to get into. It comes in ahead of the other schools in Claremont with an A+ rating. The requirements for SAT scores are not as stringent as some other schools. They consider students with scores from 1390 to 1540 but accept just 7 percent of applicants. The competition is high at this prestigious school, with an annual tuition cost of $18,500.

Princeton University

5. Princeton University

Princeton University is one of the most prestigious Ivy League institutions of higher learning in the United States. it is also one of the five hardest to gain admission to. The acceptance rate of 4.4 percent is down from its previous 5.6 percent, which shows that it's getting even harder to get into the school.

Applicants face stiff competition and it only accepts applicants who prove academic excellence with honor and AP courses on their records. Applicants must also show proof of community involvement and undergo a series of interviews.

Yale University

4. Yale University

Yale University is one of the top schools in the country. It is located in Newhaven, Connecticut. The school has a low acceptance rate of just 4.6 percent, down from its previous 6.6 percent rate for the previous year. It's an Ivy League institution of higher learning that demands much of its students. They stipulated many requirements to gain consideration for admission, including personal essays, letters of recommendation, past community involvement, and more.

Harvard University

3. Harvard University

Harvard is another prestigious Ivy League school that is hard to get into. The school has a rigorous set of academic and achievement standards that applicants must meet before being allowed to submit their applications. Only the best of the best with high marks in their backgrounds, academic interests, and extracurricular talents receive admission.

The competition is high, and that's one reason so many brilliant students get turned away. Harvard maintains an undergraduate school and the Harvard Medical School. Only the most outstanding students with notable achievements receive consideration for admission.

Stanford University

2. Stanford University

Stanford University is in Stanford, California. Its acceptance rate is the second-lowest in the nation. Standford's admissions rate at just 3.9 percent for the 2021 school year. An essential requirement for applicants is to have a stellar academic record. Panel members review this as a top priority.

It is one of the first things that the admissions review board considers. Students must also show they are exceptional with track records of success in extracurricular activities and non-academic pursuits that make them stand out from other applicants.

Columbia University

1. Columbia University

Columbia University is the hardest school to gain admission to in the United States today. For 2021, the acceptance rate was just 3.9 percent of all applications received. They established Columbia University in 1754 under the name of King's College. It is in New York City as one of the most prestigious private Ivy League research universities in the country.

The original building was located in Manhattan's Trinity Church. It is one of the five oldest universities in America today. The acceptance rate is just 6.7 percent of all applicants. It's one of the ten hardest schools to get into.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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