Stanford is one of the hardest colleges to get into because of its acceptance rate
Stanford University (Photo: CC BY Clio1789)

Admission rates hit an all-time low for many schools when the Class of 2019 admission statistics were reported, making it very difficult to get accepted to these high-profile universities.

Here we examine the updated list of the hardest colleges to get into and examine the numbers behind America's most selective universities.

Colleges with the Lowest Acceptance Rate

  1. Stanford - 5.05% Acceptance Rate
    Many college hopefuls wish to get into this highly prestigious school, as seen in the record 42,487 applications to the Stanford Class of 2019. Stanford’s acceptance rate reached an all-time low after it sent out 2,144 offers out of 42,487 applications. This 5.05% acceptance rate is slightly down from last year’s number of 5.07%. Of the 2,144 accepted applicants, 742 were early action.[1]

  2. Harvard - 5.33% Acceptance Rate
    Harvard has been the hardest college to get into in the Ivy League for years, and it remains competitive with its lowest acceptance rate ever of 5.33% (down from last year’s rate of 5.9%). Harvard offered admission to 1,990 of the 37,305 applications it received for the Class of 2019, with 977 of those being admitted by applying early action. The record high number of applications was an 8.8% increase from last year. More students are also applying early action to Harvard, with a reported 26% increase in this year’s admission cycle for a total of 5,919 applicants.[2]

  3. Columbia - 6.15% Acceptance Rate
    After the largest applicant pool in school history, Columbia offered admission to 2,228 of the 36,250 that applied to the Class of 2019. Columbia is the 2nd most selective Ivy, just edging out Yale with a 6.15% admission rate (down from the 6.9% rate seen last year).[3]

  4. Yale - 6.49% Acceptance Rate
    Yale’s acceptance rate has remained in the 6 percent range for the past four years. For the Class of 2019, 1,962 of the 30,237 applicants were accepted for a rate of 6.49% (slightly up from last year’s 6.3% rate). There is hope, however, for future applicants. Yale's Dean of Undergraduate Admissions expressed that Yale will be able to admit a larger incoming class beginning in 2017, when the school opens two new residential colleges to make room for more students.[4]

  5. Princeton - 6.99% Acceptance Rate
    Home to one of the nation's most beautiful college campuses, Princeton reached an all-time low acceptance rate with the Class of 2019 by accepting 1,908 of the 27,290 applications they received. The 6.99% acceptance rate is down from last year’s rate of 7.3%. Of the 1,908 offers, 767 were from early admission in December.[5]

  6. University of Chicago - 7.83% Acceptance Rate
    The University of Chicago has grown increasingly popular over the years, as applications have tripled since 2006. While the university has not released official statistics for this year, preliminary reports have been linked to a 7.83% acceptance rate for the Class of 2019 (2,365 offers out of 30,192 applications). Last year’s acceptance rate was 8.4%.[6]

  7. MIT - 8.01% Acceptance Rate
    For the first time in ten years, MIT’s acceptance rate increased after 1,467 of 18,306 applicants were offered admission to the Class of 2019. MIT is back up to 8 percent after dropping down to 7.7% last year. Of the 1,467 receiving offers, 625 (42.6%) were early action admits.[7]

  8. Brown - 8.49% Acceptance Rate
    Yet another school coming in with an all-time low acceptance rate, Brown offered admission to 2,580 of the 30,397 that applied. With its 2nd largest applicant pool in school history, Brown has an 8.49% acceptance rate for the Class of 2019.[8]

  9. Caltech - 9% Acceptance Rate
    Caltech’s acceptance rate has remained in the 8-9% range for the past few years. Receiving over 6,500 applications for the Fall 2015 term, Caltech admitted 9% with 241 students enrolling in the Class of 2019. Academic highlights of the applying class include a SAT mid-50% of 2230–2340, ACT mid-50% (composite) of 34–35, and SAT Math Level 2 mid-50% of 790–800, with 99% graduating in the top 10 percent of their class.[9]

  10. Pomona - 9.76% Acceptance Rate
    Pomona has its most selective class ever after receiving a record number of applications for the Class of 2019. The college accepted 790 of the 8,091 first-year applications they received. Median test scores for the admitted class include a 740 for critical reading, 740 for math and 740 for writing, along with a median ACT of 33. Pomona had a 12.1% acceptance rate last year.[10]

  11. Claremont McKenna - 9.76% Acceptance Rate
    Claremont McKenna drops below ten percent after offering admission to 698 of 7,152 applications for the Class of 2019.[11]

  12. Penn - 9.92% Acceptance Rate
    Penn's acceptance rate remains nearly the same, just below 10% for the 2nd consecutive year, after accepting 3,697 of the 37,267 that applied to the Class of 2019. Of those accepted, 1316 were from early decision. Penn attracts a diverse group of applicants, as 15% of the class is international from 84 countries around the world.[12]

  13. Dartmouth - 10.34% Acceptance Rate
    Dartmouth’s acceptance rate sits at 10.34% after 2,120 of the 20,504 applicants were granted admission to the Class of 2019 (down from last year’s 11.5%). The incoming class has a mean SAT score of 2216 and mean ACT score of 32.8, with 94.9% graduating in the top 10 percent of their class.[13]

  14. Vanderbilt - 11% Acceptance Rate
    Vanderbilt’s applicant pool has expanded considerably over the years, as it is now five times more selective than it was 15 years ago.[14] Back in 2000, Vanderbilt University admitted more than half of those that applied for undergraduate admission. Reaching an all-time low, Vanderbilt has an 11% acceptance rate for the Class of 2019. For regular decision, 2,648 students were admitted out of 27,822 applications.[15]

  15. Duke - 11.35% Acceptance Rate
    Overall, Duke sent out 3,534 admission offers out of the 31,150 that applied for the Class of 2019. A record-high 48 percent of the class is composed of early decision applicants.[16]

Hardest Colleges to get into – 2nd Tier

The following colleges have an acceptance rate of roughly 12-17 percent:

  • Swarthmore
  • College of the Ozarks
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Pitzer
  • Northwestern
  • Amherst
  • Harvey Mudd
  • Rust College
  • Rice
  • Cornell
  • Bowdoin
  • Georgetown
  • Williams College
  • Olin College
  • Middlebury
  • USC


Looking for schools a little easier to get into?

Read: Easiest Colleges to get into.