Colleges Acceptance Rate

20 Best Colleges With The Lowest Acceptance Rates In 2024

Colleges With The Lowest Acceptance Rates

Are you looking for Colleges With The Lowest Acceptance Rates? then you are on the right article. Students often aim to get placed into prestigious colleges. However, the demand of the applicants does not match the ratio of open seats available.

Earning a place in such colleges could be extremely challenging. Impressive GPAs and standardized test scores are just one of the many criteria to get into these colleges. With fierce competition among highly qualified applicants, high school grades and test scores are not the only selection criteria for these colleges. 

Some colleges are quite difficult to impress. These colleges admitted only 3% of applicants who sought a seat in the prestigious academic institutions. Surprisingly, most prestigious colleges in the United States do not even consider SAT scores, as most of them have made the test optional.  

For students wondering what their actual chances are of getting accepted, we have condensed all the data into this blog for easy pursual. 

Why are the acceptance rates of Ivy League universities so low?

Getting admitted into an Ivy League college is every student’s dream. However, the acceptance rates of the colleges have dropped in recent years. This is due to the interplay of various factors ranging from optional test policies to increased digital accessibility. 

Lately, top universities in the United States have switched to test-optional policies, which have encouraged students from diverse spectrums and backgrounds to submit their applications. This, in turn, has resulted in a great number of underqualified candidates applying to these prestigious colleges. This significantly caused a decline in the acceptance rates as there was an increase in selectivity during the selection process. 

With the removal of standardized tests from the admission process, the focus on personal essays and extracurricular activities has massively increased. This resulted in a detailed evaluation of applicants. On the brighter side, this move encouraged more students to apply for their desired courses without having to worry about their grades and test scores. 

Other factors that significantly contributed to lowering the acceptance rates of Ivy League universities are virtual campus tours, webinars, and a vast number of online resources, which have made colleges more accessible than they had ever been. 

Factors that affect the acceptance rates of a college:

Various factors affect the acceptance rates of colleges. The predominant ones are:

1. Number of applications:

Top colleges in the United States have witnessed a continuous rise in the number of applications. Colleges ranking just below the Ivy League colleges have received applications as many as 90,000 last year. However, many of their colleges do not increase their class sizes; hence, this explosive number of applications is tough to accommodate within the limited capacity. This results in reduced selections, which massively lowers acceptance rates.

2. Yield protection:

With an increase in the number of applicants every year, colleges have started predicting the applicants that would actually attend the college if selected. This statistical assumption is what most colleges care about while shortlisting students for admission.

The higher the probability of the selected student attending the college, the fewer students will be admitted overall, hence enhancing the selectivity. Colleges put effort into picking applicants that they are certain would attend. 

In simple terms, if students do not visit or follow up after the application process, etc., the college tends to assume they are not interested and nullifies their application altogether. 

List of the Top 20 Best Colleges With The Lowest Acceptance Rates

Considering the competitive trend in the acceptance rates of colleges, we have enlisted some colleges that have a low acceptance rate and are relatively more difficult to get into compared to other colleges. Some of them are:

1. Harvard University

Harvard University
Harvard University

Harvard University is one of the most renowned colleges in the world. Almost every student has dreamt of joining Harvard at some point in their lives.  Apart from this, Harvard University also ranks first in the list of top medical schools with the lowest acceptance rate. With plenty of courses to choose from, the selection process at Harvard ensures that the selected students are highly qualified and have significant achievements in the courses they have applied for. 

  • Acceptance rate: Less than 5%
  • QS world ranking: 5

2. Stanford University

Stanford University
Stanford University

Stanford University is another prestigious college in the United States that boasts a distinguished set of faculty members who are highly qualified in their respective fields and are recognized globally for their groundbreaking research, innovative teaching methods, and academic contributions. It offers courses in various disciplines, such as law, medicine, sustainability, and engineering, among many others. 

  • Acceptance rate:5%
  • QS world ranking: 3

3. Princeton University

Princeton University is world famous for producing significant contributions in the fields of science, economics, mathematics, computer science, and humanities. Moreover, this college encourages earning a degree through scholarships and research. Princeton University focuses on undergraduate and doctorate courses, which is distinctive among the world’s top universities. This is one of the most popular colleges with the lowest acceptance rate in the United States. 

  • Acceptance rate: 6%
  • QS world ranking: 16

4. Columbia University 

Columbia University
Columbia University

Columbia University has gained a reputation for its academic prestige. Constantly ranked among some of the world’s top universities, this college is known for its educational excellence. Many of their graduate programs rank in the top 10 nationally regarding research productivity. It was one of the first colleges in the United States to grant the M.D. degree. Interestingly, a lesser-known fact is that Columbia University has the second most Nobel Prize-winning affiliates in the country.  

  • Acceptance rate: 6%
  • QS world ranking: 22

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

As the name implies, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is known for its engineering programs. This college is reputed for being among the colleges with the lowest acceptance rate in the field of technology and science. Apart from that, this college has witnessed great achievements in various disciplines such as economics, political science, urban studies, philosophy, and many more. What sets MIT apart is that it persuades undergraduate students to pursue their original and independent research. 

MIT researchers are the forefront developers in Artificial intelligence, climate adaptation, HIV, cancer, etc. Additionally, it promises its students a high return on investment and good scholarship amounts. 

  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • QS world ranking: 1

6. California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, is a world-famous engineering and science institute that produced some of the world’s smartest people. This institute has worked closely with NASA by sending probes to explore the planets of the solar system. This college also owns large-scale research facilities. Caltech is considered the best option for students looking to study exclusively in areas of science and technology. 

  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • QS world ranking: 6

7. Duke University

Duke University
Duke University

Duke University boasts of 8,600+ acres of campus that allow students to roam freely. Apart from providing outstanding academics, Duke University also witnessed students excelling in athletics. This college receives around 40,000+ applications every year making it extremely difficult to get into.

In order to compete with others, students are expected to get straight A’s in all their classes. The popular majors at Duke University include computer science, quantitative economics, biology, neuroscience, mechanical engineering, and public policy analysis, among many others. This university is one of the most sought after among the list of colleges with lowest acceptance rate.

  • Acceptance rate: 8%
  • QS world ranking:  50

8. Brown University

Brown University
Brown University

Brown University is one of the top colleges in the United States. It offers an open academic curriculum that motivates students to work on their skills and evolve into intellectual risk-takers. This college also encourages students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. The most popular courses at Brown University are liberal arts, followed by medicine, math, and computer science. The student-to-faculty ratio is just 6:1, which ensures optimal focus and attention on every student. 

  • Acceptance rate: 8%
  • QS world ranking: 63

9. Yale University

Yale University
Yale University

Yale University is one of the world’s most famous colleges. It is known for providing world-class programs in a wide range of academic departments. This college is also known to have a beautiful campus, which undoubtedly adds to the reasons for joining Yale University.

Additionally, this college also boasts huge laboratory spaces, research libraries, and global art collections.  This is one of the very few colleges with the lowest acceptance rate that allows students to apply for full-time scholarships. Global recognition is attributed to the high caliber of academics and ample research possibilities. It is common for instructors to encourage their students to meet with them outside of class and look for research opportunities.

  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • QS world ranking: 18

10. University of Chicago

University of Chicago
University of Chicago

A lot of graduates from the University of Chicago have contributed majorly to the development of various disciplines such as religion, sociology, criticism, physics, political science, etc. The University of Chicago is famous for selecting students who have an insatiable hunger for learning. This college encourages its students to indulge in research while discovering their professional and personal aspirations with practical experience. 

  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • QS world ranking: 10

11. Amherst University

Amherst University is a private institution that was established in the year 1821. With a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,898, this college stands among some of the top universities in the United States. The campus is spread across 1,000 acres of land making it extremely spacious for students. This college provides courses in various disciplines such as Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, Mathematics, Political Science, and Computer Science among many others. 

This college also has a resident facility for the students willing to stay within the premises. With a very selective process, this college is quite difficult to get placed into. 

  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • QS world ranking: 245

12. Cornell University

Cornell University is a private Ivy League university founded in 1865. The university witnessed around 50,000+ applications every year out of which 15,735 students are enrolled in their programs. This university follows a semester-based academic calendar making it one of the most sought-after colleges among students.

Students can choose to study various disciplines such as Computer and Information Sciences, Support Services, Business, Management, Marketing, Engineering, Agriculture, and Social Sciences among many others. 

  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • QS world ranking: 13

13. Johns Hopkins University

A lot of students graduating from Johns Hopkins University go on to excel in their careers. This is purely because of the highly qualified professors who ensure every student is imparted with theoretical and practical knowledge at the same time thus enabling them to develop skills that would not be possible otherwise. 

This college offers courses in varying departments such as Public Health studies, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, Computer and Information Sciences, Bioengineering, and Biomedical engineering. 

  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • QS world ranking: 28

14. North Eastern University

North Eastern University is famously known for its experiential learning model coupled with highly detailed research and partnerships for worldwide reach. The professors here believe in innovative ways of teaching that ensure a premium experience and engagement for the students. 

Moreover, the college has removed the traditional boundaries for students to solve problems with their professors, alumni, partners, and innovators. 

  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • QS world ranking: 388

15. North Western University

At North Western University students tend to gain work experience before graduating. More than 90% of students enrolled in their programs finish at least one professional job or internship during their college. Moreover, students are allowed to flexibly choose their course duration regarding the co-op hence enabling freedom and learning pace.

The university also receives huge research grants every year which provides various opportunities for the students to participate in research programs and more. 

  • Acceptance rate: 7%
  • QS world ranking: 30

16. Colby College

Colby College is quite popular among students who wish to pursue a degree in environmental studies since the school owns a bog preserve and lakefront property particularly for students of this department to work on. Other than that, the most popular majors are biology, economics, English, history, global studies, and psychology.

This college follows a 4-1-4-based academic calendar and has around 2,299 students enrolled at the moment. 

  • Acceptance rate: 8%
  • QS world ranking: 328

17. Barnard College

Barnard College is an all-female college located in Manhattan. It has a partnership with Columbia University which allows the students to take classes, join groups and organizations, and participate in sports at Columbia University. 

Moreover, the school’s urban program takes the initiative of taking students to free events around the city, and all students are eligible for student discounts on tickets to broadway shows and concerts. Along with this, they can apply for opportunities for internships in New York via the career development department. 

  • Acceptance rate: 9%
  • QS world ranking: 11

18. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College is pretty popular for having more than 100 student organizations. It has one of the largest and most active groups which offers students around 150 excursions per year. This college was founded in 1794 and has an undergraduate enrollment of 1,915 with a campus size of about 207 acres.

Some popular courses offered by this college are political science, quantitative economics, mathematics, computer science, and biology. 

  • Acceptance rate: 9%
  • QS world ranking: 227

19. Rice University

All students are assigned to one of the 11 residential colleges before they set foot on campus, and they stay members of those colleges even if they choose to live off campus. The School of Social Sciences, the School of Humanities, and the Wiess School of Natural Sciences are among the eight schools that make up Rice University. In addition, Rice is home to the renowned Shepherd School of Music and School of Architecture.  

  • Acceptance rate: 9%
  • QS world ranking: 124

20. University of California

The University of California provides three years of housing guarantees to students. Approximately 13% of the student body is represented by the more than 1,000 student organizations offered by the institution, which include media clubs and more than 65 Greek chapters.

Some popular courses offered by the university are social sciences, biological sciences, mathematics, statistics, and engineering. 

  • Acceptance rate: 9%
  • QS world ranking: 10

How to make a successful college application?

Applying to colleges could be quite a task. With numerous candidates applying for limited seats, aspiring students have to ensure that their application stands above the rest. Colleges with the lowest acceptance rate have a very selective process to choose candidates meaning the applicants filed should be highly competitive as well.

Now, there could be various factors depending on which colleges shortlist their candidates. However, one way by which students can increase their chances of getting selected is by strengthening their college applications. Some ways to do so are:

a. Start working on your college application early

Applying to colleges requires a lot of time and concentration. Every application encapsulates essays, recommendation letters etc, which have to be worked upon patiently. Ideally, students should start collecting relevant information to curate a checklist of all the things they might need to carry out a successful application at least 12 months prior to college application deadlines. 

In order to be safe, students are also advised to have a couple of backup options to ensure they don’t end up losing an academic year or semester. 

b. Work on your essay and prepare for an interview.

Students might have to write an essay relevant to their choice of course. A few universities also demand an interview with the student to gain better insights into the student’s knowledge on the subject, their interest in the field, etc. Most colleges in the United States prefer students who are genuinely passionate about the course they chose and are willing to put in the effort required.

it is always advised to reflect your passion, knowledge, and practical motivation in your essay. Students can also add their long-term goals regarding the subject to grab the attention of the selection panel. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which college has the lowest acceptance rate?

Harvard University has the lowest acceptance rate in the world, followed by Stanford University and Princeton University. 

2. Why does Harvard have the lowest acceptance rate?

The large number of applicants to Harvard is one of the main causes of the university’s record-low acceptance rate.

3. What GPA do you need to get into Harvard?

You must have a GPA of at least 4. You must make up for a lower GPA if necessary, with a higher SAT or ACT score. You’ll also need to make an impression with the rest of your application for a school like Harvard, which is extremely selective.

4. Can a 3.5 GPA get into Harvard?

While a 3.5 GPA may be deemed inadequate for Harvard, this does not guarantee that your application will be rejected outright. Your accomplishments and distinct background may partially offset your GPA.

5. Is Oxford better than Harvard?

Oxford University came in first and Harvard University second on the list, while Oxford University came in fourth and Harvard University in fifth on the QS World University Ranking.


When applying to colleges, it is crucial to keep in mind the application process. With tons of applications being sent out to the top universities, students have to work meticulously to produce an application that actually sets them apart from their competition. 

Colleges with low acceptance rates open up a world of opportunities for students in the world of science, medicine, technology, philosophy, and more. Standardized tests are recommended since certain universities have mandated the score for the selection process. Overall, with perseverance and hard work, students can easily make it to the above colleges, provided they work hard and never give up. 

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