2017 Hardest Colleges to Get Into in America

Explore the hardest colleges to get into ranking based on acceptance rates and SAT/ACT test scores using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Compare the most selective colleges with the lowest acceptance rates and highest SAT/ACT test scores.
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  • By State
Viewing 1-25 of 100
  1. 1

    California Institute of Technology

    • Pasadena, CA
    • 105 reviews
    College Sophomore:Caltech is probably the best place for geology in the country. There are lots of field trips, brilliant professors (the tops in their fields), and it's easy even for freshman to find research opportunities.

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  2. 2

    Harvard University

    • Cambridge, MA
    • 618 reviews
    College Sophomore:There's not a school out there quite like Harvard. Simply put, the quality and diversity of the student body has made my time so far a remarkable experience. The intellectual attitudes and uniqueness of students truly make it a worldly experience.

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  3. 3

    Yale University

    • New Haven, CT
    • 911 reviews
    College Junior:I absolutely love attending Yale University. I feel that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am entering my third year in the fall and couldn't imagine being anywhere else. What drew me to Yale was the close knit community and the welcoming and inclusive social space. I have friends from all walks of life and love to interact with people form all different backgrounds. I truly feel that I have grown as an individual as I have become equipped with the vocabulary to express eloquently just who I am and where I stand on certain issues to my peers.

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  4. 4

    University of Chicago

    • Chicago, IL
    • 1,101 reviews
    College Sophomore:Chicago lives up to its standards of being diverse, academically rigourous, and a safe place for inquiry of all kinds. My experience so far has been fantastic, and I'm excited to come back for three more years.

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  5. 5

    Princeton University

    • Princeton, NJ
    • 381 reviews
    College Senior:As a graduating senior, I can definitively say that my four years at Princeton have been the best four years of my life. No-loan financial aid, a wealth of quality opportunities, and the best student and faculty body I could have ever wanted combine here to make a school which has rightly been rated #1 the whole time I've been in attendance. Princeton has some of the tightest-knit and most generous alums in the world, and it's easy to see why. If you get accepted, you'd be a fool not to come.

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  6. 6

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    • Cambridge, MA
    • 576 reviews
    College Junior:Everyone around me is passionate about some topic. It's inspiring to see what my classmates are up to, whether it's research or startups or personal projects. The atmosphere can be stressful, but the community is incredibly supportive if you reach out for help.

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  7. 7

    Columbia University

    • New York, NY
    • 1,082 reviews
    College Junior:For those interested in Columbia College, not CEAS (the Engineering School): As a political science major with a German concentration (Columbia-speak for minor), I have been very satisfied with the academic resources provided by Columbia. The professors I have had in the Poli Sci department have been top in their fields, and the grad students that lead the discussion sections have been both knowledgable and helpful. The German department is very small and thus very personal. Most of the professors will know your name, and the conversation hours (complete with coffee and sometimes handmade baked goods) are really friendly ways to get to know your classmates. That being said, it is very important to read reviews of your classes online before signing up, because Columbia does have duds. Additionally, those in the hard sciences often have a much more competitive and stressful experience, both because of the nature of the major and the organization of the classes themselves. And, of course, the Core is wonderful… if that is what you are looking for. DO NOT COME HERE UNLESS YOU WANT TO SIT AROUND AND TALK ABOUT DEAD GREEK DUDES!!!!! Most of my friends loved the Core, but the few who didn't had miserable freshman and sophomore years. It is very humanities focused, and gives you a wonderful context for culture and ideas that affect every aspect of modern life. But if you hate reading, or hate humanities, or both, DO NOT APPLY. You will hate it.

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  8. 8

    Stanford University

    • Stanford, CA
    • 1,082 reviews
    College Sophomore:Stanford is truly the most amazing place in the world. Before my freshman year I never felt like a really had a home, but I have finally found one at the Farm. The academics are amazing and the people are even better. While I wish that the financial aid was better I still stand by my decision to attend because the experience I am having is priceless.

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  9. 9

    Vanderbilt University

    • Nashville, TN
    • 1,154 reviews
    College Sophomore:I love Vandy even though it's super hard and my first year was really tough. The classes are really challenging but the social life and the people you meet here make up for it.

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  10. 10

    Harvey Mudd College

    • Claremont, CA
    • 122 reviews
    College Junior:Great academics. Very tough load. It is possible to do the work, but the reason why it is so hard is that it is hard to consistently keep up the studying for the entire semester when u will likely be sleeping late every week.

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  11. 11

    Northwestern University

    • Evanston, IL
    • 1,235 reviews
    College Senior:Northwestern has given me the opportunities to learn professional skills outside of the classroom through networking, internships, and student group participation.

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  12. 12

    University of Pennsylvania

    • Philadelphia, PA
    • 1,104 reviews
    College Junior:Very diverse undergraduate class socioeconomically and culturally. Penn's resources spanning across all 12 graduate schools are available to undergraduates, truly enhancing the learning experience. Great and friendly atmosphere. Great professors who challenge and engage with students.

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  13. 13

    Washington University in St. Louis

    • Saint Louis, MO
    • 1,317 reviews
    College Sophomore:I love everything about Wash U. The location is amazing, STL has so much to offer. Everyone around is so driven, smart, and kind. The campus, dorms, and food are great. The classes are awesome with exceptional teachers. It can get stressful, but it is so worth it.

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  14. 14

    Claremont McKenna College

    • Claremont, CA
    • 402 reviews
    College Sophomore:People call it Camp Claremont because it literally is like a camp. You will have the best time of your life here. You get the state school party scene (seriously, we love to party :D) with the prestige and academics of one of the best liberal arts schools in the nation.

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  15. 15

    Brown University

    • Providence, RI
    • 915 reviews
    College Sophomore:I just transferred into Brown and I honestly have to say that it's one of the best decisions I've made in my life. Brown is a wonderful place to be and being here made me realize how great the college experience can be. Everyone at Brown is incredibly intelligent yet down-to-earth and there's always something to do on campus (e.g. Jane Goodall just gave a lecture last week). The food here is great and the campus is stunning as well. All in all, Brown really takes care of their undergraduates and is an amazing place to be.

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  16. 16

    Duke University

    • Durham, NC
    • 1,001 reviews
    College Sophomore:Duke is difficult, but I would choose it again if I had to do it all over. The classes make me think, the basketball is fantastic, and the people are amazing.

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  17. 17

    Dartmouth College

    • Hanover, NH
    • 652 reviews
    College Junior:Although Dartmouth has its problem, I've had an amazing time. I've grown as a person in so many respects, learned so much about my field, and have had the opportunity to study abroad twice.

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  18. 18

    Pomona College

    • Claremont, CA
    • 343 reviews
    College Junior:Pomona College is extremely special. It's honestly the people here that make the school, but the good weather doesn't hurt. :) A large majority of the students here are open-minded, extremely intelligent, fun, laid-back, and passionate. There are tons of opportunities to get active on campus and it's really hard to be bored here. One of my favorite parts about Pomona is that there's pretty much a community for everyone here.. and if there isn't, you can start one. When I say "community" I mean the various mentor groups on campus, sports groups, music groups, art groups... and its really easy to be fluid in them, too. The food is pretty good too. And the dorms are huge. I'm going into my junior year and I have yet to have a roommate. :)

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  19. 19

    Rice University

    • Houston, TX
    • 958 reviews
    College Sophomore:I'm incredibly happy with my decision to come to Rice. It's a small campus, so you'll have pretty small class sizes (max 150 for intro STEM classes, once you get past those its usually 15-40 people in a class) and personal relationships with your professors. It's pretty easy to make friends since you see a lot of familiar faces everywhere and you'll see a lot of the same people at events you're interested in (i.e. make sports friends at athletic events, party friends when you go out, school friends in classes- and a lot of these overlap). Rice academics very heavily favors the natural sciences, then social sciences, then humanities. That being said, there are still humanities majors at Rice, they just aren't as dominant as engineers or pre-meds. Students here really (really) care about doing well, so sometimes you'll get caught up in the "Rice bubble" where there's a lot of pressure to do everything (i.e. be involved in a ton of clubs, hold leadership positions, and get great grades), but as long as you learn to balance and keep thing in perspective you'll be fine. Professors aren't trying to fail you, students help each other, and it's a lot of fun. I would very highly recommend Rice, it's an amazing experience and I've learned so much.

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  20. 20

    Amherst College

    • Amherst, MA
    • 247 reviews
    College Junior:I was accepted at my school as a transfer student from a community college, and it has been a super smooth and easy transition. The faculty at my school are so educated and welcoming. All of the students there have also been very welcoming to the other new transfers and myself. It is an amazing school academically, and it's also so small and beautiful. I love it there and I would definitely choose it again.

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  21. 21

    Bowdoin College

    • Brunswick, ME
    • 640 reviews
    College Sophomore:I feel like my school has even more to offer than I thought it did and while there are definitely issues, I can't imagine myself being anywhere else.

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  22. 22

    Johns Hopkins University

    • Baltimore, MD
    • 1,165 reviews
    College Sophomore:I really love my school. I've met so many down-to-earth friends that both help motivate me as well as help and support me when I'm feeling down.

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  23. 23

    Cornell University

    • Ithaca, NY
    • 1,716 reviews
    College Sophomore:I would definitely choose Cornell again if I had to do it over. I find myself learning an incredible amount in my classes which are challenging, yet very possible to do well in. Additionally, it is located in it's own little oasis just a bus ride away from NYC; I love going for runs on the trails around the gorges, sailing on Cayuga, eating great food on west campus, and being surrounded by such amazing people.

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  24. 24

    Williams College

    • Williamstown, MA
    • 250 reviews
    College Junior:Williams has been the perfect place for me. My professors have been incredible mentors--I've gone to three professors' houses for dinner. The location is beautiful, and perfect for focusing on academics. I've been able to get very involved in all my clubs and really find what makes me passionate. But best of all is the people. They're all smart and talented and wonderful. I am so lucky.

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  25. 25

    Tufts University

    • Medford, MA
    • 854 reviews
    College Sophomore:I am very happy with my choice of Tufts University. The size of the student body, the size of my classes, my major, my instructors and playing on the lacrosse team. I have made significant friends here at the university. My chemical engineering classes are so very hard, but I am driven to study hard and succeed. I am in a study group with friends and we are all very dedicated. I only wish the weather was better my first year...it snowed like crazy and was so cold!

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