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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Viewing 1-25 of 100
  1. 1

    California Institute of Technology

    • Pasadena, CA
    • 106 reviews
    Freshman:As a freshman in the second term, the experience here has been pretty positive. The coursework is definitely challenging, but it keeps me motivated to pursue higher goals. I am extremely grateful for finding such a like-minded community of scholars who are supportive and caring.
    More about California Institute of Technology
  2. 2

    Harvard University

    • Cambridge, MA
    • 619 reviews
    Alum:Harvard University offers the most incredible experience for its students. From the rich history to the esteemed faculty to the vibrant atmosphere of Harvard Square, it is truly one of a kind and inspiring. During my time at Harvard, I got to dance to Gangnam Style with Psy, read a Gutenberg Bible, study and work under my hero, perform fMRIs, and eat brunch in what is essentially the Great Hall of Hogwarts. I cannot begin to tell you the opportunities available here nor what you will learn from working and studying alongside people from all over the world. Harvard also tries to promote diversity further by offering a needs-blind application process and a financial aid package that guarantees you will not have to turn down your acceptance due to financial hardship! Harvard truly takes care of its students, giving them every opportunity imaginable and giving them an experience they will never forget.
    More about Harvard University
  3. 3

    Yale University

    • New Haven, CT
    • 913 reviews
    Freshman:Yale managed to exceed my expectations. I originally chose Yale because of how genuine every student I met was and that perception continues to persist. I have met the most interesting and talented people while at Yale and have made some of the closest friends. One moment we'll be discussing a bio problem set, the next discussing the real solution to economic disparity, the next talking about our upbringings. While it's easy to think of Yale as a competitive college, I think that's far from the truth. I have never collaborated as much as I have at Yale. Everyone wants the best for each other and grades are not a focus. The social scene at Yale is also great. Frat parties are open to anyone for the most part and it's very easy to get integrated with Greek life members even if you aren't in it yourself. Just based off of the year I've been here, I can already say that Yale has changed me to be a more well-rounded person.
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  4. 4

    University of Chicago

    • Chicago, IL
    • 1,104 reviews
    College Sophomore:My experience at UChicago so far has been wonderful! There is such a variety of courses to choose from, and so many interesting majors are available. All of the courses are respectable and worth taking. The professors and TA's are all very experienced in their fields, and are very passionate about what they're teaching. The Core classes are usually taught in lecture halls, but also have classes periods that are broken up into smaller groups (during discussion). Other classes can have as few as five students, like my Yucatec Maya class, which allows students to have awesome conversations with their professors and TA's.
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  5. 5

    Princeton University

    • Princeton, NJ
    • 383 reviews
    Freshman:I love Princeton! The financial aid is incredible, the campus is beautiful, and the academics are really fantastic. While things can get stressful, the University tries to provide resources to combat that (even though CPS is massively backlogged, which can make things tough). Because the grade deflation policy is over, a lot of the old stress is gone!

    The social scene can be a little odd because of eating clubs (which is definitely something for incoming freshmen to be aware of), but it's definitely navigable and plenty of upperclassmen are really cool and helpful when it comes to social stuff.

    The experience of a lot of people of color tends to differ from white students (like myself), so this is definitely something to take into consideration. It can be tough because there's so much privilege on the campus, so a lot of the dialogue surrounding the experiences of people of color and people of lower classes can be difficult to navigate.
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  6. 6
    College Freshman:I absolutely love my school and I wouldn't change it at all! It's probably the most stressful, hard, and demanding thing I've done up to now but that's what I love about it! It's a challenge and it really is intense but the people I've met, my friends, help me through it all and I love that! The community at MIT is amazing too, there are so many different people on campus both mainstream and off-stream(I guess that's how you say it?) but that makes everyday much better in an open and accepting campus.
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  7. 7

    Columbia University

    • New York, NY
    • 1,083 reviews
    Graduate Student:I am currently enrolled in graduate school at the prestigious Columbia University. I am impressed with the level of diversity at Columbia. There is a majority minority. Most of my seminars are comprised of Asian, Indian students I myself am typically the only African American student. I believe that Columbia truly wants their students to thrive. They bring in some of the best professors from the corporate world. For instances in one of my courses I have three different professors. Each have a very different perspective and method of teaching. I will say that I am disappointed that there are not more scholarships available to graduate students; I am working a full-time job in addition to taking a full course load so that I can graduate in a two year span and pay for school. Mind you I have a 3.8 G.P.A I believe that their should be some source of funding other than loans for students in my situation.
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  8. 8

    Stanford University

    • Stanford, CA
    • 1,087 reviews
    Sophomore:I've really enjoyed Stanford so far.
    Academics are certainly challenging, but rewarding, and students usually aren't excessively stressed about grades.
    Professors are, for the most part, incredibly knowledgeable and care about students, but there are some (particularly those teaching intro classes) who could use some improvement.
    The local area can be a bit expensive and far away (especially without a car).
    Currently, the administration is facing a lot of criticism about the school's handling of sexual assault. It's not the best situation, but a lot of the criticism also comes from Stanford's own professors and students, so I do still feel relatively safe and supported on campus.
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  9. 9

    Vanderbilt University

    • Nashville, TN
    • 1,156 reviews
    Sophomore:Vanderbilt is an excellent place to continue your education. It is easy to find your place at this school because the environment is amazingly friendly and welcoming. Greek life is huge here and many people get involved. The weather is usually mild and the faculty is great. The food is ranked in the country, and as a sophomore, I still enjoy it. Anchor Down! This school is not without flaws, however. The campus is pretty divided racially. There is no malice, but it is clear that intermingling between races only truly occurs in the classroom. That is one thing this school could improve.
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  10. 10

    Harvey Mudd College

    • Claremont, CA
    • 122 reviews
    College Freshman:Although Harvey Mudd is very difficult, and teachers will definitely push you with hard coursework, I've so far rarely felt alone. Teachers are accessible, there are always other classmates to work with and get help from, and the environment feels very positive in general, with a lot of interest in the wellbeing of the students. It's a great challenge.
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  11. 11

    Northwestern University

    • Evanston, IL
    • 1,242 reviews
    Alum:I attended Northwestern because of the music program and the professor I would be working with. My professor was amazing, and so was the music program as a whole. I was able to pursue a double major with an outside field, and while it was difficult and busy, the administration helped me every quarter by allowing me to take extra classes to finish on time. The campus is beautiful, but there is always construction. It is not a huge party school, but there are parties and lots of other ways to have fun. I loved the proximity to Chicago and the public transit system. Overall, I liked the student body. There was a general hard work ethic, and though my majors weren't particularly competitive, I know there were some that were fairly cut-throat. The mental health services can be improved upon, but I felt that NU was a very accepting, diverse, and progressive school overall. Financial aid was great, and getting better!
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  12. 12

    University of Pennsylvania

    • Philadelphia, PA
    • 1,105 reviews
    Graduate Student:Like any colleges, Penn has both pros and cons. As a graduate student in the School of Social Policy and Practice at Penn (Master's of Social Work), I find that the biggest strength of Penn is its wide reach of professional network, research, etc.

    The amount of resources/networking opportunities available for developing insight, experience, and others is unimaginable here at Penn. Having deep connections with all three sectors of the non-profit, for-profit, and governmental world brings its students enormous opportunities and information/knowledge to learn and grow from.

    The cons, however, is that Penn as a whole seems a bit lacking in terms of student activism and engagement. There are clubs to join. But, I rarely see them out in the quad or the walkway outreaching or being vocal about a variety of issues students are concerned with in this age and time.
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  13. 13

    Washington University in St. Louis

    • Saint Louis, MO
    • 1,323 reviews
    Freshman:WUSTL is a fantastic university! I first came here because of the prestigious pre-med program, comfy dorms, yummy food, beautiful campus, and great FA. I found all of those here to be true. My experience truly has been an excellent one. Although the academics are undoubtedly challenging, it is equally rewarding.
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  14. 14

    Claremont McKenna College

    • Claremont, CA
    • 402 reviews
    College Senior:I've had some great classes and experiences at CMC, and a few that weren't so great. Anyone coming to CMC should be aware that the social scene is pretty centered on alcohol and partying (though there is a substance free dorm with a strong culture, and a surprisingly high number of people who don't drink/go out). Thankfully, the parties are on campus, hosted by the student government, and open to everyone. There isn't a whole lot of the sketchiness or exclusivity that usually comes with frat parties at larger schools, since parties are open to everyone. I see this as a huge benefit of the school, though I no longer regularly attend parties.

    It's really easy to get involved in things you're interested in, whether that's student government, a club, or research. Research opportunities are probably more available for Econ majors than others, and in the sciences/engineering you won't have the same kind of research experiences you would at a school that has real researchers.

    We have some great professors here. Philosophy is by far the best, and there are some excellent professors in probably all of our other departments as well. In my opinion as someone majoring in both, our government and economics departments aren't deserving of the reputations they have. I wouldn't come here looking to study science, engineering, or pre-med, unless I'm also really interested in studying the humanities/social sciences. Classwork is generally reasonable, though challenging. People are motivated, but not super competitive with each other or stressed out, which is great.

    Many CMC students are smart, motivated, and interested in their academic subjects. Others are more interested in partying. Many are a mix of both. People are not particularly artsy or creative; if you are, you might feel that side of yourself slipping away over your four years here (though we're getting better and now have a dedicated music space on campus). It can feel small after 4 years, but overall great!
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  15. 15

    Brown University

    • Providence, RI
    • 917 reviews
    College Freshman:Professors, even in large lecture classes, are always approachable and friendly. They are open to extensions when asked and even small talk. However, with the amount of time you have with each professor (this also depends on the size of the class) it's unlikely for you to become very friendly with any teachers throughout college unless you take initiative.

    Classes can range from 7 people to 200. There are a variety of options, usually intro classes are big while seminars, language classes, and specific topic classes are smaller. With large classes there is an immense amount of TAs that are always available to help. They also run review/discussion sections to allow students to ask specific questions and get advice from experts who already aced the class.

    Most classes, in the humanities, make you do a lot of reading, have a smaller discussion section, and then 2-4 big assignments like midterms, finals, essays, take home exams, etc.

    The variety of courses speaks for itself. There are too many choices and they are all interesting!
    More about Brown University
  16. 16

    Duke University

    • Durham, NC
    • 1,003 reviews
    Freshman:If you aren't entirely decided on what you want to study, or want to combine two fields that don't seem to fit, Duke is the best school available to you. The flexible pathway through Duke is one of its best features, and it guarantees there's something academic for nearly everyone here. Not to mention everything that goes on outside of academics. Whether you're a performance artist, coder, engineer, service-learner, researcher, intense athlete, or a just for fun one, there's a place for you here. If you're anything at all, and looking to challenge yourself, then come to Duke!
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  17. 17

    Dartmouth College

    • Hanover, NH
    • 653 reviews
    College Junior:I would definitely choose Dartmouth again. I love the spirit of the school, the people, the professors and all of the non-academic learning experiences that are available. I think in the Engineering school there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of consistently having consistently good teachers. For the most part, teachers are good in the entry level classes, occasionally there is a great teacher, but often ( so far 1 class out of three, every trimester) there is one teacher who isvery suboptimal in their ability to teach or communicate well. Not acceptable at this type of school.

    Additionally, because Dartmouth is out of the way for most companies, their engineering recruiting fairs are extremely lacking in depth and availability. Much of the fair is online. Being only 3 hours from Boston, The Thayer school of engineering should host a weekend or trip to Boston for a recruiting fair to coincide with all the other colleges there when there are HUNDREDS of companies available to talk to and connect with. Students could take a bus to Boston and even make up the classes that are missed at some later point if necessary. Job hunting and internship opportunities are far inferior than at many other schools, even if they are not as highly ranked as Dartmouth!
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  18. 18

    Pomona College

    • Claremont, CA
    • 347 reviews
    Junior:Pomona's largest assets are not its $2b endowment, its buildings, or its location, but rather its people. Here, some of the world's most inquisitive, interesting, and downright intelligent students come together in the pursuit of knowledge and with the intention of changing the world. Professors care deeply about students and are some of the most well-regarded in their fields, a rare combination that allows for students to do meaningful work and learn from people who love to teach, never a teacher's assistant. The admitted class of 2021 is made up of 56.7% domestic students of color, plus 11.4% international students, making Pomona's the most diverse campus in the country.
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  19. 19

    Rice University

    • Houston, TX
    • 968 reviews
    Sophomore:Rice is incredible. The people are so friendly and collaborative, and the residential college system gives you an automatic support system and built-in friends/family. While people are smart, the atmosphere is close-knit and not cutthroat, which I've come to realize is hugely important when I hear my friends at other top universities talk about the pressure and competition they suffer through. The academics aren't easy- especially the STEM programs, which are structured to be some of the most rigorous in the country, but that's why we have such a good reputation and ease with post-graduation placements. Compared to other colleges, there's a lot of freedom with social life/partying and distribution requirements. Overall, the campus is beautiful and quality of life (dorms/food/area) very high. I love Rice and wouldn't go anywhere else!
    More about Rice University
  20. 20

    Amherst College

    • Amherst, MA
    • 248 reviews
    College Sophomore:The campus is beautiful, it's FAR, far away from where I used to live (Seoul, Korea), and all the students and professors are so immersed in what they love to learn. I absolutely love it! However, there have been a few issues where the administration hasn't dealt well with students suffering from mental disabilities or other illnesses.
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  21. 21

    Bowdoin College

    • Brunswick, ME
    • 640 reviews
    Freshman:Whether its the Outing Club, the Literary Magazine, the Film Society, or an a Capella group, there is always something for every kind of person to get involved in. Also, people here are incredibly friendly and willing to go out of their way to help you. Bowdoin's size, with 1700 students, really enables this sense of community. If I could change one thing about Bowdoin, I would offer class credit for laboratory time. Also , this is just my wish , but I think Bowdoin should advertise more to the outside world. I grew up overseas, so most of my other friends had not heard of Bowdoin, or Brunswick for that matter. I can understand that I was surprised that not many people in United States knew about this school either. The social scene is great on the weekends, but for the most part exists only on the weekends as people work very hard during the week. As for food, you can guess exactly how delicious it is from just taking a peek at the NYtimes article and the college rankings.
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  22. 22

    Johns Hopkins University

    • Baltimore, MD
    • 1,167 reviews
    Alum:Attending Johns Hopkins University was a great college for my undergraduate degree. It was by far the most academically challenging experience I have ever had. The campus is beautiful and very safe for students studying there. There are many extracurriculars available and research opportunities for all students. It was definitely worth the money spent on tuition and the hours and hours of studying!
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  23. 23

    Cornell University

    • Ithaca, NY
    • 1,721 reviews
    College Junior:My experience at Cornell had been a whirlwind of endless opportunities. It has absolutely had it's ups and downs, with times where the stress and fast pace of classes seems to be unbearable, but usually when that happens a break was right around the corner and there was time to catch up. All the students at this school, from the engineers to the Hotelies, are used to being the top of their class in high school. It takes some getting used to learn that not everyone can be the best at this university.

    That being said, Cornell can offer you the change to truly impact the world in whatever field you pursue. Your plant science degree with lead to cutting edge research, your business major with give you connections others need years to build and your engineering degree will give you your choice of career straight out of college. But that diploma does not come easy, you will have to work relentlessly for four years to earn it (five years if you're studying architecture!).

    Looking back to choosing this university my senior year of high school, I wouldn't change a thing. My experience has been far from perfect: I've experienced failure just like the rest of my peers. I'm not, however, the same person I was in high school and this is a good thing. Cornell has changed me for the better and I highly recommend you let it do the same to you!
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  24. 24

    Williams College

    • Williamstown, MA
    • 251 reviews
    College Freshman:I really enjoy being at my college. It is academically challenging while being engaging. The professors love teaching their subjects, and I have learned the value of a liberal arts education by taking classes in many different areas of study, which are helping me become a well-rounded scholar. I really like it here! The relatively small class sizes allow me to get to know my professors and classmates, which helps me learn better, as I can approach my professors comfortably during office hours and form study groups with my fellow classmates. I would choose my school again if I could do it all over because it has everything I want and need: small classes, passionate professors, engaging courses, welcoming atmosphere, beautiful location, and the list can go on!
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  25. 25

    Tufts University

    • Medford, MA
    • 857 reviews
    Freshman:Tufts is an amazing school! The intellectual environment is extremely is stimulative. The Professors are very passionate about what they teach and are open to helping any of their students. The food is good too! Students are generally friendly depending on the crowd you hang out with. The political environment is one of liberalism. I love this school and would attend it again when given the chance. There is diversity in terms of the many people from different backgrounds and categories. The surrounding area is beautiful! The school is not called the "Light on the Hill" for no reason
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