The acceptance rate of some colleges is in the single digits. While there are colleges that accept every applicant or a large number of applicants, some colleges with the lowest acceptance rates are still among the most popular schools that get huge numbers of applications each year.
Increase Your Chances of Getting into one of the Colleges with Lowest Acceptance Rates
Colleges that are more selective in their admissions process may present a challenge for some applicants, while the low acceptance rate may be a deterrent for other applicants. Stanford University decided to stop releasing their detailed application numbers and acceptance rates. The school intended to de-emphasize the perceived importance of low admission rates.
One example of how low acceptance rates can influence an applicant’s decision was recently revealed by the Pew Research Center. The Pew Research Center analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data showed that although a rising number of undergraduates are from poor families, they are mostly applying to less selective schools. The report showed that an increasing number of dependent undergraduates from households with higher incomes are applying to and attending the more selective schools. Although the number of poor and minority undergraduates applying to and attending college has increased significantly in recent years, ‘the change has been most pronounced in public two-year and minimally selective four-year colleges,’ according to Pew.
So, how does an applicant increase their chances of being accepted at colleges with the lowest acceptance rates? There are several tips to potentially increasing your chances of being accepted, including:
- Start applying early in your junior year of high school for the best chance of being among the applicants on the early admissions list
- Understand that most schools with low acceptance rates typically have limited space which is another reason to apply early
- Remember that only the most qualified are admitted so get the best possible grades and test scores
- Get involved in notable activities in high school and make sure that you become involved in meaningful volunteer work
- Never exaggerate or lie on a college application because you think that it makes you look good because it will undoubtedly backfire on you
- Talk to your school counselor about how your specific school record can help increase your chances of getting into that prestigious college with low acceptance rates
These colleges may have low acceptance rates but that is no reason not to apply to the school. We included the annual tuition rate in our rankings of the schools. Please note that tuition typically covers only the cost of instruction and does not include the cost of fees, supplies, housing or books.
1. University of California Berkeley
The University of California Berkeley has a long history of discoveries and milestones, dating back to its founding in the 1860s. The discovery and synthesis of Vitamin K and Vitamin E, a survey of Yosemite, ground-breaking medical and scientific discoveries, to the free speech movement, students at the university have always been at the forefront of leadership and a vision for the future.
Popular undergraduate majors include engineering, computer science, biological sciences, business and political science. There are more than 100 graduate degree programs offered at the school
- Annual tuition: est. $17,164
- Acceptance rate: 17.6%
2. Amherst College
Amherst College is a private, not-for-profit college that has been helping students find their own voice and pave their own path since 1821, when the school first opened its doors. Today the school has an enrollment of more than 1,800 students from 48 states and 54 countries.
The school offers more than 40 major fields of study and more than 850 courses. Amherst College has a low student-to-faculty ratio of just 7:1 and a first-year retention rate of 97 percent.
- Annual tuition: $37,900
- Acceptance rate: 11%
3. Emory University
Emory University had humble beginnings in Oxford, Georgia in 1836 and became known as an academic and research powerhouse over the years. Today the university offers more than 80 major programs, and seven graduate and professional schools.
The school places a strong emphasis on research, service, teaching and creative expression.
- Annual tuition: $53,070
- Acceptance rate: 16%
4. Cornell University
Cornell University, a major research university, still takes to heart the revolutionary spirit that founded the school. The school indicates that faculty and students ‘encourage each other to pursue unpredicted lines of thinking to effect change from the local level to the global level. Students learn through research, teaching and engagement, as they have done since the school opened in 1868.
Students choose their preferred field of study from more than 80 program majors.
- Annual tuition: $40,686
- Acceptance rate: 10%
5. Alice Lloyd College
Situated in the heart of Appalachia, Alice Lloyd College is located in Pippa Passes, Kentucky, and is named after a verse drama by the poet Robert Browning. The school offers an engaging learning community due to its small size and mountain location.
An impressive 96% of undergraduate students are employed within six months of graduation.
- Annual tuition: $14,320
- Acceptance rate: 7.1%
6. The Julliard School
The Julliard School is a world-renowned leader in performing arts education. The school helps students to realize and achieve their full potential as a performing artist and global citizen. The school offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in dance, music and drama. Students appear in more than 700 performances each year.
- Annual tuition: $49,260
- Acceptance rate: 7.2%
7. Pitzer College
Pitzer College, founded in 1963, is a newer college that is located in Claremont California at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. It is a smaller, top-ranked liberal arts school with approximately 1,000 students.
The close-knit community means that there is more personalized attention provided to students who have the opportunity to help create their own special major.
- Annual tuition: $55,734
- Acceptance rate: 14%
8. Rice University
Known as a comprehensive research school, Rice University is located in Houston, Texas. The university trusts in tomorrow’s thinking, as the school works towards producing the next generation of leaders and generating new, bold research solutions. Rice University champions the spirit of imagination, inquiry and individual action.
- Annual tuition: $50,310
- Acceptance rate: 8.7%
9. University of Notre Dame
Visit the website of the University of Notre Dame and the first thing that you see is “We can do this.” The school inspires students to seek knowledge, enjoy the opportunities presented by a common passion for inquiry, and to understand the value of scholarly exchange.
The school pursues the important goal of bringing the world to Notre Dame and Notre Dame to the world. Students learn in advanced facilities at the school which has more than 75 undergraduate programs and dozens of graduate programs.
Prospective students should consider information in admissions information on the school’s site that it accepted students with “exceptional academic merit, with impressive records of service and demonstrated leadership, to the Notre Dame family.”
- Annual tuition: $57,699
- Acceptance rate: est. 16%
10. Tulane University
Tulane University has grown dramatically since it first opened in 1834 as a medical college. Today it is a well-known research university and one of just 62 members of the Association of American Universities. Today the New Orleans school offers more than70 majors in five different schools, including science and engineering, liberal arts, business, public health and architecture.
- Annual tuition: $58,852
- Acceptance rate: 17%
11. California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology, known simply as Caltech, is known for educating some of the brightest minds in engineering and science. The school has the prestigious honor of managing JPL for NASA, which is sending probes into the solar system and performing other critical exploration work. The California Institute of Technology also owns and operates other research facilities.
- Annual tuition: $54,570
- Acceptance rate: 8.1%
12. Duke University
Duke University lists its top five majors as computer science, economics, public policy, biology and psychology. There are more than 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students attending Duke University, whose origins date back to 1838. The school explains that there is no right or wrong way to navigate the Duke University academic experience.
- Annual tuition: $55,880
- Acceptance rate: 10.8%
13. Pomona College
Claremont, California is home to Pomona College, a private liberal arts college. Although it is a smaller school compared to some of the large universities, the school still offers a comprehensive curriculum and 48 major areas of study. There are fewer than 2,000 students, yet they come from all 50 states and more than 50 countries.
- Annual tuition: $54,380
- Acceptance rate: 7.4%
14. Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College was founded in 1769 and indicates that it is a “Member of the Ivy League.” The school has a deep commitment to both undergraduate and graduate students across all of its schools, including the medical school, the Thayer School of Engineering, Tuck School of Business, and other departments. Dartmouth indicates that it educates the most promising students and provides them with the tools for lifelong learning and responsible leadership.
- Annual tuition: $55,605
- Acceptance rate: 7.9%
15. Northwestern University
Northwestern University recently announced that its acceptance rate rose for the second straight year. That comes only after a significant drop in the acceptance rate at the school for over a period of several years.
The school diligently works towards an environment of diversity and inclusion. More than 30 percent of students take part in a global experience, and tackle some of the most complex problems in the world. Students learn in state-of the-art facilities and engage in research across all disciplines.
- Annual tuition: $56,286
- Acceptance rate: 9%
16. Tufts University
Tufts University opened in 1852 and has grown to an enrollment of nearly 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The school fosters a culture of academic rigor and inspired scholarship, and encourages individual attention.
There are more than 90 undergraduate programs and a large number of graduate programs. Examples of programs include engineering, biomedical sciences, environmental studies, humanities, and computer science.
- Annual tuition: $59,560
- Acceptance rate: 15%
17. Harvard University
Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S., and has grown from nine students with a single instructor to more than 35,000 students. Today the university offers world-renowned undergraduate and graduate education, law school and medical school.
- Annual tuition: $49,653
- Acceptance rate: 5%
18. Curtis Institute of Music
The Curtis Institute of Music is an example of a school with a low tuition rate because it serves students that must have very specific talent other than their academic record. In fact, a statement in the admissions criteria indicates that “Admissions are based on artistic promise alone.” Students come to the school as some of the most talented young musicians around the world.
- Annual tuition: $44,898
- Acceptance rate: 4%
19. Princeton University
The students at Princeton University come from across the country and around the globe. The school has a ‘profound’ commitment to its students. There is a low student-to-faculty ratio which allows for more personal attention. There are dozens of academic program options ranging from anthropology to economics to jazz studies and neuroscience.
- Annual tuition: $53,890
- Acceptance rate: 6.1%
20. Stanford University
Stanford University opened in 1891 with a class of around 400 students and 15 faculty members. Today, there are approximately 7,000 undergraduate and more than 9,000 graduate students from 48 states and 77 countries. The school offers more than 65 fields of study at the undergraduate level.
The school indicates that it accepts only about 1,700 freshman students and 30 transfer students each year. One reason that so many students may apply to Stanford University, in spite of the low acceptance rate is the fact that the school indicates that tuition is covered “for undergrads with family incomes below $150,000.
- Annual tuition: $55,473
- Acceptance rate: 4%
21. University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university with an enrollment of approximately 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university indicates that it impowers individuals to challenge the conventional thinking in search of new, original ideas. There are more than 50 major programs of study at the school.
- Annual tuition: $57,642
- Acceptance rate: 6%
22. Yale University
Yale University is a large research university where there are approximately 6,100 undergraduate students, more than 7,500 graduate students, and more than 2,700 international scholars. Students are encouraged to venture into new, unfamiliar fields, and perhaps discover an entirely new passion.
- Annual tuition: $57,700
- Acceptance rate: 6.2%
23. Brown University
Brown University is a learning community known for having a commitment to respecting a diversity of viewpoints. The school engages in innovative, student-centered learning through a rigorous but flexible approach to education. Brown University offers more than three dozen academic programs at the undergraduate level and at the graduate level.
- Annual tuition: $59,254
- Acceptance rate: 7.1%
24. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the most well-known names for education in the country. Students at the school work alongside faculty to solve some of the most complex global challenges. Students study their choice of humanities, engineering, the arts, architecture, management, the sciences and computing sciences. The school continuously works towards finding new ways of teaching and learning.
- Annual tuition: $73,160
- Acceptance rate: 6.7%
25. Columbia University
Columbia University was established in 1754 and is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. The school now has three undergraduate schools, 13 professional and graduate schools, and a world-renowned medical center along with more than 100 research centers.
- Annual tuition: $64,380
- Acceptance rate: 5%
We researched accredited colleges and universities with the lowest acceptance rates across the country. We narrowed our list to the top 25 schools after assigning a unique score for the low acceptance rate and for the annual tuition rate. We gave the school with the lower tuition the higher score when there was a tie between two or more schools.
All data used to rank the schools was taken directly from the school itself. It is important to note that some information from schools periodically changes, such as the annual tuition rate.
No school is permitted to pay us for a higher ranking. We list sponsored schools separately and label them as a sponsored or featured school. We invite you to contact us if you would like to have your school included in our rankings. Please feel free to contact us if you need to update the information that we currently have for your school.