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Many high school students strive for the highest GPA and SAT/ACT scores possible to give themselves the best shot at getting into competitive colleges. While strong grades and test scores can certainly increase your chances, they still might not be enough to gain admission into every college.
The country’s most selective schools maintain extremely rigorous admission standards and accept very few applicants. So what makes certain colleges more difficult to get an acceptance letter from?
The hardest colleges to get into are among the oldest in the U.S. Over time, these schools have built up their reputations through a combination of academic excellence, large endowments, and notable alumni and faculty members. These factors contribute to a long history of innovation and success.
Hardest colleges to get into in the U.S. in 2022
If you think Ivy League schools are tough to get into — well, you aren’t wrong. Last fall, elite schools began to report their acceptance rates for their graduating classes of 2025. Some rates rose, but many fell drastically, thanks in part to an increase in applications.
One big change for the 2022 Niche rankings: A de-emphasis on standardized test scores. An increasing number of colleges are making such tests optional for prospective students. As a result, test scores were a smaller factor for 2002 — 20%, versus 40% in 2020 and 2021.
Presenting: The 25 Hardest Colleges to Get Into in America
It’s not exactly a secret that the college admissions process has become wildly—if not ludicrously—competitive. Need I remind you of the 2019 college admissions scandal involving Hollywood’s own Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman? These days, people will do just about AN-Y-THING to get into a good school. And since the U.S. is home to some of the top colleges in the entire world, the competition to snag a spot is understandably stiff.
If you’re wondering what the list of top-tier institutions looks like this year—or you’re just trying to check the bona fides of your latest Hinge match—educational data company Niche has put together a handy list of 2022’s hardest schools to get into based on a combo of acceptance rates, SAT scores, and ACT scores so far throughout 2021.
But before we dive in, a quick reminder for prospective students: Just because a school is “elite,” (hi, Harvard; hi, Yale; hi, Columbia) doesn’t mean it’s the best place for you to get an education. There are tons of prestigious colleges and universities across the country that don’t crack the top 25 list simply because their endowments aren’t astronomically huge.
To go to school in sunny Stanford, California, you need to ace your SATs in the 1420 to 1570 range. (No big deal or anything 😶.) Stanford is well known for its computer science and engineering schools, so if that’s your thing, start studying because this university gets A TON of applicants and accepts only about 4 percent of ’em.
In the words of our lord and savior Elle Woods, “What? Like it’s hard?” Welp, turns out, yeah, it actually is. Harvard accepts only 5 percent of applicants, and students who get accepted have, on average, SAT scores that range between 1460 and 1580. It takes some brains to be able to humble brag that you “went to school in Boston.”
Allow me to inform you about Caltech’s SAT requirements — the 7 percent of students who somehow secure a spot at this small Pasadena school have a scary-high score of 1530 to 1580. But it kinda makes sense, considering that the school often collaborates with NASA!
No surprise that another Ivy League is near the top o’ this list. (#Illuminati. JK.) The 5 percent of applicants to get a big fat acceptance letter will enjoy the gorgeous more-than-200-years-old New Jersey campus. By the way, former First Lady Michelle Obama is an alum.
Turns out, if you want to build innovative robots or engineer cool new computer software with the best of the best, you’re gonna have to beat out a couple (okay, a couple thousands…and thousands) of other applicants. MIT has a 7 percent acceptance rate, and the students who do earn a spot are living in that intimidating 1500 to 1570 SAT score zone.
If serving America’s naval forces — aviation, ships, submarines, etc. — is something that you want to do, there’s no better school than the United States Naval Academy in Maryland. The young people admitted here are exceptionally accomplished, considering the academy only accepts 8 percent of all that apply. If you choose to attend, you’ll be ecstatic to know that it will be completely free. Yep, that’s right; the United States Naval Academy is no tuition. However, keep in mind that you must commit to serve five years of active duty for the nation upon graduation, which is no small feat.