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Colleges With The Lowest Acceptance Rates

Harvard University
March 26th, 2015

In the U.S., admissions officers crunch the numbers for applications to reject a majority of them to increase selectivity and maintain the university’s prestige. For them, more applications translate to more rejections which result in better education. Does this even make sense?

More Selective in a Highly Competitive Market

The New York Times (TNYT) has a running tally during the season for college admissions and U.S. News and World Report (USNWR) has always used admission rates as the metrics to determine which colleges are “the best.” Some of these colleges, however, have their own “niche” on the education market or offer specific kinds of experiences such as extremely low tuition.

Reports of a higher number of college applications often translate to lower admission rates and may actually appear as being more selective in a market that has become highly competitive. This kind of action is not against any published rates. This line of thinking has led even the U.S. Naval Academy, Washington and Lee University, and the University of Iowa to include reports on incomplete applications.

Most Selective Schools are in the East Coast

The U.S. Naval Academy tops the list for the lowest local admission rate at 7.5%, followed by Johns Hopkins (17.7%), Georgetown (17%), and Washington and Lee (19.5%), all of them under 20%. The Universities of Virginia (29.6%0) and Richmond (30.3%), the College of William and Mary (32.2%) and the Corcoran College of Art and Design (30.4%) – all under 35% — have also made  it to the Top 100 Lowest Admissions list.

The average rate for acceptance among 1,288 schools in the fall of 2013 was reported at 64% while it was only 7.4% for ten of the most selective colleges and universities during the same season. These selective schools are, more often than not, on top of rankings of national universities. All but Stanford and the University of Chicago are located in the East Coast.

Getting Accepted into Ivy League and Non-Ivy League Schools

Admission to elite educational institutions remains a cause for anxiety for high school graduates and their parents. For two years running now, Stanford University is still tougher to get into than Harvard University, admitting only a little over five percent of applications, the lowest, in fact, among U.S. top universities and colleges. Stanford’s rate this fall is even lower than the 5.7% rate it had last year during the same season.

Ivy League institutions like Harvard and Yale Universities, according to TNYT, both accepted only 6% of all applicants while other Ivy Leaguers like Princeton and Columbia Universities accepted only 7%.  Although non-Ivy League, the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), on the other hand, accepted only 8% just the same.

According to Duke University’s Dean of Undergraduate Admission Christoph Guttentag, colleges “do things” to increase their applicant pool and then manipulate the resulting numbers. More than 12 years ago, Princeton and Harvard Universities were the first to have admission rates below 10%.

Most high school graduates are not Stanford, Harvard, Yale or Columbia or any other universities and colleges on the Top 100 best ranking schools. That doesn’t mean a student has to settle for an education that is inferior. Just look at Vice President Joe Biden who graduated from the University of Delaware. Still not convinced? How about Oprah Winfrey? This multibillionaire graduated from the Tennessee State University.


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