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Articles / Applying to College / Can College Admissions Get Any Harder?

Can College Admissions Get Any Harder?

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | April 14, 2015
Unless you have been vacationing on another planet, you probably have seen or heard a news article about how tough it was this past year to get into certain colleges. I have written about this before over the years here, but this year, like the past winter, seemed to be the most brutal regarding hopes and dreams vs. reality.

As I mentioned in a previous post, “I'm taking bets on when the first American college will go below a 5% overall acceptance rate. Any takers? After that milestone, I'll be taking wagers on when the first college will hit 1%. Finally, the betting pool will take on the momentous first decimal-point acceptance rate school. Won't some future group of first-year admits be proud to say, 'Hey, [school name here] got 150,000 applications this year and only 1,300 of us got in. That's a 0.9% overall acceptance rate!'"

As you'll see in the statistics I post below, acceptance rates for an increasing number of colleges are approaching daunting levels. There have been myriad articles and newscasts about the Mt. Everest of college admissions applicants must climb these days, but one particularly enlightening article comes from Campus Grotto, in a news release I received yesterday. It's especially interesting because it includes data on colleges other than the usual suspects.

So, take a look at these facts and, hopefully, it will give you a new perspective on the current state of top-tier college admissions. It's important to recalibrate your expectations so that you're not left out in the cold with few options come April 2016.

So, here's the latest from Campus Grotto. Although this list is not complete, as posted here, it does include those school whose acceptance rates are <10%, plus some additional schools whose competitiveness may surprise you.


Admission rates have hit an all-time low for many schools in 2015, making it very difficult to get accepted to these high-profile universities. Here we examine the updated list of the hardest colleges to get into based on admission statistics for the class of 2019.

These are the most up-to-date numbers colleges have initially reported for the class of 2019, as applicants who applied regular admission are notified of acceptance in mid-to-late March.

Colleges with the lowest overall Acceptance Rate

– Stanford – 5.05% Acceptance Rate

Many college hopefuls wish to get into this highly prestigious school, as seen in the record 42,487 applications to the Stanford Class of 2019. Stanford's acceptance rate reached an all-time low after it sent out 2,144 offers out of 42,487 applications. This 5.05% acceptance rate is slightly down from last year's number of 5.07%. Of the 2,144 accepted applicants, 742 were early action.

– Harvard – 5.33% Acceptance Rate

Harvard has been the hardest Ivy to get into for years, and it remains competitive with its lowest acceptance rate ever of 5.33% (down from last year's rate of 5.9%). Harvard offered admission to 1,990 of the 37,305 applications it received for the Class of 2019, with 977 of those being admitted by applying early action. The record high number of applications was an 8.8% increase from last year. More students are also applying early action to Harvard, with a reported 26% increase in this year's admission cycle for a total of 5,919 applicants.

– Columbia – 6.15% Acceptance Rate

After the largest applicant pool in school history, Columbia offered admission to 2,228 of the 36,250 that applied to the Class of 2019. Columbia is the 2nd most selective Ivy, just edging out Yale with a 6.15% admission rate (down from the 6.9% rate seen last year).

– Yale – 6.49% Acceptance Rate

Yale's acceptance rate has remained in the 6 percent range for the past four years. For the Class of 2019, 1,962 of the 30,237 applicants were accepted for a rate of 6.49% (slightly up from last year's 6.3% rate). There is hope, however, for future applicants. Yale's Dean of Undergraduate Admissions expressed that Yale will be able to admit a larger incoming class beginning in 2017, when the school opens two new residential colleges to make room for more students.

– Princeton – 6.99% Acceptance Rate

Home to one of the nation's most beautiful college campuses, Princeton reached an all-time low acceptance rate with the Class of 2019 by accepting 1,908 of the 27,290 applications they received. The 6.99% acceptance rate is down from last year's rate of 7.3%. Of the 1,908 offers, 767 were from early admission in December.

– University of Chicago – 7.83% Acceptance Rate

The University of Chicago has grown increasingly popular over the years, as applications have tripled since 2006. While the university has not released official statistics for this year, preliminary reports have been linked to a 7.83% acceptance rate for the class of 2019 (2,365 offers out of 30,192 applications). Last year's acceptance rate was 8.4%.

– MIT – 8.01% Acceptance Rate

For the first time in ten years, MIT's acceptance rate increased after 1,467 of 18,306 applicants were offered admission to the Class of 2019. MIT is back up to 8 percent after dropping down to 7.7% last year. Of the 1,467 receiving offers, 625 (42.6%) were early action admits.

– Caltech – 8.1% Acceptance Rate (Class of 2018)

While admission numbers for the Class of 2019 have yet to be released, Caltech's acceptance rate has hovered slightly above 8% for the past two years.

– Brown – 8.49% Acceptance Rate

Yet another school coming in with an all-time low acceptance rate, Brown offered admission to 2,580 of the 30,397 that applied. With its 2nd largest applicant pool in school history, Brown has an 8.49% acceptance rate for the Class of 2019.

– Pomona – 9.76% Acceptance Rate

Pomona has its most selective class ever after receiving a record number of applications for the Class of 2019. The college accepted 790 of the 8,091 first-year applications they received. Median test scores for the admitted class include a 740 for critical reading, 740 for math and 740 for writing, along with a median ACT of 33. Pomona had a 12.1% acceptance rate last year.

– Claremont McKenna – 9.76% Acceptance Rate

Claremont McKenna drops below ten percent after offering admission to 698 of 7,152 applications for the Class of 2019.

– Penn – 9.92% Acceptance Rate

Penn's acceptance rate remains nearly the same, just below 10% for the 2nd consecutive year, after accepting 3,697 of the 37,267 that applied to the Class of 2019. Of those accepted, 1316 were from early decision. Penn attracts a diverse group of applicants, as 15% of the class is international from 84 countries around the world.

Hardest to get into – 2nd Tier

The following schools have an acceptance rate of roughly 12-17 percent:

  • Swarthmore
  • College of the Ozarks
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Pitzer
  • Northwestern
  • Amherst
  • Harvey Mudd
  • Rust College
  • Rice
  • Cornell
  • Bowdoin
  • Georgetown
  • Williams College
  • Olin College
  • Middlebury
  • USC

Maybe the good news about these crushing acceptance rates is that you may find the hardest thing about going to any one of these schools is … getting in! College admissions just keeps getting weirder and weirder.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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