The 20 hardest colleges to get into in America

Harvard is the hardest college to get into in the US.

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Harvard is the hardest college to get into in the US.
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Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

  • The hardest US college to gain acceptance to is Harvard University.
  • More than 90% of applicants get rejected.
  • Academic review site Niche ranked American colleges based on acceptance rate and standardized test scores.

With an acceptance rate of just 5.2% and typical SAT scores between 1430 and 1600, Harvard University is America’s hardest college to get into, according to a list from the academic review site Niche.com.

The rankings are based on 2017 acceptance rates and SAT and ACT scores reported to the US Department of Education. College acceptance rates received a weighted average of 60% in the ranking computation, and SAT/ACT scores received a weighted average of 40%. Niche rounds acceptance rates to the nearest whole percentage.

Acceptance rates are listed below, along with the mid 50% SAT scores, which indicate the range in which 50% of students score.

Take a look at the top 20 hardest colleges to get into in the US:


20. Claremont McKenna College (Claremont, California)

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Claremont McKenna College/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 9%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1320-1490


19. Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania)

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Swarthmore College/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 13%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1305-1530


18. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland)

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Johns Hopkins University/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 13%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1400-15670


17. Rice University (Houston, Texas)

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Shu-Wei Hsu/Flickr

Acceptance rate: 15%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1410-1570


16. Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois)

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Northwestern University/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 11%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1400-1560


15. Pomona College (Claremont, California)

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Facebook/Pomona College of Admissions

Acceptance rate: 9%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1340-1540


14. Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, California)

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Flickr / CampusGrotto

Acceptance rate: 13%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1420-1580


13. Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire)

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Facebook/Dartmouth

Acceptance rate: 11%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1350-1560


12. Duke University (Durham, North Carolina)

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Duke Engineering/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 11%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1380-1570


11. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

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Via Wikimedia Commons

Acceptance rate: 9%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1380-1570


10. Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island)

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Brown University/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 9%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1370-1570


9. Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee)

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Vanderbilt University/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 11%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1420-1590


8. Columbia University (New York, New York)

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Columbia University in the City of New York/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 7%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1410-1590


7. University of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)

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Facebook/uchicago

Acceptance rate: 8%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1450-1600


6. Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)

Acceptance rate: 7%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1400-1590


5. California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, California)

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YouTube/Ricky Chavez

Acceptance rate: 8%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1510-1600


4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

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Facebook/MITnews

Acceptance rate: 8%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1460-1590


3. Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut)

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Tony Fiorini/Yale University/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 6%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1420-1600


2. Stanford University (Stanford, California)

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Linda Cicero via Facebook/stanford

Acceptance rate: 5%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1380-1580


1. Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

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REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Acceptance rate: 5%

Mid 50% SAT scores: 1430-1600