The 10 Hardest Colleges To Get Into in 2023

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Happy high school student hugging excited friend with college acceptance letter
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For some high school students, it’s time to start thinking about their next stop: college.

Fortunately, research site Niche recently released its annual college rankings.

In addition to analyzing factors related to everything from academic rigor to the college experience, Niche collects student reviews for a comparison of colleges across the country. Only colleges with more than 500 undergraduate students and the required factors were included in the final ranking.

Although many factors go into Niche’s overall rankings, here we’ll take a quick look at just one: acceptance rates. Following are the hardest colleges to gain admission to.

10. University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania
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Acceptance rate: 6%

Benjamin Franklin, along with 24 other trustees, founded Penn as a place to educate future leaders in areas of public service, government and business. Today, more than 7,000 undergraduate students at the Philadelphia school are immersed in nearly 100 majors including many programs in science, engineering and medicine.

9. Brown University

Brown University
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Acceptance rate: 6%

One of the oldest Ivy League universities, Brown has become one of the top research universities in the country since its founding in 1764. Undergraduate students can choose from over 80 concentrations and more than 2,000 courses annually. Brown plays a vital role in the community of Providence, Rhode Island, by integrating studies and students to contribute to “world-class medical care” and community needs such as after-school programs and street cleaning.

8. Yale University

Yale University
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Acceptance rate: 5%

Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, dates to a time in the 1640s when clergymen saw the need to provide an advanced education for students. From its law school founded in 1824 to the Jackson School of Global Affairs added in 2022, Yale can offer its students exceptional educational programs in almost every field.

7. Princeton University

Princeton University
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Acceptance rate: 4%

The fourth-oldest university in the United States, Princeton was founded in 1746. Nobel laureates, business leaders, distinguished scientists, engineers and athletes are among the more than 97,000 living alumni who call Princeton their alma mater. Today, 96% of its undergraduate students live on Princeton’s campus in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and are a vibrant part of the local and global community.

6. Columbia University

Columbia University
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Acceptance rate: 4%

Columbia University has four locations throughout New York City — and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory not far north of it — with several more centers as far-flung as Rio de Janeiro and Beijing, all to provide its students with a global education in the arts and sciences.

Small classrooms, award-winning faculty, cutting-edge research facilities and more than 70 majors are only a part of Columbia’s appeal.

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Acceptance rate: 4%

Established in 1861, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based MIT strives to integrate both theory and practice to solve today’s problems. With its mission to provide service to the nation and the world, students from around the globe have the opportunity to join more than 500 student organizations and 33 varsity sports.

4. Harvard University

Harvard University
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Acceptance rate: 4%

Since 1636, Harvard has celebrated more than 400,000 alumni located throughout the world. Also situated in Cambridge, undergraduate students can focus on research involving astrophysics, or study Germanic languages or dozens of other programs across Harvard’s 13 schools, all with an emphasis on how best serve the public good.

3. Stanford University

Stanford University
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Acceptance rate: 4%

Stanford University, located between San Francisco and San Jose, boasts 15 research institutes across disciplines to provide students with every opportunity to find their passion. Whether it’s medicine, law, business or global sustainability, Stanford has been a leading university since 1885, dedicated to serving its community in California and around the globe.

2. California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology
EQRoy /

Acceptance rate: 4%

Pasadena, California, is home to CalTech, a leader not only in scientific research but other emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Founded in 1891 as Throop University with just 31 students, CalTech now has more than 900 undergraduate students and a rich history of national honors and awards recognition.

Nanoscience, neuroscience and bioengineering are just a few of the fields in focus among the dozens of significant research centers on campus.

1. Minerva University

San Francisco, home to Minerva University, which is virtual and has no campus
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Acceptance rate: 1%

Technically located in San Francisco — although classes are virtual — Minerva University ranks as the most difficult school to enter in the U.S. It’s known for its innovativeness and its connection to countries around the world.

Undergraduates can work on the latest artificial intelligence (AI) in Japan or immerse themselves in the forests of Costa Rica while studying sustainability. Small class sizes ensure students from more than 100 countries work closely with industry experts and faculty to help solve real-world problems.

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