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The Hardest College to Get Into in America

When most people guess which colleges are hardest to get into, they often think of the premier universities in the country. These usually include the Ivy League schools and the top science schools, which include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology. While these schools are at the top of lists of the best colleges in America, including the popular one issued by U.S. News each year, the schools ranked best are not always the ones where students face high odds to get accepted.

To identify the hardest college to get into, 24/7 Wall St. constructed an index using data from the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education to measure the relative exclusivity of four-year, private and public degree-granting colleges and universities. We indexed both acceptance rates and SAT test scores of admitted students as of fall 2019 to measure the difficulty of being accepted.

Indeed, many of the hardest colleges to get into are Ivy League schools or well-known technical colleges. Selective and prestigious colleges with a history of producing successful alumni do have an advantage over other schools in that new graduates have access to an extensive alumni network that can help them navigate the job market.

Though the average earnings of school graduates vary widely between the highest and lowest-rated colleges, it is likely more important what type of degree is earned than which school is attended. Many careers that require college degrees pay relatively low wages, while other degree fields have median incomes of over $100,000.

The hardest college to get into is the California Institute of Technology. Here are the details:

  • Acceptance rate: 6.4%
  • Median SAT score: 1,545
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 3:1
  • Average net price of attendance: $24,274
  • Location: Pasadena, California

The annual net price listed is for full-time, first-time undergraduates paying the in-state or in-district tuition rate and who received grant or scholarship aid from federal, state, local or institutional sources. The net price is generated by subtracting the amount of aid from the total cost of attendance, which is the sum of published tuition, required fees, books and supplies, the average room and board, and other expenses. Net price data is for the 2018-2019 school year. Schools that had no data on SAT and ACT scores were excluded from consideration. All data is for the most recent period available for each school.

Click here to see all the hardest colleges to get into.