Special Report

Hardest Colleges to Get Into

Samuel Stebbins

This year, an estimated 16.9 million students will attend America’s college campuses and classrooms to either begin or continue their undergraduate studies. Nearly 2 million of them are expected to graduate at the end of the academic year with bachelor’s degrees that will give them a competitive edge in the job market, open new career opportunities, and increase their lifetime earning potential.

Just how beneficial a bachelor’s degree is can vary, in part depending on the name of the institution that issued it. A four-year college education typically fosters personal and intellectual development in all who complete it. Yet, right or wrong, many assume that the more selective and elite the college is, the greater the quality of the education, and many apply to these colleges hoping to gain the future benefits.

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of acceptance rates as well as SAT and ACT scores for admitted students for over 1,200 four-year schools nationwide to identify the hardest colleges to get into. Each of the eight Ivy League schools are on this list.

While there may be something to the conventional wisdom of going to the most prestigious college possible — over 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs graduated from an Ivy League school — one’s alma mater is often less important than their chosen field of study. Across graduates from all schools, the median salary of those who majored in certain fields is in the six-figure range, more than four times the median salary of those who graduated in some other fields. These are the highest and lowest paying college majors in America.

Still, for many, attending the best school possible is the most important consideration when deciding where to enroll. In light of the growing student loan crisis, however, cost is another important factor to consider. With only a couple of exceptions, the schools on this list are private institutions, and according to the College Board’s 2018 Trends in College Pricing Report, the average tuition and fee price at a private four-year school is $36,890 — more than triple the average cost for four-year, in-state public colleges.

For some schools on this list, annual tuition costs can exceed the salaries many graduates can expect to earn upon entering the workforce. Here is a list of the top-ranked colleges that pay off the least.

Click here to see the hardest colleges to get into