Special Report

The Easiest Colleges to Get Into With the Smartest Applicants

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The standard advice for aspiring first-year college students is to balance their choices with a mix of target and safety schools in order to guarantee acceptance somewhere. Even those students who rank high academically should not focus only on top-shelf colleges and universities like Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford. These are expensive schools with acceptance rates below 6%. 

There is another option: Applying to schools that have both high academic standards and high acceptance rates. (This, on the other hand, is a list of the hardest college to get into in every state.)

Just over 100 colleges in the U.S. accept at least 20% of applicants, while also having average SAT scores of their incoming first-year students that top 1300 – a score that only about one in five students achieve.

To determine the 30 easiest colleges to get into that have the smartest student bodies, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on admissions and SAT scores from the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education. Colleges and universities with median SAT scores of at least 1300/1600 and 500 undergraduate students were ranked based on admission rates for the 2020-2021 school year. Combined math and critical reading SAT scores are for students admitted in Fall 2019. Data on undergraduate enrollment is for Fall 2020.

Among the colleges on the list SAT scores range from 1305 to 1420. The acceptance rates of these schools range from 51% at the University of Maryland, College Park, a public land-grant university, to 87% at Wheaton College in Illinois, a private Evangelical Christian liberal arts college.

This list includes 10 schools with undergraduate enrollment of between 500 and 5,000 and nine larger schools with more than 30,000 undergraduates. New York has the largest number of these schools: Fordham, the Bronx-based private Jesuit university; Sarah Lawrence, the private liberal arts college in Yonkers; the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy; and the Rochester Institute of Technology. The other 26 schools are distributed in 19 states, with two each in Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The most popular majors at 22 of these schools are engineering or business and management. One of them — Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin — is popular for visual and performing-arts majors. (These are cities where a college education pays off the most.)

Here is the smartest school with the highest acceptance rate

30. University of Maryland-College Park
> Acceptance rate: 51.0%
> Median SAT score: 1375/1600
> Most popular major: Social sciences
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 30,875

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29. Rhodes College
> Acceptance rate: 51.4%
> Median SAT score: 1325/1600
> Most popular major: Social sciences
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 1,840

28. Fordham University
> Acceptance rate: 52.5%
> Median SAT score: 1345/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 9,399

27. Southern Methodist University
> Acceptance rate: 52.7%
> Median SAT score: 1390/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 6,827

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26. Stevens Institute of Technology
> Acceptance rate: 53.1%
> Median SAT score: 1420/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 3,791

25. Whitman College
> Acceptance rate: 54.1%
> Median SAT score: 1345/1600
> Most popular major: Social sciences
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 1,360

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24. Sarah Lawrence College
> Acceptance rate: 54.6%
> Median SAT score: 1331/1600
> Most popular major: Liberal arts and sciences, general studies and humanities
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 1,292

23. Colorado School of Mines
> Acceptance rate: 55.0%
> Median SAT score: 1310/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 5,200

22. University of Washington-Seattle Campus
> Acceptance rate: 55.9%
> Median SAT score: 1345/1600
> Most popular major: Social sciences
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 32,244

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21. University of Connecticut
> Acceptance rate: 56.1%
> Median SAT score: 1305/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 18,917

20. University of Wisconsin-Madison
> Acceptance rate: 57.2%
> Median SAT score: 1390/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 32,688

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19. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
> Acceptance rate: 57.3%
> Median SAT score: 1390/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 6,283

18. Bentley University
> Acceptance rate: 57.8%
> Median SAT score: 1320/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 4,061

17. Clemson University
> Acceptance rate: 61.9%
> Median SAT score: 1315/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 20,868

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16. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
> Acceptance rate: 63.3%
> Median SAT score: 1340/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 33,683

15. University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus
> Acceptance rate: 63.9%
> Median SAT score: 1350/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 23,157

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14. Furman University
> Acceptance rate: 65.2%
> Median SAT score: 1330/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 2,345

13. Rutgers University-New Brunswick
> Acceptance rate: 66.9%
> Median SAT score: 1320/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 35,844

12. Purdue University-Main Campus
> Acceptance rate: 67.2%
> Median SAT score: 1315/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 35,706

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11. Ohio State University-Main Campus
> Acceptance rate: 68.5%
> Median SAT score: 1355/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 46,984

10. Lawrence University
> Acceptance rate: 68.9%
> Median SAT score: 1315/1600
> Most popular major: Visual And Performing Arts
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 1,430

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9. Brigham Young University
> Acceptance rate: 69.3%
> Median SAT score: 1315/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 33,376

8. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
> Acceptance rate: 69.6%
> Median SAT score: 1370/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 36,061

7. Rochester Institute of Technology
> Acceptance rate: 73.9%
> Median SAT score: 1315/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 13,412

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6. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
> Acceptance rate: 76.6%
> Median SAT score: 1354/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 1,972

5. University of Alabama in Huntsville
> Acceptance rate: 77.1%
> Median SAT score: 1364/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 8,027

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4. The University of Texas at Dallas
> Acceptance rate: 79.4%
> Median SAT score: 1350/1600
> Most popular major: Business, management, marketing, and related support services
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 21,187

3. Lewis & Clark College
> Acceptance rate: 79.8%
> Median SAT score: 1310/1600
> Most popular major: Social sciences
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 1,830

2. Missouri University of Science and Technology
> Acceptance rate: 81.5%
> Median SAT score: 1325/1600
> Most popular major: Engineering
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 6,083

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1. Wheaton College
> Acceptance rate: 87.0%
> Median SAT score: 1330/1600
> Most popular major: Social sciences
> Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment: 2,265

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