College Acceptance Rates: Who’s Got the Highest and the Lowest?

College acceptance rates for selective colleges are very low, with as few as 3% of student applications accepted by the most elite schools. With competition for elite colleges so high, students need to apply to more than one school to increase their acceptance chances. In addition to applying for their top choices, students should apply to “safety schools” in case none of their top picks send acceptance letters. Here are the colleges with the highest and lowest acceptance rates, as well as colleges that accept 3.0 GPA scores and lower.

Low College Acceptance Rates Are Only Part of the Story

Before we go any further, let’s address the assumption that colleges and universities with low acceptance rates are more selective schools. For instance, an Ivy League college may only admit 5% of applications, while a smaller college has a 50% acceptance rate. One certainly looks more selective than the other, but you also have to consider the number of applicants each college receives. If the Ivy League school receives 50,000 applicants and only accepts 5%, the school admits 2,500 new students a year. If our hypothetical small college receives 5,000 applicants a year and accepts 50%, that school also admits 2,500 students a year.

What does this tell us? It shows that while competition is higher for the elite college, other factors must be considered. The total number of applicants, college rankings, financial aid, and other information should be taken into account when evaluating potential colleges.

What Is the Average College Acceptance Rate?

Nationwide, the average college acceptance rate is 68%, with over half of all U.S. colleges and universities reporting admission rates of 67% or more.

Which Colleges Have the Lowest Acceptance Scores?

Unsurprisingly, Ivy League colleges and other selective schools have the lowest acceptance rates because they receive so many applications. The top 10 schools with the lowest college acceptance rates are as follows:

  1. Stanford University: 4.34% acceptance rate
  2. Harvard University: 4.92% acceptance rate
  3. Columbia University: 6.1% acceptance rate
  4. Princeton University: 6.5% acceptance rate
  5. Yale University: 6.9% acceptance rate
  6. Juilliard: 7.2% acceptance rate
  7. The University of Chicago: 7.9% acceptance rate
  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 7.9% acceptance rate
  9. California Institute of Technology: 8% acceptance rate
  10. Brown University: 9.3% acceptance rate

Benefits of Attending a School With Low College Acceptance Rates

  • Colleges with the lowest acceptance rates are typically prestigious and have high name recognition.
  • Selective schools offer networking and career opportunities long after graduation.
  • Prestigious alumni networks help graduates advance their careers.
  • Many schools with low acceptance rates have an emphasis on academic research.
  • Selective schools often offer access to the latest technology and groundbreaking projects.
  • Low college acceptance rates often correlate with high graduation rates. Most selective schools report that over 90% of students graduate.

What Do You Need To Apply To Selective Schools?

Colleges with the lowest acceptance letters only accept the best students, so your application needs to shine. You need to prove a strong academic record, with the highest possible test scores on the SAT or ACT. Students planning on applying to the nation’s elite schools should take as many AP or honors courses as possible in high school. Failing to take advantage of such classes can get your application dismissed.

College essays for schools with low admission rates have to accomplish two seemingly contradictory tasks. The essay has to portray the student as a well-rounded person through their studies, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and work experience. At the same time, the application needs to prove you have a deep interest in a particular area of study. The college admission board is looking for what makes your application stand out among many similarly well-rounded applicants.

Mentors, teachers, and community leaders can provide you with recommendation letters. To make their task easier, give letter writers lists of your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and major accomplishments. Include some sample papers or research work as well.

Be sure your application and essay are free of errors. Typos, incorrect information, and other mistakes are often used to screen applicants in the early stages of the college admission process. You don’t want to get a rejection letter because you misused an apostrophe.

Colleges With the Highest Acceptance Rates

At the other end of the spectrum are those colleges that accept almost all applications. While not as selective as the elite colleges, colleges and universities with high acceptance rates may still offer quality educational opportunities. The colleges with the highest acceptance rates are as follows:

  1. Unity College: 100% acceptance rate
  2. The University of Maine at Presque Isle: 99% acceptance rate
  3. Alabama State University: 98.9% acceptance rate
  4. University of Saint Francis-Fort Wayne: 98.98% acceptance rate
  5. Reinhardt University: 98.949% acceptance rate
  6. Milligan University: 98.84% acceptance rate
  7. Missouri Southern State University: 98.52% acceptance rate
  8. Arkansas Tech University: 97.996% acceptance rate
  9. Evergreen State College: 97.994% acceptance rate
  10. Western Kentucky University: 97.993% acceptance rate

What Are the Benefits of Applying To Colleges With High Acceptance Rates?

Well, for one thing, you’re more likely to be accepted, making colleges with high admission rates excellent safety schools. There are several other reasons to consider a high acceptance college over the more selective schools. Students with strong applications are more likely to receive scholarships or financial aid than if they applied to selective schools, which only award merit-based aid to students with the highest GPA and test scores.

Schools with higher acceptance scores also have a more diverse student body and tend to have good track records of improving the economic outlook of low-income students.

Colleges That Accept 3.0 GPA

The average GPA needed for acceptance into college is 3.5-4.0, but what if you don’t meet this benchmark? Many colleges are willing to accept a GPA between 3.0-3.5, including the schools listed below:

  1. The University of Maine at Farmington
  2. University at Hartford
  3. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  4. Plymouth State University
  5. SUNY College at Old Westbury
  6. Saint Joseph’s College of Maine
  7. Regis College
  8. University of Texas at El Paso
  9. Southern Connecticut State University
  10. Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Colleges That Accept 2.5 GPA

If you don’t have the GPA to get into an elite school, don’t despair. You can still have the college experience you’ve dreamed of. Colleges that accept a 2.5 GPA include:

  1. California State University, San Bernardino
  2. Northeastern Illinois University
  3. Portland State University
  4. Tennessee State University
  5. Fayetteville State University
  6. Georgia Southern University
  7. University of Montana
  8. Idaho State University
  9. Kentucky State University

Ultimately, whether you attend a school with a high or low admission rate isn’t as important as the effort you put into your own education. Students who work hard in high school, learn good study habits, and take advantage of academic opportunities tend to succeed in college. To help improve your chance of enrolling in your top-choice school, talk with an academic advisor today.