10 Most Selective Universities in the US

You aced your SATs and your GPA is 4.0. Do you think you can get into Harvard or Yale? If you don’t excel in sports and if your father is not a senator, your admission be subject to a number of arbitrary whims, including the side effects of food poisoning.

Don’t read that previous paragraph wrong, however; high test scores and grade point averages are important for admission as well as for financial aid. But, admission offices also seek interesting and personable essays and students who follow instructions. Apply to at least five or more schools if you can afford the admission fees, and set your sites on some rewarding challenges outside the Ivy League circle.

The latter advice comes on the heels of the release of 2009 admission statistics. While the top ten schools listed below may seem a repeat from previous years, a few changes occurred. For instance, in 2008, Yale came in first as the most difficult school to enter with an admission rate of 9.9 percent. While that percentage is higher than this year’s admission percentage of 9.6 percent, Harvard outstripped Yale with 9 percent acceptance rate this year, compared to an admittance rate of 10.3 percent in 2008.

Granted both percentages are better than last year’s Juilliard School‘s admission rate of 6.4 percent, yet tighter than Caltech (California Institute of Technology) at 15.3 percent in 2009; but, the presumption for this article is that you plan to attend a college that accepts more than 100-600 students per year.

The following statistics were gathered from IvySuccess for 2009. Each link in the list below leads to the official college Web site, and the links are followed by the number of total admissions, the number of actual admissions and the percentage of acceptance shown by those numbers. If you want to see a breakdown of early round admissions versus regular admissions and more, you can visit either Hernandez College Consulting or The Ivy Coach.

Finally, after you peruse the numbers below, don’t become discouraged. Larger campuses often display higher acceptance rates. For instance, we mentioned State University of New York and California State University as two of the ten largest universities in the world. While their campuses are gracious, so are their acceptance rates with 36.1 percent and 61.2 percent respectively (2008).

  1. HarvardHarvard University: Applicants: 22,796; Admitted: 2,074; Percentage: 9 percent. Noted as the oldest U.S. university in operation and considered one of the best colleges to attend, Harvard offers a liberal arts education for both men and women. Harvard’s new Financial Aid Initiative led to a new applicant record as well as to its most competitive acceptance rate in the history of the college.
  2. YaleYale University: Applicants: 19,448; Admitted: 1,880; 9.7 percent. Founded in 1701, Yale University is located in New Haven, Connecticut. it is the third oldest university in the nation and has produced many U.S. presidents. Although Yale’s applicant numbers dropped this year by 1.2 percent, the overall acceptance rate makes it one of the most competitive years in Yale’s history.
  3. ColumbiaColumbia Unversity in the City of New York: Applicants: 15,790; Admitted: 1638; 10.4 percent. According to Ivy Success, Columbia had the largest applicant pool in its history, a five percent increase over 2008. The middle 50 percent SAT score for Columbia College was 1380-1530, representing an increase of 10 points compared to the previous year. The median score for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences was 1440-1530. The median score for Barnard was 1400, the highest in the school’s history.
  4. PrincetonPrinceton University: Applicants: 16,516; Admitted: 1,807; 10.9 percent. This year it seems Princeton hit a happy medium, as their acceptance rate went from 9.9 percent in 2007 to 11.9 percent in 2008. But, their applications rose to a 20.6 percent increase over 2008. While 176 more students were accepted in 2009 than in 2008, this year’s acceptance rate is one percentage less than 2008. The average SAT scores and the number of students who ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school classes were both higher than last year.
  5. StanfordStanford University: Applicants: 20,194; Admitted: 2,412; 11.9 percent. This acceptance rate is the lowest in Stanford’s history. Additionally, over 90 percent of the admits were ranked within the top 10 percent of their high school class, and 80 percent had a grade point average of 4.0 or higher. Standford claims a “need-blind” admittance procedure that does not look at the applicants’ financial statuses.
  6. MITMassachusetts Institute of Technology: Applicants: 10,439; Admitted: 1,495; 14.3 percent. This is a record low percentage of admissions for MIT, but the average SAT scores were the highest ever. For students admitted in 2009, the middle 50 percent score range on the SAT was between 670-770 for the Reasoning Test Critical Reading and 730-800 for the Reasoning Test Math. MIT prefers that you add these tests to the regular SAT format.
  7. BrownBrown University: Applicants: 16,908; Admitted: 2,463; 14.6 percent. Located in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown saw a ten percent increase in applicants (a new record at 16,908, breaking last year’s record), but their acceptance fell over a point from the previous year’s 15.8 percent acceptance rate. Students might be drawn to Brown’s evaluation system, with a choice of receiving nothing less than a C for any course (No Credit, NC is provided for courses below a C). The NC courses do not show on official transcripts.
  8. DartmouthDartmouth College: Applicants: 12,615; Admitted: 2,149; 16.8 percent. Dartmouth set a record low in the percentage of applicants accepted this year, yet six more students were accepted than last year. Among the accepted students, the SAT Verbal mean score was 711 and the SAT Math mean score was 719, making the overall SAT score three points higher than that of last year’s early admits. Of the students accepted and whose schools provide ranks, 28 percent were valedictorians and 11 percent were salutatorians.
  9. PennUniversity of Pennsylvania: Applicants: 18,800; Admitted: 3,912; 20.8 percent. Last year, Penn accepted 21 percent of their applicants. this acceptance rate joins other universities in being the lowest in Penn’s history. One college within this university that saw an increase in acceptance was the School of Nursing, which admitted 123 applicants. The acceptance rate for that college was 41.8 percent, compared to 39.7 percent from 2008. SAT scores this year were up three point on average from 2008, but the average SAT II score was 720, up only one point from the previous year.
  10. CornellCornell University: Applicants: 24,444; Admitted: 6384; 26.1 percent. Cornell’s previous 2008 percentage rate was 28.7. This year’s number of applications, however, increased by 17.4 percent. Cornell spells out what they want from applicants: “They want to know about your ability, achievements, motivation, leadership, diligence, and integrity; your sense of fairness and compassion.” These traits, supposedly, are revealed through your application essays.