This article comes to us courtesy of U.S. News & World Report, where it was originally published.
The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matter to you in your college or grad school search.
The acceptance rates at the top U.S. colleges and universities continue to plummet, bringing ever more fear into the hearts of ambitious teens.
Whether the trepidation is completely warranted, though, is debatable. Some argue it's actually easier to get into selective colleges today than it was in the past, in part due to a declining population of high school students and inflated application numbers tied to the Common App, which makes it easier for students – some of whom may be less qualified – to apply to multiple schools.
Yet, no matter how you spin it, getting into the most selective schools remains an incredibly difficult task even for the country's top students.
The average acceptance rate in fall 2013 was 64 percent among the 1,288 ranked schools that reported the data to U.S. News in an annual survey. At the 10 most selective schools, in contrast, the average fall 2013 acceptance rate was 7.4 percent.
The most selective schools, of course, are often highly ranked. Among the schools where applicants had the lowest odds of admission, seven earned spots in the top 10 of the National Universities rankings. All but two schools – Stanford University and the University of Chicago – were on the East Coast.
Here are the 10 colleges and universities with the lowest acceptance rates based on the fall 2013 entering class. Unranked colleges, which did not submit enough data for U.S. News to calculate a ranking, were not considered for this report.
School name (state) Fall 2013 acceptance rateU.S. News rank and category
Stanford University (CA) 5.7% 4 (tie), National Universities
Harvard University (MA) 5.8% 2, National Universities
Columbia University (NY) 6.9% 4 (tie), National Universities
Yale University (CT) 6.9% 3, National Universities
Princeton University (NJ) 7.4% 1, National Universities
US Naval Academy (MD) 7.4% 13, National Lib/arts Colleges
Cooper Union (NY) 7.7% 2, Regional Colleges (North)
MIT 8.2% 7, National Universities
University of Chicago 8.8% 4 (tie), National Universities
US Military Academy (NY) 9%2 4 (tie), Nat. Lib/arts Colleges
Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find acceptance rate data, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed nearly 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2014 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News' data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News' rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The acceptance rate data above are correct as of Dec. 9, 2014.