Hardest School to Get into in the World: Top 10 List

When applying to some of the more reputed universities, you expect that it will be difficult to get into. But there are a select few so competitive that are especially notoriously hard to get into. Their admissions standards are extremely rigorous and only the best of the best get accepted. These universities can afford to be highly selective about who they choose to admit because of the high number of applications they receive for only a few seats that are available. For example, Stanford, which tops the list of the hardest school to get into in the world, receives on average over 55,000 applications every year. Of these thousands of applications, they admit less than 2,200 students. That’s a low, low admission rate of 3.9%.

So why are these universities so hard to get into?

As you will see in the list below, most of the world’s hardest universities to get into have been around for several years. They have built their prestigious reputation slowly and steadily by focusing on academic excellence, research opportunities, and extracurricular activities. All faculty members are highly accomplished and hand-picked for excellence and recognition in their field. Another factor all of these universities have in common are their world-famous alumni.

Many of the world’s hardest universities to get into are located in the U.S. Of these, Ivy League schools with their low admission rates regularly earn the top spots on this list.

Top 10 Hardest Universities to Get Into In The World

1. Stanford University

Flickr user Michael Estigoy

Topping the list of the hardest school to get into in the world is Stanford. It has been featured top of this list for several years and no other university anywhere in the world has managed to replace it yet. Academic excellence aside, it’s hard to compete with a university that boasts 60 Nobel Laureates, 17 astronauts, and 30 billionaires as its alumni. And who can forget that some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley also call Stanford their Alma Mater.

Stanford University has the lowest acceptance rate of all universities on this list. Its admission rate for 2021 was 3.9%. Academic achievement is one of the main factors Stanford uses in their admissions process. But it’s not the only factor they look at. Admissions officers also look closely at each applicant’s extracurricular accomplishments and their contribution to community. Personal essays are scrutinized in detail to get a better sense of how an applicant may contribute to the school.

2. Harvard University

Flickr user Ian Lamont

Harvard is the ‘Holy Grail’ of universities not just for students in the United States. Students from all over the world aspire to get into this top-notch school. They know the weight a certificate from this prestigious university lends to their resume. Besides, it helps when your alma mater is the same as 8 United States Presidents and 130 Nobel Laureates. No other university in the world can say the same.

It should come as no surprise that getting into Harvard is not easy. This Ivy League school is super selective about who they admit into their school. The admission process is as rigorous as you would expect and the admission rate is a competitive 4%. You have to be at the top of your game to get into this school. Many successful students start preparing years in advance.

3. Columbia University

Columbia University offers full-ride scholarships, but not free tuition.

Source: Flickr user skinnylawyer.

Columbia University, another Ivy League school, has the same admission rate as Harvard. This school takes a truly holistic approach when assessing applications. Admissions officers don’t just look at the applicants’ grades. They also take into consideration the rigor and variety of classes that the student has taken. In addition, they assess each applicant’s extracurricular activities and unique experiences.

One factor that weighs heavily into the final decision is the level of involvement both inside and outside the school. This speaks volumes about the student’s potential to make a positive contribution to the school. Columbia University considers this an important trait in all of its students.

4. London School Of Economics And Political Science

Oxford and Cambridge are usually the two universities that come to mind when we think about educational institutions in the UK. There’s no doubt that these are among the two most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom. However, they don’t feature among the hardest schools to get into in the world. The London School Of Economics And Political Science does. It tops the list of most competitive universities to get into in the UK with an acceptance rate as low as 8.9%.

The London School Of Economics And Politics offers an array of programs ranging from Accounting and Finance to Anthropology, Actuarial Science, and Econometrics. All courses are taught by leaders in their field. The school draws thousands of applications every year from students around the world. It’s not surprising that they can afford to be so selective.

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Flickr user Niklas Tenhaef

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the leading technical colleges not just in the US but in the world. Some of the most well-known IT giants in Silicon Valley are graduates from this prestigious IT school.

MIT has a low admission rate of 4.1%. Academic grades and test scores are a primary consideration when evaluating applications. But, more important than academic achievement is the student’s overall fit with the school. Most courses that MIT offers are collaborative in nature and students who are comfortable working as part of a team are given preference. To get into this university, you highlight your competitive nature while also demonstrating your cooperative spirit.

6. Yale University

Looking through the entry gate at Yale University's main building.

Flickr user m01229

Another Ivy League school, Yale University has many firsts to its name. The first 3 Ph.D. degrees were awarded by this school, earning it the reputation as the birthplace of doctoral education in the US.

Yale University has an admissions rate of 6 %. So what does it take to get into this world-famous University and what makes it one of the hardest schools to get into?

Yale University assesses applications quite differently from other Ivy League schools. Admissions officers scrutinize each applicant’s personal assay and letters of recommendation looking for answers to two questions. Does the applicant have the ability to contribute to the school’s community? Is the applicant resourceful enough to make the most of what the school offers? Of course, academic grades, test scores, and rigor of classes of classes taken are just as important to get admission.

7. Hyogo College of Medicine

Located in Japan, the Hyogo College of is a well-known medical school, attracting applications from aspiring medical students all over the world. It has a low acceptance rate of 7%.

What sets the Hyogo College of Medicine apart from the other schools on this list is that it is relatively new. This private medical school received its university accreditation in 2004. It’s the newest school in this list of hardest schools to get into.

8. Princeton University

Princeton University offers free tuition for middle-class families.An Ivy League school and the fourth oldest university in the United States, Princeton University welcomes admissions from students around the world. Receiving thousands of applications every year allows this school to be super selective. It has maintained a low 7% acceptance rate for several years. But it has reportedly become even more competitive in recent years with a lower acceptance rate of 4.4%.

To get into Princeton, students must have an impressive academic record not just in terms of scores but in terms of rigor of classes. Only applicants who challenge themselves with rigorous AP classes and honors get accepted into this highly competitive academic institution. In addition, students must demonstrate their commitment to contributing positively to the school and its community. Preference is given to students with notable extracurricular achievements.

9. University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom

The third-oldest university in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge, the University of St. Andrews has an acceptance rate of 8.5%. The university has built its reputation over the years and today it ranks right up there among the best in the world. Getting into this school is equally difficult for domestic and international students.

This public university comprises multiple colleges and schools that offer a wide range of programs. Students study Mathematics, Marine Biology, Creative Writing, Economics, Psychology, Archaeology, and more. Their wide choice of programs taught by faculty who are leaders in their field attracts applications from around the globe. The admissions criteria and academic score requirements vary from one program to another. However, all applicants must have scored at least 240 UCAS points to be considered.

One special aspect of this school is the flexible entry options they offer to students interested in applying to any of their programs. This ensures that all students have an equal chance of getting accepted no matter what their background or personal circumstances. They also offer alternative entry routes for students returning to higher education after a long lapse.

10. University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge rounds up our list of the top 10 hardest universities to get into in the world. It may be tenth on this list but that does not make it any easier to get into. With an acceptance rate of 11%, you’ve got your work cut out for you if you look forward to studying in this university. Only 11 of all applications that are received are successful every year.

Established in 1209, the University of Cambridge is the fourth oldest university in the world. Over the years, the institution has stayed committed to its mission of contributing to society through learning, research, and education at the highest international level. Students from all over the world are welcome provided they meet tough admission standards.

Admissions officers don’t just evaluate students based on academic grades and test scores. They also consider commitment to giving back to society and other qualities.

Final Thoughts On The World’s Hardest Universities To Get Into 

The list of the world’s hardest universities to get into may look daunting. But don’t let those low acceptance rates dissuade you from applying. With some hard work and determination, you could be one of those select few students to get accepted. The key is to do your homework in advance and shortlist the universities you’d like to attend. Make a note of their admissions criteria and work consistently towards meeting those requirements. You can do it!

Looking for the right college for you? College Raptor’s College Match tool is FREE and helps you determine your admission chances based on your ACT/SAT percentile and results, GPA, extracurriculars, and more!

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