Easier-to-Get-Into Hidden Gem Colleges | 2024 Rankings

When colleges have low acceptance rates, students can wait on tenterhooks for a reply. This can lead to a stressful springtime for many graduating high school students. However, there are plenty of amazing schools that have higher-than-average acceptance rates for applicants! These colleges and universities that are easier-to-get-into can be excellent dream schools or safety schools for applicants and we’ve highlighted the best of these “hidden gems” for you.

To qualify as an Easier-to-Get-Into Hidden Gem, a college must meet the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications per year.
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students.
  • Offer 5 or more unique majors.
  • Have a first-time, full-time undergraduate admissions acceptance rate of 80% or higher.

Easier-to-Get-Into Hidden Gem Colleges 2024

Wheaton College was founded by evangelical abolitionists in 1860 and would become a stop on the Underground Railroad. Business is by far the most popular major at the school. Athletic teams are known as The Thunder. They wear blue and orange and compete in the NCAA Division III in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Location Wheaton, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,047
Saint Anselm College is the third oldest Catholic college in New England, having been founded in 1889. The school has been the site of presidential policy speeches from John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon as well as several national presidential debates. 100% of students receive institutional aid from the school ($27,936 on average).
Location Manchester, NH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,959
The School of Visual Arts has an acceptance rate of 87%. The school was founded in 1947 and is a part of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. Class sizes are extremely small with an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school also has a first year retention rate of 86%. The most commonly chosen major is Web Page, Digital/Multimedia and Information Resources Design.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,127
Founded in 1937, Westmont College’s motto is Christus Primatum Tenens, which is Latin for “Christ Holding Preeminence.” The school was initially a Bible Missionary Institute but would become Westmont College only 3 years later. 97% of those attending the college receive institutional grant aid (about $30,000 on average per student).
Location Santa Barbara, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,284
Samford University accepts about 84% of students and many will go on to major in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Registered Nursing, and Journalism. Samford has a long history; it was founded in 1841, originally was called Howard College, and was converted to a military hospital during the Civil War.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,758
The second oldest state maritime academy in the country, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy was founded in 1891. Their motto is “Discipline, Knowledge, Leadership.” The training ship used by students is known as the USTS Kennedy. There are only 7 undergraduate programs available, with many choosing Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.
Location Buzzards Bay, MA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,425
Partnered with Saint John’s University for men, the College of Saint Benedict is exclusively for women. The school got its start in 1913 with only six students. Today, resources are shared between the two campuses, a partnership that began in 1955. They have an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 89% first year retention rate, and 74% four-year graduation rate.
Location Saint Joseph, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,443
Often referred to as simply the Citadel, this school has a patriotic motto of “Honor, Duty, Respect.” Its campus is located on the Ashley River. Though a military college, the most popular majors include Business/Commerce, Mechanical Engineering, and Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration. The school colors are Citadel blue, navy, and white.
Location Charleston, SC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,721
John Carroll University has over 70 majors available to undergraduates, with Speech Communication and Rhetoric, Biology/Biological Sciences, and Marketing/Marketing Management being popular choices. The school was founded in 1886 and became coeducational in 1968. Alumni include Brian P. Cleary, Wade Manning, and Jack Kahl.
Location University Heights, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,922
In 2022, Point Loma Nazarene University received 3,149 applications. 2,582 of those students were accepted for an acceptance rate of 82%. Almost all students who attend receive institutional grant aid ($16,886 on average). With a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the most popular major is Registered Nursing followed by Child Development and Psychology.
Location San Diego, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,319
Originally known as Dominican College, Dominican University of California was founded in 1890 making it one of the oldest universities in the state. Today, just over 93% of those who apply are accepted. The school’s motto is Veritas Fax Ardens which is Latin for “Truth is a Flaming Torch.” Athletes are known as the Penguins and compete in the Pacific West Conference.
Location San Rafael, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,877
Saint Mary’s College of California’s motto is Signum Fidei, which is Latin for “The Sign of Faith.” The chapel holds Mass twice on Sundays and every day Monday through Friday. Students can be any religion, but an introductory course of the Bible is required. The school also has a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, an 86% first year retention rate, and 88% acceptance rate.
Location Moraga, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,765
A liberal arts college, UMW offers students over 150 clubs and organizations. There are over 400 student athletes on campus who compete in baseball, lacrosse, track and field among other sports. The school has an 86% acceptance rate and about 19% of those accepted will attend UMW. Popular majors include Business Administration, Psychology, and Biology/Biology Sciences.
Location Fredericksburg, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,757
Sharing a campus with Cascadia College, University of Washington's Bothell Campus is actually the largest campus branch in the state. Over 97% of students are from Washington. UW Bothell has over 180 majors, study abroad programs, and weekend/evening college classes available. 85% of students stay at the school after their first year.
Location Bothell, WA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,735
Set on a 170-acre campus, Ursinus College offers 60 different majors to its students. Over a third of the student population are also athletes competing in 25 varsity sports. Students enjoy a small 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 82% first year retention rate. Exercise Physiology, Applied Economics, and Biology are the most sought-after majors.
Location Collegeville, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,527
Elizabeth College, or eTown, is set on a 204-acre campus and offers students 81 clubs and organizations. Around 30% of the student population are athletes participating in varsity sports. Of over 150 majors offered, Health Professionals and Related Clinical Sciences, Business Administration, and Engineering are the most popular.
Location Elizabethtown, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,021
Saint John’s University is a men’s school, and the brother college of St. Benedict - an all women’s school. Their partnership began in 1955 and the two joined 1961. Over 90% of faculty possess a doctorate or terminal degree. Business Administration and Management, Accounting, and Economics are popular majors at SJU.
Location Collegeville, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,645
Saint Mary’s College was founded in 1844 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross and is an all women’s school. Competing in the NCAA Division III, the students are known as the Belles. Popular majors include Registered Nursing, Business Administration and Management, and Biology/Biological Sciences.
Location Notre Dame, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,519
Saint Michael’s College has over 30 majors available to students, the most popular of which is Business Administration and Management. The college accepts 86% of applicants; anyone who decides to attend will receive institutional aid. The campus is actually split with the North Campus being one mile away from the Main Campus.
Location Colchester, VT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,399
W&J College is a liberal arts school located on a 65-acre campus just 30 miles from Pittsburgh. The school has a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 83% first year retention rate. All students receive institutional grant aid ($35,616 average per student). Business/Commerce is the most popular major followed by Psychology and English Language and Literature.
Location Washington, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,151
Business Administration and Management is the most popular major among students at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, but the college offers a number of programs in engineering, engineering technology, nanoscale engineering, and other related STEM areas. Currently, this school has a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 79% first year retention rate.
Location Utica, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,842
Freed-Hardeman University is a 150-year-old Christian based institution whose motto is “Truth, Beauty, and Wisdom”. The school has over a 91% acceptance rate and 98% of students receive grant aid. Registered Nursing is by far the most sought-after major followed by Bible/Biblical Studies and Health and Physical Education/Fitness
Location Henderson, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,330
Nazareth College accepts just over 84% of students who apply to the school. Many of those who decide to enroll will go onto major in Psychology, Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences, and Registered Nursing. The college also boasts a cozy 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an 82% first year retention rate.
Location Rochester, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,522
Randolph-Macon College is located right outside the capital city of Virginia, Richmond. The school accepts over 85% of students and 99% of those who attend will receive institutional grants ($27,133 per student on average). Over 500 athletes are known as the Yellow Jackets (appropriately wearing black and lemon) and compete in the NCAA Division III with football.
Location Ashland, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,501
Known as the Green Knights, student athletes at Saint Norbert College are members of the NCAA Division III Midwest Conference and wear green and gold. Saint Norbert has a 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 69% four year graduation rate. The school’s motto is “docere verbo et exemplo,” or “to teach by word and example.”
Location De Pere, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,882

Should You Apply to Colleges That are Easier-to-Get-Into?

The most obvious benefit of applying to one of these hidden gem colleges is you’re more likely to receive an acceptance letter! This can be reassuring for students who may have performed lower than average during their high school career, want to receive a near-guaranteed acceptance letter, or need a few safety schools to have a healthy balance of reach, target, and safety schools.

However, it’s important to point out that acceptance letters aren’t always guaranteed at these schools – even if they have a 99% acceptance rate! That’s 1% of students who aren’t accepted. It is important to put your best foot forward when it comes to your college applications, even to the colleges and universities that may have higher-than-average acceptance rates.

Interested in any of these easier to get into hidden gem colleges? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool and start making your safety, match, and reach list today!


Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

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