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Most Competitive Colleges

This time of year, you or someone you know may be deciding which colleges to apply to.  Not only do potential freshmen try to find the perfect school for their career and learning experience, but they need to consider how difficult it is to get accepted to the college of their choice.

At Sperling's, we've analyzed the attributes of the incoming class for each college, since these are the students you're competing against. Our ranking of competitive colleges is based on SAT/ACT scores, acceptance rates, and high school class rank.

The two highest ranked universities, Harvard and Yale, admit only one in ten applicants. Their ability to only admit the best of the best raises their other categories, as well. The most competitive colleges set a high bar because their school is desirable. With many fine students competing for a limited number of spots, the top universities admit the top students.

In order to create an accurate comparison, we have compiled a separate ranking for public and private institutions. The private list is topped by the aforementioned Ivy League institutions. All the schools ranked in the top ten are household names. Their elite status means 16% of students who applied were accepted. 92% of admitted students were in the top 10% of their senior class in high school. The average SAT score of these students is 1460.

Most Competitive Private schools:

  1. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
  2. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
  4. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
  5. California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA)
  6. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
  7. Columbia University (New York, NY)
  8. Brown University (Providence, RI)
  9. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
  10. Washington University (St. Louis, MO)

 

See the top 50 private schools

The average tuition of the top 10 private schools is nearly $33,000. With room and board, students at top institutions could be paying well over $40,000 annually. The upside of these competitive schools is they often have endowments nearing or surpassing a billion dollars. Once a student is accepted, these well-funded universities will do what they can to provide grant and loan assistance to those who need it. Getting into these competitive colleges is the hard part.

California shines in the top public schools ranking. The University of California system fills the top three slots, with nearly all incoming freshmen ranking in the top 10 percent of their high school class. The top 10 public schools only accept 38% of students who applied, about half of the acceptance rate of all public universities. 89% were in the top 10% of their senior class in high school. The average SAT score of the ten most competitive public colleges is 1280.

Most Competitive Public schools:

  1. University of California-Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
  2. University of California-Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
  3. University of California-San Diego (La Jolla, CA)
  4. College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA)
  5. University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)
  6. College of New Jersey (Ewing, NJ)
  7. SUNY Col. Arts & Science-Geneseo (Geneseo, NY)
  8. University of North Carolina At Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)
  9. University of California-Irvine (Irvine, CA)
  10. Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (San Luis Obispo, CA)

 

See the top 50 public schools

The in-state tuition for the top 10 public schools is $7,000. If a student is not a state resident, tuition averages $20,000, still well below a private institution.

Good Deals

You can't always pick your home state. We looked through our ranking for good deals on great schools, no matter your residency. If you can get in, these colleges are affordable for their ranking.

Berea College, for example, has a 4-year tuition scholarship to ensure families carry none of the financial burden of college. All these schools are notable because they keep the tuition low, while remaining competitive.

University and Location Tuition
1. Berea College (Berea, KY) $516
2. Brigham Young University-Hawaii Campus (Laie, HI) $2,660
3. Grove City College (Grove City, PA) $9,952
4. Lane College (Jackson, TN) $7,176
5. Brigham Young University (Provo, UT) $3,280
6. Flagler College (St. Augustine, FL) $8,000
7. SUNY Col. Arts & Science-Geneseo (Geneseo, NY) $11,410
8. CUNY-Baruch College (New York, NY) $8,940
9. CUNY-Hunter College (New York, NY) $8,940
10. Southwest Minnesota State University (Marshall, MN) $5,294