141 Hardest Colleges to Get Into

College campus representing hardest colleges to get intoThere are over 400 schools on the 50-50 college list. These are colleges that accept at least 50% of students and have at least a 50% graduation rate. Given that the idea was to provide families with accessible alternatives to just the usual suspects that show up in the rankings, I think 400 is a remarkably useful base to start with. However, there’s always going to be the thought in the back of your mind of what you’re missing by using the list. So I thought I would provide some insight to the colleges not on the list.

Most Colleges Don’t Graduate Students in 4 Years

As for the graduation rate part of 50-50, there are 881 colleges that have less than four/five-year graduation rates of less than 49%. That’s 55% of all four-year institutions with 500 or more full-time undergraduates. Yes, that means at over half of the colleges, less than half of students graduate in four years at private colleges and five years at public institutions.

There are 247 colleges with acceptance rates less than 49% and they include some you probably have never heard of. There are actually 102 that fall into both groups, they accept less than 49% of students while having less than a 49% graduation rate.

Hardest Colleges to Get Into

The group that I think most people are interested in are the 141 colleges with acceptance rates less than 49% but have a graduation rate of 49% or better. That’s less than nine percent of all public and private non-profit institutions. These are arguably the hardest colleges to get into. It includes 34 public institutions and 107 private. 54 are classified as Liberal Arts Colleges and 56 are Universities with high or very high research activity.

These colleges can be found in 30 states, however, 14 states had only one or two such schools. New York had the largest share of the hardest colleges to get into with 28, followed by California with 21, Massachusetts with 15, and Pennsylvania at 12. These also happen to be the states with some of the highest average net prices for colleges.

Only 18 of the colleges have 85% or more of freshman receiving institutional aid while at 46 of the schools, 33 of them private, have 50% or fewer of freshman receiving institutional aid. A total of 19 of the colleges have an average net price for students with a family income of under $30,000 greater than $20,000. 57 have an average net price of between $10,000 to $20,000 for this income category. Among these schools, 26 claim to meet at 99% of freshman need.

The following table lists the hardest colleges to get into based on data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS) as of January of 2016. The four-year graduation rate is used for private schools and the five-year rate for public universities.

Colleges With Acceptance Rates of Less Than 49%

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