What Acceptance Rate Is Considered Selective

Selectivity is a shorthand term used to describe colleges in terms of their admissions rate. What does it mean to label a college as selective, most selective, or very selective? How does that relate to other terms like target, safety, and reach? The admissions rate is the proportion of applicants to admitted students at a college, which is typically expressed as a percentage. Selective colleges are not always better than less selective ones in terms of quality. Approximately two thirds of colleges accept more than half of the applicants. This can include a variety of high-caliber institutions, particularly small liberal arts colleges and public universities that offer excellent value.

Admissions rates frequently indicate a college’s reputation more so than the quality of its programs or other outcomes. Additionally, it may be significantly impacted by variables such as a rise in the number of colleges applicants, patterns in the number of international applicants, or college notoriety (schools frequently gain notoriety after winning sports championships or admitting a famous student).

Any school that has an acceptance rate of less than 15% is a reach school even for the best students, and any school with an acceptance rate of less than 30% is still very selective.

MOST SELECTIVE colleges accept fewer than 15% of all applicants AND possess an average composite ACT (25%tile) score of at least 30 or an average combined SAT (25%tile) score of at least 13  They include:

  • Amherst College
  • Barnard College
  • Bowdoin College
  • Brown University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Carleton College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Colby College
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth University
  • Duke University
  • Georgetown University
  • Harvard University
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Northwestern University
  • Pomona College
  • Princeton University
  • Rice University
  • Stanford University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Southern California
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Washington University
  • Williams College
  • Yale University

EXTREMELY SELECTIVE colleges accept fewer than 35% of all applicants AND possess an average composite ACT (25%tile) score of at least 29 OR an average combined SAT (25%tile) score of at least 13 They include:

  • Bates College
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Brandeis University
  • Bucknell University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Colgate University
  • Colorado College
  • Cooper Union
  • Davidson College
  • Emory University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Grinnell College
  • Hamilton College
  • Haverford College
  • Lehigh University
  • Middlebury College
  • New York University
  • Northeastern University
  • Reed College
  • Scripps College
  • Smith College
  • Trinity College
  • Trinity University
  • Tulane University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Richmond
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Virginia
  • Vassar College
  • Villanova University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington and Lee University
  • Wellesley College
  • Wesleyan University

VERY SELECTIVE colleges accept fewer than 50% of all applicants AND possess an average composite ACT (25%tile) score of at least 27 or an average combined SAT (25%tile) score of at least 12 They include:

  • American University
  • Babson College
  • Bard College
  • Bentley University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Clemson University
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • College of William and Mary
  • Colorado School of Mines
  • Connecticut College
  • Denison University
  • Dickinson College
  • Emerson College
  • Fordham University
  • Franklin and Marshall College
  • George Washington University
  • Kenyon College
  • Lafayette College
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Macalester College
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • North Carolina State University
  • Oberlin College
  • Occidental College
  • Pitzer College
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rhodes College
  • SUNY at Binghamton
  • Santa Clara University
  • Skidmore College
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Syracuse University
  • Union College
  • United States Air Force Academy
  • United States Military Academy
  • United States Naval Academy
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Washington
  • Whitman College
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute

MODERATELY SELECTIVE colleges accept fewer than 60% of all applicants AND possess an average composite ACT (25%tile) score of at least 25 or an average combined SAT (25%tile) score of at least 12 They include:

  • Baylor University
  • Bennington College
  • California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo
  • CUNY Baruch
  • Chapman University
  • Clark University
  • Clarkson University
  • Earlham College
  • Fairfield University
  • Florida State University
  • Gettysburg College
  • Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Illinois Wesleyan University
  • Ohio State University
  • Penn State University
  • Pepperdine University
  • Providence College
  • Purdue University
  • Rutgers University
  • Saint Louis University
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • Southern Methodist University
  • St. Lawrence University
  • St. Olaf College
  • Stony Brook University
  • Texas Christian University
  • The College of New Jersey
  • The College of Wooster
  • United States Coast Guard Academy
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Denver
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of San Diego
  • University of Tulsa
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

College Admissions: Inside the Decision Room


What is a selective admissions rate?

The proportion of applicants that receives admission serves as a proxy for selectivity. The lower the percentage, the more selective the school is. Essentially, most colleges are selective to some degree. Less than a third of applicants are accepted by a small number of highly selective schools.

What is a highly selective acceptance rate?

About 50-60 U. S. colleges are considered “highly selective. ” They have admission rates of 33 percent or less.

What is considered a hard acceptance rate?

An acceptance rate of 50% or higher is considered a high acceptance rate Students might also view acceptance rates that are higher than average as being high. Almost all of their applicants are accepted by institutions with high acceptance rates. They are also thought to be less picky when selecting applicants for admission.

Is a 60 acceptance rate selective?

MODERATELY SELECTIVE colleges accept fewer than 60% of all applicants AND possess an average composite ACT (25%tile) score of at least 25 or an average combined SAT (25%tile) score of at least 1210 They include: Baylor University.

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