Hardest colleges to get into in the U.S. in 2022

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If you think Ivy League schools are tough to get into — well, you aren’t wrong. Last fall, elite schools began to report their acceptance rates for their graduating classes of 2025. Some rates rose, but many fell drastically, thanks in part to an increase in applications. 

One big change for the 2022 Niche rankings: A de-emphasis on standardized test scores. An increasing number of colleges are making such tests optional for prospective students. As a result, test scores were a smaller factor for 2002 — 20%, versus 40% in 2020 and 2021.

Here’s the 2022 Niche ranking for the 50 hardest schools to get into.

50. Carleton College

Carleton College
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Ranked as Minnesota’s best college for 2022, Carleton College has a 19% acceptance rate. 

It also has no application fee.

49. Northeastern University

Northeastern University
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Northeastern University, one of several colleges on this list located in the Boston area, has an acceptance rate of 18%.

For 2022, it’s ranked on the Niche survey as America’s sixth most liberal college.

48. Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University
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Wesleyan University in Connecticut has an acceptance rate of 16%. 

Applicants are not required to take the SATs or ACTs, but those scores are considered.

47. New York University

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A newcomer to the 2022 list, New York University has a 16% acceptance rate.

It ranks as the No. 2 school for film and photography, behind only the University of Southern California.

46. Hamilton College

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Hamilton College, another newcomer on this list for 2022, is in Clinton, N.Y.

It has a 16% acceptance rate and ranks highly for English studies.

45. Pitzer College

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The acceptance rate at Pitzer College, in California, is 14%. 

A high school GPA is required for consideration, but not SAT scores.

44. University of California, Berkeley

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The University of California, Berkeley has a 16% acceptance rate. 

Despite the school’s reputation for left-leaning politics, Niche ranks Berkeley as only the 25th most liberal college in the country; American University, in Washington, D.C., is No. 1.

43. Emory University

Emory University
Emory University

This school, in Atlanta, has an acceptance rate of 16%. 

It is ranked by Niche as No. 2 among the top Christian colleges in America for 2022. 

42. Haverford College

Haverford College
Haverford College

The acceptance rate at Haverford College in Pennsylvania is 16%. 

SAT scores are considered but not required.

41. United States Military Academy at West Point

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The acceptance rate at the United States Military Academy at West Point, in New York, is 12%. 

The Niche survey gives the school a punishing D+ grade for its party scene, but an A+ for academics. It’s also ranked as America’s No. 1 school with no application fee for 2022.

40. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

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The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has a 15% acceptance rate. 

It specializes in art and architecture, among other majors.

39. Middlebury College

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Middlebury College

The acceptance rate at Vermont’s Middlebury College is 15%. 

It claims to be the first U.S. college to adopt an environmental studies program.

38. Colorado College

Colorado College
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Colorado College, a small liberal arts school in Colorado Springs, has an acceptance rate of 14%. 

It has no application fee.

37. University of Notre Dame

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Notre Dame has a 16% acceptance rate. 

Niche ranks the Indiana university as the top Catholic college in the country for 2022.

36. Tufts University

Tufts University
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Tufts University, in Medford, Massachusetts, has a 15% acceptance rate. 

Niche gives the school high marks for academics, diversity and value.

35. Carnegie Mellon University

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Carnegie Mellon University has a 15% acceptance rate. 

For 2022, the Pittsburgh institution is ranked No. 1 among the best colleges for information technology studies in America.

34. Bates College

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Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine, has a 12% acceptance rate.

SAT scores are neither required nor recommended for applicants.

33. Georgetown University

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Georgetown University has a 14% acceptance rate. 

Niche rates the Washington, D.C. Catholic school highly for academics and diversity and for its party scene.

32. University of California—Los Angeles

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The acceptance rate at UCLA is 12%. 

For 2022, Niche ranks its campus and food options as No. 1 out of all colleges. It’s also America’s top public college.

31. Tulane University

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Located in New Orleans, this school has an acceptance rate of 13%. 

Niche has ranked it as the top party school in the nation for 2022.

30. United States Air Force Academy

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United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs has an 11% acceptance rate.

Its party scene isn’t considered particularly interesting, but it is popular among students hoping to major in business.

29. Barnard College

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Barnard College via Facebook

Barnard College, in New York City, has a 12% acceptance rate.

It’s the best women’s college in the U.S., according to Niche.  

28. Washington University in St. Louis

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Washington University in St. Louis has a 14% acceptance rate. 

It’s routinely named by Niche as among the tops on their list of best college campuses. This year, it’s also listed as No. 1 for best college dorms.

27. University of Southern California

USC
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The University of Southern California has an 11% acceptance rate. 

Niche has ranked the Los Angeles school among the best in America for design, film and photography and student life

26. Harvey Mudd College

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Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, California, has a 14% acceptance rate.

Students who apply there also tend to apply to Claremont McKenna College and Pomona College. Engineering and applied mathematics are popular majors.

25. Williams College

Williams College
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Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, has an 13% acceptance rate.

Like many top small liberal arts schools, this one does not require standardized tests, but of those who are accepted, the score range for the SAT is 1410 to 1550.

24. Amherst College

Amherst College
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Amherst College has an 11% acceptance rate. 

Student who apply to the Amherst, Massachusetts college often also apply to Williams College, Bowdoin College and Middlebury College. 

23. United States Naval Academy

USNA
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The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland has an 8% acceptance rate. 

Applicants here also usually apply to the United States Air Force Academy, the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the United States Coast Guard Academy.

22. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna
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Claremont McKenna College, in Claremont, California, has a 10% acceptance rate. 

A popular major is economics.

21. Colby College

Colby College
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Colby College in Maine has a 10% acceptance rate. 

Of the best colleges with no application fee, Colby ranks No. 4.

20. Cornell University

Cornell University
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Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., has an 11% acceptance rate, according to its latest reported data.

It’s named by Niche as among the best colleges for agricultural sciences in America. 

19. Johns Hopkins University

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Johns Hopkins University has an 7.4% acceptance rate. 

Public health is a popular major at the Baltimore school.

18. Bowdoin College

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Brunswick, Maine’s Bowdoin College has an 9% acceptance rate.

Niche has named it among the best liberal arts colleges in the country.

17. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College
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Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania has a 9% acceptance rate.

The student-faculty ratio is 8-1.

16. Northwestern University

Northwestern University
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Northwestern University has a 9% acceptance rate. 

The Evanston, Illinois university is often rated as one of the best colleges for communications in America. It’s also tops for an education in the performing arts.

15. Vanderbilt University

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Nashville’s Vanderbilt University has a 9% acceptance rate.

It’s named by Niche as the best college in America to study education.

14. Rice University

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Rice University has a 9% acceptance rate.

Niche has ranked the Houston school among the best for studying physical therapy and sports management.

13. Pomona College

Pomona College
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Pomona College in Claremont, California has an 7% acceptance rate.

It’s named by Niche as the best liberal arts college in America.

12. Dartmouth College

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Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, has an 8% acceptance rate.

There is one faculty member for every seven students.

11. University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania
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The University of Pennsylvania has an 8% acceptance rate.

The Philadelphia school was recently ranked by Niche as the best college for business in America. 

10. Duke University

Duke University
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Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, has an 8% acceptance rate. 

Duke is known for its high-quality athletics programs, and its public-policy education.

9. Brown University

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Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island has a 7% acceptance rate. 

The school is known for English studies, as well as its global studies.

8. Columbia University

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New York City’s Columbia University has a 5% acceptance rate.

Economics is a popular major; the university also among the top schools for seeking an English major.

7. Yale University

Yale University
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Yale University has a 6% acceptance rate. 

For 2022, Niche has ranked its professors as the best in America. The school’s history program is also ranked at No. 1.

6. University of Chicago

University of Chicago
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The University of Chicago has a 6% acceptance rate. 

Its most popular majors are economics and computer science.

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has a 7% acceptance rate.

For 2022, it ranks as Niche’s overall best college in the United States and ranks especially high in computer science and math.

4. Princeton University

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Princeton University has a 6% acceptance rate.

Three alumni of the New Jersey university have served as Supreme Court justices. The school ranks highly for its chemistry and public policy programs.

3. California Institute of Technology

Cal Tech
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Considered one of the best small colleges America has to offer, Cal Tech, in Pasadena, California has a 6% acceptance rate.

Niche ranks Cal Tech as the best college for physics in America. It also has a reputation as a mecca for budding engineers.

2. Harvard University

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Harvard University has a 5% acceptance rate. 

The Cambridge, Massachusetts university ranks highly for many majors, according to Niche, including math, psychologybiology and political science

1. Stanford University

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Stanford University has a 4% acceptance rate.

The California institution also was named by Niche as the No. 1 school for athletics for 2022. The school is also known for its psychology program.