10 Selective Colleges and Universities

It's the beginning of senior year for a whole new crop of college-bound high school students, and hundreds of thousands of college applications are about to come pouring in to mailboxes and inboxes nationwide. Here's a list of 10 U.S. schools with selective admissions standards. Each of these schools have a college admission rate of lower than 30 percent, so they're selective enough for your parents to brag about.


10 Schools with Selective Admissions Standards

  • Brown University reports that 70 percent of its undergraduate classes contain less than 20 students, and that it maintains one teacher for every nine students. Students who score a perfect 36 on the ACT seem to enjoy high college admissions chances to Brown's Ivy League student body -- nearly a quarter of those ACT superstars who applied were accepted into the class of 2016. The Providence, RI university's deadline for early decision candidates is November 1, and the standard regular decision deadline of January 1 also applies.
  • Cornell University in Ithaca, NY admitted just 6,222 of its nearly 40,000 international applicants for the class of 2017 and welcomed an incoming class of 3,282 students when admissions decisions were said and done. Candidates considering application to Cornell are encouraged to visit the school at any time of the year, and campus tours and information sessions take place throughout the fall term. Cornell requires the Common Application along with a writing supplement, transcript, test scores and other items on the applicant checklist. The school requires individuals to apply online and recommends that candidates start the application process early so they have plenty of time to complete it.
  • Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH received about 23,000 applications from prospective Class of 2016 students, and the credentials of those admitted are quite impressive. Out of the 1,098 enrolled students, 90 percent were in the top 10 percent of their graduating class. The high-achieving admits are perhaps what give the school a great reputation. Not only has U.S. News and World Report named it the top undergraduate college for its "Strong Commitment to Teaching" for four straight years, but administrators guarantee to meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need (according to institutional and federal guidelines) for admitted students. Application deadlines are November 1 for early decision candidates, January 1 for regular decision candidates and March 1 for transfer students.
  • Duke University is the fifth-largest research university in the country, according to a 2012 study by the National Science Foundation, and 1,739 enrolled undergraduate students in the Class of 2017 can have an opportunity to participate in faculty research projects. Application to Duke begins with the Common Application, which also includes a writing supplement specific to the university. Candidates may have to respond to both a general prompt for all applicants and a prompt for their intended concentration. If potential candidates plan to visit the Durham, NC campus between the months of September and November, they can apply to the official on-campus hosting program for an overnight stay in a residence hall.
  • Emory College in Atlanta, GA welcomed a first-year class of 1,402 international students from 34 countries, including the U.S., in 2012. Candidates must complete both the Common Application and Common Application Supplement for Emory. The school has two early decision deadlines -- November 1 and January 1 -- and maintains a regular decision deadline of January 15. Emory also allows admitted students to apply for deferred enrollment, so they can take a gap year between high school and college to travel, work or volunteer.
  • Tufts University is a relatively small school, with roughly 5,300 undergraduates and 1,309 students enrolled in the Class of 2016. The private Medford, MA institution adds its own writing supplement to the Common Application and can provide alumni interviews for interested candidates. Tufts doesn't provide an on-campus lodging option for prospective applicants who visit the campus, but the school does have an arrangement with multiple nearby hotels to provide a "Tufts Rate" to visitors.
  • Tulane University in New Orleans, LA is another fairly small, private college in the southern U.S. with some impressive credentials, such as a spot among the top 15 universities for career services, according to the Princeton Review. The average class size at Tulane is 24 students, and nearly 70 percent of classes at the university contain fewer than 20 students. Tulane uses the Universal College Application and its own proprietary online app, and the school's college application deadlines are January 15 for regular candidates and November 15 for early action.
  • University of Southern California, better known as USC, admitted 9,187 of its 46,104 first-year applicants in 2012. The Los Angeles, CA school offers on-campus tours for prospective applicants, along with an optional presentation on financial aid and undergraduate admission at the school. USC uses the Common Application and its own writing supplement. Applications for scholarship consideration as well as a few specialized programs at USC are due December 1, and January 15 is the school's final deadline for first-year applications.
  • Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN was recently ranked in the top 50 universities on Earth by the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities, and its Peabody College of Education and Human Development was rated the best Graduate School of Education in the country by U.S. News and World Report. First-year students made up 1,608 of 6,796 spots on the undergraduate student body in 2012, of which about 90 percent were ranked in the top 10 percent of their class. Students looking to apply to Vanderbilt can submit the Common Application by November 1 or January 1 for early decisions and January 1 for regular applications.
  • Washington University in St. Louis received 28,823 applications in fall 2011 and admitted 1,488 new freshmen. The Missouri school ranks in the top 10 percent of world universities, according to five separate global college ranking agencies. Serious applicants are encouraged to visit the campus and sit in on classes or stay in a residence hall. Applicants may also participate in an optional interview during their stay or an interview with a local alumnus near their residence. Aspiring Washington students must submit the Common Application as well as responses to supplemental questions by November 15 for early decision or by January 15 for regular decision.

Although it is often the case that the most selective colleges can give accepted students a feeling of great prestige, the quality of the education you receive has more to do with the effort you put in during your time in school than the number of your fellow applicants who were turned away. Don't let college admission statistics scare you off one way or another -- do some research, find the schools that are right for you and give the college application process all you've got. If it's really the right fit, you'll know.

About the Author: