This Map Shows the Toughest College to Get into in Every State

As college application rates climb and acceptance rates fall, it helps to know which schools will be the toughest nuts to crack.

The college application process is in full-swing for rising high school seniors, according to the College Board, a not-for-profit organization that helps more than seven million students each year prepare for college. The College Board recommends applying to anywhere from five to eight colleges, including some that are “likely to admit you,” some that may be “a bit of stretch,” and a number of what seem like “a good, realistic match.”

But what is a “good, realistic match” anyway?

Even a quick Internet search of “college acceptance rates” will tell you that it’s harder than ever to get into college. However, the College Board reports that fewer than 100 American schools are “highly selective” (accepting less than 25 percent of students), and close to 500 four-year colleges accept more than 75 percent of applicants. There are also many schools that accept all or most students who apply. The best way to get started is to see your high school guidance counselor to talk about the application process, the colleges that will suit you, and options for financial aid.

“Stay focused on what’s important to you and what you want to get out of the college experience,” the College Board advises, basing your choices on how well various colleges fit your needs and how your credentials stack up against what they consider to be their average accepted student. “Colleges care most about the academic work you’ve done in high school,” although they also look into what you’ve done outside the classroom. The most selective colleges also take SAT and ACT scores into account. In fact, the academic review site,, used test scores as a major criterion in its newly published list of the country’s most competitive colleges, basing their results on acceptance rates and SAT/ACT test scores using data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Guidance counselors won’t tell you to choose a college based on which one is most competitive, but it’s certainly reasonable to consider college acceptance rates before filling out your applications. Accordingly, we’ve broken down’s list of most selective colleges to map out the hardest colleges to get into, state-by-state (including the District of Columbia, but not including Alaska, Delaware, Nevada, or Wyoming due to a lack of information available for the study).

This-Map-Shows-the-Toughest-College-To-Get-Into-In-Every-StateTatiana Ayazo/

  1. Alabama – University of Alabama
  2. Arizona – Arizona Christian University
  3. Arkansas – University of Arkansas
  4. California – California Institute of Technology
  5. Colorado – Colorado College
  6. Connecticut – Yale University
  7. D.C. – Georgetown University
  8. Florida – University of Miami
  9. Georgia – Emory University
  10. Hawaii – Brigham Young University at Hawaii
  11. Idaho – Northwest Nazarene University
  12. Illinois – University of Chicago/Northwestern
  13. Indiana – University of Notre Dame
  14. Iowa – Grinnell College
  15. Kansas – Sterling College-Kansas
  16. Kentucky – Berea College
  17. Louisiana – Tulane University
  18. Maine – Bowdoin College
  19. Maryland – Johns Hopkins University
  20. Massachusetts – Harvard University
  21. Michigan – University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
  22. Minnesota – Carleton College
  23. Mississippi – Mississippi Valley State University
  24. Missouri – Washington University in St. Louis
  25. Montana – Carroll College
  26. Nebraska – Union College
  27. New Hampshire – Dartmouth College
  28. New Jersey – Princeton University
  29. New Mexico – New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
  30. New York – Columbia University
  31. North Carolina – Duke University
  32. North Dakota – University of Jamestown
  33. Ohio – Kenyon College
  34. Oklahoma – University of Tulsa
  35. Oregon – Reed College
  36. Pennsylvania – University of Pennsylvania
  37. Rhode Island – Brown University
  38. South Carolina – Clemson University
  39. South Dakota – Augustana College
  40. Tennessee – Vanderbilt University
  41. Texas – Rice University
  42. Utah – Brigham Young University
  43. Vermont – Middlebury College
  44. Virginia – Washington & Lee University
  45. Washington – Whitman College
  46. West Virginia – Concord University
  47. Wisconsin – University of Wisconsin

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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.