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The Complete Guide to College Acceptance & Admission Rates

College acceptance rates

Once you’ve found your dream school the question becomes: will I get in? It’s hard to predict accurately, but the college’s acceptance rates can give you an idea of your chances. In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about college acceptance and admission rates. 


Acceptance Rates Basics - What Does “Acceptance Rate” Mean? 

Acceptance rates are important in your college search process, but what exactly are they?

Put simply, a school’s acceptance rate is the percentage of applicants who are admitted. College acceptance rates can vary considerably from school to school, as they are influenced by a number of unique factors. The first factor is the school’s own standards. All schools filter applicants based on several criteria, such as high school GPA, standardized test scores, essay strength, and more. The nation’s most prestigious schools tend to have loftier standards in all of these categories. They also tend to have more applicants, which leads us to our second factor: volume. 

If a school has tens of thousands applicants each year, it’s going to have a lower acceptance rate than schools with only a few thousand applicants, assuming those schools are the same size. However, schools vary considerably in size, so that’s something to take into account, too. The lowest acceptance rate colleges are small, prestigious schools with a lot of applicants. Colleges with the highest acceptance rates are those with large student bodies, low or average admissions standards, and relatively low applicant numbers.

It’s pretty easy to find out the number of people getting into the school you’re interested – just check out their profile on Cappex. In each of our college profiles, we show you how many people are applying to a school in any given year, how many are getting admitted, and which demographics those admitted students fall into. Armed with this data, you can make a more educated decision about which colleges you want to put on your list. In the guide below, we answer some of your most-asked questions about college acceptance rates.


Are “Admission Rate” and “Acceptance Rate” the Same Thing? 

Yes, admission rate and acceptance rate are the same thing. The both refer to the percentage of applicants accepted (or admitted) into a certain college or university in a given year.



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What’s a “Good” Acceptance Rate?

While we introduced the idea of “prestige” in the opening section, the notion that a school with a low acceptance rate is prestigious is a myth. Here’s why:

There’s not really such a thing as a good or bad acceptance rate. In general, schools with low acceptance rates (lower than 10 percent) are more selective or have high standards or have tens of thousands of students applying for relatively few spots.

But that definitely doesn’t mean schools with higher acceptance rates are bad schools! They may just have less strict admission requirements or have larger campuses that can accommodate more students in the freshman class. 


Colleges With Highest Acceptance Rates

College acceptance rates can vary over time. When it comes to high acceptance rates, schools from states across the country all contend for the top spot. Size, geographic location, and academic focus can all play roles in keeping acceptance rates high, so these schools aren’t necessarily “safety” schools. Take a look at some colleges and universities with the nation’s highest acceptance rates (in no particular order), according to 2021 data from U.S. News & World Report. 

  • Academy of Art University
  • Broward College
  • Cameron University
  • Dickinson State University
  • Goddard College
  • Herzing University
  • Lewis-Clark State College
  • Montana State University - Billings
  • New England College
  • Rochester University
  • Utah Valley University
  • Wilmington University


Colleges With Lowest Acceptance Rates 

As we’ve mentioned several times in this guide so far, college acceptance rates are anything but concrete. They vary from year-to-year, sometimes deviating considerably from era to era. That said, there are many colleges in the nation that have held remarkably low acceptance rates for decades (even centuries). In most but not all cases, these are some of the most prestigious schools out there. According to data from U.S. News & World Report, they include (in no order):

  • Harvard University
  • Yale University
  • Princeton University
  • Brown University
  • Stanford University
  • Columbia University
  • University of Chicago
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Pomona College
  • Dartmouth College
  • Juilliard School


Which Colleges Should I Apply To?

That’s up to you! If you want to put some highly selective schools with low acceptance rates on your list, go for it!

However, to maximize your chances of getting into a school you love, it’s recommended students put safety, reach, and match schools on their college lists. By adding schools with all types of acceptance rates, you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up at a great college and have the best four years of your life!


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Find Your Acceptance Chances with Cappex!

Armed with more information about acceptance rates, you are now one step closer to creating an intelligent list of colleges for your future. But don’t stop there. Sign up for a Cappex account to find schools that match you or check out your chances of getting accepted with easy and comprehensive online tools. 

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