What Is Acceptance Rate?

A college’s overall quality and prestige are determined in part by its selectivity of the applicants. Learn more about what it really means, factors affecting and colleges with different acceptance rates.

Updated by Avinash H on 27th October 2020

If you are applying to any institution, we are sure you might be checking for certain statistics and information about the college. The acceptance rate is very important among those statistics. It is the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a university.

In simple words, the acceptance rate is the rate at which the college accepts the applicants. It is usually denoted by the percentage, and calculated by the number of students admitted to the number of students who applied in that year. 

In this article, let us take a closer look at acceptance rates, colleges with high and low acceptance rates, why is it hyped so much, and every other detail centering it.

What Is Acceptance Rate?

The college acceptance rate is the percentage of applicants who are accepted in a university. It is calculated by the total no of applicants against the number of students accepted. It is one of the first things students take a look at to weigh their chances of success or the chances of getting into the college of their wish. For high school students looking at colleges, the acceptance rate can be a main focused point among the other statistics.

Here are a few important points to know about these acceptance rates.

  • A lower acceptance rate indicates a school being very selective hence, admitting a fewer number of applicants. 

  • Despite the hype around this, the truth is, it does not tell you much about the quality of the school. 

  • It is a measure of its exclusivity, not necessarily it's quality or worth.

  • Most of the highly selective colleges now have acceptance rates in the single digits which means fewer than 10% of students applying to college will ultimately be allowed to take education in that institute.

  • The more applicants or candidates a school can attract, the lower the acceptance rate it will ultimately have.

  • Small schools tend to have the most competitive acceptance rates just because they have comparatively fewer reservations available to offer. 

  • College acceptance rates can be important depending on the student’s interests and achievements. 

  • Many students believe that the acceptance rate is the truest indicator of a college’s selectivity but it is not necessarily the most important thing to consider when searching for a quality institution that offers your field of intended study.

Factors Influencing The College Acceptance Rate

Well, it is difficult to predict the exact factors which contribute to the figure which a college puts up as the “acceptance rate.”

However, the most obvious factors which we think can be the major contributors towards the acceptance rate are as follows:

  • It is vital to see how you perform compared to the average SAT and GPA of your required college.

  • Figuring out the acceptance percentage compared to actual enrollment for understanding the selection procedure of a particular college/university.

  • Taking a step ahead, establish a lot of context around the acceptance rate proportion compared to the school’s tuition, fees, and financial aid.

  • Last but not least, compare every college's acceptance rate to that of other colleges.  

It is usually a little tougher to get into the colleges having a lower acceptance rate because of the tough competition which one has to face to cut through their chance to achieve a seat. In the next section, let’s look into some of the things one can do to ensure their chance of admission in the colleges having a lower acceptance rate.

What Does A Super-low Acceptance Rate Indicate About A College?

A low college acceptance rate does not convey much information about a college as a whole apart from the fact that it typically receives far more applications than what it finally accepts. While this might indicate the type of students who want to attend, it is not an indicator of the type of students who graduate from such a college or university.

Applying To Colleges And Universities With Low Acceptance Rates

To ensure their chance of getting qualified and selected into one of the great schools and colleges whose acceptance rate is lower, students should strictly have the following at the end of the day.

  • GPA and standardized test scores like the SATs will both play a significant factor. Hence, students should ensure a higher GPA and a good SAT or GRE score. 

  • Many colleges or universities which top the league often expect way more than a high GPA or SAT score. 

  • They expect a student to have a few recommendation letters from their professors or a worthy portfolio which showcases their significant participation in extra-curricular or social activities.

Well having said so, is it only the colleges or universities with a lower acceptance are the ones who provide better education?

Let’s also look into the benefits of getting into colleges with relatively higher acceptance rates.

Benefits Of Schools With High Acceptance Rates

The more one is interested in colleges with higher acceptance rates, due to their specialized programs, unique locations, the more options it opens for one likely to choose from when it comes to the point of making a well-informed decision.

Colleges with high acceptance rates can be a good option for students with relatively lower grades, lower test scores, or those who are looking for colleges that provide better safety.

Colleges With Lower And Higher Acceptance Rates

Now let's look into the list of colleges/universities with their respective acceptance rates:

Lowest Acceptance Rates

A college with a very low acceptance rate indicates extremely stiff competition for study places. Let us look into some of the well-known colleges with a low acceptance rate.


Acceptance Rate

Harvard University


Yale University


Columbia University


Alice Lloyd College


Princeton University


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


United States Naval Academy


College of the Ozarks


Highest Acceptance Rates

Let us now look into some of the colleges which are popular as well as offer a higher acceptance rate.


Acceptance Rate

Academy of Art University


Bismarck State College


Boston Architectural College


City University of Seattle


CUNY–College of Staten Island


Dixie State University


Granite State College


Indian River State College


Metropolitan State University


Montana State University-Northern


Having a 100% acceptance rate does not necessarily mean that the college is bad, usually, colleges with 100% acceptance rates have an open standard of admission or have their admission standards aligned with the applicant pool. 


While an acceptance rate tells you one thing regarding how many students are competing for admission in the particular college, it conveys very little information regarding the standard of the education that one might obtain once you’re there. One should never get disheartened by the overwhelming acceptance rates — they might be true but for a few selective colleges.

There are several alternative high-quality colleges out there, and the overall national acceptance rate is actually increasing, and by applying to 14-15 different colleges also increases your chance of acceptance.

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