To me, Stanford is probably the hardest university to get into right now by acceptance rate alone. But there’s a lot more behind the scenes with regards to the acceptance rate numbers for each school. The main factor is the self-selecting pool of candidates that decide to apply to these schools.
I’ll give an example. While Stanford has the lowest acceptance rate in the country ~4%, I’ll tell you MIT is no easier to get into that Stanford, even though it has a higher ~7% acceptance rate. That’s because the pool of applicants that apply to MIT is much stronger than the pool of applicants that apply to Stanford. In other words, the pool is self-selecting.
The average students wouldn’t even think of applying to MIT because of they are aware of the academic rigor of the school, and know it’s too difficult to get into. But the average students may very well apply to Stanford to test their luck, and also because Stanford accepts students for odd reasons (well, not odd - well written personal statements can you get in), even if you have a low GPA/SAT score.
So I would say the hardest universities to get into are Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, UChicago, and Columbia, despite differences in their acceptance rates due to the self-selecting nature of the applicant pool.
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