Acceptance rates for the top 50 colleges in the US are very competitive. In addition to having high GPA and standardized test score requirements, these schools look for students who submit superior college essays, college recommendation letters, and extracurriculars.

    In this blog, we will look in greater detail what are your chances of getting into one of the top 50 colleges in the US    , and everything you can do to increase your chances. While some of the    se tips might require more time to bear fruit, others can be implemented    quite quickly, so your stand-out application can be ready in no time!

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11 min read

Acceptance Rates for Top 50 Colleges How to Improve Your Chances of Getting Accepted? Conclusion FAQs

Acceptance Rates for Top 50 Colleges

The United States has some of the best-ranked universities and colleges in the world. Especially those in the top 10 are globally known names with candidates from all over the world wishing to attend at least in some capacity. This is the result of high-quality programs and virtually instant recognition when it comes to future employment. Students that graduate from programs such as the Harvard Business School are usually recruited right out of college.

Due to those factors, all of these institutions are quite competitive. On average, one in four applicants will be accepted to one of the top 50 colleges. The acceptance rate of the top 50 colleges in the US when it comes to those at the very top is even less, frequently dropping under 10%.

Additionally, your GPA is just one of the factors that might get you accepted. Having a high score of over 3.5 would usually be a pre-requirement for consideration at some schools, but wouldn't be a guarantee of acceptance. Rather, your recommendations, extracurriculars for college, and your college admissions essays will play a major role in if you will receive an acceptance letter from your desired university. Even the easiest Ivy League schools have a rigorous admissions process, so be aware of the competition.

Two aspects that you will want to prove through your application are that you will be able to acquire knowledge at the college level of the institution you are applying to and that you will be able to take charge and be an asset to the school in more ways than just academically. In most recent years, leadership skills have been one of the main factors schools look for when deciding on applicants, frequently looking past test scores if a leadership quality is present.

The table below shows the ranking and acceptance rates for the top 50 colleges in the US, as well as their enrolment rates, retention, graduation, institutional aid, as well as the ratio of students to faculty:

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting Accepted

The road to getting enrolled into a good college should ideally start before high school. Having good grades and being socially active is the best base for any application. If that is not possible, starting as early as possible to find the correct college and gain all of the requirements is always the best advice anyone can give.

1. Find the Right Schools to Apply To

Before you start applying, it is paramount that you research the schools you want to apply to first. You will need to mirror the values and requirements of the institution where you want to study, but they should hold your values as well. Take your time to understand how your desired college operates.

Also, you should be certain that you are applying to a program that truly interests you. The subjects you are applying is something you will spend countless hours on over the course of a lifetime. It is not a decision that should be made easily.

Then, once you find which school you want to go to, you will need to show them how you embody their values.    Through your college application process, you should show the college you are applying to that you are the correct person for that school. This is why so much emphasis is given to the college essay as it will show your position towards the institution you are applying to.

Take time and go through our guide for writing the college application essay. You might also want to show it to your academic advisor or other experts to make sure you are getting your point through.

Additionally, you will want to show relevant activities and extracurriculars. This will help prove your claim that you are someone who will thrive at your desired college not only academically, but as a person as well. You can use our guide to make the college application activities section if you want to know the best things to include.

Top colleges want to see that they will be making future leaders in a particular field that are happy with where their career has led them.

2. Start Early

Finally, starting your college preparation journey early means that you will have ample time to collect everything you need and fill any gaps in your application that might exist. Overall you should consider the following:

  • Brainstorm essays
  • Prepare for interviews
  • Collect recommendation letters
  • Pick up extracurriculars

 For example, you might want to join a debate club or a community initiative that will not grow your skills and assist your community but will look great on a college application as well.

You can also inform yourself about any type of aid that might be given by either your municipality or the college itself. All of the top 50 colleges in the US offer some sort of institutional aid, and most applicants are eligible for some sort of support.

3. Meet GPA and SAT/ACT Score Requirements

All of the top US universities require a high GPA to qualify. Generally, to attend one of the top 50 colleges you will need to be at least in the top 20 high school graduates in the US. For Ivy League schools that would mean that your weighted GPA average needs to be over 4.0, going up to 4.15 for MIT and Harvard.

It important to know that your GPA is not an end-all-be-all. All of these requirements are weighted, meaning that specialized classes will be worth more for that particular college. A "B+" student with a 3.3 GPA that is unweighted can have a 4.3 when particular classes are taken into consideration. That is how the average is possible to be over the hypothetical maximum.

Still, your overall grade will play a factor. Having high grades even in subjects that are not your primary area of interest shows the college that you are responsible and have a good work ethic, which is just as important as being good at what you are interested in.

The SAT scores for the top 50 colleges in the US are not as rigorous as the GPA requirement but will still require an above average result. If you are aiming for some of the lower ranked colleges that are still in the top 50, you will want to have a score over 1000. But, if you are aiming for Ivy League, you will need to have at least 1460 to be certain that you are above the line.

Your ACT score, which measures your aptitude in English, mathematics, reading, and science, will also be taken into consideration. For schools with higher acceptance rates you are probable to qualify with any ACT score over 18, letting you to be slightly specialized. But, if you want to enter Harvard, Yale, or UPenn, you will need to be in the very top, with the score over 34 our of the total of 36.

4. Secure Strong Recommendation Letters

Although recommendation letters are more frequently discussed for medical school applications where they are crucial, they can also make or break an undergraduate application for any of the top 50 colleges in the US. In most cases, these schools will require a sealed letter that will state your accomplishments and how you have behaved in the past in great detail.    

You should prompt your teachers, mentors, coaches, and other experts you have come in contact with to supply you with a recommendation letter as soon as possible. This way you will be certain that you will have enough letters by the time of the application deadline.

The top 50 colleges in the US will require between one and three recommendation letters. A good strategy is to request as many recommendation letters you might need from teachers and other mentors. That way you will be sure some will arrive before you need to send them and you can always pick the best ones to send if you have too many. Always send exactly the number required.

Harvard and Yale require three recommendation letters. Other colleges might require less, but it is never zero if you want to get into the top 50 institutions.

5. Demonstrate Legacy and Diversity

Legacy and diversity when it comes to colleges in the US are mostly misunderstood, as they are two sides of the same coin. There is a misconception that any applicant will be admitted solely due to their different life experiences, as it is necessary to otherwise qualify before such factors are taken into account.    

Legacy presumes that the applicant comes from a family of alumni of the college that they are applying for. While such candidates are accepted at a higher rate, acceptance here is not guaranteed either. In most cases, it will portray that the candidate already shares the values of the school and would probably be a good candidate, provided that all other qualifications are met.

When it comes to acceptance rates for the top 50 colleges in the US, your specific life experience is used to separate you from the crowd once you are already exemplary. This means that you wouldn’t be able to attend just because of your background. Such a background might include ethnic, cultural, religious, sexual, or gender minority, or the fact that you have overcome economic adversity to be able to enter college.

When it comes to diversity, it is important to have your diversity college essay portray what your background brings to the table and how your perspective can assist the school overall. Overcoming adversity is one of the core values you should show in such an essay.

6. Write a College Letter of Intent    

Your college application letter, or college letter of intent, should show why you want to attend the academic institution you are applying to. It is important to differentiate the application letter from the personal statement or personal recommendation. With your application letter, you will want to portray the reasons you would like to attend a school and what your expectations are from the institution. This will also include your field of interest, any extracurricular activities you would like to do, as well as aspirations you might have for a post-graduate degree.

Having a clear and concise idea about what you want will push your application to the top of the pile as faculty in all of the top colleges prefers to work with students that know what they want in advance.

7. Cultivate Extracurricular Experiences

Extracurricular activities are used to differentiate candidates that have similar scores and don’t bear more weight than coursework and GPA. For the very best universities, this happens more frequently than not, meaning that your prior activities may be instrumental in your acceptance.

You can look up which are the best extracurricular activities for college but you should know that they are always separated into three categories:

  1. Academic
  2. Communal
  3. Personal

What any college will look for will depend on the focus of the institution.     

Your academic extracurricular activities, or ECA, will include focusing on activities that will assist you in your academic growth during college. That can include anything from internships and exchange programs to debate clubs and trivia championships.

Communal, or community-focused, ECA will primarily focus on those activities where you have shown regard to your community and did something to assist it. These can be both formal and informal, ranging from organizing sports and youth groups to volunteering and attending community festivals.

Finally, the personal ECA pertains to what you have done for your personal growth. This will mostly include sports but can focus on music, arts, or design. In many cases, it is possible that the academic, communal, and personal extracurriculars overlap, which will usually give the candidate the best options to attend the institution.    

Take note that admission committees want to see a commitment to any activity. Greater longevity is always better and ideally, you will want to start with those extracurriculars at the start of high school. But, if that is impossible, it is better late than never.

8. Show Leadership

Most candidates would ideally want to show their leadership capabilities through extracurricular activities. But, in cases where that is not possible, it is advisable to portray situations where you have shown leadership through your college essay or recommendation letters.

Overcoming adversity, and especially helping others overcome adversity is highly prized in the top US colleges. Any action you have taken that proves that you are a person who can take charge and accept responsibility will mean a lot for the college.

The best way to show leadership is through community engagement either in school or outside of it. Being a part of student bodies, participating in active tutelage, or championing a local cause is a great show of leadership and should be portrayed on your application activities section.

9. Participate in Social Activity

Social activism doesn't need to be institutionalized in a form of an extracurricular activity. In many cases, applicants will be individuals who have taken up a cause on their own, or share values and beliefs that they publicly defend or advocate for.

In the era of social media, such links can prove useful to your application, as it might show the college that you share the values and ideas that they promote as well. Although such activities might not count as much as institutionalized ones, or your recommendation letters, they can be used to augment your application and give something more to the college addition board to consider.

All activities that include charity, environmentalism, assistance to the youth or elderly, or any similar actions should be portrayed in your application’s activities section. Any media showing proof should also be included.

If the online social activity will be presented, it is advised for applicants to curate their pages and remove any material that would be considered overly juvenile, offensive, or in bad taste. Since most applicants will have pages that are decades old at the time, some older content should be made private to better portray what is on the page.

10. Focus on Self-Development

The goal of your college application should be self-development. Throughout the entire application process, you should show that you wish to grow and that you know how the college you are applying to will help you in that regard.

Being humble and knowing how to place your current accomplishments in context will greatly benefit the process. It will show the college that, while you know your worth, you are not content where you are now and that you wish to grow. That desire for growth and development is what all colleges are looking for and will overlook candidates that believe that they have already achieved everything they need in life.

Activities that show that you are actively collecting skills, which includes music, sports, arts, or any other type of creative endeavors, should be shown in your application’s activities section. Also, letters of recommendation from mentors in these activities can pull a lot of weight depending on the college.

Ideally, you will want to show that the college you are applying to will be instrumental in your growth. This will show that you have a good reason to be there and that you will try your best when it comes to both your academics and extracurriculars.


Although the acceptance rates for the top 50 colleges in the US are relatively low, applicants should not lose hope. If you wish to apply to some of the best schools in the country you should prepare, do your research, and apply to as many colleges as you would like to attend. You should show the admissions committee that you are a great fit for the school and that you will be an asset both during your education and as an alumnus. This can be done with a good application that is personalized to show all of your qualities and how they are the best fit for the institution you are applying for.


1. What is the average college acceptance rate in the US?

The average acceptance rate in US colleges is 67%. Contrary to that, the acceptance rate for the top 40 colleges in the US is only 24%, while those on the very top have those numbers as low as 6%.

2. Which college in the top 50 has the highest acceptance rate?

The highest acceptance rate college is also the lowest ranking college at #50, which is the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.

3. Which college has the lowest acceptance rate?

Year after year, the lowest acceptance rate is for Harvard University. Acceptance to Harvard is ranging from 4% to 8% with a tendency of going downward as the number of applicants increases.

4. Are extracurriculars necessary for the top 50 colleges?

While no college will cite extracurricular activities as mandatory, having experience from relevant activities vastly increases the acceptance rate to any desired college.

5. Is it hard to get into an Ivy League college?

Yes. All Ivy League colleges have an average GPA requirement of over 4.0 and exclusively accept applicants that have shown continuous achievement in the field where they want to study. Statistically, only the top 3% of all high school graduates will attend such a college.

6. Are the top 50 colleges in the US expensive?

Although tuition and accompanying costs can go up to $50.000 for some of the top US colleges, financial aid is present for virtually all students. By requesting aid and grants from multiple institutions, it is possible to reduce the cost of a top eduction to very feasable amounts.

7. Does harvard offer a full scholarship?

Yes. Although they will consider your parent’s contribution and financial status, as well as if you are employed and have received other assistance, Harvard University might grant you the rest of your tuition to come up to a full scholarship.

8. When should i start preparing for college?

Ideally before your first day in high school. Not only will all top colleges require a high GPA, top SATs and ACT scores, they will also want to see long and regular extracurriculars and dedication. While it is never too late to start, the sooner you start the better.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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