Hardest New York Colleges to Get Into

Curious about the hardest New York colleges to get into? Colleges like Columbia, Cornell, and NYU make the top of the list.
By
portrait of Thomas Broderick
Thomas Broderick
Read Full Bio

Contributing Writer

Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member ...
Updated on November 20, 2023
Edited by
portrait of Margaret Weinhold
Margaret Weinhold
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Margaret Weinhold is an associate editor for BestColleges, where she focuses on core content. She is passionate about increasing visibility and accessibility around higher education. Margaret holds a BA in English from the University of Virginia....
Reviewed by
portrait of Stephanie DeBord
Stephanie DeBord
Read Full Bio

Reviewer & Writer

Stephanie DeBord has spent the past eight years working in higher education. She has held various academic advising roles, and she currently works as a quality assurance manager at the College Credit in High School program at the Metropolitan State U...
Learn more about our editorial process

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

Take our quiz and we'll do the homework for you! Compare your school matches and apply to your top choice today.

A New York state government report shows that the state's public and private colleges enrolled nearly 950,000 students in 2021. Many applicants competing for spots at the state's top schools make for a competitive admissions process. Columbia, Cornell, and Barnard's low acceptance rates make them some of the most competitive colleges in the nation.

You can raise your chances of admission to one of the best colleges in New York by maintaining a good high school GPA, participating in extracurricular activities, and submitting excellent essays.

Featured Online Bachelor's Programs

List of the Hardest New York Colleges to Get Into

The following table reflects the 2022 enrollment data from the National Council for Education Statistics. School websites may provide further information about the costs of attendance and admissions.

Hardest New York Colleges to Get Into
School Total Student Enrollment Avg. Annual Net Price Acceptance Rate Number of Applicants
Columbia University in the City of New York 34,782 $22,058 4% 60,879
Cornell University 25,898 $26,060 7% 69,195
Barnard College 3,442 $26,009 9% 12,009
The Juilliard School 986 $43,151 11% 2,083
Colgate University 3,141 $27,074 12% 21,109
Hamilton College 2,072 $24,503 12% 9,899
New York University 59,144 $29,499 12% 100,662
United States Military Academy 4,393 N/A 12% 12,559
Vassar College 2,459 $30,603 19% 11,412
Skidmore College 2,758 $33,389 26% 13,183
United States Merchant Marine Academy 943 $4,891 27% 1,532
University of Rochester 12,197 $39,775 39% 19,966
Binghamton University 18,312 $19,535 42% 41,642
Bard College 2,706 $25,214 46% 6,482
Union College 2,107 $41,136 47% 8,458
CUNY Hunter College 22,970 $4,848 48% 33,944
Stony Brook University 25,710 $17,213 49% 40,513
CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College 19,854 $4,991 50% 25,693
Pratt Institute 5,494 $47,326 50% 10,129
Sarah Lawrence College 1,696 $42,781 50% 5,186
Source: NCES

10 Colleges in New York With the Lowest Acceptance Rates

The 10 colleges in New York with the lowest acceptance rates want the best applicants. Check their admissions website to learn more about improving your application.

1. Columbia University

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Founded in 1754, Columbia University hosts 17 schools — including the Columbia School of Nursing and Teachers College — that educate undergraduate degree-seekers in and around New York City. The latest data from Columbia shows that 95% of incoming first-year students graduate in the top 10% of their high school class. The middle 50% of these learners also hold a 1510-1560 SAT or 34-35 ACT score.

2. Cornell University

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Cornell University educates about 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students on its Ithaca campus. The over 2,600-member faculty includes 51 Nobel laureates.

The number of applicants to Cornell tripled between 2004-2023, which significantly affected Cornell's acceptance rate. Cornell could only increase enrollment by about 25% during this time, meaning it had to turn away many qualified prospective students.

3. Barnard College

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, Barnard College features a diverse student body representing 45 states and 51 countries. Top majors include economics, English, and history.

Over 90% of Barnard's class of 2026 graduated in the top 10% of their high school class. The middle 50% of these learners also earned a 32-34 ACT score.

4. The Juilliard School

Acceptance Rate: 11%

The Juilliard School's dance, drama, and music programs educate more than 800 students representing dozens of states and countries. Juilliard's low acceptance rate stems from its long reputation of educating world-renowned performers. You must meet your program's unique requirements, such as passing an in-person interview or creating an extensive portfolio.

5. Colgate University

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Colgate University students enjoy a 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of 16. The average first-year student holds a 3.97 high school GPA. Over 80% of those admitted also rank in the top 10% of their high school graduating class.

6. Hamilton College

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Situated in Clinton, Hamilton College offers learners 44 undergraduate majors and a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Degree-seekers come from 47 states and 54 countries, and 55% of undergraduates receive institutional financial aid. The middle 50% of first-year students earned at least a 1430 SAT or 32 ACT score.

7. New York University

Acceptance Rate: 12%

With more than 270 undergraduate areas of study, New York University (NYU) attracts talented students from the United States and abroad. The typical admitted degree-seeker holds at least a 3.7 unweighted high school GPA and a 1470 SAT or 33 ACT score. Other factors impacting NYU's acceptance rate include the number of applicants, which rose more than 75% between 2016-2021.

8. United States Military Academy

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Founded in 1802, the United States Military Academy (West Point) trains cadets for a career as a U.S. Army commissioned officer. You may customize your educational experience by majoring in one of 36 subjects. West Point requires an interview and a recommendation from a U.S. congressperson or senator, making West Point's acceptance rate much lower than comparable universities.

9. Vassar College

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Originally a women's college, Vassar College opened its doors to men in 1969. The school offers an average of $55,000 in institutional aid to eligible learners and features an 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The typical successful applicant holds a 3.9 unweighted high school GPA.

10. Skidmore College

Acceptance Rate: 26%

Located in Saratoga Springs, Skidmore College educates 2,700 undergraduates who choose from 44 majors. The college awards more than half of all incoming first-year students need-based grants. Although Skidmore does not require standardized test scores, an interview or portfolio can help your application stand out.

4 Tips for Boosting Your Chance of College Admission in New York

  1. Tip One: Maintain good grades throughout high school. You can further improve your application portfolio by taking honors and Advanced Placement classes.
  2. Tip Two: Spend 2-3 years in the same high school extracurricular activities. Acting as a team captain or club president lets you develop in-demand leadership skills.
  3. Tip Three: Let someone provide feedback on your admissions essays. Their input can help you correct simple mistakes and make other helpful improvements.
  4. Tip Four: Work with your high school's college admissions advisors. They can help you find competitive New York colleges where you have the best chance of admission.

Frequently Asked Questions About Colleges in New York

What college in New York has the lowest acceptance rate?

Columbia University's 4% acceptance rate makes it the most competitive college in New York. This figure translates to over 55,000 applicants not receiving admission annually.

Widen your college search beyond Columbia even if you exceed incoming first-year students' academic profiles. Competitive colleges like Columbia turn away many qualified applicants due to lack of space.

What Ivy League colleges are in New York?

New York hosts two Ivy League colleges, Columbia and Cornell. The former, located in the heart of New York City, offers a low student-to-faculty ratio and more than 100 undergraduate majors. Other reasons to consider attending include generous financial aid to learners whose families earn less than $66,000 per year.

Situated in Ithaca, Cornell offers undergraduates nearly 80 undergraduate majors. The university's institutional aid programs assist about 50% of students.

What is the hardest SUNY college to get into?

SUNY's 2023 Admissions Information Summary shows that first-year Binghamton University students hold the best high school GPA and standardized test scores of all incoming SUNY degree-seekers. Binghamton University accepts just 42% of applicants.

As a result, you need more than good grades and test scores to stand out at Binghamton and other competitive SUNY colleges. Work with your high school's college admissions counselors to find new ways to improve your application.


Page last reviewed November 9, 2023.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.