Hardest New York Colleges to Get Into

New York has some of the best colleges in the country but they are also some of the hardest to get into. This guide will help you navigate the crowded landscape.

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by Michelle Boudin

Updated May 26, 2022

Edited by Kristina Beek
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Hardest New York Colleges to Get Into
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They say if you can make it here you can make it anywhere, and for some that starts with getting a degree from a New York school. The city that never sleeps and the rest of New York state host some of the most well-respected universities in the country. These schools have rigorous academic standards and can be some of the hardest schools to get into.

New York is also a worldwide hub for finance, in addition to other major industries, and is home to one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. That means students attending college in New York will leave with life experience they won't find anywhere else.

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College Prestige

Choosing the right college can have long-term impacts on your future plans and ultimate career path. A college that is considered hard to get into will likely have a student population of high achievers, and those people will eventually be a part of your alumni network. That will come in handy when you're looking for job opportunities.

In addition, if you're considering graduate school, having an undergraduate degree from a prestigious school will likely help your chances of getting an acceptance letter.

It's important to keep in mind that the more challenging a school is, the more rigorous the coursework may be, and that could have an impact on your overall college experience.

What Are the Admissions Requirements for Schools in New York?

While each school has different admissions requirements, most require students to take either the SAT or ACT tests. In some cases, the reason these are some of the hardest schools to get into in New York is because the colleges require near perfect scores on these tests.

Many of the schools will also look to see if a student took challenging courses in high school and participated in extracurricular activities. Most of the schools also require personal essays and letters of recommendation as part of your application.

In some cases when applying for a specific type of program, you may need to submit a portfolio or audition tape. Students hoping to apply to West Point will also need specific nominations to be considered for acceptance there.

What's It Like Going to College in New York?

Cost of Living

Many students choose to leave their home states in order to attend college in New York. While transportation can be a big concern for freshmen across the country, living in New York City means you can rely on public transportation to get you just about anywhere.

One of the more challenging aspects of attending college in this state, especially in the city, is the cost of living. The cost of living in New York City makes it the most expensive city in the U.S. and puts it in the list of top 10 most expensive cities in the world.

Statewide, the cost of living is also higher than average, though many cities and towns in New York won't be quite as expensive as the Big Apple itself.

Tuition

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), average in-state tuition and fees at a four-year, public school in New York cost $8,467 during the 2019-20 academic year. Out-of-state students at these schools paid $22,669. Both of these numbers are lower than the nationwide average tuition cost that year for public four-year schools.

Tuition at private schools in New York averaged $41,404 that year, which is higher than the nationwide average for private four-year schools.

How Do I Choose a College in New York?

There's a lot to consider when making your final decision about which school to attend, but oftentimes the decision comes down to money. Attendance at a New York college may depend on whether you're eligible for scholarships or financial aid, and if you can afford the cost of living in such an expensive part of the country. If money is an issue, you may opt for a public school rather than a private school.

It's important to look at the size of the school as well as the makeup of the student body and campus in order to choose the best college for you. In addition to this, keep in mind what you're hoping to study. Some colleges have specific majors they specialize in and may be a better fit for your intended career path.

The 10 Hardest Colleges to Get Into in New York

Columbia University

Acceptance Rate: 7%
Cost of Attendance: The average annual cost is $22,823.

According to Columbia University, more than 100 countries are represented in the student body at this Ivy League school that is one of the hardest colleges to get into in the country. Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it is the fifth oldest school in the country and has a history of producing high-achieving graduates.


Cornell University

Acceptance Rate: 11%
Cost of Attendance: The average annual cost is $37,042.

Cornell is an Ivy League research university located in Ithaca, New York. About a third (30%) of the student body is from New York state, and another 24% are international. The university was founded in 1865 and has a student population of about 25,500 students.


Barnard College

Acceptance Rate: 14%
Cost of Attendance: The average annual cost is $33,122.

Barnard College offers a liberal arts education for women in an intimate setting.The school is also affiliated with Columbia University meaning that students enrolled in Barnard are allowed to take part in activities at Columbia and use the facilities there. That includes Columbia's libraries, athletic fields and even the dining halls. Columbia University is located just across the street from Barnard.

In the fall of 2021, 44% of students on Barnard's campus were students of color, with 45 different states and 58 different countries represented.


The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Acceptance Rate: 18%
Cost of Attendance: The average annual cost is $11,218.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, founded in 1859 and located in the heart of New York City, is known for programs in architecture, art, engineering, humanities, and social sciences. This school is small, with only around 900 students and an 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.


United States Military Academy at West Point

Acceptance Rate: 9%
Cost of Attendance: Free

The United States Military Academy at West Point is in upstate New York and offers a fully funded education for students looking for a degree and a career as an officer in the U.S. Army. As America's first military academy, alumni include 20 astronauts, 89 Olympians, and 96 Rhodes Scholars. West Point requires a nomination to attend.


Hamilton College

Acceptance Rate: 18%
Cost of Attendance: The average annual cost is $22,107.

Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, is one of the few colleges in the country with an open curriculum. Most colleges have a required core curriculum. Hamilton does not. Instead, students work with advisors to devise their own course of study, one that reflects their particular interests and abilities.


New York University

Acceptance Rate: 21%
Cost of Attendance: The average annual cost is $38,569.

New York University is one of the largest and most well respected private universities in the country. The school enrolls over 50,000 students from almost every state and 133 countries. The school conducts nearly $1 billion in research annually.


Colgate University

Acceptance Rate: 27%
Cost of Attendance: The average annual cost is $27,775.

Colgate University is a small, highly selective liberal arts college in Hamilton, New York. The school is known for its high academic standards, top-notch professors, and the rolling hills that make up its stunning campus. The school boasts an average class size of 18 students with a 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.


Vassar College

Acceptance Rate: 25%
Cost of Attendance: The average annual cost is $27,499.

Vassar College is a private liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York less than 100 miles from New York City. Located in the Hudson Valley, Vassar is known for having a beautiful campus that caters to high achievers. Vassar has an 8-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio and enrolls about 2,500 students.


United States Merchant Marine Academy

Acceptance Rate: 24%
Cost of Attendance: The average annual cost is $6,571.

The United States Merchant Marine Academy is a federal service academy in Kings Point, New York. The academy trains students to serve as Merchant Marine Officers and as officers in other branches of the Armed Forces. Courses of study here focus on engineering, transportation, and logistics and security.

Frequently Asked Questions About Colleges in New York

How many colleges are in New York?

According to NCES there are 299 colleges or universities in the state of New York. That includes 79 public schools, 190 private non-profit schools, and 30 for-profit institutions.

With so many schools to choose from students can decide whether they want an urban campus or one with a more bucolic feel. You may also want to consider the size of the campus and the size of the student body, and even a school's governing philosophy. Colleges can also have varying student-to-faculty ratios that can impact the college experience.

Is New York expensive to live for students?

New York City regularly ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world, and the most expensive city in the U.S. The cost of living in New York state in general is higher than average, though many cities and towns in New York aren't as expensive as New York City.

However, according to NCES data from the 2019-20 academic year, both in-state and out-of-state tuition costs at four-year nonprofit schools in New York were slightly lower than the national average. On the flipside, tuition at four-year, nonprofit private schools in New York was higher than the nationwide average.

Is New York a good place to go to college?

New York City is a cultural mecca, home to countless businesses and museums, Wall Street, Broadway, and so much more. If you go to school close to the city, you'll have access to different neighborhoods, cultures, and cuisines from around the world.

If you live further upstate, you'll have the opportunity to explore the varied and rich nature the state has to offer, such as the Adirondack mountains and Niagara Falls.

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.

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