Going to university is a very exciting time in anyone’s life, especially if you choose to study abroad! It looks great on your CV (or resume depending on where you’re from) and it can help you to land a job once you’ve graduated.

But no matter where you are in the world, there will always be competition to bag a place in some of the most prestigious universities. This is particularly true in countries that are very densely populated like the US, UK, China and India.

And with the acceptance rate determined based on applicants per seat, this is not merely a case of who is good enough. Often, there will be thousands of talented students who apply but there is simply not enough space to admit them all.

With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of the hardest universities to get into from around the world.

Stanford University

1. Stanford University

Kicking off in the USA, lots of the better-known and more prestigious universities (or colleges as Americans call them) are harder to get into due to high application rates and low acceptance. Perhaps the toughest of all is Stanford University.

Known for producing some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley as well as over 30 billionaires, 17 astronauts and 60 Nobel Laureates, it’s easy to see why competition is high. And with a ridiculously low acceptance rate of around 4.8% of applicants, it’s easy to see why this has made it to the top of the list.

2. Harvard University

Another famous American university is Harvard and again, this is another tough nut to crack. Like Stanford, Harvard has produced some incredible graduates including eight US presidents, 130 Nobel Laureates and several Heads of States.

So it’s no wonder this Ivy League institution is selective of its students. And with an admission rate of 5.4% as well as a tough admission process, you have to be a strong contender to get a place.

Yale University at Dusk

3. Yale University

Still in America and with another Ivy League university, Yale is known as the birthplace of doctoral education in the US as it awarded the first three PhD degrees in the country. This very famous institute only accepts 6% of those who apply! Making Yale another one of not just America’s, but of the world’s, toughest universities to get into.

Hyogo College of Medicine

4. Hyogo College of Medicine

Let’s take a quick break from the US now and go over to Japan. The Hyogo College of Medicine is a private medical sciences institution that was only granted University accreditation in 2004. Despite being a fairly new university, it quickly became recognised as one of the toughest to get into, with a low acceptance rate of just 7%.

Princeton University

5. Princeton University

Back in the US now, Princeton is the fourth oldest university in America and much like it’s fellow Ivy League universities, acceptance rates at Princeton are pretty low at just 7%.

one thing’s for sure, it’s clear from the first few examples on our list that there are some very tough application processes if you hope to make it into one of America’s top universities.UNAM

6. National Autonomous University of Mexico

The National Autonomous University of Mexico is a public research university that has been granted freedom from the government. This means it can define its own curriculum and manage its own budget. Many say this has had a positive impact on independence and education there but with an acceptance rate of just 8%, it’s still very tough to secure a place.

London School of Economics and Political Science

7. London School of Economics and Political Science

Although many often associate Oxford and Cambridge with some of the toughest UK universities to go to, actually the London School of Economics and Political Science tops the list.

In the past this university has produced thought leaders in social sciences and heads of states and accepts students from across the globe, representing 155 countries. No wonder competition is so fierce with an acceptance rate as low as 8.9%.


8. RWTH Aachen University

RWTH Aachen University is a public university in Germany and is considered to be the largest technical university in the country. Despite being split into two areas, midtown and the Melaten district, competition to get a place is still tough. With an acceptance rate of 10%, only one in 10 applicants will be able to attend.

University College Dublin

9. University College Dublin

University College Dublin is the largest university in Ireland. Having produced five Nobel Laureates so far, the university is frequently ranked amongst some of the top universities in Europe.

Trent Building Facade

10. University of Nottingham

Another UK institution, the University of Nottingham, operates from four campuses in Nottinghamshire but also includes two overseas campuses, in China and Malaysia. Yet despite the broad scope of this incredible university, it is still tough to get in as the acceptance rate is around just 11% of applicants.

Far Eastern Federal University           

11. Far Eastern Federal University

Moving east now, the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) is based in Russia and has been around since 1899. Though the 12% acceptance rate is higher than some of the other universities on our list, this is still competitively low for students in the east hoping to secure a place here.

Maughan Library

12. King’s College London

The final university on our list takes us back to the UK but no, it’s still not Oxford or Cambridge. With an acceptance rate of 13% King’s College London is more competitive than both of these. And this is unsurprising given that it was established by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829 and is, therefore, the fourth oldest university in England.

Are you thinking about university?

So there you have it, a list of 12 of the most competitive universities from around the globe.

That being said, just because these universities are tough to get into, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply if you want to attend!

You never know, you could be one of the very lucky and very talented individuals that beats the odds and gets accepted.

If you’re heading off to University this year then check out our student shipping service.