Though the United States offers thousands of colleges and universities for high school students to choose from, it just so happens that some colleges receive many more applicants than others. This could be for many reasons. For instance, the school is bigger and has a better reputation than others, the school has a large sports following, it's located in a popular city on a nice campus or it has a positive outlook for job prospects upon graduation for their alumni.
Whatever the reason or reasons may be, if you want to go to a college like this then you may face some serious competition due to the high number of applicants at each school. However, it's important to keep in mind that just because a school has a high number of applicants, it may also have the capacity to admit many students like yourself. Though it's a wise thing to consider the number of applicants on average that each school has, the real number you should be looking at is the acceptance rate.
Here are the top 20 colleges with the most applications. For more information on our methodology and to dig deeper into rankings, visit our study, Colleges With the Most Applications.
1. University of California, Los Angeles
According to data collected by the University of California, Los Angeles, also known as UCLA, there were 102,242 applicants total for the freshman class of 2017. This number included California residents, out-of-state residents and international students combined. Of all of these students who applied, only 16,456 of them were admitted, which is just a 16 percent acceptance rate.
2. University of California, San Diego
The University of California, San Diego, also known as UCSD, also had a high number of applicants, according to the latest data from 2016. For the Fall 2016 semester, there were 84,209 applicants aiming to land their spot in the freshman class. Of those, 30,273 were admitted, which is a much better acceptance rate than that of UCLA, at 36 percent. Because the number of applicants has continued to increase every year since 2011, we can only predict that this number will continue to grow as the years go on.
3. University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley admissions office released student profile data as recently as 2018. In 2018, there were 89,615 applicants to the freshman class, of which 13,558 were accepted. This is a bit different from the year before in 2017, in which there were 85,054 applicants but 15,567 were admitted. In 2017, that was an 18.3 percent acceptance rate, which was higher than in 2018, which had a 15.1 percent acceptance rate among applicants.
4. University of California, Irvine
The University of California, Irvine has student profile information on the University of California website for each branch in the University of California network. In the fall semester of 2018, UC Irvine had 95,062 students apply to the freshman class, and of those, 27,334 were accepted. That's a 28.8 percent admission rate, which is around average for most of these schools.
5. University of California, Santa Barbara
The University of California, Santa Barbara has one of the highest admissions rates among the University of California schools as well as other schools throughout the country that have a high number of applicants every year. For the freshman class of 2018, there were 92,305 applicants, of which 29,782 were accepted. This was a 32.3 acceptance rate, which is something to consider if you're interested in applying to the school.
6. University of California, Davis
Although the University of California, Santa Barbara had a very high acceptance rate for applicants in 2018, it was the University of California, Davis or UC Davis, that took the lead with a 41.2 overall acceptance rate. There were 32,179 applicants admitted to the school out of 78,024 applicants total. Though the number of applicants is significantly lower than other University of California schools, the University of California, Davis could be another great option due to this high acceptance rate.
7. California State University, Long Beach
The Office of Public Affairs at California State University, Long Beach, also commonly referred to as Long Beach State University, reports that there was a record-breaking number of applicants to this school in 2018. For the Fall 2018 term, there were more than 102,000 undergraduate applicants, 69,000 which were first-time freshman applicants and the other being 33,000 transfer applicants. There were no details regarding the acceptance rate or how many students enrolled.
8. San Diego State University
Because California is the most populated state in the entire country, it's no wonder that its schools have the highest number of applicants as well. With the information provided based on specific data collected by the school, San Diego State University had 14,729 applicants for the 2017-2018 school year, and that was just for the first-time freshman. Of those, 7,339 were accepted.
9. New York University
Over on the other side of the country, New York University, also referred to as NYU, continually has a high number of applicants year after year. However, the numbers are a bit skewed compared to other schools, considering NYU has multiple campuses across the world, including one in Shanghai and one in Abu Dhabi. When the school collects data on admissions, it reports data from all of these schools, and according to a news story on their website, over 75,000 applied in 2018. Of those, there were 15,722 accepted to one of the campuses. This number also contributed to the most diverse number of applicants at NYU to date.
10. Boston University
While the Northeast certainly has the highest concentration of Ivy League Schools in the country, that doesn't mean that there aren't other schools in the region that are just as competitive or desirable among incoming college freshman. In 2018, Boston University had 64,473 applicants for the freshman class. Of those, 22 percent were admitted and 3,300 students enrolled. Based on this information, there's no question that this school is very particular when it comes to their applicants.
11. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is one of the most popular schools in the country due to the reputation of its academics and athletics. Therefore, if you want to get into this school, you're going to have to work very hard to make your application stand out. After all, the numbers speak for themselves. In 2018, this school had a high number of applicants at 65,684 to the freshman class. Of those, only 15,468 students were sent acceptance letters.
12. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is yet another reputable school in the Golden State of California, having had 56,675 students apply for the freshman class in the 2017 to 2018 school year. Of those thousands of applicants, only 9,042 were admitted. Similar to the University of California-Los Angeles, that's only an approximate 16 percent acceptance rate among applicants.
13. Pennsylvania State University
Even though many people associate Pennsylvania with the Ivy League school, UPenn, not everyone has the opportunity to go there. But, if you're still interested in going to a large and well-known school with excellent academics in the state of Pennsylvania, then Pennsylvania State University, also known as Penn State, is another great choice. While it may not be as hard to get in here as it is to get into UPenn, you should still expect to compete with many other outstanding applicants. According to their Admission and University Statistics, there were 70,657 students that applied for the Class of 2022. Of those, 15,947 freshmen enrolled to start school in the fall of 2018.
14. Northeastern University
In addition to Boston University, another popular school in the city of Boston is Northeastern University. This school is also quite competitive due to the number of students that apply each year as well as the acceptance rates. The Common Data Set released by Northeastern University provides many details about applicants of the 2017 to 2018 school year, including the number of applicants by gender. In that year, there were 24,993 men who applied as first-time freshman, and 29,216 women who applied as first-time freshman, which was a total of 54,209 applicants overall. Of those, only 14,876 were accepted.
15. University of California, Santa Cruz
The University of California, Santa Cruz, also referred to as UC Santa Cruz, may sometimes be overshadowed by the larger University of California Schools like UCLA or UC-Berkeley. But make no mistake. This school also has a high number of applicants compared to other schools around the country. While it is a bit difficult to find clear information regarding the number of applicants, an article published in the college's online news center reports that there were 67,000 applicants for fall of 2018, 35,000 of which were accepted. This leads to a fairly high acceptance rate.
16. University of Minnesota Twin Cities
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is a popular school for those interested in studying somewhere in the Midwest. It is also consistently ranked as one of the best schools in the United States. This is an excellent school that received 42,000 applicants for incoming freshmen for the 2017 school year. Of those that applied, only 5,800 were accepted, which is a number that is indicative of the competitiveness of this university.
17. Purdue University
Purdue University, located in Indiana, continually has a high number of applicants each and every year. According to the university's Freshman Class Profile which describes the numerical details of each of the applicants, such as their gender, GPA, ethnicity, etc., there were 48,916 total applicants to the school in fall of 2017. Of those applicants, 7,567 were accepted.
18. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
The California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, also commonly referred to as Cal Poly, offers various programs in majors such as agriculture, business and engineering. With such great career options, many students choose this school in order to learn important skills for their future. For the fall of 2018, there were 54,659 applicants to the school, and 16,465 were accepted for admittance.
19. The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin, home of the Longhorns, is another well-known school for those who want to go somewhere with a large student body and a even better-known sports program. According to the university's Common Data Set for 2017-2018, there were 25,137 male applicants and 25,896 female applicants that year. That's a total of 51,033 applicants overall, 18,620 of whom were accepted.
20. Cornell University
The famous Ivy League School Cornell University, located in New York State, is competitive for all kinds of reasons. Of course, this isn't much different than any other Ivy League school in the country. But, interestingly enough, while Cornell has the highest number of applicants out of all the Ivy League Schools, it also has the highest acceptance rate of these schools as well. For instance, the Class of 2021 had 47,039 applicants and of these, 5,962 students were given their prized acceptance letters.
- UCLA Admissions: Profile of Admitted Freshman Fall 2017
- USCD: First-Time Freshman
- Berkeley Admissions: Student Profile
- UC Admissions: UC Irvine Freshman Admission Profile
- UC Admissions: UC Santa Barbara Freshman Admission Profile
- UC Admissions: UC Davis Freshman Admission Profile
- Sandiego.edu: 2017-2018 Common Data Set
- NYU.edu: NYU Admits Most Selective and Most Diverse Class in History
- BU Admissions: Profile of Admitted Students
- UMich Admissions: Student Profile
- USC.edu: First-Year Student Profile and Admission Information
- PSU Admissions: Admission and University Statistics
- Northeastern University: Facts
- UCSC News: Campus Marks New Record for Transfer Admissions Offers
- UMN Admissions: Fall 2018 Admission Decision Information
- Purdue Admissions: Undergraduate Admissions
- CalPoly.edu: Admissions
Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.