List of the Most Selective Graduate Schools

Dec 20, 2019

Most of the top ranked national schools have extremely competitive acceptance rates. Only a limited number of students are selected for postgraduate programs at the top schools. Find out about rankings, acceptance rates and other stand-out features for the most selective graduate schools in the country.

Highly selective graduate schools are hard to get into, but they provide excellent educational opportunities. These schools are often well-ranked in national metrics, and they can be found across the U.S.

School Overviews

The University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Duke University are some of the nation's most selective graduate schools. Students admitted into graduate programs at these institutions have high GPAs and top scores on entrance exams.

University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

School Highlight: Alumni of The Wharton School include John Sculley, Jeff Weiner, and J.D. Power III.

The University of Pennsylvania was tied for sixth among national universities by U.S. News and World Report in 2020. The university has eight graduate schools and offers programs in law, medicine, engineering, business, education and design. The graduate schools are highly ranked and admission is competitive. The Wharton School, for example, had the third best Executive MBA program in the nation according to 2020 rankings by U.S. News and World Report. For 2017, the acceptance rate at the business school was 19.8%, and the mean GMAT score was 732. The School of Medicine had a 5.4% acceptance rate in 2017, and applicants had a median undergraduate GPA of 3.87 and total MCAT score of 38.

Columbia University in New York, New York

School Highlight: Alumni of the business school includes Gail J. McGovern, Henry Kravis and Shelly Lazarus.

Columbia University was tied for third among national universities in 2020 by U.S. News and World Report. The university's well-respected graduate schools offer advanced study in architecture, law, medicine, business and the arts. Columbia's medical school had a 4.0% acceptance rate in 2017. Applicants accepted into the program generally had a 3.82 GPA and scored 36 on the MCAT total score. The acceptance rate at the business school was 18% in 2017. The average score on the GMAT was 715, and the average undergraduate GPA was 3.50.

Duke University in Durham, NC

School Highlight: The School of Engineering had a 24.5% overall acceptance rate in 2017.

The average GPA for students entering the master's degree program at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, as of 2017, was 3.5, while the average GPA for the entering doctoral program class was 3.7. The average GPA for entrants to the law school was 3.76, and the overall acceptance rate was 23.3%. The median LSAT score was 169. Well-known alumni of Duke's law school include Richard Nixon and Tucker Max.

Most Selective Graduate Schools

Here are some more highly selective graduate schools:

  • Georgetown University's School of Medicine in Washington, DC, accepted just 796 applicants out of almost 12,700 for 2020.
  • Harvard University's graduate business school in Cambridge, MA, typically admits only 9.7% of students who apply.
  • Northwestern University's business graduate school, which ranked 6th in the nation in 2020 by U.S. News and World Report, accepted 20.6% of its 2017 applicants; the average GMAT score for those accepted was 724. The school is in Evanston, IL.
  • Stanford University's Law School in Stanford, CA, was tied for second in the nation by U.S. News and World Report in 2020 and accepted only 11.3% of 2017 applicants.
  • The University of Notre Dame's graduate school accepted 17% of its nearly 5,000 applicants in 2014. The school is in Notre Dame, IN.
  • Vanderbilt University's School of Engineering in Nashville, TN, accepted 17.1% of applicants in 2017.
  • At Washington University in St. Louis, programs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences typically accept 10-20% of students who apply. The school is located in Saint Louis, MO.
  • Yale University's Law School in New Haven, CT, ranked 1st in the nation by U.S. News and World Report in 2017, had an 9.7% acceptance rate in 2017.

When looking for highly selective schools, it is important to consider overall acceptance rates, incoming student test scores and undergraduate GPAs.

Next: View Schools

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?