2024 Hardest Colleges to Get Into in Illinois

The Prairie State is home to more than 100 four-year public and private, not-for-profit colleges. Find out which ones are the hardest colleges to get into in Illinois.

2024 Hardest Colleges to Get Into in Illinois
Adam Jones, Ph.D.

The Prairie State , as Illinois is called, is home to more than 100 four-year public and private, not-for-profit colleges that award, at a minimum, bachelor’s degrees. This makes it one of the states with the most colleges in America. With so many colleges to choose from in Illinois, it can be very difficult to decide on which schools to apply to. 

While there are different criteria when researching colleges that you should consider, if you have a strong academic record in high school as well as other critical factors going for you, such as good SAT or ACT scores, participation in extracurricular activities, and demonstrated leadership skills, then you might want to apply to more selective colleges in Illinois. And out of Illinois’s vast number of schools, there are several colleges and universities that are very competitive in their acceptance rates due to their well-established academic rigor and programs.

Therefore, in order to find out the hardest colleges to get into in Illinois, BrokeScholar analyzed all the schools in the state that are four-year institutions, including both public colleges and private, not for-profit colleges, that award bachelor’s degrees or higher. Sourcing the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as well as from individual college websites, we analyzed and ranked all colleges in Illinois in terms of how difficult they are to gain acceptance to. 

Read on to find out the answer to what are the hardest colleges to get into in Illinois.

Table of Contents

What Are the Hardest Colleges to Get Into in Illinois?

The top-10 list of the hardest colleges to get into in Illinois is composed of 7 private, not-for-profit colleges and 3 public colleges, including famous names like the University of Illinois. That school is also the largest college to make our list of the toughest Illinois colleges to get into.

Of the top-10 hardest colleges to get into in Illinois, the one with the highest admission rate is still only 60%, well below the average undergraduate acceptance rate for Illinois as a whole. The No. 1 hardest college to get into is the University of Chicago, which has an undergraduate acceptance rate of a mere 5%.

Below you’ll find a list of the 10 hardest colleges to get into in Illinois, listed in order of lowest acceptance rate to highest acceptance rate. Also included in the breakdown below are the costs of tuition and required fees (though required fees do not include room and board).


Undergraduate Acceptance Rate

Percent Admitted Who Enrolled

Undergraduate Population

In-State Tuition and Required Fees

Out-of-State Tuition and Required Fees

University of Chicago






Northwestern University






Methodist College






Illinois Wesleyan University






University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign






Principia College






Chicago State University






Rockford University






Governors State University






Judson University






No. 1 ranking University of Chicago might be the hardest college to get into, but No. 2 Northwestern has it beat in terms of graduation rates. Northwestern University’s graduation rate is 97% versus UChicago’s 96%. However, the University of Chicago boasts the highest percentage of applicants admitted who proceed to enroll. Of the 5% of applicants admitted to UChicago, an incredible 85% proceed to attend the school.

The Bottom Line on the Hardest Colleges to Get Into in Illinois

In the realm of higher education, the prestige and competitiveness of Illinois's top institutions can't be understated. Earning a spot in one of these esteemed colleges is a testament to a student's dedication, academic prowess, and extracurricular achievements. However, once that acceptance letter is in hand, the reality of tuition, room and board, and other expenses can become a daunting prospect for many families. This underscores the vital importance of scholarships in today's educational landscape. Scholarships not only provide the financial relief many students need, but they also recognize and reward academic and personal accomplishments.

Moreover, in an era where every penny counts, student discounts offer another avenue to ease the burden of college costs. From textbooks to transportation and from dining to digital services, student discounts can significantly reduce the out-of-pocket expenses that quickly add up. As students aspire to join the ranks of Illinois's hardest colleges to get into, it's essential they also arm themselves with the knowledge of financial aid and discounts available. By combining academic ambition with financial savvy, students can truly make the most of their college experience in Illinois.

Andrew DePietro

Author: Andrew DePietro

Senior Researcher, and Content Strategist

Andrew DePietro is a finance writer covering topics such as entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and college for BrokeScholar, Forbes, CreditKarma, and more.