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Ten things that are harder to get into than Harvard

Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities. However, many things in life are harder to achieve than getting into this prestigious university.

Business Insider|
Updated: Apr 14, 2015, 01.13 PM IST
Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities. However, many things in life are harder to achieve than getting into this prestigious university. (Image: Getty Images)
Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities. However, many things in life are harder to achieve than getting into this prestigious university. (Image: Getty Images)
Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities in the world and also one of the most selective. The school acccepted just 5.33 per cent of applicants this year, making it the most competitive Ivy League school in the US.
As Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust once said, "We could fill our class twice over with valedictorians."

The school seeks out students who not only have high grades, but also have outstanding achievements under their belts - from overcoming homelessness to starting their own nonprofits. The students who manage to catch the attention of admissions officers overcome exceptional odds, but they should maintain some perspective.

However, many things in life - like landing a job at some Wal-Mart locations - are harder to achieve than getting into this prestigious university.

A job at some Wal-Mart locations

Met with both merriment and protest, Wal-Mart came to Washington, D.C., at the end of 2013. The store received more than 23,000 applications but hired just 600 associates, NBC Washington reported. That's a 2.6 per cent acceptance rate — almost twice as selective as Harvard's.

While many Harvard graduates can expect a six-figure income, Wal-Mart cashiers pocket an average of $8.48 an hour, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

The American dream

A recent report from researchers at Harvard and Berkeley Universities shows that in many major US cities, it's very hard to achieve a rags-to-riches success story.

The report analyzes the number of people who were born into the lowest income quintile but ended up in the highest income quintile. The results don't bode well for upward socioeconomic mobility.

The chances were below 5 per cent in Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Milwaukee; and Indianapolis.
Even at the top of the list, people in San Jose, California, showed just a 12.9 per cent chance of living the American dream.

A job at Goldman Sachs

In 2014, Goldman Sachs hired just 3 per cent of more than 267,000 job applicants. It's no surprise so many people want to work there, as Fortune magazine named Goldman one of the 100 best places to work in 2015. Since the ranking began in 1984, Goldman is one of just five companies that made the list every year.

A bootcamp for data scientists

In 2014, Foursquare's Michael Li began work on another startup: The Data Incubator. It's essentially a boot camp for data scientists. While many programming Ph.D.s have solid research skills, few can meet the pace of a startup. They need training, and only a select group are chosen. "We accept fewer than 5 per cent of our advanced-degree applicants," its website states.

Some Prestigious New York City Public High Schools

Some of New York's most in-demand public high schools are actually harder to get into than Harvard, as Brooklyn Magazine has noted. For its September 2014 admission, 16,675 students listed the Brooklyn Latin School as a choice on their application, according to the New York City Department of Education. However, fewer than 3 per cent were accepted.

Meanwhile, the High School of American Studies in the Bronx has an acceptance rate of around 1 per cent, as does the Queens High School for the Sciences at York College.

The Indian Institute Of Management

While Harvard lets in about 5.3 per cent of applicants, not even 1 per cent get accepted to India's insanely selective Institute of Management, BloombergBusinessweek reported last year.

The Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIM-A) received 173,866 for its 2012-2014 class. The university has the luxury of being extra choosy because of India's large population and the vast number of students with outstanding grades and test scores.

Delta's flight attendant corps

You have less than a 1 per cent chance becoming a Delta Flight Attendant, according to Bloomberg. In 2010, Delta, the world's second-largest air carrier, received 100,000 applications for 1,000 jobs. In 2013, it recieved 44,000 applications for 400 jobs.

Foreign language skills are highly valued by the company, with as many as 30 per cent of hires speaking a second language.

The ranks of successful startups

Y Combinator is an exclusive startup program — sort of a startup school — founded by Paul Graham. Despite being extraordinarily picky and only accepting fewer than 3 per cent of applicants, Y Combinator considers only 10 per cent of its "graduate" startups successful after a few years.

By putting those two statistics together, Business Insider's own Henry Blodget has estimated the success rate of startup companies could be as low as 0.4 per cent.

It's safe to say the smartest entrepreneurs are those with a backup plan.

A job at Google

Google gets around 3 million applications a year but only hires about 7,000 people, meaning that you have a less than 1 per cent chance of getting hired, as Quartz has reported.

"That means only one in 428 applicants end up with a job, making it far more selective than institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford," Quartz noted. "Those are pretty thin odds ..."

A spot at Stanford

Stanford University is the most competitive college in America — even more competitive than Harvard. This month, it announced that its admission rate for the class of 2019 is just 5.05 per cent.

With close ties to Silicon Valley, Stanford was once dubbed by The New Yorker "Get Rich U." Its famous graduates include former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, as well as several Supreme Court justices and Nobel Prize winners.

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