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Top 10 List: World's Toughest Academic Institutions to Get Out of

Updated on March 28, 2015

A VALEDICTORIAN COPING WITH CURRICULUM OVERLOAD...

A SALUTATORIAN PULLING AN ALL NIGHTER...

YALE GRADUATES OVER 90 PERCENT OF ITS STUDENTS...

ARE GRADES BEING INFLATED???

Now that both college admissions and prestige has been discussed, the next logical sequence of questions you should be pondering (especially in regards to attending one of the world’s elite academic institutions) are these:

  • Just how bright will my fellow peers be?
  • What kinds of work ethics and competitiveness will they all share?
  • Will I be able to compete with them for four years?

Why should you be asking yourself these questions? It’s simple: when attending an elite academic institution, you’ll be competing against the scholastic abilities of some of the world’s top academic brains—namely, the kind of kids that eat intellectual adversity for breakfast (e.g., Valedictorians, Salutatorians, etc.) They’re neither intimidated by a professor’s lectures nor are they afraid of his or her credentials. In this same vein, the purpose of this hub is to highlight ten of the world’s toughest academic institutions in regards to its ability to push its very competitive student bodies to the brink of chaos—and perhaps even in total disregard to its graduation rates, which over the years have been used to indicate higher academic quality.

Do a higher graduation rate indicate academic excellence? Venerable institutions such as Yale and Pomona College, (two elite schools with very high graduation rates) would like to think so. Nevertheless, this notion of a correlation between high graduation rates and high academic standards can now be challenged—that is, to say, if on one hand, these same high graduation rates are being used by US News, Forbes and other ranking organizations, as one of the main variables to academic quality, then on the other hand what you now have is an economic incentive by these same elite schools to encourage grade inflation, which is the now infamous practice of overstating a student’s true intellectual capabilities.

THIRTY YEARS AGO COLLEGE WAS NEVER THIS EASY...

Theoretically, what we have nowadays is a post-secondary educational system that prides itself on mediocrity. In brief historical review, completing college wasn’t always so easy—this notion held even truer for elite technological institutions such as Harvey Mud, Cal Tech and MIT. Alas, what this hub sets out to contradict, perhaps in a yesteryear kind of way, is this fallacious notion that graduation at the nation's top schools is somehow guaranteed. In deference to academic rigor, curriculum workload, campus stress, faculty demands and a competitive student body, this hub sets out on a mission to find ten of the world’s toughest academic institutions to graduate from. The following list below highlights ten such schools in ascending order:

#1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MATH/SCIENCE WIZ KIDS ALL GROWN UP...AND CATCHING HELL.

MIT'S CURRICULUM IS THE REAL DEAL, YOU'VE BEEN FORWARNED...

If you're smart enough to get into MIT, then there's a good chance you're either: 1) the smartest person at your high school; and 2) one of the hardest workers, too. Still yet, earning a degree from MIT isn't easy. For the most part, MIT's demanding curricula will test even the most studious of students. Being primarily an engineering school, the students who attend MIT have largely complained about the intensity of its coursework, including being bombarded with out of this world problem sets and the ubiquitous not being able to maintain social lives. Put simply, MIT isn't a school for the average student. Graduating at the top of your class at MIT will require nothing short of divine intervention. Case in point: most of your academic peers will have similar astronomical GPA and SAT scores, some will even have perfect scores...that's insane.



#2 University of Chicago

YOICHIRO NAMBU AWARDED 2008 NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO IS AN INTELLECTUAL POWERHOUSE...

First, the name University of Chicago (UOC), has become synonymous with academic intensity. It's only rival in this area appears to be elite engineering schools such as MIT, Caltech and perhaps Harvey Mudd. Not to overlook Stanford University, but in the areas of academic rigor, UOC appears to be on another level. The reason: the place is teaming with Nobel Laureates. Can you imagine what it would be like to study under the tutelage of some of these guys? Perhaps not! Nevertheless, a UOC student can rest assure that they are learning from the very best in their fields.

Secondly, UOC, an intellectual powerhouse of sort, can brag and boast about one thing and one thing only: pushing its students to their intellectual brinks. In fact, most of your academic life will entail walking to and from the library, which is, of course, is available 24/7 to its students. From a statistical point of reference, at least, the school graduates about 88% of freshmen, which by itself is a pretty astonishing feat, especially since UOC is considered my many in the academic world to be quite hardcore with its core curriculum overloads. Put simply, if you're able to both gain admission to UOC and graduate in four to six years, then there's very little you can't accomplish throughout your career.

Alas, if can be left with very little doubt that a UOC alumni isn't only high IQed but capable of doing big things after graduation.

#3 Harvard University

"AT HARVARD WE DON'T END OUR PHRASES WITH...."

IS HARVARD THE BEST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD???

If you've never visited Harvard University, then chances are you won't understand the true magnitude of what it means to belong to a community of elite intellectuals. Harvard University claims to being the best higher learning institute on this planet isn't figure of speech...it literally is. To excel at Harvard in any subject takes discipline, dedication and the kind of focus reserved only for true academicians. Thus, it can be left with very little doubt, how competitive the school really is; or better yet, what's required of its students on a daily basis. To be a good Harvard student means to be an all-around good academic. On the other hand, there are many students who not only excel at Harvard, but go on to do bigger and better things upon graduation. With this said, if you're somehow blessed at birth with the right kind of cognitive skills to even gain admission to Harvard, you can be rest assured that graduating from the school can't be all that bad, right? Or can it? The truth is that Harvard is indeed harder to get into than to get out of, but that doesn't necessary make the daily course load easy for most Crimson students, especially for those students enrolled in the hard sciences.

Does Harvard engage in grade inflation? Maybe. Maybe not. But what isn't predispose to conjecture is the very fact that the school admits only 6% of its applicants and graduates about 88%...that's a whole lot of Valedictorians not making it out the Crimson.



#4 Swarthmore College

SOME LACs CAN BE PRETTY OLD...

LACs LEAD THE WAY...

Perhaps the name Swarthmore College doesn't ring a bell to many outside of the academic community. Being one of top liberal arts college (LAC), Swarthmore has gain a pretty hefty reputation for being a really competitive environment, piling on the course load at every chance it gets. So much so, that it's now one of the premier higher learning institutions in the entire academic world.

Primarily, kids who decide to turn away from the traditional big national universities and into the direction of a much smaller liberal arts college, do so out of sheer desire for smaller class size, lower faculty to student ratios and perhaps a warmer sense of community involvement. But with Swarthmore, they get what they ask for, because this little LAC most certainly can compete with any big national university in the areas of academic intensity.

#5 Columbia University

"HELLO MY NAME IS CHRESETTA AND I STUDY FOR SPORT..."

STUDENTS AT COLUMBIA STUDY FOR SPORT...

Unlike Harvard, Yale and Princeton (HYP), Columbia University has never had any issues with grade inflation. Nevertheless, its stats are similar to HYP, admitting only 7% and graduating 88% seems to be the standard for most top Ivy League schools. Needless to say, of all four schools, Columbia has gained a notorious reputation for being a bit on the harsh side. So much so, that it now leads all Ivy League schools in the areas of academic intensity. Its core curriculum is about as cut-throat as your going to get. Which begets an intriguing inquiry: Is there ever room for a social life at Columbia? The only logical response appears to be yes--but only if you include studying a sport. In this same vein, students at this fine academic institute of higher learning, take their studies very seriously, pulling all-nighters like it was a national pastime.



#6 Oxford University

OXFORD TRAINS PRETTY ACTRESSES TOO...

OXFORD...A TRAINING GROUND FOR THE WORLD'S NOBILITY...

If you think Harvard, Yale and Princeton is elite, then apparently you know very little about academic excellence. Moreover, Oxford University is the oldest university in the English speaking world; thus, has built up, over the centuries, a reputation for academic intensity like none other. The school's admission standards isn't too shabby either, admitting only those select few standouts that's able to make a lasting impression on the admissions committee. Put simply, it's neither easy to get into Oxford nor is it easy to get out of Oxford--with the latter being a bit harder. Why is this so? Perhaps the reason is rooted in individual conjecture. But what isn't predisposed to speculation is this: because of Oxford powerful brand name, the schools attracts applicants from very high up the economic social strata. In fact, if you were to do a little research about this United Kingdom powerhouse academic institution, what you'll uncover shouldn't be all that surprising--to be exact, the school isn't only an aristocratic enclave for the British monarchy, but it serves to be an official training ground for the world's social elites. Thus by its own admission, the university has largely become a source of immense intellectual capital the world over.

DR. EINSTEIN...AT WORK...AT ETH ZURICH

#7 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich)

ETH ZURICH ON PAR WITH MIT AND CALTECH...

Like most technological schools, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) brings with it a bevy of kudos, including tough admissions, high praise, (and perhaps the most significant of them all) a very high academic intensity. This doesn't mean that the student body isn't capable of coasting along, after all, ETH Zurich has produced some of the world most renowned intellectuals. In fact, Albert Einstein, perhaps the greatest of them all, used to call this very competitive school his home as both a student and professor. Obviously, a man like Dr. Einstein needs no further embellishing. But here's the thing you have to remember about the Swiss: Switzerland, which is a country with a very rich history, language and culture, has made heavy investments into its human capital. Because of this, the universities that exist there, aren't only competitive in mainland Europe, but is easily on par with many of the world's top universities.

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, CANADA'S NUMERO UNO

If one of the official languages of Canada was Spanish, then the University of Toronto, would have a pretty neat slogan: "University of Toronto, Canada's Número Uno" Nonetheless, the official language of Toronto, Canada is English. Therefore, the slogan, at least in the recent past has largely been one of: "University of Toronto, Canada's Number One." Primarily, what you have in Canada is a kind of tug of war between two of the country's elite academic institutes of higher learning. By and large, both McGill University, located in Montreal Quebec and the University of Toronto, located in the town with same name, can both make claims at being Canada's number one, (or Canada's Numéro Un if you're from Quebec). Primarily, the University of Toronto has rightfully earned the top sport on pure merit: academically, the school has been known to be quite progressive in the areas of science and research, thus over the years has built a pretty well known reputation for its academic intensity.


#8 École Normale Supérieure (ENS)

FRENCH SOCIAL ELITES TAKES TIME OFF TO PLAY CHESS...

ÉCOLE NORMALE SUPÉRIERE FRANCE'S YALE

If America can have the Ivy Leagues, then the French can most certainly have Grandes Écoles, (which literally translate to "Grand School," or "Elite Schools"). Similar to its American counterpart, the Grandes Écoles stand above and beyond the rest of the pack. If the word elite means superior, then École Normale Supérieure,(ENS) is without question France's most elite academic institute of higher learning. ENS, perhaps the grandest of all the "Grand Schools," has made a name for itself on both the domestic and international fronts--mainly for being both hard to get into and even harder to get out of. In this same vein, academic intensity at (ENS) can get just as intensive as any of the top Ivies, including Harvard, Yale and Princeton. For the most part, American universities appears to have a competitive advantage in the areas of intellectual capital. Still yet, the French post-secondary educational systems, along with the Grandes Écoles, has produced some of the world's most renown intellectuals. Perhaps it's easy to draw parallel between the two educational systems; nevertheless, the French version appears to be geared towards producing career intellectuals, including elite professors, researchers, philosophers, writers, scientists, statesmen, journalist and members of the clergy.

UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG MEANS BUSINESS...

The Asian continent is home to some of the world's most sort after institutions of higher learning. Top notch universities, such as Seoul National University (SNU) in South Korea, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Kyoto University in Japan, have all seen its share of individual accolades. But of all of Asia's really great academic institutions, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in China, is perhaps one of the most academically challenging. Put simply, HKU means business. Smack dab in one of the world's most powerful financial districts, HKU is perfectly situated to offer its students world class financial education, which explains why some many students from around the globe are eager to study here. Its been this kind of domestic and international demand that has caused this very respected school to adopt some of Asia's most stringent admissions standards. Still further, its record for academic intensity speaks for itself: HKU not only ranks high in continental Asia, but has ranked very high amid some of world's most elite schools. Also, enrolling in HKU isn't going to be easy: for every 12 applicants, only 1 student ever enrolls. Alas, if you plan on staying the entire four years, then you better be on top of your game.


#9 University of Toronto (U of T)

(U OF T) ENGINEERING STUDENTS FEELING THE PAIN...

#10 University of Hong Kong (HKU)

HOW DO YOU SAY FINGER-LICKING GOOD IN CANTONESE???

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