15 things that are harder to get into than Harvard

Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts, school accepted just 5.3% of roughly 37,000 applications for its class of 2019. As Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said last year, “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.

Many things in life — like landing a job at some Wal-Mart locations — are harder to achieve than getting into that prestigious university.

Ben Winsor contributed to the original reporting of this story.

A job at some Walmart locations

Joe Raedle/ Getty Images.

Met with both merriment and protest, Walmart 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% acceptance rate — almost twice as selective as Harvard.

While many Harvard graduates can expect a six-figure income, Walmart employees pocket an average of $11.83 an hour or nearly $25,000 annually, according to the company.

A Job at this Hedge Fund

Screenshot YouTube/Milken Institute
Citadel founder and CEO Ken Griffin

Landing a job on Wall Street is notoriously hard.

But gaining employment at hedge fund giant, Citadel, seems to be nearly impossible.

Founder and CEO Ken Griffin -- who's also a Harvard alum -- noted on CNBC that the hedge fund planned to interview 10,000 candidates to fill 300 job openings.

That's equates to a mere 3% acceptance rate.

The Top 50 Posts On A Friend's Newsfeed

When Facebook compiles your Newsfeed, it chooses from roughly 1,500 different posts.

The company uses an algorithm based on the popularity and relevance of posts, along with other factors, to decide what goes where.

The chances of a certain post finding its way into the top 50 stories on someone's Newsfeed is about 3.3%.

If you want to boost your chances, posts with photos do far better than links or text-based posts.

The Secret Service

Protecting the president of the United States isn't a job for any run-of-the-mill bodyguard or security detail.

The full responsibilities of the Secret Service are, well, secret, but agents remain with the president and his family 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Other important government officials, like the vice president and his or her family, also receive protection, usually even after they leave their positions.

For these reasons, the Secret Service accepted less than 1% of its 15,600 special agent applications in 2011, Bloomberg reported.

A Bootcamp For Data Scientists

Foursquare's Michael Li began work on another startup in 2014: 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.

Li hasn't picked the first class of attendees from a batch of more than 1,000 applicants, representing more than 80 universities. But he told VentureBeat, 'We cannot accept 5.8%,' referring to Harvard's rate. 'It's just not possible.'

Some Prestigious New York City Public High Schools

Wikimedia Commons

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 their 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% were accepted.

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

Getting into a good school in the city of New York is particularly important. While the citywide four-year graduation rate is roughly 65%, results differ wildly between public high schools.

Concord High School in Staten Island had a four-year graduation rate of less than 20% in 2013, according to data published by the local radio station WNYC. Meanwhile, the Green Dot Charter School in the Bronx had a four-year graduation rate of nearly 99%.

A Job At McDonald's (Sometimes)

McDonald's hasn't gone on a national hiring spree this year, but at one point, it was more difficult to land a job there than a spot at Harvard.

In 2011, McDonald's held a gigantic job fair. It advertised 50,000 jobs and ended up hiring 24% more than that -- 62,000.

One million people applied for positions, which made the odds of getting hired 6.2%.

While Harvard has gotten even more selective, the school accepted about 7% of applicants in 2011.

The Indian Institute Of Management

While Harvard lets in about 5.9% of applicants, not even 1% get accepted to India's top business school, Bloomberg Businessweek reported in 2013.

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% 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 received 44,000 applications for 400 jobs.

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

A Job At Google

Google+ Christopher Katsaros

After leaving Microsoft in 2009, Don Dodge became a Developer Advocate for Google.

Within a year, he posted a lengthy explanation of the hiring process there on his personal blog, hinting at the company's level of exclusivity, The Next Web reported.

In his words, Google receives about one million applications every year -- but hires only 1,000 to 4,000 people. Best-case scenario, that means only 0.4% of hopefuls land a job at Google.

They go through recruiter screening, two or three phone interviews, and then four or five in-person ones on site, not to mention jumping through other professional hoops. It's safe to say Harvard doesn't screen nearly as thoroughly.

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