Hidden Ivy League Schools: What You Need To Know

group of students talking about hidden ivy league schools
December 21, 2022
What Are ‘Hidden Ivies’?List of Hidden Ivy CollegesBenefits of Hidden IviesHow to Get Into a Hidden Ivy SchoolHidden Ivy FAQs

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/18/22

What is a Hidden Ivy school? How can you get in? Keep on reading to find out the answers to these questions and more!

When it’s time to build your college list, you might be overwhelmed by choice at first. While you may have heard of Ivy League schools and their prestige, there are other schools called “Hidden Ivies” you should also consider. 

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about these schools, including what they are, a complete list of Hidden Ivy colleges, their benefits, and how to tailor your application to boost your acceptance chances. 

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What Are ‘Hidden Ivies?’ 

Experts Howard and Matthew Greene introduced the term "Hidden Ivies" in their 2000 book with the same name. The eight Ivy League schools are famous for their name recognition, prestige, and notable alumni. Hidden Ivies share similarities with the Ivy League, including their selectivity and liberal arts education offerings. 

The Ivy League had nothing to do with academic excellence at its conception. Initially, it was an athletic conference established in 1954 by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1. 

Today, these schools connote a highly selective school committed to rigorous academics. Hidden Ivies are schools that share some of the Ivy League’s defining traits. 

List of the Hidden Ivies

There are many colleges considered “Hidden Ivies.” Some of these colleges are relatively small but offer a comprehensive liberal arts education on par with the nation’s best schools. This is a list of all Hidden Ivy schools:

There are many options to consider!

Benefits of Hidden Ivies 

The third edition of The Hidden Ivies describes numerous benefits of Ivy League and Hidden Ivy schools.

infographic outlining the benefits of hidden ivies

An Exceptional Education 

Any school with an “Ivy” designation is committed to its students’ academic excellence and exploration, focusing on liberal arts-based education. Howard and Matthew Greene wrote that a liberal arts education is crucial and aims to help graduates: 

Many schools aim to prepare students for leadership so they can change communities, countries, and the world for the better. If you attend a Hidden Ivy, know that you’ll enjoy a varied curriculum and well-rounded education. 

Education from any Hidden Ivy League school provides the tools you need to succeed after graduation, whether you want to go to graduate school or enter the workforce. 

Qualified Faculty

High-caliber faculty is one of the defining factors of any Ivy school. Excellent faculty is a staple of a great education: often, these professors hold numerous degrees in the area of their expertise, have engaged in research, and have published books or journals relating to their work. 

Any Hidden Ivy university can provide multiple opportunities for undergraduates, such as: 

A low faculty-student ratio is another hallmark of an excellent academic environment. Many of the Hidden Ivies are pretty small, meaning you can expect to have a more intimate learning experience.

Some of the Hidden Ivies with the lowest recent student-to-faculty ratios are Pomona College, the University of Richmond, Skidmore College, and Vassar College. 

Picture of Pomona College building
Source: Pomona College

Many Resources Available

Each Hidden Ivy college has many resources available for students. A great way to gauge a school’s resource availability is to assess the size of its endowment relative to the student body’s size. Does the college have a relatively high amount of investments and funds compared to the number of students enrolled? 

If so, the school can offer the academic and social experiences you crave from a prestigious institution. Howard and Matthew Greene said, “The commitment of the Ivies and the Hidden Ivies to undergraduate education is in part indicated by the wealth of the school in relation to the number of undergraduates on campus.” 

The Greenes describe Hidden Ivy resources, such as: 

Choosing a Hidden Ivy school means you’ll have these resources at your fingertips. 

Strong Educational and Leadership Team

Hidden Ivies have great, experienced leadership teams at their forefront who are highly educated and have advanced academic training.

Their guidance also reinforces the mission and goals of each college. How well a college’s mission is upheld speaks to a school’s history and values. Top colleges have a clear direction of where they’re going and how they plan to achieve their missions. 

Excellent Outcomes and Return on Investment 

Quantifiable outcomes such as retention and graduation rates are often relatively good at Hidden Ivy schools. 

Graduation rates are typically measured by five or six years to account for major changes, retaking classes, taking time off, or other personal reasons. However, recent data shows many Hidden Ivy schools had high four-year graduation rates.

A Diverse Student Body 

Diversity is key to enhancing the college experience and mixing students from various backgrounds, interests, and abilities. The Greenes said, “One of the most important findings in our interviews with thousands of undergrads in elite colleges was the powerful influence of their peers on the individual’s learning experience.”

Although important, diversity means much more than race and ethnicity. Other factors like socioeconomic status, geographical location, sexual orientation, and political and religious affiliations make for a more varied college experience. 

How to Get Into a Hidden Ivy School

Although these schools are not formally part of the Ivy League, their programs can be relatively competitive. Each school’s selectivity means you must submit a polished application to stand out. Below are tips to help you maximize your chances of acceptance. 

Infographic outlining how to get into a hidden ivy school

Focus on Your GPA and Test Scores

Most schools use a holistic review process, but a higher GPA and stellar test scores fortify any application. Shooting for a 4.0 GPA can be tricky, but you should always strive to do your best. 

If you’re in your senior year and don’t have much time to boost your GPA, try your best in your final classes, but focus on your SAT or ACT scores.

Achieving high test scores means developing a consistent study schedule that works for you, identifying your strengths and weaknesses and covering them accordingly, and ensuring you have the knowledge you need to attain higher scores. 

Collect Strong Recommendation Letters

Recommendation letters matter. They provide a fresh perspective on your character, intellect, personality, and growth. One way to ensure you receive good recommendations is to ask for them as soon as possible. When the application season starts, remember that many of your peers seek their own letters. 

You should also consider who you ask for these letters. Most colleges want recommendations from teachers who taught you core subject areas in your junior or senior years. Choose recommenders who know you well and with whom you’ve forged a deeper relationship.

Think critically about what you want to be portrayed in your letters, and ask someone who you know will write an enthusiastic recommendation.

Highlight Your Extracurricular Activities and Community Service 

Your extracurricular activities and community service endeavors show your interests, how you spend your time, and how you’ve contributed to your community. 

Drew Riley, associate dean of admission for Hidden Ivy school Colgate University, sometimes said admissions officers want to see “that applicants are motivated not just by improving themselves – but their communities too – through activities.” 

He continues, “Admissions officers read hundreds – if not thousands – of applications a year and can tell if students aren’t being authentic and are just participating in activities because they think it will build their resume for college.”

Whatever extracurricular activities or community service projects you want to undertake, ensure you’re doing them because you want to, not just because you think they’ll “look good” on your college applications. 

Write Impactful Essays

As cliche as it sounds, your essays are the heart and soul of your application. These essays show your writing skills and stories that offer a glimpse of your life, background, personality, and experiences.

You’ll need to write at least one personal essay using the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Many schools require supplemental essays that ask more focused questions on why you want to attend the school and how you plan to contribute to its culture. 

Ensure you spend time brainstorming ideas and crafting colorful narratives that captivate your reader. Remember, your essays don’t have to be about some grand experience; excellent essays expand on your application, offer new information, and let your personality shine.

Hidden Ivy FAQs

Read on to learn more about the Hidden Ivy League.

1. Should I Apply to Hidden Ivy Schools?

The decision to apply to any school is ultimately yours to make. That said, you shouldn’t apply to schools based on their prestige; consider what each school offers and choose which colleges would be your best fit. If one or some of those colleges happen to be Hidden Ivy schools, there’s no reason not to apply. 

2. Are Ivy League Schools Better Than the Hidden Ivies? 

Ivy League schools typically have more name recognition and a wider-recognized reputation than Hidden Ivies, but that doesn’t necessarily make them better schools. All schools have different offerings; what’s best for some may not be right for others. 

3. Are Any Hidden Ivies Top-Ranked Schools? 

Yes, some of the Hidden Ivies are named in U.S. News World and Report’s list of Best National Universities. Some Hidden Ivy schools that make the top 25 are: 

4. Which Hidden Ivy School Is Best for Me? 

Finding your best-fit schools requires introspection. Even if you’re unsure what major you want to pick, you should evaluate what you want out of the college experience and ask yourself these questions: 

After answering these questions, you can start doing school research and see what schools align best with your interests and needs. 

6. Do All Hidden Ivy Schools Have Similar Acceptance Rates?

No, acceptance rates vary significantly among Hidden Ivy schools. For example, recent class profile data shows Stanford’s acceptance rate is 4%. On the other hand, Lehigh University’s recent acceptance rate was 46%. 

7. How Many Hidden Ivies Are There? 

There are 63 Hidden Ivy League schools.  

8. Is Tufts a Hidden Ivy? 

Yes, Tufts is on the Hidden Ivy list. 

Final Thoughts

Don’t count out the Hidden Ivies while building your college list. These schools boast some of the Ivy League’s wonderful traits, making them prestigious and excellent choices. 

Remember, the best schools are ones that mesh with your interests and educational goals. If you present a genuine representation of yourself and your goals, you’ll have a better chance of acceptance at any Hidden Ivy school you choose. 

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