How to Get Into the Ivy League as an International Student

International student
April 18, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/18/24

Looking for resources on how to get into an ivy league school as an international student? You’re in luck! Follow along for our top Ivy League tips for international students.

As some of the most prestigious higher learning institutions in the U.S, Ivy League schools are often a desirable option for international students to complete their undergraduate education. Eight schools fall under the Ivy League umbrella:

Here we’ll walk you through how you can get into the Ivy League as an international student, Ivy League tuition for international students, why these schools matter, Ivy League requirements for international students, and your chances of acceptance.

Why Does the Ivy League Matter for International Students? 

Ivy League schools boast great name recognition across the U.S. and even some other parts of the world. The chances are your parents or guardians may recognize the Ivy League school you want to attend. But how hard is it to get into an ivy league school as an international student?

For starters, your competition will be tough - especially since Ivy League schools are some of the nation’s top-ranked schools:  

Ivy League School US News World Report Ranking
Princeton 1
Harvard 3 (tie)
Yale 5
UPenn 6
Brown 9 (tie)
Columbia 12 (tie)
Cornell 12 (tie)
Dartmouth 18

The Ivy League schools also offer some of the highest-quality education available. They have plentiful course and program offerings, a host of resources, and a diverse student body to provide varied perspectives and thoughts in lectures. 

In your four years at college, you’ll develop a deeper bond with your professors, peers, and other campus figures: you might even make some lifelong friendships.

The Ivy League experience means you’ll typically live on campus, at least for your first year of studies. You’ll have the opportunity to soak up everything about the school’s culture, join clubs, and explore the cities where your school is located. 

All students who attend Ivy League schools are connected to an alumni network when they graduate. Alumni networks connect you to all the school’s alumni, allowing nearly endless opportunities to connect with others and find new and exciting opportunities in the form of employment, internships, travel, and research. 

What Are Your Chances of Going Ivy?

In theory, getting into the Ivy League as an international student sounds light and breezy. However, these schools are well-known for their lower acceptance rates and high competition. Statistically, these are your chances of getting into an ivy league school as an international student:

Ivy League School Acceptance Rate % of International Students Accepted
Princeton 6% N/A
Harvard 3.59% 15.4%
Columbia 3.85% N/A
Yale 3.7% 22.3%
UPenn 7% 3.1%
Dartmouth 5.32% 17%
Brown 5.1% 14%
Cornell 10% N/A

Source:UPenn, Yale News, Dartmouth, Brown

Although these schools don’t release data about how many applications they receive from international students, it’s clear these schools are very competitive for U.S. residents and international students alike. 

Only a fraction of accepted students represents international students, meaning the international acceptance rate may be lower. As an international student, you compete against American students, candidates from your own country and from countries across the globe. 

However, don’t let low acceptance rates discourage you too much. Acceptance rates only tell a quantitative story about applications; the numbers don’t account for the quality of received applications. 

Another thing to remember is that Ivy League schools value diversity. These schools aim to admit students from various backgrounds to offer a diverse and varied college experience. 

Different perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds add to campus culture and allow students to gain a better global understanding. If you craft an excellent application as an international student, you’re sure to stand out from the crowd and show these schools what you have to offer. 

Ivy League Requirements for International Students 

Common Ivy League Requirements for International Students

Many Ivy League requirements are similar for U.S. residents and international students. Below we’ll take a look at all application parts you’ll need to gather or create to apply to the school of your dreams, and specific Ivy League requirements for international students.

Princeton University International Student Requirements 

Princeton requires international students to apply using the Common Application or the Coalition Application. You will also need to submit: 

  • Your transcripts or academic record, which will be evaluated in the context of your country’s education system, including marks from external exams, grades from classes, and predicted leaving exam grades if applicable 
  • Mid-year report and school report
  • Two teacher recommendations and a counselor recommendation 
  • SAT or ACT scores (optional)
  • TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic scores, if your native language isn’t English and you’re attending a school where the material is not presented primarily in English 
  • A personal essay dependent on which application you choose 
  • A graded written paper which must be submitted in English: this document should not be translated from another language but written and commented on in English 
  • The Princeton Supplement, which includes four short essays and three short answer questions 
  • Application fee or a fee waiver

Columbia University International Student Requirements

Columbia University states the “admissions process is largely the same for everyone, regardless of citizenship or country of residence.” If you are a student at a non-English speaking school, you must have someone translate your documents for you along with the original documents before you submit your application. 

If your home language is English or your subjects were taught primarily in English in school, there’s no need to demonstrate your command of the language further. If you do need to show your proficiency, Columbia accepts the TOEFL. IELTS, or DET. The rest of the application requirements include: 

  • A completed Common or Coalition Application including personal essay 
  • Responses to the Columbia-specific questions 
  • SAT or ACT scores 
  • A secondary school report, including official high school transcripts, counselor recommendation, school profile, and a mid-year report 
  • Two teacher recommendations 
  • Application fee or a fee waiver 

Harvard University International Student Requirements 

At Harvard University, requirements are generally the same for all students regardless of their geographical locations. First-year and transfer international applicants do not need to take an English proficiency test, but you’re free to submit your scores if you’ve taken the TOEFL. Other requirements include: 

  • A Common or Coalition application
  • A mid-year report, if your school issues one
  • Two teacher evaluations 
  • Final school report and official transcripts 
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • Response to the Harvard Supplement questions
  • Application fee or a fee waiver 

Yale University International Student Requirements

International students follow essentially the same procedures as U.S. students. If your school documents are not all recorded in English, you must provide an official English translation along with the original items. 

Yale recommends that non-Native English speakers who have spent at least two years receiving instruction in another language take an English proficiency test: either the TOEFL, IELTS, PTE or DET. The standard requirements include: 

  • A completed Common or Coalition Application with responses to the Yale-specific questions
  • Recommendation letters from two teachers and one school counselor 
  • School report with transcripts
  • Mid-year and final reports 
  • SAT or ACT scores (OPTIONAL)
  • Application fee or waiver 

Yale also releases what the school considers as competitive scores for each English language proficiency test: 

  • 100 on Internet-based TOEFL, or 25 on each of the three sections on a physical test
  • IELTS scores of 7 or higher
  • PTE scores of 70 or higher 
  • DET scores of at least 120 or higher

University of Pennsylvania International Student Requirements 

UPenn states that admissions decisions are made before many international exam results are announced. Still, applicants are expected to be enrolled in programs that prepare them for these examinations. 

The University of Pennsylvania wants to ensure students have a strong command of English: you are considered proficient if English is your native language or your courses in secondary school were taught in English. UPenn accepts the TOEFL, IELTS, and DET if you don't meet either criterion. 

UPenn’s other application requirements include: 

  • A completed Common or Coalition Application 
  • Penn-specific essay response 
  • Official high school transcripts, school report, mid-year, and final reports
  • Three letters of recommendation: either one from your high school counselor and two teachers, or from your high school counselor, one teacher, and one other recommendation
  • SAT or ACT scores (optional)
  • Application fee or waiver 

Dartmouth College International Student Requirements

Every Dartmouth College student must submit the Common Application, whether they live in the U.S. or are international students. If English isn’t your first language and you were not taught in English for at least two years, you must take an English proficiency test. Dartmouth accepts the TOEFL, IELTS, DET, or Cambridge C1/C2. 

Dartmouth states, “successful applicants score above 100 on the TOEFL exam, above a 7 on IELTS, and above a 120 on Duolingo.” Other than that, application requirements are the same as other students: 

  • Common Application
  • Dartmouth writing supplement 
  • Secondary school report with transcripts, school profile, and counselor evaluation
  • Two teacher evaluations
  • SAT or ACT scores (OPTIONAL)
  • Application fee or a fee waiver
  • Although not a requirement, a peer recommendation is strongly encouraged

For detailed information on how to get into Dartmouth, read through our complete college guide.

Brown University International Student Requirements 

There is no separate application process for international students, but you should indicate your citizenship based on your passport to enter the U.S. 

However, the school states you should plan “to sit for national and international examinations, such as the GCE A-levels, German Abitur, French Baccalauréat, Chinese Gaokao and International Baccalaureate and submit the predicted or actual scores for those examinations as part of your credentials for admission to Brown.”

Brown University says you should be proficient in English to be admitted. As such, the school strongly recommends international applicants take the TOEFL, IELTS, or DET. Competitive scores are: 100 or above on the Internet TOEFL test, 600 or more on the paper version, and 8 or above on the IELTS. 

All of your documents must have official English translations and the original documents. Other application requirements include: 

  • A completed Common Application with all necessary school forms and counselor and teacher recommendations 
  • Responses to Brown University questions
  • Application fee or waiver
  • SAT or ACT scores (OPTIONAL)

Cornell University International Student Requirements

International students follow the same process as U.S. students, aside from the need for an English proficiency exam if English isn’t your first language and you were primarily taught in another language. Cornell accepts multiple tests: 

  • “TOEFL iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-Based Test)
  • iTEP (International Test of English Proficiency)
  • TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition
  • IELTS Academic (International English Language Testing System)
  • Duolingo English Test
  • PTE Academic (Pearson's Test of English Academic)
  • C1 Advanced or C2 Proficiency (Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency) 
  • Initial View (IV) Assessment
  • Vericant Assessment”

The school also releases minimum score requirements for the admissions committee to consider you a competitive applicant: 

  • “100 and above on the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition
  • 5.5 and above on the iTEP
  • 120 and above on the Duolingo English Test
  • 7.5 and above on the IELTS Academic
  • 70 and above on the PTE Academic
  • 191 and above on the Cambridge English Scale”

Other application requirements include: 

  • A completed Common Application 
  • School report and counselor recommendation 
  • Midyear report and official transcripts
  • Two teacher evaluations
  • Cornell University questions and writing supplement 
  • Application fee or a fee waiver

Ivy League Tuition for International Students

Tuition can be expensive, and Ivy League schools are no exception. Below are recent tuition and fees estimations: these costs don’t include other expenses such as board, transportation, or books. 

Ivy League School Tuition and Fees
Princeton $62,400
Harvard $56,550
Yale $67,250
Columbia $68,400
UPenn $68,686
Dartmouth $68,268
Brown $68,230
Cornell $69,314

This table represents standard tuition, which appears to be the same as Ivy League tuition for international students according to each school website. However, it is worth noting that for international students, additional fees and expenses may apply. 

FAQs: How to Get Into an Ivy League University as an International Student

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about attending Ivy Leagues as an international student.

1. Do International Students Need to Take an English Language Proficiency Test?

You typically need to take an English language proficiency test if English isn’t your first language and you’ve received most of your secondary school instruction in another language. 

2. Can I Translate My Documents Myself? 

Schools typically ask for an official translation, meaning you should translate your documents yourself (even though you probably can!). You’ll need a certified translator’s help, and be sure you also send along translations and documents in their original language. 

3. Which Ivy League Schools Award the Most Financial Aid to International Students? 

Each Ivy League school is known for giving generous amounts of financial aid. Recent data shows Dartmouth international students received an average of approximately $75,460 in financial aid, making it the top Ivy League school for international students who need financial aid.

4. Should International Students Submit the Common Application or Coalition Application? 

If the school you’re applying to accepts the Common and Coalition Applications, it doesn’t matter which one you pick. The only thing to keep in mind is some Ivy League schools only accept the Common App, so you should plan accordingly if you’re applying to multiple schools. 

Though personal essay prompts vary slightly between both applications, that’s not usually a factor students consider because they are so similar. 

5. Should International Students Take the SAT or the ACT? 

First, you should check if the school you’re applying to requires SAT or ACT scores. Although all Ivy League schools made these tests mandatory before, some have suspended the requirement for some admissions cycles. 

Even if you don’t need to submit scores, you can choose to do so anyway. It doesn’t matter which test you take: all that matters is that you perform well to show your academic skills and college readiness. 

6. How Important Are Supplemental Essays for International Students? 

Supplemental or school-specific essays are crucial to college applications. Because you’re an international student, you undoubtedly have had different experiences than U.S. students. Weaving these unique narratives into your essays can help you stand out from other applicants. 

Essays are the heart and soul of your application and show who you are beyond your academic achievements and test scores. Excellent essays help differentiate your application and show why you’re the right candidate to choose at an Ivy League school.

Final Thoughts 

Ivy League schools are a popular option for students in the U.S. and around the globe. Because of their esteemed reputations, these schools are highly selective. However, each Ivy League school typically has approximately 10% or more enrolling students entering from other countries. 

Remember to examine each school’s admissions requirements to ensure you’re taking the proper English proficiency tests and that you’ve gathered all the materials each requires. Although tuition can be expensive, remember that many Ivy League schools provide financial aid to international students. 

We hope that by now, you have a better idea of how to get into an ivy league school as an international student. Above all, don’t let low acceptance rates discourage you; with a perfect application, you have a fighting chance at an Ivy League school! 

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