HYPSM: What it Means and Why it Matters to Students

Photo of the Great Dome and Killian Court, located at MIT, a member of HYPSM
April 29, 2024
7 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Are you curious about what makes HYPSM colleges stand out and how to get in? Keep reading to learn all about these prestigious institutions and the path to securing a spot at one of them.

Students set on attending the best universities in the United States undoubtedly have their eye on HYPSM. But what does this alphabet soup mean, and how is it related to college admissions? We’ll outline what HYPSM is, why it matters to you, and how you can gain admittance.

What is HYPSM?

HYPSM is an acronym of five of the best colleges in the United States:

1. Harvard
2. ‍Yale
3. Princeton
4. ‍Stanford
5. ‍MIT

The first three schools are commonly referred to as the “Big Three,” while Stanford and MIT are later additions. Despite not having Ivy League credentials, the latter two schools are considered among, if not better than, the Ivies.

U.S. News ranks HYPSM within the top 10 colleges in the country and the best 20 universities globally

What Is HYPSM?

HYPSM USA Rankings

Now, we'll explore the well-known universities in the HYPSM group and see how they compare to each other on the national level. 

College US Rankings
Princeton University #1
MIT #2
Stanford University #3
Harvard University #3
Yale University #5

HYPSM Global Rankings

Let's now shift our focus to global rankings, where we'll examine how these colleges stack up against each other.

College Global Rankings
Harvard University #1
MIT #2
Stanford University #3
Yale University #11
Princeton University #16

Although these schools offer an exceptional education and access to world-renowned faculty, they are unique. So, let’s explore each school, their admissions requirements, and the average test scores and GPA of their admitted students. 

Harvard University

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Undergrad Enrollment: 8,527

Harvard University is one of the most well-known universities globally and has taught students since its foundation in 1636. Today, it has over 400,000 alumni worldwide and enrolls around 24,000 students annually across its 12 graduate and professional schools.

Harvard’s mission is to “educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society” and inspire “every member of our community to strive toward a more just, fair, and promising world.” The school’s liberal arts and sciences education teaches students to explore unfamiliar topics and new ways of understanding. As Harvard summarizes, “students embark on a journey of intellectual transformation.” 

Students can choose from over 3,700 courses in 50 undergraduate fields of study, known as concentrations. You can also choose to create a concentration that allows you to set yourself a “uniquely challenging academic goal.” This goal can include an unprecedented interdisciplinary approach to or research about a topic not currently covered in Harvard’s syllabus.

To get into Harvard, it’s important to have a grasp on the school's admissions requirements

The average test scores and GPA of Harvard’s admitted students are: 

Type of Metric Results
Average SAT Score 1520
Average ACT Score 34
Average GPA 4.18

Yale University

Yale University

Location: New Haven, Connecticut

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,749

Yale University is a private college with a global focus; it is committed to “improving the world today and for future generations.” Yale’s mission is to educate leaders to serve in “all sectors of society” by facilitating the free exchange of ideas in a diverse community of students, staff, and alumni. Over 30% of Yale’s incoming class are international students representing 120 countries.

The school is committed to providing students with opportunities to study, research, or work abroad; over 71% of its most recent class studied, researched, or interned abroad. These international experiences provide students with exposure to new and diverse perspectives, ideas, and practices that influence their learning.

Yale also strives to admit students from varying economic backgrounds, 19% of its incoming class are first-generation students. The school is also committed to meeting the financial needs of its incoming students, and its need-based financial aid packages ensure “talented students can afford a Yale education, regardless of their economic resources.”

Yale University’s admissions requirements include:

  • Common Application, Coalition, or QuestBridge Application 
  • SAT or ACT scores (Yale University is currently test-optional) 
  • $80 application fee or fee waiver 
  • Yale supplementary essays
  • Official high school transcript
  • Two teacher recommendations and one counselor recommendation  
  • Mid-year school report 

The average test scores and GPA of Yale’s admitted students are:

Type of Metric Results
Average SAT Score 1515
Average ACT Score 33
Average GPA 4.13


Princeton University

Location: Princeton, New Jersey

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,590

Princeton University, alongside Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, is consistently ranked as one of the best colleges in the country. Founded in 1746, it is the fourth-oldest college in the United States and continues to provide exceptional educational opportunities. 

Princeton’s informal motto — “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity” — exemplifies its desire to produce graduates who will benefit the nation and the world. Aside from providing opportunities to study and research abroad, the school’s curriculum provides opportunities to impact its local schools and communities.

Princeton University’s admissions requirements include:

  • Common Application or Coalition Application 
  • SAT or ACT scores 
  • $80 application fee or fee waiver 
  • Princeton’s supplementary essays
  • Official high school transcript
  • Two teacher recommendations and one counselor recommendation  
  • Graded Written Paper
  • TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic scores (if applicable)
  • Mid-year school report 

The average test scores and GPA of Princeton’s admitted students are:

Type of Metric Results
Average SAT Score 1505
Average ACT Score 34
Average GPA 3.90


Stanford University

Location: Stanford, California

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,841

President Barack Obama commended Stanford University as “a place that celebrates our ability as human beings to discover and learn and to build, to question, to reimagine, to create new ways to connect and work with each other.”

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley in Stanford, California, Stanford has graduated successful students in various fields, including tech and entertainment. Several of its notable alumni include: 

  • Tiger Woods
  • Sigourney Weaver
  • Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, co-founders of Instagram
  • Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix
  • Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike
  • Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn
  • John Steinbeck

Stanford University’s admissions requirements include:

  • Common Application or Coalition Application 
  • SAT or ACT scores (Stanford University is currently test-optional) 
  • $90 application fee or fee waiver 
  • Stanford supplementary essays
  • Official high school transcript
  • Two teacher recommendations and one counselor recommendation  
  • Mid-year school report 

The average test scores and GPA of Stanford’s admitted students are:

Type of Metric Results
Average SAT Score 1505
Average ACT Score 34
Average GPA 3.96



Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,576

MIT is the only member of HYPSM that is not an Ivy League school, and its community is self-defined as “quirky, elite but not elitist, inventive and artistic, obsessed with numbers, and welcoming to talented people regardless of where they come from.” However, don’t let that sentence fool you, as MIT is one of the most prestigious, selective, and competitive schools in the United States. 

Its mission is to “advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” Unlike the schools listed above, MIT focuses more intensively on innovation in the areas of science and technology to solve the world’s most challenging problems. 

MIT’s admissions requirements include:

  • MIT application 
  • SAT or ACT scores (MIT is currently test-optional) 
  • $75 application fee or fee waiver 
  • MIT supplementary essays
  • Official high school transcript
  • Two teacher recommendations 
  • Mid-year school report 

The average test scores and GPA of MIT’s admitted students are: 

Type of Metric Results
Average SAT Score 1535
Average ACT Score 35
Average GPA 4.17

Getting Into HYPSM

Infographic Outlining Tips to Get Into HYPSM

So, how do you get into HYPSM? We’ve outlined several tips below to help you submit a stellar application to any HYPSM college. 

Take Tough Classes in High School 

Your high school academic preparation is the foundation of your university application. Taking on a rigorous course load shows you are willing to work hard and indicates you can cope with the difficulty of college-level classes. 

The best courses to take in high school are the most demanding and challenging ones. However, colleges don’t want you to take too many AP, IB, or honors classes and see your grades drop. Remember that it is better to achieve competitive grades in a challenging curriculum than exceptional grades in a weaker one. 

If you’re unsure what courses to take, research your preferred college’s requirements. Stanford, for example, recommends the following courses

  • English: Four years
  • Mathematics: Four years 
  • History/Social Studies: Three or more years
  • Science: Three or more years
  • Foreign Language: Three or more years

While taking the right classes is important, they are only one aspect of your application; submitting a well-rounded college application is essential. 

Ben Jones, the former Director of Communications for the MIT Office of Admissions, notes that he “saw kids with perfect SAT scores and perfect grades and a gazillion AP classes get rejected” because “often these kids knew how to grind, but brought nothing else to the table.” 

Achieve a Competitive GPA and Standardized Test Scores 

As noted above, the HYPSM schools admit students with exceptionally competitive GPAs, ACT and SAT scores. So, dedicate enough time to achieve a strong GPA and test scores. We’ve listed several tips below to help you improve your GPA and test scores. 

Retake Classes 

If your GPA is low because of a class you flunked, consider retaking it as there are many schools that will allow you to do so. Retaking classes you struggled with will help boost your GPA and confidence. Additionally, you will have already been exposed to the course’s material before, so revising it for a second time will hopefully be easier. 

Don’t Cram for Your Exam

Cramming for your ACT or SAT exam is never fun; you will likely be sleep-deprived, full of Red Bull, and overloaded with information. So instead, create a study plan and stick to it. Remember that pacing your workload will help you retain knowledge better and decrease your stress levels. 

Work With a Tutor or Admissions Expert 

Sometimes working with experts to improve your grades or test scores is the best option. They can provide a new perspective as well as detailed and specific advice about improving your application profile.

Tutors are great options to help you improve your GPA and work more efficiently. Getting personalized, virtual SAT/ACT tutoring will make sure you improve in the areas that need it most.

Choose the Right Topic for Your Admissions Essays 

Your admissions essays should tell a college admissions committee who you are and why you will be a great fit for their program. You can often write about nearly every aspect of your life as the essay prompts are typically broad. However, choosing the perfect topic can be challenging as it needs to convey your personality.  

Yale notes that “It doesn’t matter which topics you choose, as long as they are meaningful to you.” It further writes that “the lens through which you view your topic – is far more important than the specific topic itself.” So, choose a topic you can reflect on, like a significant experience, community event, or personal goal. 

If you’re struggling to choose a topic, look at college essay samples to see how other admitted students wrote about their personalities and experiences. 

HYPSM Essay Example 

Here is a HYPSM essay example from an admitted students at Princeton.

Prompt: "Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you." (Please respond in about 150 words)

The essay begins by outlining that colleges should give a student’s involvement in their community a lot of weight in the application process. The writer continues: 

“For the past five years, I have participated in a service group called CTeen (Chabad Teen Network). It is comprised of about twenty-five Jewish teenagers from surrounding high schools. Every Sunday morning we have breakfast and class with our rabbi. We discuss current events and world dilemmas from a Jewish point of view. These discussions have deepened my understanding of Judaism and brought me closer to other members of CTeen. Through CTeen I have met many of my closest friends. My chapter annually travels to Brooklyn for a shabbaton in Crown Heights with 200 other CTeen chapters from around the world. Every year during this time I am imbued with the dedication of my community to our faith, and I experience a heightened connection to both Judaism and my friends. As president of my CTeen chapter and member of the International CTeen Leadership Board, I continue to be impacted by the authentic ideas and dedicated people I meet.” 

Does Going to a HYPSM School Make a Difference?

Students can receive a fantastic education at a liberal arts college, public university, or Ivy League school. Of course, each option has certain advantages and disadvantages, but a quality education is almost guaranteed. HYPSM schools are not different.

Attending a HYPSM school has particular benefits, including established global alumni networks, access to world-renowned professors, excellent post-graduation career and internship opportunities. Yet, the value of the college you attend ultimately depends on your work ethic and ambitions.

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Explore the answers to frequently asked questions about HYPSM schools and discover why these institutions hold a special place in the world of higher education.

1. What Are The Key Differences In The Admission Processes Of HYPSM Schools?

Each HYPSM school has a distinct admission process. They use different essay prompts, recommendations, and fees. Focus on maintaining high grades and creating tailored applications for these prestigious institutions.

2. What Unique Academic Programs Or Opportunities Are Offered By HYPSM Schools?

Each HYPSM school provides distinct academic programs:

3. What Are The Most Popular Majors Or Programs At HYPSM Universities?

Economics, Computer Science, Biology, Political Science, and Engineering are some of the most popular majors at HYPSM universities. These programs are renowned for their quality faculty, research opportunities, and relevance in various fields. Students at these institutions have the privilege of choosing from a wide range of academic paths to pursue their interests and career goals.

4. What Are The Main Advantages of Going to HYPSM Colleges?

There are many benefits to attending HYPSM colleges. They offer top-notch education, global alumni networks for valuable connections, enhanced post-graduation prospects due to prestige, and abundant research and internship opportunities.

Final Thoughts

The HYPSM colleges are some of the best schools in the country. Although each HYPSM school is unique, they are almost guaranteed to provide an exceptional educational experience and post-grad career opportunities. 

Remember to take challenging classes in high school and maintain a competitive GPA, as each HYPSM member is extremely selective. Additionally, writing engaging admissions essays and achieving excellent standardized test scores will improve your application profile and chances of admissions to HYPSM. Good luck with your application.

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