Ivy League Acceptance Rates vs. Other Schools

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October 26, 2022
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”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/15/22

Ivy League schools are widely considered some of the most prestigious schools in the nation. Their reputation makes them popular options for college applicants as they search for their best-fit undergraduate institution. 

The Ivy League schools are Princeton University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, Brown University, and Cornell University. 

While these schools are regarded as highly selective, you can significantly improve your chances of acceptance with a perfect college application. Below you’ll find information about Ivy League acceptance rates, a brief overview of each school, and actionable ways to highlight your candidacy. 

Ivy League Acceptance Rates vs. Other Schools

Ivy League schools are known for their highly selective admissions processes, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only selective schools. After all, what makes an Ivy League school originally had nothing to do with academic excellence: it was an athletic conference established in 1954 by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1. 

Current Ivy League acceptance rates range from 3.9% to 8.7%. However, other top schools can fall in this range too. For example, MIT reported only 4.1% of applicants were accepted in a recent admissions cycle. Stanford is even more selective: just 3.9% of undergraduate applicants were accepted. 

Top-ranked schools typically mean lower acceptance rates, whether or not they are Ivy League schools.

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Acceptance Rates by Ivy League School 

This list of Ivy League schools will give you a brief description of each school, including their rank and acceptance rates. The list is ordered by U.S News World and Report’s national university ranking

Princeton University - 4.4% Acceptance Rate

Princeton University ranks as the No. 1 national university. Recent class profile data shows Princeton received 37,601 undergraduate applications, of which 1,647 were admitted. According to this data, Princeton’s undergraduate acceptance rate is 4.4%. 

The school was first chartered in 1746, making it the fourth-oldest college in the country. Since its inception, Princeton has become a household name and world-renowned research university with a commitment to undergraduate instruction. 

At Princeton, students have the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E.) degree. In their first two years of study, the school encourages undergraduate students to explore; you can choose from 37 concentrations and over 50 interdepartmental certificate programs within its degree programs. 

Harvard University - 4.0% Acceptance Rate

Harvard University ranks No. 2 in best national universities. Harvard College received 57,786 applications in a recent admissions cycle and admitted 2,320, making its acceptance rate approximately 4.0%. 

Harvard College’s mission is to “educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and sciences education,” beginning in the classroom. The school boasts “an undergraduate experience like no other,” citing its close-knit community, knowledgeable faculty, plentiful research opportunities, and diverse student environment. 

At the core of Harvard’s academic experience is its commitment to a liberal arts and science education, offering students a broad intellectual foundation. There are over 3,700 courses in 50 undergraduate fields of study for you to choose from and personalize your undergraduate experience. 

Columbia University- 3.9% Acceptance Rate 

Columbia University is tied with Harvard for the No. 2 spot on the list of best national universities. Columbia received a total of 60,551 undergraduate applications and accepted 2,358 students for a 3.9% acceptance rate. 

Columbia was chartered in 1754, making it the oldest higher learning institution in New York and the fifth-oldest in the country. 

The school is home to one of the world’s most important research centers while offering quality undergraduate education to its students. The University seeks “to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the University to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.”

Undergraduate students study at Columbia College, offering more than 100 majors and concentrations. Columbia College’s “Core Curriculum” is the defining element of its academics, designed to transcend disciplines. The purpose is to “help you develop intellectual tools and habits of mind you’ll use long after you leave college, enabling you to solve multidimensional problems and find answers to profound questions that might at times seem unanswerable.” 

Yale University - 4.6% Acceptance Rate

Yale University claims the No. 5 spot in U.S. News World and Report’s Best National Universities ranking. Recent data shows the school received 46,905 undergraduate applications, with 1,789 enrolled. Yale reported their acceptance rate for the cycle as 4.6%. 

Founded in 1701, Yale “is committed to improving the world today and for future generations through outstanding research and scholarship, education, preservation, and practice.” Its mission statement continues, stating that Yale strives to educate leaders globally to serve society. 

Yale College aims to provide students “with an immersive, collaborative, and inspiring environment where they can develop a broadly informed, highly disciplined intellect that will help them be successful in whatever work they finally choose.” 

The school offers comprehensive liberal arts and science education and ensures all students take foundational courses to open opportunities after graduation. If you’re interested in studying abroad, Yale College encourages all of its students to consider either a term, semester, or year abroad at any point in their college careers. 

The University of Pennsylvania - 5.9% Acceptance Rate

The University of Pennsylvania takes the No. 8 spot for best national universities. In a recent undergraduate admissions cycle, UPenn received 56,332 applications and admitted 3,304 students, yielding an acceptance rate of 5.9%. 

The school was founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin and continues to uphold its pragmatic vision through innovative learning, inclusivity, and community engagement. 

UPenn’s undergraduate school’s mission is “to help students to become knowledgeable about the world and the complexities of today’s society, aware of moral, ethical and social issues, prepared to exercise intellectual leadership, and enlivened by the use of their minds.” That’s why the school's education is broad enough to lay the foundation for complex, critical, and creative thinking. 

The university has four undergraduate schools to choose from: the College of Arts & Sciences, The Wharton School, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Nursing. UPenn encourages interdisciplinary learning, offering nearly 100 majors across the four schools. 

Dartmouth College - 6.2% Acceptance Rate 

Dartmouth College is ranked No. 13 in Best National Universities. The college reported a 6.2% acceptance rate, accepting 1,749 applicants out of 28,357 applications. 

Founded in 1769, Dartmouth has shaped many generations of leaders and provided them with the tools and skills they needed to succeed in any career path. The college’s powerful sense of community has paved the way for numerous beloved traditions, including the Winter Carnival, presidential debates, and Dartmouth Night and Homecoming. 

Dartmouth College is built upon its core values, including the expectation of academic excellence, recruiting and admitting students from diverse backgrounds, forging lifelong bonds among faculty, staff, and students, collaboration, and providing out-of-classroom experiences like service projects and global engagement. 

The college offers a flexible study plan. Students decide what they want to do for nearly half of their college career, whether it's pursuing internships, studying in multiple disciplines, studying abroad, or conducting research. 

Brown University - 5.5% Acceptance Rate 

Brown University claims the No. 14 spot in the Best National Universities ranking. In a recent admissions cycle, the school reported an undergraduate acceptance rate of 5.5%, admitting 2,569 students out of 46,568 applicants. 

Brown was founded in 1764 and has blossomed into a leading research facility focused on student-centered learning. The school’s mission is “to serve the community, the nation, and the world by discovering, communicating and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry, and by educating and preparing students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation.” 

The university takes student-centered learning to the next level through its famous Open Curriculum: students develop their own tailored study schedule, unrestricted by most schools’ core courses. With over 2,000 courses and 80 undergraduate concentrations to choose from, Brown has something for everyone. 

Cornell University - 8.7% Acceptance Rate 

U.S. News World and Report ranks Cornell University at the No. 17 spot. Cornell’s recent admission statistics show 5,852 students were accepted out of a total of 67,380 applications, for an acceptance rate of 8.7%. 

Cornell was founded in 1865, identifying as a private university with a public mission: “to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge, to educate the next generation of global citizens, and to promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community.” The school strives to achieve that mission through public service to enhance the lives of students, people in the community, and members of the world. 

In terms of academics, Cornell students are encouraged to collaborate to push their ideas beyond what they thought they were capable of. The school offers a staggering 4,000 courses across 100 academic departments and more than 80 undergraduate majors, and 120 minors.

The Ivy League: How to Get Accepted

Getting accepted into an Ivy League school is no easy feat. But don’t let low acceptance rates discourage you: a polished college application can significantly boost your chances of acceptance at any of these schools. Here are some excellent tips to help ensure your application is the best it can be: 

Strive For a High GPA and Test Scores 

Ivy League schools are highly selective, so laying an excellent foundation with a high GPA and test scores can help bolster your application. Your GPA and test scores reflect your academic excellence and college readiness: admissions committees want to be sure they accept students who will succeed. 

Besides achieving excellent grades and high test scores, you should take the most rigorous curriculum available to you. If your school offers the IB program or AP classes, taking these classes demonstrates your desire to challenge yourself and your command of complex curriculums. 

Highlight Your Meaningful Extracurricular Activities 

Extracurricular activities are essential to Ivy League schools. Admissions committees want to see you’re passionate about things outside the classroom and that you’re willing to contribute to your community. Extracurricular activities and community service projects come in all forms: maybe you babysit your neighbor's children regularly, you tutor at your local elementary school, or you volunteer at an animal shelter. 

Logan Powell, dean of admissions at Brown University, said the type of extracurricular activity you partake in doesn’t necessarily matter. He said, “Have they learned time management skills, leadership, teamwork, discipline? How have they grown as a person and what qualities will they bring to our campus?” If you can answer these questions based on your experiences, you’ve lily engaged in meaningful work outside the class. 

Secure Strong Recommendation Letters 

Recommendation letters offer an insider third-party perspective on your application. They effectively communicate to the admissions committees that you’re an excellent student, possess positive character traits, and have the skills necessary to excel in an Ivy League environment. 

Ask your recommenders for letters well in advance of your application deadline and provide them with context, such as your resume and a list of your achievements. Choose teachers with whom you’ve forged a deeper relationship, not the one whose class you aced (although it helps if they happen to be the same). 

Don’t Neglect the Supplemental Essays 

You’ve already written a personal essay as part of the Common Application or Coalition Application, but supplemental essays continue to humanize your application by acting as the heart and soul. Supplemental essays typically get more school-specific and illustrate why you want to attend a particular Ivy League school. 

In your essays, you’ll have to do a lot more than say, “I want to go to X because it’s a good school.” Delve deeper: What programs interest you most? What classes fill you with excitement? Which clubs are you going to join if admitted?

Think about everything that makes an Ivy League education so exciting and how your experience has prepared you for college. If you jot down all these ideas, you’re sure to land on an impressive topic and write a well-written essay. 

Consider Seeking an Admissions Consultants Help

Getting into any of the Ivies is tough. If you seek an admission consultant’s help, you’re no longer alone in the application process. Admissions experts have insider knowledge into Ivy League schools and know how to tailor an application in a way sure to catch attention. With a masterfully-created application and an admission consultant’s support, you’re sure to have a better chance of admission!

Ivy League Acceptance Rate FAQs

1. Which Ivy League School has the highest acceptance rate? 

Recent data shows Cornell University is the Ivy League school with the highest acceptance rate.

2. Is it worth applying to Ivy League schools? 

If you want to attend an Ivy League school, applying is always worth it! It’s easy to get wrapped up in the low acceptance rates and feel a little discouraged. However, don’t get too hung up on these statistics. Many students across the country get accepted at Ivy League schools every year. If you have an excellent application ready to submit, why can’t you be one of them?

3. Should I apply early decision for a better shot at admission?

Historically, students are more likely to get accepted when they apply through the Ivies’ early decision programs. However, that’s not because they applied earlier than other applicants, but because “Early applicants tend to have more competitive credentials than applicants who submit their materials later, according to Ivy League admissions officials.”

4. Can I afford an Ivy League education? 

Tuition can be expensive, especially at top-ranked universities. Ivy League schools understand this and remove some financial barriers for accepted students. For example, Princeton covers 100% of tuition and room and board for students whose families earn up to $65,000 annually. 

If you require financial aid, be sure to check each school’s website to see if you’re eligible for a reduced cost of education. 

5. When will I know if I’m accepted? 

You’ll typically hear back from colleges in late March or April if you applied under regular decision. If you applied under early decision, you should receive an admissions decision in December or January. 

6. What do I do if I get rejected? 

Rejection stings, and it might take you some time to process if it happens to you. Getting rejected from an Ivy League school doesn’t mean your application wasn’t good enough; these schools don’t have very many seats available for the thousands of applicants every cycle. 

If you receive a rejection notice, you can accept another offer at a different school. You can even try to transfer to an Ivy League school partway through your college education if you think that’s what’s best for you. 

If you don’t want to accept another offer, you can always take a gap year and apply again in the subsequent admissions cycles. High school graduates often travel abroad during a gap year, pursue internships, find full-time or part-time work, or do more volunteering or community service. 

Conclusion

An Ivy League education is sure to provide you with the skills and tools you need to succeed after graduation, whether you want to continue school or enter the workforce. Although Ivy League acceptance rates are historically pretty low, you can give yourself the best chance of acceptance with a well-crafted application. 

Before applying to an Ivy League school, ensure you’ve spent time boosting your GPA and achieving high test scores, secure excellent recommendation letters, and dedicate yourself to storytelling in your supplemental essays. An admissions constant can also help take your application to the next level and give you the confidence you need to apply to any Ivy League school. 

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