Attending an Ivy League school would be a dream for many high-achieving students. If you want to know more about the Ivies and how to give yourself the best shot at acceptance, read on!
Every application cycle, tens of thousands of high school students add Ivy League schools to their college lists. But how much better are Ivy schools than your average college? Why should students consider applying despite the level of competition?
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about these prestigious institutions, including why you should consider applying and how to get into Ivy League schools. Read on to give yourself a fighting chance at becoming an Ivy League student!
Although the Ivy League has become emblematic of prestige, high-caliber education, and exclusivity, the term was originally coined when the NCAA athletic conference for Division I was formed in 1954. Today, we know the Ivy League as the eight Northeastern schools that made up this conference:
Ivy League schools are known for low acceptance rates and fierce competition as they consistently rank as some of the best colleges the nation has to offer. Built on centuries of tradition, the Ivies are an enduring symbol of prestige.
So, how much better are Ivy League schools compared to other colleges? The answer depends: name recognition alone doesn’t always mean it’s the best school for you.
We'll explore why the Ivies hold the level of admiration and respect they do and why you should consider adding them to your list.
Okay, maybe name recognition does mean something. Although it's not everything, attending an Ivy League school shows you have the academic rigor to pass through a highly selective admissions process.
Your success at an Ivy League school can signal to future employers (or admissions officers, if you pursue more schooling) that you're a brilliant and motivated individual. After all, Ivy League schools have a reputation for churning out “not only well-rounded student-athletes, but future presidents, Nobel Prize winners and other high-achieving graduates.”
While reputation and prestige certainly aren't everything, they can be a significant reason for setting your sight on the Ivies.
All Ivies are private research universities. They receive a tremendous sum of money annually in funding from private donations and federal sources. In terms of endowments (the value of investments based on donated money and financial assets), five out of eight Ivies made the list for largest endowments:
Endowments for these colleges range from $11 billion to $42 billion. However, the significant funding these schools receive means that they have more money to allocate toward resources for students.
Ivy League schools are known for extensive libraries, state-of-the-art research facilities, numerous student organizations, and opportunities for studying abroad, research, and internships. Students who enroll at Ivy League schools get to reap these abundant benefits.
Since Ivy League schools have access to so much funding and plentiful resources, it’s no surprise that they are well known for providing high-quality education to the world’s next generation of leaders and critical thinkers.
Most Ivy League applicants have impressive transcripts and test scores to show they can handle the schools' level of instruction. If you want a comprehensive liberal arts education with the option for interdisciplinary studies, an Ivy League school may be right for you.
Ivy League statistics can tell you more about the schools’ acceptance rate data and show you how you compare to admitted students. Some schools are more forthcoming than others about their enrollment numbers and other statistics, but this is the information available from each school’s class profile:
Based on the data in this table, you can see that Ivy League acceptance rates for all applicants range from 3.9% to 8.7%. Although all Ivies have an optional testing policy until at least the 2022/2023 admissions cycle, applicants typically submit impressive test scores and GPAs.
If you’re unsure which Ivy League schools are best for you to apply to, learning more about each school can help you determine whether they fit with your educational goals and what you want out of the college experience.
Brown University was founded in 1764 and is a leading research university. Brown’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.”
An overview of Brown’s academic offerings shows the school has:
Brown University is perhaps most well-known for its Open Curriculum. Students interested in creating their own program of study (without the need for core courses) would thrive through Brown’s “ flexible yet rigorous approach to education.”
While creating your own study program may not be easy, it's an excellent opportunity for students who crave academic freedom or have multiple competing interests. The Open Curriculum is meant to facilitate critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and intellectual risk-taking while pursuing courses you're interested in.
Columbia University has been a leader in higher education for more than 250 years since its founding in 1754.
Summarizing its mission statement, Columbia understands its one of the world's most important centers of research and seeks to link its research and teaching across New York City's vast resources. Columbia seeks diverse students, for students to obtain a global understanding, and to advance learning at the highest level.
Through Columbia, undergraduate students can pursue research opportunities in:
Columbia's research culture aims to foster collaboration amongst students and faculty and across departments. Columbia boasts:
Columbia is an excellent choice if you're interested in undergraduate research opportunities.
Cornell University was founded in 1865 and considers itself a "private university with a public mission.”
The school’s mission is simple: "Learning. Discovery. Engagement." Cornell aims to do this through public service to enhance the lives of students, New Yorkers, and people around the world.
Undergraduate students don't apply to Cornell as a whole but apply directly to one of its undergraduate schools:
There are more than 4,000 courses to choose from across 100 departments throughout all the undergraduate schools. If you're interested in engineering specifically, Cornell is considered the best Ivy League school for engineering.
Dartmouth College was founded in 1769 and emphasizes liberal arts at the core of its educational offerings.
The school’s mission statement is, “Dartmouth educates the most promising students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership through a faculty dedicated to teaching and the creation of knowledge.”
Dartmouth College has more than 40 academic programs/departments for students. The most popular majors for Dartmouth students are:
One of the most exciting things about Dartmouth is its flexible study plan (D-Plan). Since Dartmouth has four 10-week quarters per year, students can plan their leave terms after the first year whenever they want.
The purpose of this plan is so students can pursue whatever opportunities they want to: nearly half the undergraduate schedule over four years is up to you so that you can take advantage of:
One of the most significant advantages of this flexible study plan is you can choose to pursue new experiences like internships at any time instead of just the summer. If you want more scheduling freedom and love the idea of a flexible curriculum, Dartmouth may be the right school for you.
Harvard University opened in 1636 and takes pride in almost 400 years of helping its students undergo "an intellectual, social, and personal transformation.” The undergraduate school is Harvard College, where students benefit from a blended education to enhance critical thinking skills and problem-solving.
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.”
The Harvard College Curriculum helps students fulfill degree requirements in five general areas:
The number of elective courses available for you depends on your major and whether you're pursuing an honor's degree. Harvard is an excellent option if you'd love to attend a school focused on a liberal arts education with a more structured curriculum.
Princeton University was founded in 1746 as the College of New Jersey before formally changing its name in 1896. Princeton’s informal motto, “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity,” reflects the school’s longstanding commitment to service.
Princeton aims for all its students to live purposeful lives as learning and service connect to offer students a comprehensive liberal arts education.
Princeton’s intimate class settings are meant to help students take full advantage of world-class teaching and research opportunities. The Princeton curriculum is meant to foster learning, creativity, innovation, and collaboration with a program consisting of:
However, students will spend more time exploring one concentration that interests them. Princeton has it all with more than 95 areas of study, from Jazz Studies to Molecular Biology.
The University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1740, with Benjamin Franklin serving as the school's first president. UPenn’s “proud tradition of translating knowledge into social-minded action” is achieved through inclusion, innovation, and impact.
UPenn has four undergraduate schools:
Across these four schools, you can choose from almost 100 majors. Most UPenn students are enrolled at the College of Arts & Sciences.
UPenn is one of the nation’s top research universities, with a $1.1 billion research budget and 182 research centers and institutes. If you’re interested in participating in ground-breaking research in medicine, technology, business, science, and more, UPenn may be for you.
The school has research opportunities for undergraduate students through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, so you can assist a faculty member or even develop your own project.
Built on centuries of tradition, Yale University was founded in 1701. According to the school’s mission, “Yale is committed to improving the world today and for future generations through outstanding research and scholarship, education, preservation, and practice.”
The school engages with people and institutions around the world to:
At Yale College, undergraduate students are given ample opportunities to explore subject areas, feed their curiosities, and learn more through immersive, interdisciplinary studies.
Yale College focuses on a liberal arts and sciences education for all its students. With more than 80 majors to choose from, you can explore everything from Art to Economics to Neuroscience.
Students at Yale can participate in undergraduate research, international experiences via studying abroad, and enjoy special programs about writing, science, and more.
Many students wonder how they can stand out to get into an Ivy League school. Thankfully, we’ve compiled tips on how to get into Ivy League schools and have your dream undergraduate experience.
Despite the trend of test-optional policies at Ivy League schools, you should still take the SAT or ACT and achieve high scores. Submitting high SAT or ACT scores demonstrates your academic aptitude and college readiness, especially at these academically rigorous institutions.
Most Ivy League schools have mission statements relating to community service and striving to educate the next generation of world leaders. To align with this mission, seek out meaningful extracurriculars, particularly those related to community service.
Gaining leadership experience is an excellent way to show you're precisely who these schools are talking about and can help improve your overall college profile.
Recommendation letters are a crucial element of any college application. These letters vouch for your character and give a third-party perspective on your abilities, personality, and growth. Ensure you ask people who know you well and can speak to your college candidacy!
Pay special attention to your personal statement and supplemental essays: this is your best chance of differentiating yourself from other applicants. Focus on imagery, compelling anecdotes, and showing how your unique experiences make you the perfect candidate.
If you still have questions about Ivy League schools or how to get into the Ivy League, check out these FAQs.
Considering acceptance rates, Cornell University is technically the easiest Ivy League school to get into. However, Cornell is still highly selective, with an 8.7% acceptance rate.
Most Ivy League schools admit students in the top 95% of their graduating class. You should strive to have a 4.0 GPA or higher (if weighted) to have the best chance of admission.
With their generous funding, resources, name recognition, world-class staff, and commitment to academic excellence, Ivy League schools can undoubtedly be worth it if they have offerings that cater to your unique interests.
Ivy League schools are top-tier and are certainly more prestigious than your average college. However, it would be unfair to say Ivy League schools are the only excellent schools.
Many other non-Ivy schools, such as Stanford University and MIT, are on par with the Ivy League regarding their prestige, offerings, and rankings.
Ivy League schools look for students who show academic excellence, strong intellectual capabilities, and desirable character traits such as community spirit and leadership.
Logan Powell, the Dean of Admissions at Brown University, said he looks for evidence of a student's passions. “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?” he said. Ensure you show you're a passionate individual, too!
While the hardest Ivy League school to get into depends on the year and acceptance rates, recent acceptance rates show that Columbia University is the hardest Ivy to get into, with an acceptance rate of 3.9%
Although Ivy League schools are selective, perfecting your college applications will give you a better shot at acceptance. Ivy League schools have abundant resources and funding and often offer flexible curriculums for students.
If you’re ready to reap the benefits of an Ivy League school, you should consider adding one (or a couple) to your college list. Good luck with your applications!