Ivy Plus Schools: What You Need to Know

Johns Hopkins university building
November 18, 2022
What are The Ivy Plus Schools?List of Ivy Plus SchoolsHow to Prepare for Ivy Plus ApplicationsFAQs: Ivy Plus Schools


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

If you know the Ivy League, you may not know that other top colleges in America have their own designation- the Ivy Plus Schools. This article will go over everything you need to know about the Ivy Plus and what sets them apart from the rest.

A common feature of the American collegiate system is the yearly ranking of the top colleges across the nation. The top-ranked universities in America come down to the usual suspects, as the quality of education at schools does not vary that greatly from year to year. These schools can fit into several categories, with a few colleges dominating the top of the list.

The most well-known of these groups, the Ivy League, takes the top two to three spots every year. These eight schools earned their spots through celebrated continuous long ages of operation and their consistent quality of education. However, the lesser known category, the Ivy Plus schools, makes up far more of the list and often fills out the other top-ranked placements.

What qualifies as an Ivy Plus school? An Ivy Plus school is any university or college that is not Ivy League, consistently top ranking, and not a liberal arts school. Ivy Plus schools typically exist as well-known private institutions. The category can fit more broadly to anything that isn’t Ivy League but offers an education considered on par. Ivy Plus schools make great choices for any student to apply!

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What are The Ivy Plus Schools?

Universities that qualify as Ivy Plus schools share a couple of features in common. First and foremost, when compared to an Ivy League school, Ivy Plus schools offer a similar caliber of education to that of Ivy League schools. Ivy Plus schools rival the Ivy League with their unique features and missions. When ranked competitively, anything Ivy sits at the top. 

You may know Ivy Plus schools better as their members. To name a few of the more well-known, the Ivy Plus schools include Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Caltech, Duke, and many more. If you’re interested in Ivy Plus schools, consider researching your favorites and applying. Anything that’s not considered Ivy is likely an Ivy Plus school. 

Like most colleges, Ivy Plus and Ivy League schools take the typical college application. However, don’t underestimate these applications- these schools want students to provide just as competitive of an application for any top-ranked college. Expect to need a 4.0 GPA, short but well-defined essays, and to ask your counselor to send them your high school transcripts.

List of Ivy Plus Schools

The following list comes ordered in the same fashion as the current US News and World Report ranking. Notably, the Ivy Plus schools list does not include the Ivy League or any Public Ivies. Public Ivies exist as public universities that accept funding from the government and offer student loans. The Ivy League accounts for some of the missing numbers from the list top.

Ivy plus schools statistics
Sources: M.I.T, M.I.T, Stanford, Stanford, U of Chicago, U of Chicago, Cal Tech, Cal Tech, Duke, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt, Washington, Washington, Rice, Rice

Below you’ll find more specific information regarding some of the listed colleges. 


As the premier school for engineering in the United States, MIT stands out as one of the country's best schools for science. As a technical college, MIT’s mission is to preserve, protect and extend the knowledge of math and science for the betterment of the country. To that end, MIT expects applicants to be the best and brightest, so be prepared.


As one of the best schools for a host of degree programs in the United States, Stanford seeks out the best and the brightest students to build up its community of like-minded scholars. Their vision is to nurture those who aim to better the world and its various communities. Bring your best with you to Stanford, as you'll need to stand out to fit in.

University of Chicago

As a leading school in the nation for Math, Economics, Political Science, and Biology, the University of Chicago sits at the top of many rankings as a premier choice for any college applicant. The University of Chicago has one goal in mind for students seeking its doors; they want you to help progress any of their top fields to help science, society, and governance.  

California Technical Institute

Regarding science, Caltech provides some of the best possible education, opportunities, and possible career paths for its students. If you want to become a scientist, this is the place to go for college. Research comprises the primary focus for Caltech professors, students, and staff, as the university's primary mission is to further science and knowledge for the sake of society.

Duke University

Duke's consistent prestige and age may make people think it qualifies as an Ivy League; however, it doesn't. The Duke name alone probably confuses, but Duke only makes the Ivy Plus list. Duke pursues teaching leadership to add and pass on knowledge for the future in the fields of science, economics, and engineering. 

Johns Hopkins

While it’s too far south to make the Ivy League, Johns Hopkins builds its reputation on its pursuit of medicine and helps make the world a better place by studying the science behind it. Health, both worldwide and at home, has become more of a priority, and Johns Hopkins garners nobility by providing knowledge to the next generation of healthcare.


Vanderbilt gained a great deal of notoriety from how it came into existence–a grant from one of the wealthiest families in American history. This legacy of learning lives on in the form of this Southern United States Institution. The university brings its mission of bettering humanity by providing extraordinary educational opportunities through subjects like math and science. 

Washington University at St. Louis

Even if Washington University is not located in Washington State or anywhere near D.C, this St. Louis-based university distinguishes itself through math, science, and medicine-focused programs. WashU seeks to teach through research and expression of ideas to better the world and the vast number of communities therein.

Rice University

Rice University leads the way as a major center for building scientific learning within a diverse community of like-minded students. To that end, if you're a student looking for research opportunities, growth through leadership, and or a desire to change the world, throw Rice University an application and see what happens; you may just make it in!

How to Prepare for Ivy Plus Applications

Since Ivy Plus schools look for students on the same level as the Ivy Leagues, assume that you need to perform at the same level as though you were applying to one. Assume that if you’ve applied to any of the Ivy Plus schools, you’ll need a 4.0 GPA, a good number of AP credits, and the required test scores from the ACT or SAT if they require them.

When it comes to a college application, most schools require the common app, so be sure to have all the requirements and to take your time writing any essay or supplemental materials. If you’re worried about a college essay, try to find examples online of previous examples from successful students. They usually give you a good idea of what the college wants from you.

If there is anything you absolutely need for college, letters of recommendation demand the most attention. As standardized testing scores have waned in necessity, the letter of recommendation has grown in importance to pick up the slack. Teachers or employers make the best picks to ask if you don’t have any ideas. They should know what matters about that college’s value.

FAQs: Ivy Plus Schools

When it comes to college in general, incoming students from all walks of life usually have a ton of questions. Typically, students don't know what to expect on an application or what colleges would be available to them until they start researching. The Ivy Plus school term is not as well-known, so some commonly asked questions follow here.

1. What Is an Ivy Plus School?

An Ivy Plus school is any private university with a high enough rank to rival Ivy League universities. Notably, the Ivy League only exists as a set list of schools in the Northeastern United States. By contrast, the Ivy Plus schools are typically located within the continental portion of the United States.  

2. Is the University of Chicago an Ivy Plus?

According to the list, the University of Chicago sits at 6th place, which is above most Ivy League schools. The University of Chicago sits well within the definition of Ivy Plus, placing third in the list of Ivy Plus schools.

3. Is NYU Ivy Plus?

The definition of Ivy Plus exists in a fast and loose state, as the definition seems not to have a clear-cut answer. So let's consider that any top-ranked school below the lowest-ranked Ivy League school does not qualify as an Ivy Plus school. Within that rule, NYU would not qualify as among the ranks of Ivy Plus schools. NYU sits at 38th place on the national scale.

4. Why Are the Ivy Plus Schools Not as Well Known?

The Ivy Plus schools as a designation became a term as a reaction to the Ivy League decades after it was formed. Ivy Plus schools vary the most out of all Ivy-related school categories because it's based on national rankings and not on any real affiliation between them. Ivy Plus is a relatively new category used chiefly by American college guides.

5. Why Does the Ivy League Have a Greater Reputation?

The Ivy League has decades of academic and athletic prestige behind them. Not only does that make them well known across America, they continue to keep that prestige on rankings. The term originated to recognize some of the oldest universities in America and designate them for their sports division. Now the term extends to their desirable college education.    

6. What is the Hardest Ivy Plus School to Get Into?

Based on the low acceptance rate, Caltech stands out as the hardest of the Ivy Plus schools to get accepted into. This choice allows for the tiny size of each incoming first-year class. Caltech keeps its population small to better prepare its top-notch students and provide more opportunities for research and learning from its incredible staff.

Final Thoughts

As an idea, Ivy Plus schools fit a loose collection of schools that provide great alternatives if an Ivy League education looks out of reach. If you're a proven and accomplished student, consider any Ivy Plus schools as an alternative or at least a backup if you aren't accepted. If you cannot find a place at one school, you should have plenty of options. 

Ivy Plus, while not a well-known or specific term, makes a great research term when you're looking for the right college. If you aren't sure where to go but sit comfortably with a competitive GPA, standardized test scores, and everything else you need, other competition should be the only thing standing in your way. If you qualify, try to apply!

Ivy Plus schools make an excellent choice for any education!

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