Ivy Plus Schools: What You Need to Know

Johns Hopkins university building
November 21, 2023
6 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/20/23

If you know the Ivy League, you may not know that other top colleges in America have their own designation - the Ivy Plus Schools. We’ll cover everything you need to know about 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 Ivy League, the most well-known of these colleges, takes the top two to three spots yearly.

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, often fill out the other top-ranked placements.

An Ivy Plus school is any university or college that is not Ivy League, consistently top ranking, and not a liberal arts school. They typically exist as well-known private institutions. Ultimately, the category includes non-Ivy schools that offer Ivy-level education, making them great choices!

What Are The Ivy Plus Schools?

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

Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Duke, and many more are considered Ivy Plus. If you’re interested in any of these schools, consider researching your favorites and applying. Anything that’s not considered Ivy is likely an Ivy Plus school. 

However, don’t underestimate these schools; they want students to provide just as competitive an application for any top-ranked college. Expect to need a high GPA, well-defined essays, and ask your counselor to send 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, this list does not include the Ivy League or any Public Ivies

College Name Ranking Acceptance Rate Total Undergraduate Enrollment Tuition Middle 50% SAT/ACT Score Range Location
MIT #2 4.8% 4,657 $59,750 1520-1580 | 34-36 Cambridge
Stanford University #3 3.7% 7,761 $61,731 1500-1570 | 33-35 Stanford
Caltech #7 ~2% 982 $60,816 N/A (test-free policy) Pasadena
Duke University #7 5.4% 6,640 $63,450 1520-1570 | 34-36 Durham

College Name Ranking Acceptance Rate Total Undergraduate Enrollment Tuition Middle 50% SAT/ACT Score Range Location
Northwestern University #9 7% 8,659 $64,887 1500-1560 | 33-35 Illinois
Johns Hopkins University #9 6.5% 5,253 $62,840 1530-1560 | 34-35 Baltimore
University of Chicago #12 4.8% 7,653 $63,801 1510-1560 | 34-35 Chicago

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.

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. 


Source: Caltech 

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 the school only makes the Ivy Plus list. 

Duke University

Duke pursues teaching leadership to add and pass on knowledge for the future in the fields of science, economics, and engineering.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University is one of the nation’s leading research and teaching institutions and is well-known for its economics, engineering, and psychology programs.

Northwestern University

This university is committed to the personal and intellectual growth of its students and offers a robust mixture of theory and practice. At Northwestern, students are part of an innovative, collaborative, and multidimensional community dedicated to making an impact!

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. 

Johns Hopkins

Source: Johns Hopkins University 

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.

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. 

University of Chicago

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.  

How to Prepare for Ivy Plus Applications

Since Ivy Plus institutions 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 colleges, you’ll need close to 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.

Letters of recommendation are also crucial to your application. 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. 

Depending on the colleges you choose, you’ll also be expected to answer at least one essay about yourself, your experiences, and/or motivation. These should be clear, coherent, and distinct! 

FAQs: Ivy Plus Schools

When it comes to college in general, incoming students from all walks of life usually have a ton of questions. 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, Ivy Plus colleges are typically located within the continental portion of the United States.  

2. Is the University of Chicago an Ivy Plus?

Yes, UChicago is an Ivy Plus school. 

3. Is NYU Ivy Plus?

NYU is not an Ivy Plus school. 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. 

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

Ivy Plus became a term as a reaction to the Ivy League decades after it was formed. These 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. What is the Hardest Ivy Plus School to Get Into?

Based on the low acceptance rate, Caltech stands out as the hardest Ivy Plus school 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.

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

The easiest Ivy Plus school to get into is Northwestern University; it has the highest acceptance rate of 7%. However, this rate is still extremely selective, so securing admission will be challenging nonetheless! 

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 school as an alternative or at least a backup if you aren't accepted. 

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!

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