Ivy Plus Schools: List, Requirements, Acceptance Rate & Tips

Johns Hopkins university building
April 29, 2024
7 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

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?

Ivy Plus schools are considered Ivy League equivalent schools as they share common features. First and foremost, compared to an Ivy League school, these schools offer a similar caliber of education. 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, and 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
MIT #2 4% 4,657 $60,156 1520-1580 | 35-36
Stanford University #3 4% 8,049 $62,484 1500-1580 | 33-35
University of Chicago #12 5% 7,470 $65,619 1500-1580 | 34-35
Johns Hopkins University #9 (Tie) 7% 6,044 $63,340 1520-1570 | 34-35
Caltech #7 (Tie) 3% 982 $63,255 N/A (test-free policy)

College Name Ranking Acceptance Rate Total Undergraduate Enrollment Tuition Middle 50% SAT/ACT Score Range
Duke University #7 (Tie) 6% 6,640 $66,172 1490-1570 | 34-35
Northwestern University #9 (Tie) 7% 8,659 $65,997 1490-1570 | 33-35
Vanderbilt University #18 7% 7,151 $63,946 1490-1570 | 34-35
Rice University #17 9% 4,494 $58,128 1490-1570 | 34-36
WashU in St. Louis #24 11% 8,132 $62,982 1500-1570 | 33-35

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. 


Acceptance Rate and Requirements

MIT has an acceptance rate of just 4%. It looks for students with exceptional academic records, strong test scores (median SAT 1545, median ACT 35), and achievements in STEM fields like research, competitions, and projects. Extracurriculars demonstrating creativity and hands-on skills are valued.

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.

Acceptance Rate and Requirements

Stanford's acceptance rate is 6.9%. It seeks well-rounded students with outstanding academic performance (median SAT 1505, median ACT 35), intellectual vitality, and meaningful extracurricular involvement. Stanford values students who can make an impact through research, entrepreneurship, leadership, or other pursuits.

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.

Acceptance Rate and Requirements

Caltech has an ultra-low 3% acceptance rate. It prioritizes exceptional achievement in math, science, and research. Near-perfect grades, top test scores (median SAT 1570, median ACT 36), and advanced coursework in STEM subjects are expected. Caltech wants innovative problem-solvers.

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.

Acceptance Rate and Requirements

Duke admits just 6% of applicants. Strong academic performance across a rigorous curriculum is required, along with very high test scores (median SAT 1535, median ACT 35). Extracurriculars highlighting intellectual curiosity, leadership abilities, and commitment to service are key.

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!

Acceptance Rate and Requirements

Northwestern's acceptance rate is 7%. It looks for students who have challenged themselves academically, earned top grades/test scores (median SAT 1480, median ACT 34), and made meaningful contributions through extracurriculars. Demonstrated expertise in areas like research, entrepreneurship, or the arts is a plus.

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

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.

Acceptance Rate and Requirements

Johns Hopkins admits 7% of applicants. It values academic excellence across a rigorous curriculum, with median SAT scores around 1530 and median ACT scores around 35. Extracurriculars showcasing research, innovation, leadership, and commitment to service are highly regarded.

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.

Acceptance Rate and Requirements

UChicago has a 5% acceptance rate. It seeks intellectually engaged students who have pursued a demanding course load and earned top test scores (median SAT 1560, median ACT 35). Extracurriculars highlighting academic passion, originality, and making an impact are key.

How to Prepare for Ivy Plus Applications

Though Ivy Plus institutions are considered less prestigious Ivy League colleges, they still look for students on the same level as the Ivy League. 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! 

Tips on How To Get Into Ivy Plus Schools

Getting admitted to an Ivy Plus university is no easy feat. These schools are extremely selective, with admission rates often in the single digits. However, by focusing on a few key areas, you can maximize your chances of gaining acceptance to one of these elite institutions:

1. Academic Excellence

Ivy Plus schools are looking for students at the very top of their class. Aim for a near-perfect GPA, especially in the most challenging courses offered at your high school. Stellar standardized test scores on the SAT or ACT are also critical.

2. Compelling Extracurriculars

Simply achieving good grades is not enough. Admissions officers want to see students with unique talents, interests, and impact outside the classroom. Pursue a few extracurricular activities with passion and work your way up to leadership roles.

3. Powerful Essays

Your personal statements and supplemental essays give you a chance to truly stand out. Use them to showcase your authentic voice, intellectual curiosity, and how you'll contribute to the campus community.

4. Glowing Recommendations

Seek out recommendation letters from teachers who can speak to your academic abilities, drive, and strength of character. Counselor recs also carry significant weight.

5. Demonstrated Interest

Ivy Plus schools want students who will accept an offer of admission. Make an effort to interact with them through campus visits, interviews, info sessions, etc.

While the competition is intense, putting your best foot forward in these areas can increase your odds of joining the ranks of an Ivy Plus institution. With strategic planning and execution, your dream school could become a reality.

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 refers to a group of highly selective private universities that are considered peers to the Ivy League, though not officially part of it. These include schools like Stanford, MIT, Caltech, University of Chicago, Duke, and Johns Hopkins, among others.

2. Is the University of Chicago an Ivy Plus?

Yes, the University of Chicago is considered an Ivy Plus school due to its elite status, low acceptance rate, and reputation on par with the Ivy League.

3. Is NYU Ivy Plus?

No, NYU (New York University) is not typically included in the Ivy Plus group of schools, which consists of universities at the same level of selectivity and prestige as the Ivy League institutions.

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

The Ivy Plus schools are not as well known as the official Ivy League because the "Ivy Plus" designation is informal and more recent, grouping elite universities outside of the historic Ivy League based on similar academic standards.

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

The hardest Ivy Plus school to get into is the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), with an acceptance rate of just 3%, making it even more selective than all of the Ivy League universities.

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

The easiest Ivy Plus school to get into is Northwestern University, with an acceptance rate of around 7%, though it is still highly selective compared to most colleges and universities in the United States.

7. Is Washington University Considered an Ivy Plus School?

No, Washington University in St. Louis is not considered an Ivy Plus school. While Washington University is a highly regarded private research university, it does not have the same level of selectivity or prestige as the Ivy Plus schools.

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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