Public Ivy League Schools: What You Need to Know

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October 18, 2022
What Are Public Ivy Schools?List of Public Ivy League SchoolsThe Best Public IviesPublic Ivies vs Ivy League SchoolsShould You Apply to a Public Ivy?FAQs: Public Ivy League Schools


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Universities under the Public Ivy League category take distinctions as some of the most highly ranked schools. Public Ivies offer a similar calibre education to the Ivy league, but are public.

The yearly rankings of American universities look the same, with minor variations. They always include the Private and Public Ivy League Schools near the top, with the private school slightly edging out top Public schools. But if you're looking for a good school with a decent chance of getting into, you might benefit from looking into Public Ivy League schools.

What defines a Public ivy league school? They're the top public universities that meet education standards equal to the older Ivy League schools. They accompany and surround the nine on yearly American college rankings. Essentially, they are the contemporaries of the Ivy League but provide the benefits of government funding and scholarship they do not offer. 

Anyone can make it into a Public Ivy League school! There's always a chance, especially if you carefully follow all the requirements. But don't get discouraged if you get deferred; plenty of other colleges should be willing to accept you. But if you're dead set on attending a top American university, ensure you've taken your high school education seriously!

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What Are Public Ivy Schools?

Public Ivy League Schools, specifically, refer to any school that meets or provides education to an Ivy League school's level. If the Ivy Leagues form the peak US education, then the Public Ivies make up the surrounding mountains, as they contain the same significant difference that may attract different students. Most notably, since they are public, they cost less. 

Public ivy league schools have unique factors that make them stand above the other schools in the country. They are typically large schools with thousands of students, often drawing specific students interested in a set of majors for which the school is famous. Public ivies tend to offer affordable tuition, especially if you live in-state. You can also apply for financial aid

Both public Ivy League and private Ivy League schools tend to start the careers of numerous celebrities and people of important social status. The brightest minds make the most prominent companies and provide their alma maters with generous donations in the future. public Ivy League schools draw in way more applications than they accept, so be ready to compete with your application. You can count yourself lucky if you manage an acceptance.

Those who get accepted into public Ivy schools find themselves in a community that shows some of the best students in the country. What can get you there is showing your humanity, dreams, and goals through your application while also demonstrating your potential through your high school experience.

List of Public Ivy League Schools

If you're a student in the United States or anywhere in the world, you probably know of at least a few Public Ivies. Each school has an area of expertise, but you should be able to pursue any degree most colleges offer. If you're looking for a specific reason to go to your choice of public ivy league school, do your research before applying to find the best schools for your needs.

The original list of the public ivies comes from Duke University professor, Richard Moll, who also coined the term in 1985. Since then, other schools have been considered public ivies by ranking as well, as they could be any school on the level of an Ivy League. Where the Ivy League schools exist only in the Northeast US, public Ivy League schools are everywhere. 

The following list makes for some great choices of public ivy league schools that you could apply to. Whether you live in the same state or even close by regionally, these all make great choices for both dream and backup schools. 

College of William and Mary

Named after the co-monarchs that took over after the English reformation, the College of William and Mary stands as a proud institution. Known for various sciences, from political to biological, the college attracts people interested in politics and medicine. The Virginia-based college sits at the thirty-eighth rank, making it a prestigious public ivy league school.

Miami University

Situated in Oxford, Ohio, this deceptively named Miami University rivals Yale for its liberal arts program. Miami's programs may be worth researching if you're interested in anything creative, writing, art, teaching, history, etc. If you're looking for a more affordable school, Miami may make an excellent backup option since it has a high acceptance rate for new applicants.  

University of California

The University of California comprises so many campuses that each may as well be famous for its own merits. Each campus has its subject focus, school ranking, and unique location. If you’re living in California, consider one of these as a possible option for an application. All campuses fall between the twenty and forty mark on the national list.

University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)

As one of the best schools in the American Midwest, Ann Arbor attracts students looking to pursue a business career, future lawyers, teachers, and even dentists! With its large size and long history, this prestigious school would make an excellent choice for any student. If you're ready to apply, Ann Arbor would be great for students to attend or have as a backup school!

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Sitting at a comfortable twenty-eighth place on the national ranking, UNC at Chapel Hill makes for a premier public ivy league school for anyone living in the southern United States. The university focuses on a heavy dose of arts and science degrees, from chemistry to political science. You might be able to get in through a regional degree exchange program!

University of Texas at Austin

As one of the best schools in Texas, the University Campus at Austin attracts students interested in all sorts of majors, from modern journalism to engineering and business paths. On top of their undergraduate majors, they’re even more famous for their highly-ranked graduate programs. If you want to go beyond an undergraduate degree, you could even apply again!

University of Vermont (Burlington)

While a lower placement on the national list of top colleges, the University of Vermont makes for an excellent school for the state and region. The biology and agricultural degree pathway make for some of the most popular at this medium-sized school. If you're looking for a good backup school or public in-state school, you can't go wrong with the Burlington campus.

University of Virginia (Charlottesville)

The University of Virginia holds some special prestige as a college, having been founded by Thomas Jefferson, founding father and president. As a top-ranked college, students come for degree programs focused on science and business, like biology, computer science, and engineering. If any of these interest you, consider making an application to UVA!

The Best Public Ivies

If the regular Ivy League does not work for you, you can find the best possible public Ivy schools you could attend on the yearly national US rankings. Any of them makes for a great choice of school. To apply, make sure you have a 4.0 GPA or at least the school's average GPA requirements, and stand out with a competitive application. 

Before applying, be sure to know what career you want. The best public ivy schools all have areas of expertise with highly ranked programs to match. Make sure to research what major you've picked and which schools have the best programs to match your choice.

Public Ivies vs Ivy League Schools

The most significant difference between public Ivy schools and the more elite Ivy League is how they go about acceptance and applications. Ivy League schools do not recruit or provide scholarships from the school itself while having a relatively small and competitive campus. Public Ivies tend to be much larger, exclusively public schools, and offer many scholarships.

Public Ivies also tend to be far larger than private Ivy League schools, which may be easier for you to get into as a student. If you feel that Ivy League remains out of reach, Public Ivies work as an excellent backup or even school. They're about equal, and you may find them more accessible to the average Ivy League. Good luck, regardless of where you're applying!

Below you can see ranked comparisons of some of the top public ivies and ivy league schools. All of these schools look most favorable on students with at least a 4.0 GPA.

Public Ivy vs Regular Ivy school ranking and acceptance rate stats
Source: class profile data
Public Ivy vs Regular Ivy school tution fees and cohort size stats
Source: Rankings

The greatest difference demonstrated by the table between public ivies and the ivy league schools comes in prestige, size, and cost. Where public Ivies remain more affordable, they don’t offer the advantages of smaller class sizes and notoriety. However, the Ivy League schools remain much more difficult to get accepted into, and don’t offer affordability.

Should You Apply to a Public Ivy?

Yes, you should apply to whatever public Ivy Schools that you can! However, there are a few things to keep in mind when applying. At the bare minimum, you should meet the average student GPA and have a good application; you should be a suitable applicant. There are a few more things that can help with your application to keep in mind.

If you're looking for advice on an application, try to make sure that yours is competitive, with an excellent high school transcript. Your college pays attention to your extracurriculars, what AP classes you've taken, and what other achievements you have as a student, including a great GPA. You will likely be accepted if you can successfully weave these aspects into your essay. 

Money may become a significant factor in college, as prices for things like tuition and books have increased. The best way to go to college for cheap is to stay in-state or use regional exchange programs to reduce the cost of tuition. As such, focus on highly ranked schools from your local area as potential candidates for your application. 

FAQs: Public Ivy League Schools

Included here are some of the more commonly asked questions regarding Public Ivies. The phrase does not fall into a general knowledge like the Ivy League schools, but they make for decent options for students that don’t make the ivy league cut.

1. Are Public Ivies Good?

Yes! Public Ivies offer excellent alternatives to Ivy League, as there is very little difference in quality of education offered, while simultaneously being less expensive and more accepting. 

2. What Is the Best Public Ivy?

The highest ranked public Ivy as of the current national ranking is the University of California’s Berkeley campus. UC also has numerous other campuses across California, all with high rankings that offer great education opportunities. 

3. What Does “Original Public Ivy” Mean?

An original public Ivy refers to the schools that appeared on the first list of public ivies in 1985, created by Richard Moll. While some schools have dropped in the rankings, they remain outstanding for any student to apply to!

4. What’s the Difference Between a Public and Private School?

The difference between a public and primarily private shows in how students receive funding and larger size. Private schools, especially the Ivy League, only receive private donations and outside scholarships to fund their students. Public schools have access to government-funded grants and loans that can allow the funding for students to go to college.

Public schools have the incentive to take on a much larger student body because of their government funding. However, this presents some disadvantages in rankings. Private schools offer small class sizes and greater prestige while attracting better teachers that, when coupled with smaller class sizes, allow students to excel more with less variation between students.    

5. Is the Public Ivy List Static Like the Ivy League?

The list of public ivy league schools varies based on the annual rankings of universities. However, the schools that appear on the list tend to show consistency. The Ivy League schools are always the same eight and have not changed since the term's definition appeared.   

6. Do Public Ivies Offer In-State Tuition?

Yes! Public ivies take on both the public and state school distinction. If you live in the same state as that public ivy, you receive the benefit of lowered tuition, as the state taxes your family paid lowers your personal cost to attend that school so long as you live in that state.

Final Thoughts

The Public Ivy League school offers some of the best education opportunities at a lower cost for students in the United States and abroad. If you qualify for any of them, do not hesitate to apply! While they may be public and government-funded schools, that does not make them worse than Ivy League schools or any other private institution. 

If you're looking for an excellent potential backup school within your state or don't want to stray far from home when going to college, consider applying to your local public ivy. If you're going out of state, Public ivies show up a lot more and offer some of the best opportunities you can find for a suitable degree program. Good luck with your application!

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