Public Ivy League Schools: Explained & Ranked

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April 29, 2024
3 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/29/24

Universities under the Public Ivy League category take distinctions as some of the most highly ranked schools. Follow along to learn more about these excellent schools!

What Are Public Ivy Schools?

Public Ivy League Schools refer to any public school that provides Ivy-League level educational programs. If the Ivy Leagues form the peak US education, then these schools make up the surrounding mountains! Notably, they cost less and have a larger student body. 

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 comparable by ranking as well, as they could be any school on the level of an Ivy League. These schools can be found all over the country while Ivy League schools exist only in the Northeast US.

Schools that compare to Ivies have unique factors that make them stand above the other schools in the country. They are typically large schools with thousands of students and competitive tuition, and plenty of scholarship opportunities - unlike private Ivy League Schools.

List of Public Ivies (Ranked)

Here’s a list of each Public Ivy school as ranked by U.S. News. We’ve included acceptance rates and the size of the incoming class to help you understand the competitiveness of each school.

School Name Rank Acceptance
UC Berkeley #15 11%
UCLA #15 9%
UVA #24 19%
UMich (Ann Arbor) #21 18%
UNC Chapel Hill #22 17%
University of Florida #28 23%
UC Santa Barbara #35 26%
UC Irvine #33 21%
UC San Diego #28 24%
UC Davis #28 37%
UT Austin #32 31%

Now that you have a better understanding of the schools and what they're ranked, we'll cover if you should apply to them.

Should You Apply to a Public Ivy?

Yes, you should apply to Public Ivy Schools so long as their programs align with your professional goals! 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 well-rounded application. Here are a few components to keep in mind:

Colleges pay attention to your extracurriculars, what AP classes you've taken, and what other achievements you have as a student, including a great GPA. So, ensure you have a competitive application for your target and backup schools

Money may become a significant factor in college, as prices for things like tuition and books have increased. That said, these top public schools aren’t known for being particularly inexpensive, but they are an excellent mid-range price option for students looking for a fantastic program without the Ivy League price tag.


Here are some of the more commonly asked questions regarding schools that compare to Ivies. 

1. What Other Schools Are Compared With the Ivy League? 

Ivy-level education is not contained to the eight historic institutions. You can find comparable programs at the following schools:

Final Thoughts

Schools on the Public Ivy list offer some of the best education opportunities at a lower cost for students in the United States and abroad. If you qualify and are interested in their programs, do not hesitate to apply!

If you're looking for an excellent potential backup school or don't want to stray far from home when going to college, consider applying to your local Ivy-adjacent school. While larger and less prestigious, these schools offer some of the best educational opportunities across the US. 

Good luck with your application!

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