The Best Ivy League Schools For Engineering

McGraw Clock Tower in Cornell University
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/23

Read on below to learn more about Ivy League schools and how they rank among the best undergraduate engineering programs in the country. Not everyone would guess that the No. 1 engineering school is Cornell. Read on to learn more.

If you love the idea of using math and science to create or design things, or the thought of solving technical problems fills you with joy, a career in engineering might be the right move for you. But before you set out on your journey to becoming a world-class engineer, one of your very first steps is college. 

Many college hopefuls place Ivy League schools on a pedestal, and for a good reason. These schools are among some of the nation’s highest-ranked universities. But what about their engineering programs? 

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about Ivy League engineering schools, including the best ivy league school for engineering, an overview of other worthwhile programs, and more.

What Is the Best Ivy League School for Engineering? 

While this may come as a surprise to some people, Cornell University has long been considered the best Ivy League school for engineering. Cornell is a popular Ivy League choice, mainly because its acceptance rate is generally the highest of all Ivies. 

According to U.S. News World and Report’s ranking of the Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs, Cornell University claims the No. 13 spot ahead of any other Ivy League school. Additionally, Cornell claims the No. 21 spot in Best Global Universities and No. 17 in Best National Universities. 

Cornell’s website also claims the school is “the largest and highest ranked engineering program in the Ivy League.” A claim of that magnitude is pretty difficult to argue. So, what makes Cornell Engineering so special? First, the program has 14 majors and 20 minors sure to fit the interests of any engineering student. The majors include:

  • Biological Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Chemical Engineering 
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Science 
  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences 
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering 
  • Engineering Physics 
  • Environmental Engineering 
  • Independent Major 
  • Information Science, Systems and Technology (ISST) 
  • Mechanical Engineering 
  • Operations Research and Engineering 

The school also offers a host of exciting minors, including: 

  • Aerospace Engineering 
  • Business for Engineering Students 
  • Civil Infrastructure 
  • Game Design 
  • Robotics 

All of these options lead Cornell to have one of the world’s broadest engineering curricula. First-year students all begin with general engineering studies in their first year before choosing their major for their second year. 

The school also offers Cornell Engineering Project Teams, providing a unique learning experience focused on collaboration. Undergraduate students independently lead and run these teams to solve complex world problems and gain the necessary experience to make their marks in the engineering world. The school currently supports 31 projects teams, the largest national program of its kind. 

Along with all these excellent offerings and opportunities, Cornell also: 

  • It is the first engineering college “of its size and stature to have reached gender parity among students” 
  • Every faculty member in the college teaches and advises students
  • Allows you to gain access to a career network 
  • Provides you the support services you need, whether from faculty, peers, or advising and student services offices

Beyond the rankings and based on the program’s breadth, focus on innovation and collaboration, and student support, it’s clear to see why Cornell University is the best Ivy League school for engineering. 

Are All Ivy League Schools Good for Engineering? 

Because of their prestige, resources, world-class faculty, and program offerings, all Ivy League engineering programs may suit your needs: they are all excellent schools. Below we’ll look at each Ivy League school’s engineering program in-depth. 

Princeton University

Princeton University claims the No. 23 spot in Best Engineering Schools. The school’s engineering program has six departments to choose from: 

  • Civil and Environmental Engineering 
  • Chemical & Biological Engineering 
  • Computer Science 
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering 
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 
  • Operations Research and Financial Engineering 

The School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton’s mission is “to educate future leaders in engineering practice, research and education, business and finance, public service, and other professions.” Other characteristics that make the program stand out include: 

  • You are taught by some of the most intellectual and accomplished faculty the country has to offer.
  • The school's selectivity means you’ll be learning from and interacting with peers just as talented and unique as you are.
  • The School of Engineering and Applied Science comprises approximately one-quarter of Princeton’s undergraduate students, fostering closer relationships.
  • A liberal arts curriculum also plays a significant role in the B.S.E. curriculum. 
  • Princeton emphasizes engineering scientific principles: you’ll understand the fundamentals through practice and application to enable you to succeed in numerous professional settings. 
  • Every engineering student carries out independent investigations through a year-long senior thesis or semester-long projects. 

Princeton states that there is “no ideal type of Princeton applicant.” However, the school is interested in students who take the most challenging courses available, display curiosity, and demonstrate excellence in math and science. 

Harvard University

Harvard University claims the No. 23 in Best Engineering Schools, along with its reputation as one of the most widely recognized U.S. universities. Students interested in engineering learn at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

The five primary engineering areas at SEAS are: 

  • Bioengineering 
  • Electrical Engineering 
  • Environmental Science & Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering 
  • Engineering Sciences 

These areas of interest can be pursued to gain a Bachelor of Arts or Science: the differences lay in curriculum and other projects. The purpose of the program is to “educate future leaders with the technical background necessary to develop and critically evaluate the next wave of engineering innovations, to apply these innovations to important local and global problems, and to make informed decisions about them in a societal context.” 

Harvard’s liberal arts environment and focus mean you’ll have the tools you need to excel in integrative areas of engineering. You’ll also have many opportunities for research as part of your coursework and independent study. 

The most distinguishing factor about the program is that you’re not enrolled in a separate school or science, encouraging students to seek an innovative and multidisciplinary education. 

Yale University 

Yale University claims U.S. World News and Report’s No. 42 spot in Best Engineering Schools. The Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science offers eight disciplines between these six engineering departments

  • Applied Physics 
  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Chemical & Environmental Engineering 
  • Computer Science 
  • Electrical Engineering 
  • Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science 

Yale states that, unlike other tech schools, engineering students will also take non-engineering subjects with liberal arts majors to gain a multi-faceted undergraduate education. Engineering students at Yale learn soft skills like effective communication; as a result, allowing them to better network and excel in any field they choose, whether it’s tech, academic, business, government, or any leadership position. 

If you’re looking for a more intimate learning style, the ratio of engineering graduates to professors is approximately 2:1, meaning you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside field experts, help with their research, and make other innovative contributions. 

Columbia University

Columbia University is ranked No. 17 in Best Engineering Schools, not too far behind Cornell. At Columbia, 17 engineering areas of study lead to a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree:

  • Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics 
  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Chemical Engineering 
  • Civil Engineering 
  • Computer Engineering 
  • Computer Science
  • Earth & Environmental Engineering 
  • Electrical Engineering 
  • Engineering Mechanics 
  • Industrial Engineering and Operations Research 
  • Materials Science and Engineering 
  • Mechanical Engineering 
  • Operations Research: Engineering Management Systems 
  • Operations Research: Financial Engineering 

There are also more than 30 minor concentrations to choose from that may cater to your various interests. 

In your first two years at Columbia Engineering, you’ll complete Columbia’s Core Curriculum, where you’ll learn the foundations of humanities, engineering, sciences, and math. You’ll complete technical, non-technical, elective, and some professional-level courses. 

Columbia has many research opportunities, and you’ll even be involved in projects that require collaboration and teamwork from your first day onward. Whether you’re interested in studying abroad or finding an internship, Columbia Engineering has something for everyone. 

University of Pennsylvania 

Ranked No. 19 in Best Engineering Schools (tied with Columbia), the University of Pennsylvania is an excellent option if you're looking for a comprehensive engineering education. Penn Engineering has six departments:

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 
  • Computer and Information Science 
  • Electrical and Systems Engineering 
  • Material Science and Engineering 
  • Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics 

At UPenn, you’ll learn to think like an engineer through the school’s innovative culture. The school boasts “world-acclaimed faculty, state-of-the-art research laboratories and highly interdisciplinary curricula offer an experience that is unparalleled.” 

You’ll have opportunities to find research mentors and research experiences. You can work in research laboratories all year long. Penn Engineering’s research mission is “not only to have the highest scholarly standards within disciplines, but also to be an international leader in interdisciplinary research across fields.” 

If you crave an innovative undergraduate experience and cross-department collaboration, UPenn may be the school for you. 

Dartmouth College 

Ranked No. 55 in Best Engineering Schools, Dartmouth College’s small student population makes for a more personal and supported learning experience. Dartmouth has six program areas for undergraduate engineering students:

  • Biological & Chemical Engineering 
  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering 
  • Energy Engineering 
  • Materials Science & Engineering 
  • Mechanical Operations & Systems Engineering 

Dartmouth Engineering aims to “prepare the next generation of leaders to solve problems through engineering thinking, research, and innovation with human-centered impact.” The school encourages students to learn without boundaries, improve the human condition, learn by doing, enjoy a healthy environment, and aspire to entrepreneurship. 

You’ll learn in small teams at Dartmouth and work with faculty, workshops, labs, and staff. The school offers three different bachelor’s degrees for engineering students: a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Engineering, or a Dual degree. 

If a smaller campus and engineering education grounded in liberal arts appeals to you, Dartmouth is an excellent addition to your college list

Brown University 

Brown University claims the No. 63 spot. The School of Engineering offers eight degree programs:

  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Chemical Engineering 
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Engineering/Physics 
  • Environmental Engineering 
  • Materials Engineering 
  • Mechanical Engineering 

The School of Engineering aims to support Brown University’s overall mission through educating “future leaders in the fundamentals of engineering in an environment of world-class research.” 

All engineering students combine their studies with Brown’s famous open curriculum to gain a comprehensive liberal arts understanding. Brown emphasizes interdisciplinary learning, encouraging students to pursue studies meaningful to their passions and career goals. 

You can take various course combinations to lead to a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, or a combined degree through the School of Engineering. If you value course customization and options, Brown and its open curriculum can give you the freedom you crave. 

What’s the Easiest Ivy League School to Get Into for Engineering? 

All Ivy League schools have low acceptance rates, often in the single digits year after year. The easiest Ivy League school to get into for engineering isn’t all that easy. However, based on data trends, Cornell University is often regarded as the easiest school to get into with its slightly higher average acceptance rate. 

It’s hard to ascertain acceptance rates for individual schools or colleges within an Ivy League university: class profile data may tell you how many students enrolled in each school but probably won’t show you the breakdown of where students applied.

Ivy League schools currently have pretty low acceptance rates

  • Columbia University: 3.9% 
  • Harvard University: 3.4% 
  • Princeton University: 5.8% 
  • Yale University: 4.4% 
  • Brown University: 5.1% 
  • The University of Pennsylvania: 4.1% 
  • Dartmouth College: 6.2% 
  • Cornell College: 7.0% 

Based on this data, Cornell not only has the best engineering program of all the Ivies but the highest acceptance rate as well, making it a worthwhile addition to your college list. However, it’s important not to get too caught up on statistics: these numbers don’t reflect the quality or how many applications these schools received. Remember, these schools are top-rated among U.S. and international students and have limited seats.

Ivy League Engineering Schools FAQs 

Ivy League engineering programs can be highly selective, and many students have questions as they go forward. Here are some common FAQs answered. 

1. What is the minimum GPA I need to get into Ivy League engineering schools? 

There is generally no minimum GPA requirement for Ivy League schools, but your GPA should be high to become a more competitive applicant. Of course, your GPA isn’t the only application component that matters, but engineering programs can be intense. Admissions committees want to make sure your track record shows you’ll be able to confidently handle the work college has to offer. 

2. What are common course prerequisites for engineering programs? 

Most Ivy League schools don’t have prerequisite course requirements, but you should choose courses in high school that will help prepare you for the road ahead. Aim to take high-level math and science courses, and be sure to check program requirements before you apply if you need prerequisites. 

For example, Cornell requires four units of math, one unit of physics, and one chemistry unit before students can apply. 

3. Is it worth applying to Ivy League engineering schools? 

It's always worth applying to schools you feel best suit your personality, aspirations, and educational goals. Even if these schools are considered a “reach” for you, many students get accepted at Ivy League schools every admissions cycle. Why can’t it be you? 

4. What are other good schools for engineering besides the Ivy League? 

Don’t feel limited to applying to just Ivy League engineering programs. There are many other outstanding undergraduate engineering schools, including MIT, Stanford University, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, and many more. 

5. How do I decide on an engineering major or concentration? 

Deciding on a major can be challenging, especially if you’re interested in everything engineering! Many Ivy League schools don’t expect first-year students to pick a major right away; you usually have some time and can decide in your sophomore year. Talk to your college advisor, do your research, and ask yourself important questions like, “Where do I want my education to take me? What would be most fulfilling to study? What are my goals?” 

With a bit of guidance and the answer to these questions, the major you should choose should become clearer. 

6. How do I boost my chances of getting into Ivy League engineering programs? 

Ivy League acceptance rates are low: there’s no way to sugarcoat that fact. However, don't let statistics discourage you! The best thing you can do is put a lot of time and effort into crafting the perfect application. 

Creating a compelling application can be difficult, but you know you don’t have to do it alone. Consider seeking the help of an admissions consultant. These experts know what admissions committees look for and can help you tailor your application in a way that grabs attention and shows why you’re an excellent candidate. 

7. Which ivy league school should I go to for engineering?

If you are unsure which Ivy League school is the right fit for you for engineering, you can take our "Which Ivy League College is Right for Me?" quiz. The quiz takes into account a range of factors, such as the major you are interested in studying, to help you identify which Ivy League school may be the best fit for you based on your individual needs and goals.

Final Thoughts

Ivy League engineering schools can be a great addition to your college list. These schools have the resources needed to ensure you get the comprehensive and advanced engineering training you need to succeed no matter where your career path takes you. 

Cornell University is often considered the best Ivy League school for engineering, and it’s also the easiest to get into. However, any Ivy League school is a great place to earn your undergraduate degree. Before you apply, be sure to check program requirements and research if the school might be the right fit for you. Good luck!

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