Is Stanford, MIT, Duke an Ivy League School? | Ivies Facts

Ivy League Schools

Originally term Ivy League didn’t relate to academics. According to the timeline the term was first coined in 1933 and became official in February 1954 when Ivy Group Agreement was signed by 8 colleges participating in intercollegiate sports.

The list of Ivy League Schools:

  • Brown University (Providence, RI)
  • Columbia University (New York City, NY)
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
  • Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)
  • Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
  • Yale University (New Haven, CT)

So, what is so special about Ivy League schools? Is so happened that the schools in this list are among the highest ranked (see rankings) and most competitive universities in the US.

Another factor, I believe, is the name which sounds like “Ivory Tower” and by association, people think of Ivy League schools as elite colleges.

Ivy League Map


According to Best Colleges 2019 U.S. News and World Report following are the national rankings of Ivy League schools as of 2019:

  • Princeton University (#1)
  • Harvard University (#2)
  • Columbia University (#3 tie)
  • Yale University (#3 tie)
  • University of Pennsylvania (#8)
  • Dartmouth College (#12)
  • Brown University (#14)
  • Cornell University (#16)

Why Stanford, MIT, Duke, (name your school) is not an Ivy League School?

There are many good schools in the US. Some of the top schools are even higher in rankings than some of Ivy League schools. For instance, MIT, the University of Chicago tied with Columbia and Yale and Stanford, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Caltech and Vanderbilt are higher in rankings than Cornell.

So why are they not considered as Ivy League schools? The reason is simple. The list was created in 1954 as a list of schools competing in athletics and the list has never changed to include academically strong colleges in the US.

Which Ivy League school is easiest to get in?

If using the acceptance rate as criteria, then the easiest school to get in would be Cornell with its rate of 13%. Dartmouth is the second with an acceptance rate of 10%.

Also, Cornell’s total undergraduate enrollment is about 14,900 which is the highest among all Ivies.

Average GPA of students accepted to Cornell is 4.05 which is higher than UPenn (3.93) and Princeton (3.9), but average SAT score 1470 is the lowest of among all Ivies.

Verdict: Although Cornell is extremely hard to get in (school is ranked at 16th place) it is the easiest of all Ivy League colleges to get in.

Which Ivy League school is hardest to get in?

The acceptance rate of Harvard is the lowest among Ivies at 5%. However, the average SAT at Harvard is the highest at 1520. Also, students accepted to Harvard have average GPA of 4.1 which is among highest along with Yale (4.12) and Columbia (4.14).

Verdict: Harvard University is the hardest of all Ivy League colleges to get in and that’s why it’s always in top 3 highest ranked national colleges.

Which Ivy League school is cheapest?

Tuition for all Ivy League schools is about $50,000 and with a price tag as low as $47,140 at Princeton and as high as $59,430 at Columbia. However, the real cost depends on financial aid package which is different for all families.

So, for someone Princeton could be more expensive than Columbia and for someone, Harvard is better than Yale.

Are Ivy League students really that smart?

Since 8 out of the top 16 schools are in Ivy League it is fair to say that most students in those colleges are really smart. Ivies accept only a fraction of students applied and they can choose the best applicants.

But if the question is if the top student in Harvard is smarter than the top student in, e.g. University of Virginia the answer may not be so obvious.

First, no college can tell for sure that certain kid one day will be a Nobel prize winner, and those promising applicants may be rejected simply because there is enough space to admit every gifted person. And if this person is not admitted he or she will go to another university.

Second, the price tag of a private college is too high for middle-class families. After certain income level families have to pay the full tuition which combined with room and board may exceed $70,000. There are many students who after being admitted to top private schools will go to state colleges because they cannot afford the tuition of a private college.

How to get into Yale?

There are tons of courses and books claiming that they know how to get accepted to Harvard, but the fact is there is no sure way to get in. Sometimes, all you need is to write an essay about pizza. But if you want to increase your chances you should make sure that your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are outstanding.

Is Ivy League education worth it?

The question should probably be “Is education in top private school worth it?” because there are many top non-Ivy private schools. The answer to the question depends on each person’s circumstances.

If I was accepted in two colleges, top private and top public ones, then the answer depends on how much my parents must pay. If my parents can afford the education without having to take a loan, then the answer is maybe. If my parents have to borrow $200K then the answer is no.

The answer is maybe if I have to borrow $200K in order to go to top MBA school because the chances are high that I will be able to quickly repay my loan.

But in my opinion, borrowing over $100K to get an undergraduate degree is not worth it. It’s far better to get a comparable education from a top public college in my state (see Public Ivies below).

One could argue that top schools have alumni network which can help to boost your career, but those connections are only useful in law and business fields; and since both require master’s degrees the much better path is to get an undergraduate degree in public school and graduate in private school later.

For years the term Ivy League used initially to describe 8 schools competing in sports was associated with elite higher education. But there are many schools which are even more selective and prestigious than some Ivies.

For instance, the acceptance rate at Stanford (4.8%) is lower than at Harvard, and MIT is a top engineering school.

And since there are hundreds of good schools, people were inventing different Ivy League like lists. Let’s review some of them.

Public Ivies

The main difference between public and private colleges is the role the state governments play in their funding. While private schools are mostly funded by students and individual contributors, public schools funded mostly by states.

As a result, in-state students pay much less (often 2 times less) than out of state students. Also, public (state) colleges are generally bigger than private ones which increases their acceptance rates which in turn impacts negatively their rankings in US News report.

However, it does not mean that education received in state colleges is less competitive than in private schools.

Richard Moll, who was an admissions officer in Yale, listed 8 top public colleges in his book “The Public Ivy’s”:

  • College of William & Mary (ranked #38 in National University rankings)
  • Miami University at Oxford, Ohio (#96)
  • University of California (UCLA ranked #19, Berkeley #22, Santa Barbara #30, Irvine #33, Davis #38, San Diego #41, Santa Cruz #70, and Riverside #85)
  • University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (#27)
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#30)
  • University of Texas at Austin (#49)
  • University of Vermont (#96)
  • University of Virginia (#25)

and worthy runner-ups:

  • University of Colorado Boulder (#96)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (#35)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (#46)
  • New College of Florida (not included in National rankings)
  • Pennsylvania State University at University Park (#59)
  • University of Pittsburgh (#70)
  • Binghamton University (#80)
  • University of Washington (#59)
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison (#49)

The list was later expanded to 30 colleges in The Public Ivies: America’s Flagship Public Universities (2001) by Howard and Matthew Greene.

Little Ivies

Another elite group of selective private colleges that were not included in Ivy League is called Little Ivies. The list includes small liberal arts schools in North East:

  • Amherst College – Amherst, MA (ranked #2 among National Liberal Arts Colleges)
  • Bates College – Lewiston, ME (#22)
  • Bowdoin College – Brunswick, ME (#5)
  • Bucknell University – Lewisburg, PA (#36)
  • Colgate University – Hamilton, NY (#16)
  • Connecticut College – New London, CT (#46)
  • Colby College – Waterville, ME (#18)
  • Hamilton College – Clinton, NY (#16)
  • Haverford College – Haverford, PA (#11)
  • Lafayette College – Easton, PA (#36)
  • Middlebury College – Middlebury, VT (#5)
  • Swarthmore College – Swarthmore, PA (#3)
  • Trinity College – Hartford, CT (#46)
  • Tufts University – Medford, MA (ranked #27 in National Universities)
  • Union College – Schenectady, NY (#39)
  • Vassar College – Poughkeepsie, NY (#11)
  • Wesleyan University – Middletown, CT (#18)
  • Williams College – Williamstown, MA (#1)

Little Ivies were expanded to 30 colleges in the guide “Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence” published in 2000 (Hidden Ivies now include 63 colleges).

Seven Sisters

For a long time, women and men in the USA were taught separately. All Ivy League colleges were male only schools until the 1960s. The last college that started admitting women was Columbia University in the fall of 1983.

Women have been taught in women-only colleges. Seven of them were called Seven Sisters:

  • Barnard College – New York, NY (ranked #25 in National Liberal Arts Colleges)
  • Bryn Mawr College – Bryn Mawr, PA (#27)
  • Mount Holyoke College – South Hadley, MA (#30)
  • Radcliffe College – Cambridge, MA
  • Smith College – Northampton, MA (#11)
  • Vassar College – Poughkeepsie, NY (#11)
  • Wellesley College – Wellesley, MA (#3)

Radcliffe dissolved after merging into Harvard College in 1999. Vassar College became coeducational in 1969. Others are still women colleges.

Black Ivies

Another group of people that were denied from getting higher education were African Americans. According to “Blacks in College: A Comparative Study of Students’ Success in Black and in White Institutions” by Dr. Jacqueline Fleming the list of Black Ivies consists of:

  • Clark Atlanta University – Atlanta, GA (ranked #15 in Historically Black Colleges and Universities)
  • Dillard University – New Orleans, LA (#11)
  • Hampton University – Hampton, VA (#3)
  • Howard University – Washington, DC (#2)
  • Fisk University – Nashville, TN (#6)
  • Morehouse College – Atlanta, GA (#3)
  • Spelman College – Atlanta, GA (#1)
  • Tuskegee University – Tuskegee, AL (#15)

Southern Ivy

All Ivy League colleges located in North East USA. However, good schools can be found everywhere. Several schools in the South are known under unofficial term Southern Ivy or Magnolia Conference:

  • Duke University – Durham, NC (ranked #8 National Universities)
  • Rice University – Houston, TX (#16)
  • Southern Methodist University – Dallas, TX (#59)
  • Tulane University – New Orleans, LA (#44)
  • Vanderbilt University – Nashville, TN (#14)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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