10 “Little Ivies” As Good As The Actual Ivies

By now, everyone’s heard of the Ivy League — eight top U.S. universities that are as storied and prestigious as any other school in higher education — but have you heard of the Little Ivies?

Like the actual Ivies, these smaller, lesser-known universities are highly selective, have academically excellent students, and have a certain historical prestige.

This unofficial bunch of about 18 private liberal arts colleges provides the rigor of Yale or Harvard, if not the brand-name fame. While there are limited graduate degree programs at the Little Ivies, a greater focus on undergraduate education is the standard.

Undergrads should look into a Little Ivy if they want a challenging, individualized college experience. Students can expect norms such as an open curriculum and an interdisciplinary learning environment, regardless of major. In fact, many of the schools we highlight below offer dual degree and study abroad options at partner institutions across the country and world.

Eleven Little Ivies are part of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), so athletics, too, are a big part of student life.

Read on to find out more about 10 Little Ivies as good as the actual Ivies.

10. Colgate University (Hamilton, NY)

Colgate University
Fryslan0109, Colgate East and West Halls, public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons

Located in Hamilton, New York, Colgate University primarily awards bachelor of arts degrees in 56 majors.

With an enrollment under 3,000 students and a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, Colgate is an ideal place to get a well-rounded education.

The campus’s rural location highlights their outdoor education program. Each year, a handful of students participate in a Wilderness First Responder certification, where they prepare for various emergencies that might occur in the wild.

A variety of outdoor classes are also offered for credit. Equipment for skiing, tree climbing, and boating is available to rent for recreational use.

Famous Colgate alumni include journalist Bob Woodruff and NBA basketball center Adonal Foyle.

9. Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)

Wesleyan University
Smartalic34, College row at wesleyan, CC BY-SA 3.0

Like many of the colleges on this list, Wesleyan offers an interdisciplinary liberal arts education. However, its exceptional engineering and BA/MA programs stand out.

The dual degree engineering track is offered in collaboration with the California Institute of Technology and the School of Engineering at Columbia University. In five years, undergraduates can earn both a B.A. from Wesleyan and a B.S. from Caltech or Columbia.

The BA/MA program (in natural sciences, mathematics, and psychology) allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree at the end of fourth year and a master’s in fifth. Tuition for this final year is waived.

Wesleyan has produced 13 Pulitzer Prize winners, including Lin-Manuel Miranda for his hit musical Hamilton. Other alumni include U.S. politicians, composers, and filmmakers.

8. Williams College (Williamstown, MA)

Williams College
Daderot, Williams College – Chapin Hall, public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons

U.S. News has ranked Williams College the #1 Liberal Arts College in the nation since 2004.

Part of the reason is the close ties between student and teacher, demonstrated through Williams’ Tutorial program. Over the course of a full semester, each professor guides a pair of students through an intense, seminar-like course of study. The students develop independent work (an essay, lab, project) that often culminates in co-published papers with faculty.

Williams’ Winter Study program is also a huge draw. Between fall and spring semesters, undergrads choose a single month-long class to expand knowledge outside their main course of study. Past Winter Study courses include Photojournalism, Yoga and the Art of Fully Thriving, and Paris Noir.

Williams is known for producing prominent creatives, such as Tony award-winning composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and singer/filmmaker Wang Leehom.

Many politicians also hail from the college; nearly 100 members of Congress, state governors, and former Singapore prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, have all graduated from Williams.

7. Trinity College (Hartford, CT)

Trinity College
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Raether Library and Information Technology Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

Similar in student enrollment and setting to Colgate University, Trinity College offers B.A., B.S., and M.A. degrees. Undergraduates can choose from 41 majors or design their own.

A Trinity education molds students into creators, innovators, and game-changers.

Venezuelan student Daniel Santos Ramirez ‘23 co-founded Yakera, a crowdfunding platform where Venezuelans in need can safely access financial support. Santos Ramirez says that studying political science and economics at Trinity will help him give back even more to his crisis-torn home country.

Kristine Belson, president of Sony Pictures Animation and producer of Oscar-nominated films How to Train Your Dragon and The Croods, cites Trinity’s Cinestudio as a major contributor to her career as a filmmaker. Cinestudio is a non-profit, on-campus art cinema that shows indie films and documentaries.

David Chang, restaurateur and TV personality, started a restaurant empire with Momofuku group, which includes Michelin two-star winner Momofuku Ko in New York City. He also created his own Netflix original series, Ugly Delicious.

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