10 “Southern Ivies” As Good As the Actual Ivies

Tell anyone you attended an Ivy League School, and you will gain a certain level of respect for your accomplishments.

Unquestionably, schools like Princeton, Harvard, and Yale are amazing institutions.

But, can you get an equivalent education at a school in the south?

Many higher education experts resoundingly say “yes” to that question, and we have some amazing schools in the southern USA to prove it.

Today, we are going to talk about 10 schools that are sometimes referred to as “Southern Ivies.” 

These schools launch students into excellent job opportunities, have world-renowned experts on their faculty, and in some cases, do not cost nearly the same amount of money as their Ivy League counterparts.

Hundreds of Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer winners, and Fulbright awardees have collectively graduated from these 10 amazing schools.

In the opinion of College Gazette, here are 10 “Southern Ivies” just as good as the actual Ivies.

Tulane University (New Orleans, LA)

Tulane University
EEJCC, Tulane Freeman School of Business interior, CC BY-SA 4.0

With less than 20% acceptance rate, Tulane is one of the country’s most selective universities, making it among the most desirable “Southern Ivies” in the country.

The accolades in Tulane’s history are just as impressive as any other Ivy League school; 12 Louisiana Governors, 18 Rhodes Scholars, 155 Fulbright scholars, four living billionaires, and even a Supreme Court Justice have counted themselves as alumni of this amazing school.

Tulane is consistently among the highest-ranked schools in the country by major publications; US News ranked it #40 in their 2020 list of best schools.

In recent years, Tulane has undergone significant fundraising efforts; in 2004, two alumni handed over a total of $60m to the school.

Tulane also benefits from its fabulous location; based in one of America’s great cities, students enjoy the multicultural diversity of New Orleans as part of their college education.

Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC)

Wake Forest University
Jijithecat, UpperQuad ACB, marked as public domain

Wake Forest’s alumni are among the most impressive of any Southern Ivy. The school can claim 15 Rhodes Scholars, 92 Fulbrights, 15 Truman Scholars, and myriads of other accolades. 

Wake Forest is unique in that it is not ranked among the top 30 according to US News in terms of overall excellence, it is also ranked in the top-30 for “Best Value.” 

The university’s most prominent alumni include NBA legend Tim Duncan, author Maya Angelou, and US Senator Richard Burr.

Wake Forest has been ahead of the curb in terms of its college testing policies. Since 2008, the school has been test optional, meaning students are not required to submit ACT or SAT to get accepted.

Belmont University (Nashville, TN)

Belmont University
Lahti213, Belmont University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Belmont is a rising school, with a reported endowment in 2019 of over a quarter billion dollars. 

Belmont is deeply affiliated with the Christian Church, however students of all backgrounds and nationalities have found a home at Belmont University.

One of Belmont’s signature programs is music; they house both the School of Music as well as the Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business.

The School of Music has strong programs in classical and contemporary music performance and composition. 

The Mike Curb College has some of the best Music Business and Songwriting programs in the nation, making the school a smart choice for the student interested in either contemporary or classical music.

UNC-Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

UNC Chapel Hill
Yeungb, Morehead Planetarium, CC BY 3.0

The University of North Carolina is more than just Michael Jordan’s alma mater; it is one of the very best public universities in the US, in the same tier of schools as UCLA, Michigan, and UIUC.

Nine Nobel Prize laureates, an astonishing 23 Pulitzer winners, and 49 Rhodes Scholars have graduated from the halls of UNC-Chapel Hill.

One of Chapel Hill’s signature programs is journalism – in fact, last year we ranked it among the top 10 journalism colleges in the US.

In conjunction with their Kenan-Flagler School of Business, UNC also has a business journalism major.

UNC has over 300,000 living graduates, making it one of the largest, most active alumni bases in the world. 

UNC has had an unusual influence over popular culture; artist Andy Warhol, actor John Forsythe, former ESPN analyst Stuart Scott, and comedian Lewis Black all graduated from UNC.

Washington and Lee University (Lexington City, VA)

Washington & Lee University
Bobak Ha’Eri, Washington and Lee University, CC BY 3.0

Like another school later on this list, Washington and Lee is one of the nation’s most prestigious liberal arts colleges, with US News ranking the school #10 in their recent rankings of the top liberal arts colleges.

Legacy is at the heart of the Washington and Lee experience; it is actually the 9th oldest institution of higher education in the US. 

The total number of students at this school is between 2200 – 2300, making it one of the smallest “Southern Ivies” on this list.

Washington Monthly ranked Washington and Lee the #1 liberal arts college in the country.

University of Richmond (Richmond, VA)

University of Richmond
Talbot0893, Robins School of Business, University of Richmond, CC BY-SA 4.0

“Spider Pride” is ubiquitous at the University of Richmond, one of the nation’s most intriguing small universities. With less than 5,000 total students, the atmosphere at Richmond is studious, safe, and not overwhelming; students rarely feel like they are “lost in a crowd” as they may in a large university.

Many students desire to attend this university, however just 1/4th of all applicants are admitted to the school. 

The Princeton Review rates the University of Richmond favorably, having award it top-5 rankings for best-run school, best career services, best schools for internships, and best classroom experience.

The campus life at Richmond is vibrant, brimming with campus tradition. Some of these traditions include the crowning of the largest goose in nearby Westhampton Lake, and Pig Roast, a large gathering of students and alumni that has featured musical artists such as Flo Rida.

The University of Richmond has the feeling of a liberal arts college with the resources and endowment of a large university, making it a great fit for the student who wants the best of both worlds.

Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)

Vanderbilt University
Jbaker08, Peabodyvu, marked as public domain

Vanderbilt is widely recognized as one of the best universities in the country. Olympians, Oscar winners, MacArthur Fellows, and even a Grammy recipient have counted themselves among the numerous alumni of this prestigious university.

Like the next school on this list, Vanderbilt has been awarded the “R1” research designation by the Carnegie classification, an accolade just a tiny proportion of US schools can claim.

Vandy takes the #1 prize for an unusual – but important – ranking: the school with the happiest students. The Princeton Review consistently ranks Vanderbilt among the top for this achievement.

Why is Vanderbilt such a happy school? The Princeton Review looked at the following factors in its assessment: safety, location, residence halls, cafeteria quality, and even excellent financial aid packages.

Vanderbilt is the highest-ranked school on this list according to US News, coming in at #15 of all universities nationwide.

University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL)

University of Miami
Harrier233, University of Miami Otto G. Richter Library, public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Based in beautiful Coral Gables, Florida, the University of Miami is home to many of the south’s very best programs.

Its music program, the Frost School of Music, is widely recognized among the best programs for classical music, contemporary music, and musical theatre. The acceptance rate into Frost is among the lowest of all university-based music schools.

As a whole, the University of Miami is classified as a “R1” research institution by the Carnegie Classification; less than 2% of all schools in the United States have achieved this prestigious designation.

Several niche programs at Miami are ranked highly by US News; majors in Physical Therapy, Game Design, and Clinical Training have recently been ranked in the top 25.

Davidson College (Davidson, NC)

Davidson College
Dacoslett, Chambers Building, Davidson College, public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons

One of the nation’s great liberal arts colleges, Davidson is probably best known to the everyday person as the school that graduated NBA superstar Stephen Curry.

However, the list of amazing alumni does not stop at Steph Curry; an incredible 23 Rhodes Scholars have once called Davidson College their home. 

Davidson is great for the student who desires exploration; an impressive 3/4ths of the student body does at least one study abroad term during their 4 years at Davidson.

True to its liberal arts college heritage, Davidson also has a small student:teacher ratio, making 1-on-1 learning and attention a staple of the Davidson experience.

One of the nation’s best schools, this Southern Ivy is currently ranked in the top 20 on the US News Liberal Arts College list.

Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas)

Southern Methodist University
Yelpet, Fondren Science Building, CC BY-SA 4.0

Southern Methodist is a school rising on the ranking charts; it currently sits in the top 100 in publications by US News, Wall Street Journal, and Forbes Magazine.

The list of accomplished alumni from SMU is extensive. They include former First Lady Laura Bush, three Pulitzer Prize winners, an Oscar winning actress in Kathy Bates, and CEOs of major airlines such as British Airways and Virgin America.

Home to a $1.7bn endowment, several of the constituent schools at SMU are as prestigious in the south as Ivies are in the east coast. 

These include Dedman School of Law, which has graduated five Fortune 500 executives, the most of any school according to this article, White House Counsel, and Federal judges.

Although the school is affiliated with the Methodist Church, it is actually nonsectarian in education and enrolls students of all backgrounds.

Students at SMU benefit tremendously from the resources of Dallas, getting the best of a major city urban experience with the focus and academic wherewithal of a top Southern Ivy.