It’s no secret that an Ivy League education can set up graduates for success. But those eight private universities aren’t the only place in the United States to earn a highly respected degree.
“Ivy Plus” schools don’t belong to that elite group, but they have grown into institutions that offer an education similar in quality to the true Ivies.
They are often in demand yet highly selective, taking in just a tiny fraction of thousands of applicants who aspire to study there each year.
And these schools have other similarities to the Ivy League schools, too.
Many Ivy Plus schools have been around for centuries and also count among their alumni famous politicians, scientists, and more influential people.
Often, they focus a lot on research, with their programs attracting millions in capital to make those efforts possible, and have attracted award-winning faculty members who include some of the best people in their fields.
Students who graduate from Ivy Plus schools get an education that rivals that of Ivy Leaguers, positioning themselves well for success after they say goodbye to campus.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at some of the Ivy Plus colleges and what they offer.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
Founded in 1861, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sits just in the Boston suburb of Cambridge, not far from the Ivy League’s Harvard University. With more than 1,000 faculty members, it has an extremely low student-faculty ratio of 3:1.
Numerous organizations and publications have placed MIT at or near the top of their lists of the best universities, including the Center for World University Rankings, which ranked it second overall in the world behind Harvard.
Thanks to this stellar reputation, however, many people apply, and only a fraction can get in. For the class of 2024, MIT received 20,075 applications and admitted just 1,457.
MIT actually has more graduate students than undergraduates, at 6,893 versus 4,361. One college and five schools make up MIT, which offers programs in numerous sciences as well as engineering, computing, and more.
University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Located in the city’s South Side, the University of Chicago opened in 1890 and has more than 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
At the undergraduate level, the university offers more than 50 majors and 47 minors, while the graduate program includes seven professional schools and four divisions. The university also has a wide presence overseas, with several centers and campuses in places such as Paris and Hong Kong.
And it attracts and produces the best people in their fields, with 94 Nobel Prize winners affiliated with the university.
Research remains important at the university, which runs a highly respected marine biology laboratory in Massachusetts plus two U.S. Department of Energy laboratories. The different labs embrace collaboration, too, and work with one another on various research.
The university also embraces it place in the city and tries to support the South Side community through various programs, such as workforce development and the arts.
Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)
Carnegie Mellon University has developed a reputation for excellence in innovation as well as the arts. The university grew out of a technical school started and funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in the early 20th century, which merged with another Pittsburgh institution, the Mellon Institute, in 1967 to become Carnegie Mellon University.
Now, it is home to several science-focused colleges as well as the National Robotics Engineering Center and the Software Engineering Institute, two of the university’s more than 100 institutes and research centers.
But the university also has a thriving arts program, with the drama school, in particular, a popular destination for aspiring performers.
Carnegie Mellon is also focusing on its future with recent improvements, including creating a new quad that connects the school’s seven colleges and is home to the state-of-the art Tepper School of Business. The university has campuses in California’s Silicon Valley and overseas in Qatar, plus over 20 research partnerships in the United States and abroad.
Georgetown University (Washington, DC)
The oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States, Georgetown University began educating students in 1792. Several of its renowned schools also trace their history back more than 100 years, including the School of Medicine, which opened in 1851, and the Law School, which followed in 1870.
Currently, Georgetown has nine schools and over 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students taking classes across its various campuses, including one in Qatar.
The university also has an affiliated hospital, which has numerous residencies and fellowships for doctors.
The university has dozens of degree programs and a relatively low student-faculty ratio of 11:1. Getting into this prestigious school has become pretty tough, though, as more people and high-achieving people have applied through the years.
In 2020, Georgetown admitted 17% of its applicants.
Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)
Another Chicago-area school, Northwestern University started educating its first students before the Civil War. The school that saw 10 students take the first lessons in 1855 has ballooned to more than 8,000 undergraduate and over 13,000 graduate students. Today, its student-faculty ratio is a low 6:1.
Those interested in research have plenty of options as well, as Northwestern has over 50 research centers where cooperation among different disciplines is common.
Recent Northwestern graduates have done well, too. Within six months of graduating, 95% of the class of 2020 were either working or continuing their education.
They joined an alumni network that includes many famous faces from across industries, including TV host Stephen Colbert, noted author George R.R. Martin, and philanthropist and former actress Meghan Markle.
Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
Stanford University opened in 1891 and now attracts top students from around the world.
More than 7,800 undergraduate and 9,300 graduate students can pursue degrees in seven schools. In the classrooms are nearly 2,300 faculty members, giving the university a low 5:1 student-faculty ratio. This is a prestigious bunch, too, with 19 Nobel laureates among the group.
Thanks to its location in Silicon Valley, though, Stanford is widely known for innovation. It has been the location of technological achievements in recent years, and students have access to major companies and networking opportunities in the area.
That emphasis on research continues. As of the fall of 2021, Stanford’s researchers were conducting more than 7,700 projects sponsored by outside sources with a total budget of $1.64 billion.
California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA)
California Institute of Technology not only educates more than 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students but also oversees major scientific facilities, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Opened in 1891 as Throop University, Caltech evolved over the next 125-plus years to become a premier science and engineering school whose alumni and faculty members have won 46 Nobel Prizes.
Outside the classroom, Caltech has over 50 research institutes and centers, including a seismological lab, and also operates astronomical observatories located around the world. Undergraduate students take advantage of these opportunities, too, with 90% of them engaging in research.
Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)
Founded in 1853, Washington University welcomes students from every state and over 100 countries to study for associate degrees up through doctorates in the heart of St. Louis.
In addition to offering schools of law and medicine, the university has a potent mix of research, the arts, and community service.
Over 3,000 research projects are active each year, but students still find time for community service, with approximately 60% of undergrads participating. The university also is home to the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi River and a theater where professionals and students alike take the stage.
Duke University (Durham, NC)
Historically connected to the Methodist Church, Duke University traces began as an institute in the early 1800s and took its current name in 1924.
Now a major university, Duke remains highly ranked for its academics and attracts students to study a wide range of subjects in the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and the Pratt School of Engineering.
And in addition to offering outstanding academics, Duke also is an athletic powerhouse, winning numerous NCAA Division I championships in women’s golf, men’s basketball, and more.
Duke is a popular choice for college applicants but accepts few. It received 44,481 regular decision applications for the class of 2025 and admitted a record low number, 4.3%. The university aims to keep each class size at 1,720 students.
New York University (New York, NY)
Now one of the country’s biggest private universities, NYU opened in 1831 and has campuses in not only Manhattan but also Abu Dabi and Shanghai.
NYU is highly selective, admitting less than 2% of undergraduate applicants each year. Still, it has more than 50,000 students worldwide who can choose from 650 subject areas and can earn associate degrees up through doctorates.
They’re led by 5,050 total faculty members who, since 2000, have won five Pulitzer Prizes and five Nobel Prizes.
Students looking for a school that embraces diversity and inclusion will find it at NYU. International students made up 24% of the fall freshman class of 2023, consisting of 19% Asian/Pacific Islanders, 19% Hispanic/Latinos, and 9% African Americans.
Giving first-generation college students a chance also is important to NYU, and first-generation students made up 20% of that class of 2023.