Anyone looking into colleges knows that the Ivy League is the gold standard of higher education in the United States. Universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia are the envy of the world, the jewels in the crown of American research and academics.
But what about Dartmouth College? How does it rank among the Ivy League schools?
Founded in 1769, Dartmouth is one of the “colonial colleges,” the nine schools established before the American Revolution. Originally designed to teach Christianity to Indigenous peoples in New England, Dartmouth College has grown into a prestigious liberal arts school, offering 57 majors.
Situated in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth consists of five schools. In addition to its undergraduate college, Dartmouth includes the Geisel School of Medicine, the Thayer School of Engineering, the Tuck School of Business, and the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. In addition, Dartmouth is affiliated with the Rockefeller Institute for Public Policy, the Hopkins Center for the Arts, and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Over the centuries, luminaries in the fields of politics, arts, and business have worn Dartmouth green. Alumni include former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, former Chief Justice Salmon Chase, former Secretary of State Daniel Webster, and current U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Numerous film and television stars studied at Dartmouth, including Fred Rogers, Dr. Seuss, Shonda Rhimes, and Mindy Kaling. Dartmouth even produced one of the greatest American poets, Robert Frost.
A student body impressive as this demands a top-notch faculty, and that’s exactly what Dartmouth offers. Literary pioneer Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick taught there and Donald Pease is a current Humanities professor at Dartmouth. Strategic Brand Management author Kevin Lane Keller teaches in the Tuck School of Business and former President George W. Bush’s Chief Economist Andrew Samwick serves as Director for the Rockefeller Institute for Public Policy.
Are these impressive credentials enough to earn Ivy League status for Dartmouth College? If so, why does Dartmouth receive less attention than the other Ivy League schools?
Is Dartmouth an Ivy League School?
Although not as famous as its sisters Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, Dartmouth is indeed an Ivy League school.
Contrary to popular belief, the Ivy League is not a hoary academic organization, but an athletic conference established in 1958. Its primary purpose is to organize and oversee Division I sports for its nine member institutions. In addition to Dartmouth, these schools are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Columbia University, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University.
Although it, like all Ivy League schools, does not offer athletic scholarships, Dartmouth has fielded some impressive football, soccer, and hockey teams. Runner Abbey D’Agostino earned Dartmouth its first NCAA title in track before heading to the 2016 Summer Games, and Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Ben Lovejoy once played for the Dartmouth Big Green.
But don’t be fooled. Just because the Ivy League is an athletic conference, that doesn’t mean that these schools don’t take academics seriously. These schools have high admission standards and perform important research, and Dartmouth is no exception. Only an average of 7.9% of applicants is accepted to Dartmouth each year.
Although it does offer Graduate Degrees, its designation as a college (instead of a university) means that Dartmouth puts its priorities on undergraduate education. While this focus on undergraduate work does mean that Dartmouth tends to be ranked in the bottom half of Ivy League schools, it also means that the College expects the most from its applicants.
For that reason, Dartmouth restricts itself to the most dedicated and hard-working students. Typically, only those who score in the top 3% on the SAT and the ACT are offered admission, and even a GPA of 3.6 does not guarantee acceptance.
Those who do make it into Dartmouth College get to enjoy the advantages of a small liberal arts college with an Ivy League pedigree. Where students can sometimes be lost in the size and stature of higher-end Ivies like Princeton and Columbia, Dartmouth offers all of the prestige and rigor of the nation’s most exclusive schools while providing the attention and support students need to succeed.
Dartmouth College: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More
At first glance, Dartmouth appears to be near the bottom of the Ivy League. Where the other schools receive between 30,000 and 50,000 applicants each year, only 21,394 hopefuls applied to Dartmouth in 2020. But even with lower application numbers, Dartmouth is selective. In 2020, the College offered its third-lowest acceptance rate in its storied history, admitting only 1,881 applicants.
U.S. News and World Report ranks Dartmouth College #13 in its list of National Universities, above fellow Ivies Brown and Cornell. However, U.S. News also placed Dartmouth #10 in its rankings of Best Value Schools, #7 in Best Undergraduate Teaching, and #2 in Best Colleges for Veterans, above all other Ivy League schools.
According to Forbes.com, Dartmouth sits at an impressive 10th place on the list of America’s Top Colleges, and #7 in the Northeast, higher than several other Ivies. The Princeton Review placed Dartmouth at #17 in Best Value Colleges, #20 in Best Value Colleges without Aid (above all Ivies except Yale and Princeton), and #13 in Career Placement.
Dartmouth’s Academics and Value earned the College an A+ grade from Niche.com, which ranked the school #13 on the list of Best Colleges in America. Dartmouth ranked even higher on lists focused on discipline, earning #3 in Best Colleges for Anthropology and Sociology in America and #4 in Best Colleges for Global Studies in America.
Unlike other ranking systems, the Washington Monthly does not focus on academic or athletic success (or endowment). Instead, it judges schools according to “their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research, and promoting public service.” On that scale, Dartmouth hit number 33, receiving higher marks for social mobility and research.
Again, Dartmouth tends to score lower on these scales because of its focus on undergraduate education over graduate studies. That commitment to undergraduate education can be found in its 7:1 student to faculty ratio. With a 5.7 billion dollar endowment, that low ratio means that those entering Dartmouth can expect a great deal of attention and support.
How to Get Into Dartmouth
Students who want to join the ranks of Dartmouth’s storied alumni had better be ready to work hard. According to Niche.com, those accepted into Dartmouth have an SAT score between 1440-1560 and an ACT score between 32-35.
The college tends to accept only the top 3% of high school classes and expects an average GPA of 4.11 with a focus on AP and Honors classes.
That said, it isn’t all about the numbers. With a strong emphasis on the humanities and social sciences, Dartmouth puts a premium on critical thinking and imagination. These qualities don’t always show in your grades, but they do come out in references, letters of recommendation, and extra-curricular activities.
If you’re looking to study the humanities at Dartmouth, make sure that you’ve spent time in high school preparing. Perform in a school play or serve in the stage crew. Volunteer for the school newspaper or art journal and submit your art and writing. Develop relationships with your English and Arts teachers and take the time to do extra reading, so you can chat with them about what you’ve learned.
If you’re going to Dartmouth as a way into government, start small at your high school. Be sure to take part in student government campaigns, serving as a volunteer if not running yourself. Take part in your school’s Model UN and debate teams, sharpening your argument skills. Look for opportunities to get involved outside of school, working for local politicians, or helping out with non-profits.
Not only will these activities show the admissions board at Dartmouth that you’re an engaged member of society, but they’ll also be a great way to proffer letters of recommendation. Sometimes, a letter of recommendation can carry even more weight than a good grade, as it can speak to the person you are instead of just your ability to take tests. Letters of recommendation are an important part of the application process at Dartmouth, so make sure you’re developing those relationships now.
Recap: Dartmouth Is an Ivy League School
Although it doesn’t inspire the same awe and respect as its sisters Harvard and Yale, Dartmouth is an Ivy League school. Not only does Dartmouth belong to the same athletic conference as these big-name institutions, but it has an equally long history of developing some of the greatest minds in the nation.
As an Ivy League school, Dartmouth College offers the same benefits and barriers to admission. Its focus on undergraduate education means that the College provides a small school environment no other Ivy can match. But that focus also means that Dartmouth is more limited in its acceptance than most, offering admission to only 7.9% of those who apply. With such a low rate, the large majority of those who want to go to Dartmouth will never make it in.
Anyone who wants to enjoy the benefits and prestige of an Ivy school like Dartmouth must begin preparing in high school. More than other Ivies, Dartmouth demands a strong GPA and test scores, so future applicants must make preparations as soon as possible. They should AP and Honors classes related to their majors and work hard to get As. Test prep classes can help them develop techniques to earn the SAT and ACT scores Dartmouth expects.
Despite the importance of these grades, no applicant should pin all their hopes on numbers. Dartmouth values well-rounded and engaged students, qualities that potential applicants should build while in high school. Participation in extra-curricular activities will not only give applicants the experience the College desires but will also help them make connections for strong letters of recommendation.
Will that work be easy? No, of course not. But no one expects Ivy League schools to be easy. In fact, exclusivity is part of the appeal.
But for those who do work hard and become well-rounded and intellectually curious students, Dartmouth College offers a learning experience few other intuitions can match. At Dartmouth, you get the attention and support of a small liberal arts college, with all the prestige and history of the Ivy League.