The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, is one of the most renowned and well-respected universities globally, an incredible incubator of scientific research and development, and a mecca of STEM excellence. Because MIT is such a selective, elite university, many people wonder whether it is part of the illustrious Ivy League.
Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT shares a hometown with another world-famous university: none other than Harvard. MIT’s urban campus is situated along the Charles River, just a stone’s throw from Boston’s bustling metropolis. MIT reflects the youthful, progressive, innovative ethos of Boston, and is regarded as one of the most academically rigorous and innovative STEM-oriented universities not only in the United States but across the globe.
MIT has a distinctive campus culture. In their words, they are “fun and quirky, elite but not elitist, inventive and artistic, obsessed with numbers, and welcoming to talented people regardless of where they come from.” The university values tinkering, risk-taking, outside-the-box thinking, and powerful real-world applications of fields like engineering, the sciences, and mathematics.
Indeed, MIT’s students, faculty, and alumni are known for having a powerful impact on the world. Notable alumni include astronaut (and the second person to walk on the moon) Buzz Aldrin, famed physicist Richard Feynman, co-founder and CEO of BuzzFeed and co-founder of The Huffington Post Jonah Peretti, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Khan Academy founder Salman Khan, and television executive Andrea Wong.
MIT clearly embodies the selectivity, prestige, and record of excellence we typically associate with the Ivies. In this article, we’ll discuss exactly what the Ivy League actually means, whether MIT is included among the Ivies, and how you can get accepted.
Is MIT an Ivy League School?
MIT is not an Ivy League School. In terms of reputation, selectivity, national and international rankings, and overall prestige, MIT is undoubtedly on par with (and in some cases exceeds) the Ivies. Still, MIT is not in the Ivy League. Here’s why.
The Ivy League was established as an athletic conference in the early 1950s, and includes eight private schools in the Northeastern corner of the United States: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell. No additional schools have ever been added to the Ivy League, and no schools have been removed from it.
That said, universities like MIT, along with Duke, Stanford, Caltech, Northwestern, and Georgetown, are often considered comparable to Ivies because they have such low acceptance rates, high research output, and strong reputations. MIT is, in many ways, an Ivy League School without the official Ivy League moniker.
It’s interesting to remember that the Ivy League didn’t start out as a group of the most academically prestigious and elite universities. Rather, it began as an athletic conference. Only in recent decades has it come to be seen as the pinnacle of academic excellence and admissions selectivity.
Nowadays, MIT’s intercollegiate sports teams, the MIT Engineers, compete mainly in the NCAA Division III. By contrast, Ivy League schools compete in NCAA Division I. Even though athletics are not the highest priority at MIT, the university ranks #1 in the entire NCAA Division III for producing Academic All-Americas, a prestigious student-athlete accolade.
Why MIT Is Often Confused As an Ivy League School
MIT is universally renowned for its excellence in STEM fields, so it makes sense that many people mistake MIT for an Ivy League School. Even though the Ivy League began as an athletic conference, today it has much less to do with athletics and much more to do with academic prestige and low admission rates.
MIT is one of the most difficult schools in the country to get admitted to, so it’s natural that many people believe it must be in the Ivy League.
Beyond academic prestige, though, MIT is different from Ivy League schools in several significant ways. The first big difference is that MIT is primarily STEM-focused, whereas Ivy League schools tend to lean closer to the liberal arts and sciences. Since its founding in 1861, in response to the Industrial Revolution, MIT’s mission has been to apply science and engineering to real-world problems. With this in mind, the most popular majors and most renowned departments at MIT are all in STEM fields – computer science, engineering, physics, mathematics, and natural sciences.
MIT’s prestige isn’t only a function of its low acceptance rate. The university counts among its students, faculty, researchers, and alumni a whopping 97 Nobel Laureates, 26 Turing Award winners, and 8 Fields Medal recipients, not to mention scores of National Medal of Science recipients, National Medals of Technology and Innovation recipients, MacArthur Fellows, Marshall Scholars, and more. Elite awards such as these are typical of people affiliated with Ivy League institutions, so it’s clear that although MIT is not technically an Ivy, it is certainly Ivy caliber.
MIT: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More
MIT attracts scrappy, brilliant, entrepreneurial, STEM-oriented, highly accomplished students, faculty, and researchers from all walks of life. More so than many other universities, MIT values applicants who forge their own path and think (way) outside the box.
Even though MIT’s faculty and alumni hold some of the most prestigious distinctions in the world, MIT students as a whole tend to be motivated more by a genuine love of learning, scientific method, and intellectual discovery than a desire for external recognition.
At just 7%, MIT’s acceptance rate is one of the lowest in the entire country. For every 100 students who apply to MIT, only about 7 are accepted. Later in the article, we’ll discuss concrete strategies for students to stand out in the MIT admissions process. For now, suffice it to say that successful applicants are wildly talented.
MIT is consistently ranked in the very top tier in national and international publications. US News and World Report awards MIT the #4 spot, tied with Yale and beating out Ivies such as UPenn, Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell. According to US News, the median starting salary of MIT graduates is $82,700.
US News’ competitor Washington Monthly ranks MIT at #3 nationally, behind only Stanford and Harvard. Washington Monthly also ranks MIT #1 in terms of research, ahead of every Ivy League school and every other university in the country.
Meanwhile, Niche.com, which takes a holistic approach to rankings by drawing on real-life reviews of the universities, ranks MIT #1 in a handful of impressive categories: #1 Best Colleges in America, #1 Colleges with the Best Academics in America, #1 Top Private Universities in America, #1 Best Colleges in America for Computer Science, Mathematics, and Engineering, respectively. That is quite an appraisal!
How to Get Into MIT
Now that we’ve seen how highly MIT ranks among American colleges and discussed its stellar international reputation (ranked #1 in the entire world by QS World University Rankings), let’s break down how to get admitted.
Competitive candidates to MIT have a combination of near-perfect grades, test scores, teacher recommendations, essays, and extracurriculars. To be taken seriously as an applicant, a student will need to take a challenging course load throughout high school and excel in all of their classes. They will also need to achieve a very high score on the SAT or ACT. MIT’s SAT range is 1510-1570, and the ACT range is 34-36.
However, even though MIT students are “obsessed with numbers”, numbers are not the only element that factors into admissions decisions. MIT practices holistic admissions and uses its own application (not the Common App or Coalition App) with many short- and long-answer essay questions designed to get to know students as people. Students should craft an application that works together as a whole and tells a compelling narrative throughout. When writing these essays, applicants should keep in mind that MIT is looking for quirky, creative, boundary-pushing, intellectually vibrant, curious, compassionate students.
When it comes to extracurriculars, MIT values quality over quantity. In fact, they give applicants only enough space to describe 4 extracurricular activities and/or work experiences. This forces students to focus on depth rather than breadth and showcase deep, sustained commitment to and success in a few important activities.
Recap: MIT Is Not an Ivy League School. However, it is One of the Best Universities in the World
It’s true that MIT is not technically an Ivy League school. But it’s also true that MIT is just as prestigious, rigorous, impactful, and renowned as the Ivies. In many cases, MIT actually ranks above the Ivies!
Since its founding in response to the Industrial Revolution, MIT has focused on recruiting the best and brightest STEM minds and supporting them to make meaningful contributions to society. Many of the modern scientific, technological, and mathematical advances of the past century and a half have been thanks to MIT.
MIT has a unique character that distinguishes it not only from the Ivies, but from many other universities as well. MIT students tinker, try, fail, adapt, pivot, create, explore, analyze, and bask in the joy of intellectual discovery. The university boasts hundreds of world-renowned faculty and researchers, and attracts the most promising STEM-oriented students the world over.
MIT’s motto, Mens et manus (Mind and hand), captures what MIT hopes to achieve: applying the insights of brilliant minds to the work needed in the real world. While MIT is not an Ivy League institution, it is in many ways in a league of its own, a league even more renowned and impressive than the Ivies. MIT is truly a breeding ground for 21st-century leaders and world-changers, and in order to earn a spot in the incoming class, applicants need not only near-perfect stats, but also a compelling (and kind of quirky) story.
Looking at MIT’s record of excellence in STEM fields and increasing relevance to the world of today and tomorrow, it’s clear that MIT is not just Ivy-caliber; in many ways, it’s Ivy-eclipsing.