Ivy League universities are famous worldwide for their highly selective admissions processes, academic achievement, social elitism, and world-changing alumni. The Ivies tend to have massive endowments, international name recognition, and acceptance rates in the single digits. Ivy League institutions are also some of the most active and prolific research centers in the entire world, producing studies that change the way we think about and engaging in the world.
Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, shares some key characteristics with the Ivies: Purdue is a research powerhouse, practices selective admissions, boasts extremely successful alumni, and is known around the world for its excellence in STEM fields. That said, Purdue also differs from the Ivies in several important ways: it’s located in the Midwest, it’s a large public university, it admits about two-thirds of the students who apply, and it has a substantial undergraduate student population.
Purdue was founded as a public land grant university in 1869 to provide high-quality college education in science, technology, and agriculture. Since then, Purdue has continued to display excellence in these and other fields, and has earned a glowing reputation worldwide. In fact, Purdue consistently ranks in the top ten schools with the most international students. Moreover, the university has been affiliated with over a dozen Nobel laureates, a Turing Award laureate, high-ranking politicians, astronauts, and Fortune 500 CEOs.
Given Purdue’s top-notch academics, international renown, research output, and influential alumni and faculty, it’s easy to see why people wonder whether Purdue is an Ivy. In this article, we’ll break down what the Ivy League actually is, whether Purdue is a member of this illustrious group, and some tips for gaining admission to this highly sought-after public research institution.
Is Purdue University an Ivy League School?
Purdue is not technically an Ivy League university. However, it is a very prestigious public university and provides an education on par with that of the Ivy League.
It’s important to note that when the Ivy League was officially established in 1954, it was as an athletic conference – like the Big Ten (which Purdue is a member of). At the time of the creation of the Ivy League and through to the present day, there have only been eight members of this conference: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell. While many other universities seem deserving of the Ivy League label, such as MIT, Stanford, Duke, and Caltech, only the original eight are actually Ivies.
As noted above, Purdue differs from the Ivies in some important ways. First of all, it’s a public institution; all of the Ivies are private. This means that Purdue tends to be more affordable than the Ivies, and it also means that its admissions process tends to favor students from Indiana over students from other states.
Secondly, Purdue is much larger than the Ivies; Purdue’s undergraduate population is over 30,000, while Ivy League undergraduate enrollments range from about 4,500 to 15,000 at the high end. Thirdly, Purdue is not as selective as the Ivies. While Ivy League schools have acceptance rates in the low single digits, Purdue tends to accept about 60% of applicants, many of whom are from within the state of Indiana or from other countries.
Why Purdue University Is Confused As an Ivy League School
The two main reasons people confuse Purdue as an Ivy are its reputation as a research powerhouse and its international renown (and these of course go hand in hand!). Purdue is incredibly strong in STEM fields, especially engineering.
Indeed, Purdue’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs rank in the top ten – and often the top five or top three – nationwide. Purdue’s faculty is also very distinguished, and its campus is home to over 400 research laboratories. In fact, Purdue devotes an entire wing of its campus called Discovery Park to research, innovation, and discovery across disciplines.
Purdue’s faculty are experts in their fields and often world-renowned scientists, including two Nobel laureates at present. Other past faculty to have taught and researched at Purdue include Golden Gate Bridge designer Charles Alton Ellis, aviator Amelia Earhart, and President of the National Association of Mathematicians Edray Goins.
However, Purdue’s faculty aren’t the only ones with stellar reputations; many of Purdue’s alumni go on to hold high-ranking positions in their respective fields and participate in ground-breaking work. Purdue has produced astronauts, Nobel Prize-winning scientists, chief executives of massive companies such as Walgreens and McDonalds, Pulitzer Prize winners, and heads of state, as well as three recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’s highest civilian award.
Given Purdue’s excellence in research and esteemed faculty and alumni, it’s little surprise that many people assume it must be part of the Ivy League. However, what’s also essential is the glowing reputation Purdue enjoys abroad, with international scholars and students. Because of the university’s long track record of cutting-edge research in STEM fields and substantial proportion of its students who come from other countries, Purdue is known worldwide as a first-rate institution.
Purdue University – Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More
While Purdue’s reputation may rival that of the Ivies, its overall acceptance rate of 60% is much higher – in some cases more than 10x higher – than Ivy League acceptance rates. However, Purdue’s acceptance rate can be deceiving. If we dig a bit deeper into the numbers, we find that in the 2021 admissions cycle, Purdue accepted 52% of Indiana applicants, 34% of out-of-state applicants, and only 14% of international applicants. So, the acceptance rate differs significantly depending on where a student is applying from.
Moreover, certain undergraduate schools at Purdue have much lower acceptance rates than others. For instance, in the 2021 admissions cycle, the Krannert School of Management accepted just 8% of applicants, while the College of Engineering accepted 28% of applicants. Acceptance rates for some of Purdue’s other undergraduate colleges were in the low single digits – even lower than the acceptance rates for the Ivies!
With all of this in mind, it makes sense that Purdue ranks so highly on national and international publications. US News and World Report, the dominant college ranking system, ranks Purdue #53 nationally, tied with Ohio State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Santa Clara, and Villanova. This ranking places Purdue significantly behind the Ivies, which are all ranked in the top 20 nationwide. Still, #53 in the entire nation is no small feat.
Washington Monthly, a competitor to US News, situates Purdue at #39 nationally, just trailing the Ivies Dartmouth and Brown. Impressively, Washington Monthly ranks Purdue #25 for research nationwide.
The website Niche.com gives Purdue n A+ grade and awards it the following rankings: #15 Public Universities in America, #16 Best Big Colleges in America, and #36 Colleges with the Best Professors in America.
All of these rankings highlight the fact that Purdue is a first-class public university with a strong reputation.
How to Get Into Purdue University
As mentioned previously, Purdue’s 60% acceptance rate is a bit misleading, because the admissions process highly favors applicants from within the state of Indiana. Out-of-state and international students have a harder time getting admitted into this elite public university.
Purdue’s admissions statistics are impressive, and not quite as superhumanly perfect as those of the Ivies. At Purdue, the average GPA range of admitted students is 3.5-3.9, indicating that successful applicants take challenging courses and earn mostly As. The average SAT range of admitted students is 1120-1400, and the average ACT range is 26-33. This means that in order to stand out among Purdue’s huge pool of applicants, students need to have very competitive test scores towards the upper bound of these averages.
Even though women have made enormous strides in entering and excelling in traditionally male-dominated fields in STEM, Purdue still admits more men (58.6%) than women (41.4%), probably due to many more men than women applying.
In addition to grades, test scores, and demographics, Purdue also cares about students’ admissions essays. On top of the main Common App essay, students respond to two very short Purdue-specific essays that test applicants’ ability to pack a lot of passion and information into a mere 100 words. Enthusiastic teacher recommendations and impressive extracurricular activities round out a powerful application.
Recap: Purdue University Is Not an Ivy League School, However, It Is One of the Best Schools in the US
Purdue University is many things: a world-renown hub of STEM research and innovation, a top-ranked public university, and home to faculty at the cutting-edge of their fields and alumni at the helm of industries as diverse as engineering, politics, writing, and sports. One thing Purdue is not, however, is an official Ivy League university.
The fact that Purdue is not in the Ivy League does not mean it’s not one of the best schools in the US – it is! Not being in the Ivy League simply means that Purdue was not in the right place (the Northeast) at the right time (the 1950s) to be included in the athletic conference. Today, Purdue is part of a much livelier athletic conference, the Division I Big Ten Conference, and fields much stronger athletic teams than any of the Ivies do.
Despite not being an Ivy, Purdue is still very well-regarded in the US and abroad, as reflected by rankings of the university’s prestige and research output. Particularly compared to other large public universities, Purdue is at the head of the pack and continues to become more prestigious and competitive. It attracts not only students from Indiana, but is increasingly popular among out-of-state and international students with a passion for engaging STEM research. Purdue places a premium on undergraduate research, so students get to play an active role in discovering and creating new knowledge that moves the needle of progress and helps to create a better, more just and efficient world.
Purdue isn’t an Ivy, but it’s Ivy-esque. It shares many key features with the Ivy League schools, but it also has its own unique character and strengths.