Only nine colleges in America established their charters before the American Revolution.
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and the eighth-oldest college in the United States, holds this impressive distinction, along with all but one school among the institutions known collectively as the “Ivy League.”
Most of these Colonial Colleges were founded to educate ministers, but they’ve gone on to produce Presidents and Nobel Prize winners. Rutgers (originally Queen’s College) convened its first class in a tavern, but today it serves as one of the top research institutions in the world.
Now the largest of the nine original Colonial schools, Rutgers offers a top-tier college experience with outstanding, world-renowned faculty on a hallowed campus – really four campuses with separate styles and purposes.
Situated on the train line between Philadelphia and New York City, Rutgers represents the best of a tranquil academic oasis with easy access to everything the city can offer.
Considered one of the best large universities in the country, Rutgers currently serves over 71,000 students on its multiple campuses. Its medical and law schools lead the nation in innovation, policy, and service.
Nearly 300 research facilities are housed on its campus, including over 175 centers and institutes focused on specific issues.
Leaders in science, the arts, athletics, and in politics – Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elizabeth Warren each taught in the law school – make up a first-rate faculty worthy of any elite institution.
Is Rutgers an Ivy League School?
Rutgers University is not an Ivy League school.
However, with its legacy and prominence, many people imagine Rutgers to be an elite Northeastern private school like the rest of the Ivy League.
Of those nine Colonial Colleges, seven went on to be known as Ivies. Since the term “Ivy League” originated as the name of the athletic conference to which these private colleges all belonged, it’s likely that if Rutgers had remained a private school, it would in fact be an Ivy.
But in the 20th century, before the Ivy League name took hold, two colleges broke away from the other original Colonial Schools: the College of William & Mary, and Rutgers.
No less historic or prestigious than its Ivy League peers, Rutgers is the largest public university in New Jersey, a leader in research, and a model of student engagement and support for over 250 years.
It’s easy to see how Rutgers continues to be associated with this fabled list: the Ivy League represents the vanguard of intellectual thought and progress. Rutgers embodies that kind of forward-thinking scholarship and innovation as well.
Research grants exceed 750 million a year. Environmental Policy, Information Management, Latino Arts and Culture, Women in STEM, Equine Science, Childhood Nutrition, Transportation, Discrete Mathematics: the university has entire centers devoted to the study of these areas, along with many more.
This kind of commitment to research makes Rutgers not only a respectable school maintaining the most up-to-date standards in its many degree programs, but also a leader in determining what those standards will be in the future.
Why is Rutgers Often Confused as an Ivy League School?
United States history itself weaves through Rutgers’ story.
The authorizing signature on the school’s original charter belonged to none other than Benjamin Franklin’s son William, who was the Royal Governor of New Jersey in 1766.
Rutgers’ Political Intelligencer and New Jersey Adviser is considered to be the first American college newspaper. The first college football game was played at Rutgers in 1869.
Civil Rights activist and performer Paul Robeson graduated from Rutgers in 1919; Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman also studied there.
From Pulitzers to Nobels, Grammys to MacArthur “Genius” grants, the Rutgers faculty garners acclaim across the disciplines. The many inventions and discoveries that have come from Rutgers scholars constitute a big part of Rutgers’ central mission: research in service to humanity.
The university even houses The Thomas A. Edison Papers, a massive project of scholarship and technology to preserve and make accessible the extraordinary archive of one of the greatest American inventors.
A Rutgers professor and his graduate students discovered the bacterium that cured tuberculosis – and won a Nobel prize for Professor Selman Waksman.
Rutgers has established itself as one of our culture’s major citadels of knowledge and intellectual advancement, as much as any school in the Ivy League.
Rutgers University – Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More
Most ranking lists put Rutgers among the top colleges in the country (U.S. News ranks it at #63 among all schools while Niche.com puts Rutgers at #39 on the list of Top Public Universities).
Its acclaimed graduate and professional schools also score high marks, especially its Education and Pharmacy programs.
Reuters named the school to its list of The World’s Most Innovative Universities, and the National Academy of Inventors puts Rutgers at #41 among the number of U.S. utility patents granted.
Rutgers receives consistent attention for its commitment to the overall student experience, recognized widely for its diversity, value, and student life. Over 500 student groups demonstrate a vibrant student body with wide-ranging interests; the school prides itself on having 80 fraternities and sororities added to the campus experience.
An 80% graduation rate means Rutgers students get strong support as they pursue their degrees.
More selective than most state universities, Rutgers offers admission to only a little more than half of its applicants – 61% in 2019.
High School GPAs for admitted students in the Fall of 2020 averaged between 3.6 to 4.1, with class rank between 73rd and 95th percentile.
SAT and ACT tests are currently optional for admission, but previous average scores were 1250-1430 for the SAT and 27-33 for the ACT.
How to Get Into Rutgers University
College admissions departments focus on the message that the application review process is holistic, that schools take into account a complete picture of the prospective student in a larger context than single test scores or GPAs.
But admissions data can tell us that students with lower than a 3.0 are rarely offered admission to Rutgers.
Class rank, honors or AP course work, or the strength of the student’s high school program overall can help put a student’s GPA in a more favorable context.
SAT and ACT scores are optional for now at Rutgers, but students with lower GPAs might want to bolster their chances by working for strong SAT or ACT numbers to report.
Students opting to forgo the SAT or ACT have a few other key areas of the application where they can demonstrate their ability to succeed at Rutgers.
Admissions committee members today look for consistency in a student’s story; rather than going for the kitchen-sink approach of throwing together every possible activity during an entire high school career, successful students present the achievements, extracurriculars, and awards that paint a picture of specific interest and talent.
For instance, if a student wants to pursue a degree in Public Health at Rutgers, including participation in science fairs might be an obvious choice, but also working at a blood drive. A description of meaningful community service or a discussion of a particularly memorable STEM course can set an application apart.
The application essay gives students the best place to highlight a student’s individual potential.
A good essay may overcome shaky GPAs and test scores, but it has to demonstrate the value the applicant would add to the university’s community.
When applying to Rutgers, students should ensure their essays acknowledge the school’s missions by talking about any interest or experience in research. Duty to the community is another good theme for a Rutgers essay; students can focus on the work ethic and enthusiasm they can add to the Rutgers community.
A personal story is the best way to catch the committee’s attention, but it must be relevant and true to the student’s own experience.
For any chance at scholarship money – but also to send the message that Rutgers is a first-choice school, not a fallback – it’s important to meet the first application deadline. Rutgers may not be officially an Ivy League member, but it functions with the same discernment in this respect.
Recap: Rutgers Is Not an Ivy League School. However, It Is a High-Quality Northeast University
Rutgers may not have Harvard and Yale on its football schedule, but it shares the same grand legacy of these revered schools.
Its extensive research facilities, majestic libraries, and splendid faculty provide an education of the highest quality; some of its departments rank higher than those at Ivy League schools.
Student to faculty ratio at Rutgers is 16:1, giving students both the benefits of a large, dynamic campus and the advantage of individual support and attention. This kind of staffing also means undergraduates have a chance at real participation in research.
Its range of facilities, ample funding, and mission as a land grant school make the real story of Rutgers not one of past glories but one of future triumph and service.
At Rutgers, students and faculty are creating tomorrow today through medical miracles, agricultural advancement, technological ingenuity, artistic innovation, and a vision of education itself as a vehicle for change.
Besides, is there an Ivy League campus where you could have seen Bruce Springsteen play for a dollar back in 1971?
Rutgers should be on the list for any serious applicant considering an excellent education in the tri-state area.