Is UVA Ivy League? Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

The University of Virginia is one of the oldest public institutions in the country. 

Since its founding, UVA has been making a significant impact in the Charlottesville area, the nation, and worldwide. Its famous alumni include writers, politicians, scientists, and astronauts. Many of its programs are highly rated across the country and draw thousands of applicants every year.

The university is home to the “Academical Village,” which was designed by Thomas Jefferson and is now listed as a World Heritage Site. Other internationally renowned centers exist at UVA, including the Rare Book School, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and the Miller Center for Public Affairs.

With such a remarkable history, a stellar research profile, and high-ranking programs, is UVA an Ivy League? 

It may as well be, considering the reputation it has built since its founding. The answer may be surprising. Without further ado, College Gazette answers and explores this question in some depth.

Is UVA an Ivy League School?

University of Virginia
Karen Blaha, Pavilion VIII at the Lawn, CC BY-SA 2.0

The short answer is no, UVA is not an Ivy League school. 

But it turns out that the “Ivy League” label in its origins has nothing to do with the quality of academic programs, selectivity, or any other attribute that people come to associate with it. 

In fact, we would say that the label “Ivy League” is less glamorous since it boils to one thing: sports.

Harvard. Yale. Columbia. Dartmouth. Brown. Princeton. Cornell. Upenn. These are official Ivies, which have become household names over the last century and synonymous with elite education, highly selective admissions, and proud alumni. 

They have several things in common. With the exception of Cornell, all of them predate the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution, which means that almost all are older than the United States itself, as we know it. They are private research universities with huge endowments. They are all concentrated within the Northeast region of the U.S.

None of these schools were collectively referred to as the “Ivy League” until 1954, when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I was formed. The schools were known for their elite sports programs. Only later did the label “Ivy League” come to signify prestigiousness in academics.

No other schools have been added to this fixed roster of official “Ivies.” 

But that doesn’t mean that other schools are not on par with the Ivy League schools in terms of academic excellence and regional and nationwide impact. In fact, another popular label has been tossed around the last couple of decades, “Public Ivy.” 

UVA frequently comes up on any list discussing “Public Ivy” schools, which tend to be research powerhouses that are as selective and academic programs that are top-notch.

Why Is UVA Often Confused As an Ivy League School?

An illustrious history, academic excellence, notable organizations and affiliations, and high-achieving alumni and faculty are attributes associated with Ivy League schools. 

UVA boasts all of the above, yet it is not an Ivy.

UVA was founded in 1819 by none other than Thomas Jefferson, the author of the United States Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was heavily involved in the school’s fledgling years, designing and planning the initial curriculum and conceiving of the original architecture. 

Over a hundred years after its inception, UVA has garnered a reputation as a world-class research university with renowned centers, an outstanding commitment to the arts, and an NCAA Division I Athletics program. In short, it has become a leader in higher education.

A school doesn’t earn an enviable academic reputation without the achievements and contributions of its faculty. 

Faculty include National Humanities Medal and National Medal of Arts winners. So far, one UVA faculty member, Dr. Barry Marshall, won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for his work on ulcer disease.

Among its alumni, UVA has produced a sizable share of Fulbright, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Guggenheim fellows. 

The ongoing achievements of alumni and current students are salient in the school’s reputation for academic excellence. Notable alumni include news anchor Katie Couric, actor and writer Tina Fey, and the late U.S. presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy. 

UVA has also graduated 8 NASA astronauts and several Pulitzer Prize winners, including the famous Edgar Allan Poe. Additionally, the school can namedrop a few athletes, such as NFL player Chris Long and two-time Olympian Wyatt Allen.

The list goes on and on. Without a doubt, it will continue to grow as UVA continues its legacy of excellence in every professional field.

University of Virginia: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

University of Virginia rotunda
Mark Lagola and Ben Lunsford, University of Virginia Rotunda, CC BY-SA 2.0

Schools with illustrious histories and records of high achievement among their faculty and alumni are seldom easy schools to get into. 

This is especially true if they have the status of de facto Ivies, with a highly selective admissions process combined with high-ranking programs across various esteemed lists and publications. 

On the US News & World Report’s list of “National Universities,” UVA ranks #26, tied with Carnegie Mellon and the 4th best “Public National University” in 2021. 

The school is placed among the top 5 on Niche’s most recently published lists of “Top Public Universities” and “Best Colleges” in the nation, giving it very high marks across multiple categories such as academics, athletics, campus, diversity, value, and social scene. 

A school with such impressive rankings and high marks is nothing without its programs’ unique contributions and activities. Many of UVA’s departments rank within the top 20, including Nursing, Architecture, Public Policy, and Business.

Money Magazine recently profiled UVA as one of the top public universities offering world-class education for a reasonable price.

As one would expect of a de facto Ivy, UVA has a very low acceptance rate. In Fall 2019, the school received well over 40,000 applications. Only 20% were admitted. However, the early decision acceptance rate was significantly higher at 35%

UVA is one of 450 colleges and universities with an early decision program, which means that prospective students are invited to submit their applications early, usually November, on the condition that they agree to attend the college if offered admission and an acceptable financial aid package.

How to Get Into University of Virginia

Now that we have said a bit about UVA’s rankings and acceptance rate, we should say a few things about what it takes to get into UVA. 

Right off the bat, we want to mention that acceptance rates are higher for Virginia residents than for out-of-state applicants. In Fall 2019, only 15% of out-of-state applicants were admitted, compared to 32% of Virginia residents. 

That’s more than double! 

According to College Transitions, the competition is particularly stiff for applicants from the Northeast and West Coast, meaning applicants from the South and less populated states have a better chance of being admitted. But non-Virginia applicants should not despair; a few factors can boost the chances of getting that acceptance letter. Here, we demystify the admissions process.

The average matriculated student comes in with a weighted cumulative GPA of 4.0 or even higher and graduated from the top 10% of their high school class. A significantly small percentage of accepted applicants had a high school of GPA of 3.5 or higher. The average combined SAT score was between 1340 and 1520 and a composite ACT score of 30-34. 

Overall, admitted applicants have a solid academic profile; this signifies to the admissions committee that they have what it takes to flourish in and make the most of UVA’s elite-caliber programs. 

As we are fond of saying here at College Gazette, applicants are more than their numbers. Thankfully, the most competent admissions committees agree. 

Extracurricular activities, in and outside of the school, the Common Application essay, and answers to personal, open-ended questions such as “What’s your favorite word and why?” are critical components in the admissions process.

In these areas of the application, a candidate has a chance to stand out from the crowd.

Recap: UVA Is Not an Ivy League University. However, It Is One of the Best Universities in the Nation

University of Virginia
Bestbudbrian, Rotunda at University of Virginia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Hopefully, we have disabused our readers of the notion that only Ivy League schools deliver high-quality education and a great college experience. 

Despite not being an Ivy, UVA is a de facto Ivy, meaning that its education is top-notch and its students have access to a bounty of resources to help them succeed and flourish. Plus, UVA faculty and alumni have as many bragging rights as any Harvard scholar or grad.

Numbers are not everything, but they help. Over 50% of the Class of 2020 were employed within a year of graduation, finding work in tech, K-12 education, healthcare, defense, and commercial and banking. 

This is quite impressive, considering how many industries were affected by the pandemic. 

Among those employed within a year after graduating, the average reported salary was around $68k, which is also quite promising. This is proof that UVA delivers what it promises, a world-class education that prepares its graduates to impact the world.  

UVA’s overall impact is further evidenced by its very high research activity, which we have not previously mentioned. 

By the end of the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the university engaged in $441 million worth of sponsored research, centered on the themes and topics of democracy, environmental resilience and sustainability, medicine, brain and neuroscience, and the intersections of digital technology and society.

If these stats and facts are not a convincing elevator pitch, UVA shines in other respects as well. UVA offers over 800 student clubs and organizations, which means that there is something for everyone, and a UVA student will find their place here. UVA students work hard and play hard.