Is Wellesley College Ivy League? Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

Established in 1870 as a seminary for women, Wellesley College has grown to be one of the largest and most influential women’s colleges in the world. 

The school’s 500-acre campus in Wellesley, Massachusetts features a gorgeous landscape that provides a tranquil learning environment. 

Several historic buildings can be found on the grounds, including Green Hall, built-in 1931 by the children of the once richest woman in America, Hetty Green. Connected to Green Hall is the Galen L. Stone Tower, which holds a 32-bell carillon instrument that is still played to this day. 

The Davis Museum was designed in 1993 by Pritzker Prize winner Rafael Monroe. The museum holds all of Wellesley’s art and humanities artifacts, with pieces dating back to ancient epochs. This is just a small sample of the stately structures on Wellesley’s campus. 

Over the years, Wellesley has been associated with some of the most respected figures in academics, arts, and politics. 

Alumni include Madeline Albright and Hilary Clinton, both of whom once served as the Secretary of State, as well as news people Cokie Roberts and Diane Sawyer. Writer and director Nora Ephron attended Wellesley, as did Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners. 

Today, Wellesley continues this proud tradition through academic excellence, inclusion, and advocacy. 

In 2015, the school expanded its policies to accept transgender women and non-binary students. 

Wellesley continues to support all learners in the pursuit of knowledge and excellence, as laid out in its original mission. 

But none of that answers the most pressing question some readers have – is Wellesley College an Ivy League school? 

Is Wellesley College Ivy League?

Wellesley College
John Phelan, Green Hall, Wellesley College, Wellesley MA, CC BY-SA 3.0

The short answer to this question is this: no, Wellesley College is not Ivy League.

Upon hearing this news, some of you may ask, “Why?” 

After all, Wellesley is a respected academic institution with a long history of scholarly excellence! What keeps the school from being in the Ivy League?”

Wellesley is not an Ivy League school because it is in the Eastern Conference Athletic Conference (ECAC) and the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC).

Why does that matter? Because the Ivy League isn’t a distinction for academic excellence or age or even reputation. 

No, the Ivy League is a Division I NCAA athletic conference. It was founded in 1958, bringing together eight private research schools: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. 

Of course, most people don’t realize that the Ivy League is about sports. In the minds of most people, the words “Ivy League” mean the same thing as “good school.” 

Anyone who cares about the Ivy League really cares about great teachers and impressive research, not the latest hockey scores. 

To be sure, the eight Ivy League schools meet those standards. Not only do all except Cornell University have histories dating back before the founding of the United States, but they all have impressive alumni, a history of excellent research, and some of the best teachers in the country. 

If we’re judging by those standards, then Wellesley is just as good as any in the Ivy League. As the introduction explains, it too has great alumni and boasts a respected history. 

But because its sports teams do not play in the right athletic division, Wellesley cannot officially be called an Ivy League school. 

Why Is Wellesley College Confused As an Ivy League School?

If you asked most people to describe an Ivy League school, they would probably use words such as “smart,” “old,” and “respected.” 

Very few of them would say “Division I college sports.”

For that reason, whenever people call a college “Ivy League,” they simply mean to say that the school is good and reputable. That’s why schools such as Wellesley College are confused as Ivy League. 

Just look at Wellesley’s qualities. 

With an acceptance rate of 20%, Wellesley is considered to be quite competitive. The large majority of those who apply to go to the school will not be given offers of admission. This selectivity only makes Wellesley more attractive to the world’s best students. 

To help attract students of such high caliber, Wellesley stimulates the minds of students with a healthy research endowment. 

In 2020, the school boasted an endowment of $2.2 billion, making it the richest women’s college in the world and one of the richest institutions in the United States. 

And what do they do with this money? Advance the knowledge and abilities of its students by helping them follow their interests. 

Between the initiatives such as the First-Year Student Research Apprentice Program to partnerships with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other schools, Wellesley helps students bring knowledge and understanding into the world. 

Of course, none of these facts are enough to put Wellesley into the Ivy League, but that’s just because the school isn’t part of the same athletic conference. 

If you’re looking past sports, you can certainly understand why most people would assume that Wellesley would be an Ivy League school. It has the same level of exclusivity, research, and esteem that one expects of the greatest schools in the world. 

Wellesley College – Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

Wellesley has an acceptance rate of 20%, which means it isn’t the easiest school to enter. 

Out of every ten students who try to enter, eight will be denied offers of admission. 

For those who do make it in, Wellesley offers a first-class educational experience. 

According to the ranking site, Wellesley earns an A+ grade. In addition to praise for its academics, diversity, and value, the school ranks #2 on Niche’s list of Best Colleges with No Application Fee and #2 on the list of Best Women’s Colleges in America. 

Thanks to its reputation as “the most powerful women’s network,” Wellesley College gets the number 32 position at At that point, Wellesley tops schools such as Washington University in St. Louis, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Emory University. 

The school even earns high rankings on the lists compiled by Washington Monthly. Unlike many of its competitors, Washington Monthly ranks according to social mobility, research, and community service. 

Taken together, those qualities earn Wellesley 13th position on its list of Best Liberal Arts Colleges, with a 6th place spot for quality of research. 

While there is certainly value to all of these rankings, many consider those from U.S. News & World Report to be definitive. 

Wellesley’s writing across disciplines program is tied for 14th in the nation, while the school is ranked number five on the list of National Liberal Arts Colleges and #4 on the list of Best Value Schools. 

To be sure, these are impressive accolades. Any school would be happy to be considered for these lists, regardless of its Ivy League status.

How to Get Into Wellesley College 

Just looking at those high rankings, you can probably guess that it isn’t easy to get accepted into Wellesley College. 

Not only does the school only extend admission to women or non-binary applicants, but it only allows the most dedicated and accomplished from those groups. 

That said, it certainly isn’t impossible. If Wellesley College is the school of your choice, then here’s what you need to know to have the best shot at getting that acceptance letter. 

Those who are accepted in Wellesley tend to have an average GPA of 3.97 on a 4.0 scale. In other words, they like to take straight-A students. You can have a lower grade or two on your transcript, but not in a class in your major field. 

Although Wellesley does not require that its first-year students submit standardized test scores with their applications, those who do tend to have excellent scores. The average SAT score among Wellesley students is 1425, with a 720 in Math and a 705 in Reading and Writing. The average ACT score is 32. 

That’s a demanding standard to meet, but don’t count yourself out yet, even if you don’t have these grades. 

As they state on their admissions website, Wellesley looks for exceptions to every rule when evaluating candidates. They pride themselves on diversity, which means looking at everything a student can bring to the school, not just numbers. 

If your grades are coming in low, focus on the other things you can offer the Wellesley student body. Try to secure strong letters of recommendation and evidence of participation in extracurriculars. Show the admissions team that you have a lot to give to enrich their college. 

Recap: Wellesley College Is Not an Ivy League School. However, It Is a Top-Ranked Liberal Arts College

If you absolutely must go to an official Ivy League school, then Wellesley College is not the institution for you. It doesn’t belong to the Ivy League athletic conference, and therefore spends most of its time playing rivals in the Eastern Conference Athletic Conference (ECAC) and the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC).

However, if your love of the Ivy League has nothing to do with Division I sports, then Wellesley may be the perfect choice. As we’ve seen, Wellesley has everything one expects from an elite, top-level school. 

The school itself is well-funded. It has the acclaim of every observing outlet, from Washington Monthly to U.S. News & World Report. It even has a very low rate of acceptance, if it’s important to you to attend a selective school. 

Wellesley even has its own unique organization, as it is part of the Seven Sisters

Alongside Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Bryn Mawr College, and Barnard College, Wellesley enjoys recognition and cooperation as one of the nation’s first great colleges for women (sisters Vassar College and Radcliffe College are no longer part of the group). 

And even if sports are your passion, Wellesley won’t disappoint. The Wellesley Blue has teams in all major sports, including basketball, softball, lacrosse, and more. 

So while Wellesley is not an official Ivy League school, it is certainly a school that any serious student would be proud to join. With a rich history, a body of exemplary students, and, yes, even an excellent athletic program, Wellesley has everything an Ivy League school would offer.