Over nearly 200 years, Wesleyan University has educated thousands of students as it built its reputation as a top American educational institution.
Located in Middletown, Connecticut, a quaint town along the Connecticut River, Wesleyan opened in 1831 as an all-male school named in honor of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist religious denomination.
Today, the historic campus is no longer affiliated with the Methodist Church and is co-ed, but it still has many traditions tying current students to its prestigious past.
Wesleyan now has about 3,200 students, mostly undergraduates, who can choose from 45 majors.
At the graduate level, students can earn master’s degrees and PhDs. The school embraces interdisciplinary study, but no matter what path they take, students learn from distinguished faculty members in a welcoming, diverse environment.
The university also has become one of the more affordable places to earn a college education, too.
The university estimates its three-year degree program can save students up to $50,000, and students with annual family incomes under $60,000 receive grants rather than loans.
Despite its smaller size, Wesleyan has produced some big names. Alumni of Wesleyan’s much-lauded theater program, for instance, include the Tony award-winning creator of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, and “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos” creator Matthew Weiner.
Other programs have produced equally prestigious graduates, including influential politicians like Sen. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet and sports figures like Bill Belichick, the Super Bowl-winning head coach of the New England Patriots.
Is Wesleyan University Ivy League?
No, Wesleyan University is not an Ivy League school, but it does belong to a prestigious group of schools known as the “Little Ivies.”
While the history of its schools dates back centuries, the actual term “Ivy League” only came about in the 20th century as a result of athletic competition among some of the schools.
This solidified in the 1950s when the NCAA officially formed an athletic conference for Division I. Today, the term refers to eight schools, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton universities.
The name stuck, though, and today it evokes images of intellectually rich universities with world-class reputations. It’s also spawned other groups, like the Little Ivies.
Like their Ivy League counterparts, these are selective, private liberal arts colleges with challenging academic programs. Most are located in New England, and as their name suggests, their student bodies are much smaller than those of Ivy League schools.
Student-athletes at Wesleyan and its counterparts compete in NCAA Division III, while Harvard and the like are members of Division I.
Of the Little Ivies, just Wesleyan and Tufts are universities; many of the schools only have undergraduate programs.
Wesleyan, however, offers numerous undergraduate and graduate programs. Students also have hundreds of extra-curricular activities to choose from that can not only add to their academic experience, but also offer ways for them to feed their bodies and souls, too.
Why Is Wesleyan University Confused As an Ivy League School?
Wesleyan has many similarities to Ivy League schools, making it easy for people to mistake it for one.
Founded more than 30 years before Cornell University, an Ivy League school in Ithaca, New York, Wesleyan is located in the midst of Connecticut, just half an hour northeast of Yale University.
Full of historical, red-brick facilities alongside state-of-the-art buildings, Wesleyan looks every bit the Ivy League university.
A Wesleyan education actually is more expensive than an Ivy League one. For the 2021-22 academic year, Wesleyan undergraduates paid $61,449 in tuition plus more than $18,000 in room, board, and other fees.
The average undergraduate Ivy League student, meanwhile, paid $56,425 in tuition and fees during the previous academic year.
The university’s liberal arts curriculum and open-minded approach to instruction also resemble those of Ivy League universities.
Thanks to the school’s “open curriculum,” which means students don’t have to take specific required classes outside their major, students can pick from more than 900 classes running the gamut of subjects.
These varied offerings are apparent in the different colleges that make up Wesleyan, which include more traditional options like the College of Letters and the College of Social Studies as well as more unique ones, such as the College of Film and the Moving Image and the College of Education Studies.
The campus also is home to numerous centers that focus on different social and academic causes, such as the Center for African American Studies and the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.
Wesleyan University – Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More
Wesleyan consistently ranks among the best universities in the nation, as do many of its programs.
For 2021, Forbes magazine placed Wesleyan at 12th on its list of best liberal arts universities in the nation and at 54th on its ranking of best colleges in the country.
Niche, meanwhile, gave Wesleyan an overall rating of A+, and the school earned an A+ for academics, diversity and value as well.
The site took a closer look at Wesleyan’s different departments and amenities, too, naming it the fourth-best college for film and photography in America out of 278 schools.
Other academic areas that landed Wesleyan in the top 25 in the country were global studies (No. 8), performing arts (No. 21), and English (No. 22).
It might come as no surprise then that getting into Wesleyan can be tough.
The university received 13,145 applications for its class of 2025, the most recently admitted, and accepted just 2,540.
This amounts to a total acceptance rate of 19.3%, down from 20.7% for the class of 2024.
While the class of 2025’s acceptance rate might seem low, it is actually higher than those for the classes of 2021 to 2023, which hovered around 16% to 17%.
In the end, 919 students ended up accepting places in the class of 2025. The majority of students admitted were female, and most came from outside New England.
Eleven percent of admitted students lived overseas, with countries such as Egypt, Jamaica and Zimbabwe represented.
How to Get Into Wesleyan University
Students interested in attending Wesleyan University should show they have a strong background in academics as well as their communities.
In looking at the profile of its class of 2025, Wesleyan noted that students who succeed at the university and contribute to its community tend to have experience not just in school activities, but also in the arts, politics, and community and religious groups.
They excelled in high school, with 76% of students admitted to the class of 2025 ranking in the top 10% of their graduating classes.
More than 80% of admitted students took calculus, three sciences (biology, chemistry and physics), and four years of a foreign language in high school.
Wesleyan decided a few years ago not to require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores with their paperwork. Those who did for the class of 2025, though, earned top marks on the standardized tests.
Those admitted to Wesleyan’s class of 2025 had a median ACT score of 34 and a median SAT score of 1520.
Wesleyan accepts both the Common and Coalition applications. Students need to include two recommendations from teachers who know them well and can talk about their experiences in class.
The university recommends that these letters come from teachers the student had in 11th or 12th grade and that they come from different academic departments. Prospective students also will interview either at Wesleyan or with an alumnus in their area.
Students set on attending Wesleyan University may want to apply for early decision if past admission cycles are any indication.
Of the applications received for the class of 2025, 888 were for early decision, and the university ended up accepting more than half of them.
Recap: Wesleyan University Is Not an Ivy League School. However, It Is a Top-Ranked Liberal Arts College
While Wesleyan is not an Ivy League school, its graduates still receive an Ivy League-caliber education alongside other high achievers.
Wesleyan has shown in recent years that it only accepts the best of the best, with admitted students coming from the tops of their high school classes and demonstrating their proficiency in challenging courses.
This 316-acre campus with a history stretching back nearly two centuries gives students a comfortable place to learn and grow.
It offers a more intimate environment than the larger Ivy League schools, as it has just around 2,900 undergraduate students.
That personal approach carries over into the classroom, too, as 74% of classes have fewer than 20 students. The university also enjoys a low student-faculty ratio of 8:1.
Like Ivy League schools, Wesleyan’s academics often land it among the best in the nation. Several of Wesleyan’s graduate programs, too, have earned high rankings, with mathematics and several science programs landing in the top 150 for their respective subjects.
But Wesleyan knows how to have fun, too. Its students compete on 30 varsity sports teams in the NCAA but also can join 21 club sports teams and five intramural.
Outside of sports, over 200 student groups offer outlets for a wide range of interests, from volunteering to theater to politics.
While tuition and fees amount to more than $60,000 per year, Wesleyan has begun offering several attractive incentives, including making it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in three years instead of four, thereby saving them thousands of dollars.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Wesleyan 14th on its list of the Best Value Schools in the country, which considers academic quality and costs for out-of-state students.