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

Everybody knows that the best colleges in the world are part of the Ivy League. Schools like Harvard and Yale belong to the Ivy League, two of the most impressive institutions in the country. 

For that reason, one would undoubtedly expect Williams College to be among this legendary group. Founded in 1793 in Williamstown, Williams is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts, second only behind Harvard. Although the school began as a school for men, it has since grown to become a respected co-educational institution. 

On the campus grounds, students can find many impressive figures and buildings. 

The Hopkins Observatory can be found on the campus of Williams College. The oldest extant observatory in the United States, Hopkins was constructed between 1836 and 1838. Within the building is the Mehlin Museum of Astronomy, which holds Alvan Clark’s original telescope, the Milham Planetarium, and several other pieces of observation equipment. 

The primary library at Williams is the Chapin Library, which was initially opened in 1923. 

In addition to the school’s 50,000 volumes and 100,000 artifacts, the library contains original printings of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. 

Chapin also holds the first edition of books from Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, and more. 

Over the years, numerous respected figures have been associated with the school. Faculty members include Pulitzer Prize winners Louise Glück, Elizabeth Kolbert, and MacArthur Fellow Andrea Barrett. 

Alumni range from Nobel-winning economist Robert Engle to Academy Award-winning director Elia Kazan to Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim. 

With all of these attributes, Williams must be in the Ivy League, right? 

Read on to find out!

Is Williams College Ivy League?

Williams College
Beyond My Ken, Morgan Hall Williams College, CC BY-SA 4.0

Let’s get straight to the answer: no, Williams College is not an Ivy League school. 

But let’s also be clear: Williams College is an excellent school. 

In order to understand why a great school like Williams isn’t in the Ivy League, you need to understand what the Ivy League is. 

Despite what you may have thought, the Ivy League isn’t about academics or research. It’s about sports. 

Whatever else you might think of it, the Ivy League is a Division I NCAA athletic conference. It consists of eight private research schools on America’s East Coast: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University.

Although the League was founded in 1958, nearly all of the schools were established before the founding of the United States, with Cornell the one outlier. 

The Williams Ephs may have cycling, horseback, and crew teams, but they all compete in the New England Small College Athletic Conference in the NCAA Division III. In fact, they spend more per student than any other school in Division III.

Of course, very few people think of sports when they think of the Ivy League. Instead, they think of world-changing researchers, first-class teachers, and dedicated students. 

Those are all qualities that you can find at Williams College. As we saw in the introduction, Williams boasts an incredible set of alumni, a stately history, and a commitment to research. 

But, alas, because it isn’t in the right athletic conference, Williams College does really belong in the Ivy League. 

Why Is Williams College Confused As an Ivy League School?

People confuse Williams College for an Ivy League school for a very good reason. Williams College is a first-class institution, respected for its academics, student body, and research contributions. And because the regular public associates those qualities – and not sports scores – with the Ivy League, they assume that Williams must be among the best. 

The Ivy League schools tend to be among the most selective in the nation, with Cornell and Dartmouth on the high end, with rates of 8.7% and 6.2%, respectively. On the low end are Columbia’s 3.9% and Harvard’s 4.0%

Williams College isn’t quite as strict as those schools, as it extends offers of admission to 12% of applicants. But that is still a very small percentage of applicants, making Williams a highly selective school. 

Furthermore, Williams is a very old school. Like all of the Ivy League schools, Williams was founded in the late 18thcentury. And like the Ivies, Williams has used that time to develop a legacy of academic excellence and successful alumni. 

That reputation doesn’t come easily but through hard work and financial support. On that latter end, Williams has a lot to offer. The school enjoys an endowment of $4.23 billion

With that money, the College can bring some of the world’s greatest minds to its campus, purchase equipment essential for cutting-edge research, and support its students’ intellectual pursuits. 

With all of those qualities, it’s no surprise that many would assume that Williams College is an Ivy League school. 

Williams College – Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

Williams College Art Museum
Jllm06, Williams College Museum of Art – building front, CC BY-SA 4.0

Thanks to its 12% acceptance rate, Williams is one of the most challenging schools in the nation to enter. Only the best of the best will get in. 

But the hard work and dedication required to get in will surely pay dividends, as indicated by the school’s high rankings.

Thanks to its excellent academics, the diversity on campus, and the value the school offers, the review aggregate site gives Williams a grade of A+. 

Furthermore, the site puts Williams on several of its lists. The school falls at #15 on Niche’s lists for Best Small Colleges in America, Best Colleges for English in America, and Best Colleges for Art in America. 

Williams earns the number 18 spot on the rankings by That’s good enough to beat out some of the country’s largest and most prestigious schools, including the University of California at Davis, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and even Ivy League school Brown University. 

In contrast to other ranking outlets, Washington Monthly compiles its list by looking at the social mobility a school provides its students, the service the school does for the community, and the quality of research it provides. Thanks to its excellent research and social mobility options, Williams College falls at number ten on the site’s list of best liberal arts colleges. 

However, for many people, the rankings by U.S. News & World Report are the most important. U.S. News puts Williams at the #15 spot for Best Undergraduate Teaching. But it gives it higher rankings on the lists of National Liberal Arts Colleges and Best Value Schools, putting Williams at the #1 position for both. 

How to Get Into Williams College

Those are incredibly impressive rankings, which means that Williams College can afford to be picky. And as we’ve seen already, the large majority of people who apply to Williams will not be offered acceptance. 

However, while admission into Williams may be hard, it is not impossible. With some strategic planning and with the right information, you can give yourself a good shot at getting in. 

The first thing to think about is your GPA. Students entering Williams have an average GPA of 4.07. That means that students earn mostly straight A’s and that they take classes with higher rankings, such as advanced placement or honors. 

Like many private schools, Williams is “test-optional,” which means that applicants are not required to submit ACT or SAT scores. 

However, students who do submit their scores tend to have very high numbers. The average SAT score of a Williams student is 1479, which is within the 90th percentile. ACT scores tend to fall between 32 and 35. 

While those might seem like impossibly high numbers, it’s important to remember that Williams admissions counselors care about more than just grades. As explained on the school’s admissions website, Williams wants well-rounded students coming into its programs. 

That’s good news for applicants with lower grades. Students can make a compelling case for themselves with solid letters of recommendation, thorough extracurricular experience, and a persuasive entry essay. 

They can show the admissions team everything they have to offer and how they can enrich the student body at Williams. 

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

After this list of great qualities, we do have to go back and answer the question driving this article. 

No, Williams College is not an Ivy League school. It plays its sports in the NCAA Division III Eastern Conference Athletic Conference, not in the Division I Ivy League. 

But if the athletic conference isn’t essential to you, if your interest in the Ivy League is all about history and academics, then Williams College will certainly meet all of your needs. Williams fits the description of an elite school by nearly every metric. 

As we’ve seen, Williams has everything a serious student needs to prepare for their careers. 

It has the respect and reputation of a school that tops lists from outlets such as U.S. News & World Report and Washington Monthly. It has an incredibly low acceptance rate, which bestows upon it the designation of a highly exclusive institution. And it has incredible funding, which helps pay for a wide range of scholarly and athletic activities.

Williams has a first-class science center, famous for the resources it provides STEM students. From biology to computer science to psychology, students in every discipline will find what they need at the science center. 

Williams doesn’t even scrimp in the athletics department. The Williams Ephs compete in nearly every conceivable sport, including track, ice hockey, and basketball. The school wins recognition, as demonstrated by the recent victory by the women’s cross-country team at regionals. 

All of these qualities surely put Williams alongside any other institution, within or without the Ivy League.