To most people, the phrase “Ivy League Schools” brings to mind names such as Harvard and Yale, schools synonymous with intelligence and respect. The words evoke images of hallowed campuses and the greatest minds of our generation debating the issues of the day.
But those words also evoke other feelings – the hope of someday being able to walk those renowned halls and the dread of not making the grade.
To be sure, both are valid feelings. The eight Ivy League schools have trained Presidents, Nobel laureates, and leaders in every field. Several of them date their origins to before the founding of the United States, and they all have faculties consisting of the most intelligent people on the planet.
For that reason, it’s tough to get into any of the Ivy League schools. Each of them receives tens of thousands of applications every year, and only a tiny fraction are allowed in.
That’s a scary fact, and there’s no getting around it. But it doesn’t all need to be doom and gloom. While these schools reject many, thousands are accepted every year. These schools actively look for students to educate and add to their legacies.
For that reason, it’s essential to pay attention to the acceptance rates of Ivy League schools. This list uses numbers from 2021 and contains links to our information sources.
If you approach these numbers with an optimistic attitude, this list can help you decide which schools most deserve your attention and where you can join an elite company.
8. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
One of the country’s few private land-grant universities, Cornell University is located in idyllic Ithaca, New York. The college has made its reputation by training some of the most influential figures in the arts, entertainment, and the media.
Cornell alumni include Nobel laurates Pearl S. Buck and Toni Morrison, as well as actors Christopher Reeve and Wizard of Oz star Frank Morgan.
Despite this track record of training greatest in the humanities, Cornell graduates go on to earn PhDs in engineering and the natural sciences more than many other world institutions. The school has spent $984.5 million on research yearly and has allocated $671 million of that money to science and engineering.
Projects created through this spending range from unmanned missions to Marge, including the Mars Exploration Rover Mission, and high-powered telescopes for deep-space observation.
Thanks to this focus, scientists who have graduated from Cornell include Nobel Prize-winning chemist Eric Betzig and Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel in space.
Of the Ivy League schools, Cornell has the highest rate, accepting 5,889 of the 47,038 of those who apply. That’s a percentage of 12.5%, making Cornell the least exclusive Ivy League school.
ACCEPTANCE RATE: 12.5%
7. Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)
The sole college in the Ivy League, Dartmouth has just as many accolades and achievements as its university sisters. However, it chooses to refer to itself as a college to retain the sense of community and small focus that the name connotes.
That type of unique thinking sets Dartmouth apart from the other Ivies, as does its focus on the humanities and social sciences. Former Dartmouth students include the great American poet Robert Frost and tv legend Fred Rogers, as well as current entertainment figures Mindy Laking and Shonda Rhimes.
The successes of Dartmouth’s alumni can be partially attributed to the notable figures who have taught there over the years. Dartmouth was the home of groundbreaking literary critic Eve Kosofsky Sedwick and is the current institution of the Future of American Studies Institute director Donald Pease.
Because of its focus on a relatively small-scale college experience, Dartmouth has a deceptively low acceptance rate. In 2021, the college accepted 10.4% of its applicants, giving it the second-highest Ivy League acceptance rate.
However, it’s important to remember that Dartmouth received only 20,034 applications that year. It sent offers of admission to only 2,092 students, enrolling fewer new students than all Ivies except Princeton and Harvard.
ACCEPTANCE RATE: 10.4%
6. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
The oldest institution in its state, the University of Pennsylvania counts among its founders and students eight signers of the Declaration of Independence, seven signers to the U.S. Constitution, and 24 members of the Continental Congress.
Today, the school continues this proud tradition with its commitment to academic excellence. With an endowment of $20.5 billion and a $1.02 billion research budget, UPenn is one of the richest institutions in the world.
It puts that money to good use, supporting essential innovations and research initiatives. The school houses several influential think tanks and research centers, including the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at Wharton and the Center for Global Women’s Health at the Nursing School.
UPenn was the site of important scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery of conductive polymers and the development of the “Penn Effect,” a method of measuring gross national product.
Unsurprisingly, UPenn is one of the more popular Ivy League schools, receiving 40,413 applications. That’s more than any other Ivy, save for Cornell. But unlike Cornell, UPenn is far more selective, accepting only 9.2% of applicants.
ACCEPTANCE RATE: 9.2%
5. Brown University (Providence, RI)
Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the union, but the city of Providence casts a large shadow, thanks to the work of Brown University.
Brown broke the mold of religious colleges that adhered to strict denominations and became the first in the country to accept students without any preference for their faith. Since then, millions of accomplished students have come to Providence to receive the best in education.
Brown’s 143-acre campus is surrounded by the Van Wickle Gates on the western end. Since their construction in 1901, the Van Wickle Gates have played an important part in Brown’s graduation and induction ceremonies. They open outward for graduation and inward for the procession of new students.
The campus holds Brown’s teaching museum, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. The home of over one million artifacts available for educational and research functions, the Haffenreffer Museum gives students and faculty hands-on experience with valuable relics.
In 2021, 32,724 applied to study at Brown. But only 1,665 were invited to walk through the Van Wickle Gate, making Brown a moderately selective Ivy League school.
ACCEPTANCE RATE: 8.3%
4. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
As an Ivy League school with over three centuries of history, Yale University has been affiliated with some of the most influential people in the world, including winners of major awards such as the Nobel Prize and the Fields Medal.
Four former presidents graduated from Yale, including William Howard Taft and George H. W. Bush, as well as countless other lawmakers and heads of state.
Yale is also renowned for its museums and collections. Over 15 million volumes reside in the Yale University Library, making it the nation’s third-largest university collection.
Rare books, manuscripts, and historical texts are held in the school’s various specialized libraries, including the world’s largest collection of 18th-century British literary works.
The school’s art gallery is the first such museum in the United States to enjoy university affiliation. The Peabody Museum of Natural History is a center of anthropology and archeology, while the school’s Collection of Musical Instruments houses unique items from throughout history.
As one of the most well-known Ivy League schools, Yale receives more applications than most of its sisters. 32,900 hopefuls applied to Yale in 2021, but only 2,272 received offers of admission. That gives Yale an acceptance rate of just 6.9%, making it markedly more selective than the other schools discussed thus far.
ACCEPTANCE RATE: 6.9%
3. Columbia University (New York, NY)
When one thinks of Ivy League schools, images of stately brick walls and serious scholars probably leap to mind.
While one can indeed find all of those at Columbia University, the institution also has a creative side. For years, Columbia students and guests write, direct, and stage a new musical, a tradition that has involved the likes of legends Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
But it’s not all fun and games at Columbia. Over the years, some of the most extraordinary academics of all time have taught at the school, winners of Nobel Prizes, National Medals of Sciences, and other awards.
Columbia’s current faculty includes international relations expert Michael W. Doyle, literary scholar and literary critic Saidiya Hartman, and influential economist Jeffery Sachs.
Unsurprisingly, Columbia has high expectations for those who hope to join its student body. On average, students entering the school have a 4.12 GPA, SAT scores between 1510 and 1560, and ACT scores of 34 – 35.
Those are tough numbers to hit, which is part of the reason that Columbia has such a low acceptance rate. 37,389 people applied to Columbia in 2021, and 2,185 were accepted. This gives Columbia an acceptance rate of 5.8%.
ACCEPTANCE RATE: 5.8%
2. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It’s also one of the most respected, not just in the U.S. but also in the entire world. In popular consciousness, Harvard University has come to mean excellence in education.
With an endowment of $53.2 billion, Harvard is one of the world’s richest institutions. That money helps establish the University’s various schools.
According to U.S. News & World Report, many of Harvard’s schools rank among the best in the nation, with its Schools of Medicine, Education, and Government coming in at number one.
Because of this history, Harvard is one of the more popular Ivy League schools. In 2021, the University received 39,06 applications. 2,056 of those students received offers of admission, for an acceptance rate of 5.2%.
ACCEPTANCE RATE: 5.2%
1. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
Traditionally, Princeton University tends to be only a moderately selective school. They receive just as many applications as Harvard and Yale but usually accept a larger percentage.
But in 2021, the University lowered its acceptance numbers, becoming one of the country’s most exclusive schools. Out of the 37,601 applications sent to Princeton, only 1,498 were accepted. That works out to an acceptance rate of just 3.98%, a record low for the University.
While those are unquestionably tough odds, no one will deny that it’s worth the risk. The work done by Princeton scholars has shaped the world as we know it. An extension of top-secret government projects in the 1950s, the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a leader in fusion energy and plasma physics research.
Important government officials studied at Princeton, including presidents Madison and Monroe, as well as members of the U.S. Supreme Court, such as Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.
ACCEPTANCE RATE: 3.98%