While a student’s college experience and education are ultimately what they make of it, an Ivy League education will open many opportunities. For example, the Philosophy department at New York University is as reputable as the one at Harvard. Nevertheless, the latter signifies to potential employers, law school admissions committees, or top-tier Ph.D. programs a “superior” education and promise.
As it has been pointed out before, “Ivy League” has become associated with overall excellence and social prestige. Admissions to these schools is highly competitive and applicants are expected to catch the attention of admission committees. In other words, a perfect GPA and SAT score alone would not cut it.
The Ivies are concentrated in the Northeastern region of the US, mostly New England. Almost all of them predate the US Constitution and were founded during the colonial period. These schools have been integral to the US’s status as one of the economic, cultural, and political powerhouses of the world. US presidents and Nobel Prize winners have studied within their halls.
The Empire State is home to two of these prestigious schools. One located in the buzzing metropolis and cultural hub, New York City, and the other amidst the scenic mountains and lakes of tranquil and sparsely populated, upstate NY.
See what New York has to offer for the brightest and boldest.
Ivy League Schools in New York
Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
The youngest Ivy, Cornell University, has hundreds of notable alumni, and the quality of its education is top-notch. Students benefit from dynamic curricula that are underpinned by the values of intellectual exploration and freedom.
Its 745-acre campus is perched on some of the steepest hills in Ithaca. This may sound like an exhausting hike just to get one from the dorm room to class and from class to class, but students enjoy a panoramic view of the campus’s scenic backdrop— and regular cardio exercise!
Though each of the seven undergraduate schools and colleges operates independently, hiring its own faculty and admitting its own students, students are encouraged to take classes across colleges and make the most of their intellectual freedom. Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration (SHA) offers its students the most groundbreaking business education in the world. Its current dean, Kate Walsh, was recently profiled as the first woman dean of SHA.
The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are the cornerstones of the school, producing world-class research and scholars.
Additionally, Cornell outranks the other Ivies in the category of best computer science schools.
Cornell’s acceptance rate hovers around 10%, making the admissions process highly competitive. The average GPA for admitted students is 3.9. Prospective students should not fret if their GPA falls below this average; Cornell prides itself in a holistic, selection process, in which other factors of the applicant’s profile are carefully considered.
Matriculated, first-year students also have reportedly high SAT and ACT scores— 1550 and 32, respectively. Again, SAT or ACT scores below the 75th percentile will not eliminate an applicant from the pool. Even Cornell knows that some of the most promising and brilliant people in the world are horrible test-takers. And not every accomplished individual was a straight-A student.
GPA and SAT or ACT scores do not give a full picture of each individual applicant. Prospective students need to make themselves stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. This is where the essay comes in! First-year applicants must submit a writing supplement along with other application materials. Prompts and questions vary across the colleges and schools, so applicants must respond to prompts and questions that correspond to their school or college of interest.
For example, a prospective student in the School of Human Ecology should discuss how their own experiences influenced or piqued their interest in the field. Other schools ask applicants to draw on their relevant experiences and interests. In any case, the writing supplement is a chance to shine, not only academically but as a future member of Cornell’s community.
Cornell’s library system is the sixteenth largest in North America, holding millions of printed and digital materials. The library also holds some of the world’s rare manuscripts, including one of the original copies of the Gettysburg Address. Cornell is home to the first university publishing enterprise in the US, Cornell University Press, which continues to be one of the largest to this day.
Cornell is also unique from the other Ivies because several of its constituent schools are actually statutory (publicly-funded) programs. The statutory colleges and schools are the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Human Ecology, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and the College of Veterinary Medicine, all of which receive over $130 million in state funding every year for research and teaching.
Columbia University (New York, NY)
Like most of its fellow Ivies, Columbia University predates the Declaration of Independence and is the fifth-oldest institution of higher education in the country. Columbia counts a former US president, high-profile political leaders, CEOs, and Nobel laureates among its ranks of notable alumni. This Ivy is at the center of the world’s multicultural and economic hub, New York City.
Columbia’s first-ever class was comprised of only five students. Over 200 years later, Columbia has grown exponentially in its offerings and contributions to the world.
The Teacher’s College is innovative and dynamic in its approach to training the next generation of educators. Psychologists and health educators comprise a third of tenure-track faculty at Teachers College, reflecting the school’s passion for socially-conscious, holistic, and transformative teaching. Columbia teachers are equipped to tackle the most pressing social and cultural issues, infusing their passion for teaching with social consciousness.
Columbia’s Earth Sciences, Computer Science, Math, and Biological Science programs and specialties are among the most highly-ranked in the nation. Unique research facilities – among them, the Colombia Institute for Tele-Information and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies – boost its already active research-profile. Notable scientists from Columbia include astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson and many National Medal of Science awardees.
According to Niche.com, Columbia is also one of the best colleges for English, Philosophy, and American History.
The acceptance rate for the Class of 2023 was a nail-biting 5%! The average GPA for a first-year is 4.0 or above. This does not mean that an applicant with an “imperfect” GPA has no chance. According to ThoughtCo., a handful of applicants with a GPA of 3.75 or below do make the cut.
The same applies to SAT and ACT scores. The average scores for incoming students tend to fall within the top 10% nationally – the average SAT score being 1560 and the average ACT, 36. While the incoming class has a stellar academic profile, scores and GPAs are not the whole picture.
The Admissions Committee wants to know more about an applicant’s intellectual interests, experiences, and aspirations. Academic transcripts and SAT or ACT scores do not adequately convey these facets of an applicant’s profile. After all, a high school senior is more than a 4.0 or a 1600 SAT score. Applicants need to stand out from a very competitive pool.
How else can the committee differentiate one straight-A student from another?
As part of the to-do list, prospective first-years need to submit a writing supplement, consisting of lists and short answers. Applicants should draw on their interests, experiences, and aspirations to make themselves stand out.
More Admissions Tips for Ivy League Schools
More needs to be said about standing out from the crowd. The reality is that getting accepted into Cornell and Columbia is exceptionally difficult. Even straight-A students who volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, studied abroad for a summer, and played varsity sports are not a shoo-in. Scores of other applicants – if not a majority – have a 4.0 GPA, played sports, or studied abroad.
The goal is to take on experiences and skills that will help you stand out. For example, attending the Spoleto Study Abroad program or a Spring Session in Paros would boost the profile of a high school student interested in the Visual Arts program at Columbia’s School of the Arts. Their short answers on the writing supplement may want to show how their immersive experience in Tuscany piqued their interest in studying art or inspired them to start a Renaissance Art Appreciation Club or an Art Show fundraiser at their school.
The key is to focus the application on a set of interests and accumulate relevant experience and knowledge in those areas. The same student can apply to Cornell’s School of Hospitality Administration and delve into how their Spoleto study abroad experience sparked their interest in the hospitality industry – or their interest in running a hotel in Rome.
In sum, the application should be tailored to an Ivy League school’s specific colleges or majors.
In addition to being specific about their interests and relevant experience, applicants should also consider opportunities for demonstrating leadership in their resume, essay, applications, and any potential interviews with either admissions or alumni.