These Are the 10 Best “Hidden Ivies” in the U.S.

You’re probably familiar with the classic Ivy League schools. You might not be able to name all eight of them, but, chances are, you at least know Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. They’re world-renowned, after all.

But obviously these eight elite schools aren’t the only impressive schools in the U.S.

There are plenty of other options out there that rank high in academics, admissions, financial aid, and student experiences; in fact, many of these schools are equally good, or even better, to the actual Ivies in some of their programs.

Two of the foremost higher education experts in the US, Howard and Matthew Greene, classified a group of schools as “The Hidden Ivies” in a book they published by the same name. In the book (there are several editions), they list these “Hidden Ivies” and explore the true meaning of Ivy League.

Here, we list what we consider 10 of the best Hidden Ivies based on academics, admissions, financial aid, and student experiences:

Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH)

Case Western Reserve University
Rdikeman, Case western reserve campus, CC BY-SA 3.0

Located in Cleveland’s University Circle, Case Western Reserve University is home to a little more than 5,000 undergraduate students. Interestingly enough, it has more graduate and professional studies students than undergraduates.

CWRU has a “single-door admission policy.” What that means is once you’re accepted into the school, you can take courses in any one of CWRU’s three schools: engineering, nursing and management, or arts and sciences.

CWRU places a particular importance on research. In the 2017-18 academic year, the school received $334.2 million in sponsored research funding, and it was ranked one of the top 20 private research institutions based on federal research and development funding. Projects have spanned from cancer research to Alzheimer’s treatments to job prospects for ex-prisoners.

Additionally, CWRU launches an average of five start-up companies a year, and it files an average of 40 U.S. patents each year.

Recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked CWRU 40th among national universities, making it the top-ranking school in Ohio.

Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, NY)

Skidmore College
Peter Flass, Zankel Music center, CC BY 3.0

Home to a little over 2,500 undergraduate students, Skidmore College is located just a 10-minute walk north of downtown Saratoga Springs, New York, and a short drive away from the Adirondack Mountains.

The phrase, “Creative thought matters,” is at the core of Skidmore’s mission. It emphasizes the importance of combining different ideas, trying new things, and viewing the world from different perspectives.

Students at Skidmore are welcome to study more than one major. The school’s Zankel Music Center, which opened in 2010, offers more than 54,000 square feet for learning, practicing, performing, and recording music. Skidmore also offers an extensive art program. In fact, the on-campus Tang Museum offers students internship opportunities. Plus, art hubs like Boston and New York are only about three hours away by car.

The school isn’t only focused on the arts, though. It’s currently building a 200,000-square-foot Center for Integrated Sciences, which is slated to be complete by 2024. The space will house the school’s 10 academic departments and programs and will include 46 research labs.

Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH)

Oberlin College
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Oberlin College, located in small-town Oberlin, Ohio, has a little under 3,000 undergraduate students. Although it might be a lesser-known school on this list, it was actually the first male college to admit women, and, in 1835, it became one of the first colleges in the U.S. to admit African Americans.

The college’s history of social change and progressive thinking is still evident on campus today. It’s been ranked on the Princeton Review’s list of “Colleges with a Conscious” and has been ranked by numerous publications as one of the friendliest college campuses for LGBT students.

Oberlin’s progressive outlook is evident in its academics, too. It aims to create an inclusive environment and gives students plenty of flexibility in choosing which courses they want to take.

The campus has a big art scene, due, in part to its world-renowned conservatory of music. Students come from across the country and even the world to train with Oberlin’s artist-teachers. The school has nine concert venues and hosts more than 500 performances a year.

University of Richmond (Richmond, VA)

University of Richmond
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Richmond, located in Virginia’s capital, is situated in a suburban area of Richmond and is home to a little more than 3,000 undergraduate students.

In “Hidden Ivies,” Howard and Matthew Greene note the school’s drastic change over the past couple of decades — transforming from a good regional school to a “top-tier, national, highly selective liberal arts university.” This is due, in part, to large donations that have allowed the school to pull talented faculty members and provide financial assistance to top students.

Like its mascot, the spider, the University of Richmond describes its students as curious, ambitious, and determined. Howard and Matthew Greene deem the university’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies the “jewel in the crown” of its academics. The first of its kind, the program prepares students to become leaders in all areas of society.

The University of Richmond also places an emphasis on getting outside the classroom. In fact, as a part of “The Richmond Guarantee,” each student is guaranteed a fellowship for a summer of research or internship. Additionally, more than 65 percent of students study abroad.

Colgate University (Hamilton, NY)

Colgate University
Fryslan0109, Colgate East and West Halls, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Colgate University, home to nearly 3,000 undergraduate students, is situated in rural Hamilton, New York. In “Hidden Ivies,” Colgate is described as “a self-contained community of smart, physically active, socially engaged students who can thrive on its beautiful campus.”

Colgate is well-known for its professors. The school’s student-to-faculty ratio is a mere 9:1. It pulls impressive scholars from every field. In fact, 96 percent of its faculty members have a Ph.D. or the highest degree in their field.

Additionally, Colgate encourages undergraduate research in every major, and it also offers off-campus and international study options, like faculty-led study groups held around the world.

In regards to academics, Colgate sticks to the more classic core curriculum. All students are required to complete certain courses before the end of their sophomore years. These include scientific perspectives of the world, challenges of modernity, and communities and identities. Each course is designed to help students develop the skills and habits they need to complete their four years.

Macalester College (St. Paul, MN)

Macalester College
Evenjk, Macalester-Humanities, CC BY-SA 3.0

Macalester College is unique in that it’s a selective, undergraduate-only liberal arts college located not in a small town but a large Midwestern metropolitan area. This gives its students ample opportunities to take part in community service projects and internships.

In “Hidden Ivies,” Howard and Matthew Greene quote one student who said, “Macalester benefits from a combination of big-city resources and everything that is great about a small liberal arts college — small classes, a sense of community, professors deeply committed to teaching.”

Macalester is also committed to supporting multiculturalism and creating a global community. Nearly one-third of the student body is comprised of students of color, and 24 percent of students are citizens of another country, representing 97 countries.

The school’s Civic Engagement Center encourages student activism. It brings students, faculty members, and local partners together to work on projects aimed at creating a more just and sustainable community.

From “Hidden Ivies,” students describe the school as progressive, international, engaged, rigorous, diverse, activist-oriented, and friendly.

Colorado College (Colorado Springs, CO)

Colorado College
Greverod, Russell T Tutt Science Center, CC BY-SA 3.0

Colorado College, a liberal arts college of about 2,000 undergraduate students, is perfectly set amongst the Rocky Mountains. The school’s acceptance rate for the class of 2013 was at just 13.5 percent, making it the most competitive on this list.

What makes the school truly stand out from others is its Block Plan. Rather than students taking multiple classes throughout the fall, spring, or summer semesters, Colorado College students take one class at a time for three-and-a-half weeks.

This Block Plan allows students to truly immerse themselves in a subject, rather than trying to juggle Shakespeare readings with math homework and biology labs. The same amount of material is covered in a block as it would be in a semester. Plus, students get four-and-a-half day “Block Breaks,” a time for them to recharge by hiking, skiing, mountain biking, volunteering, or taking a quick trip into Denver.

Colorado College isn’t one to fly under the radar, either. It’s recently snagged some state and national honors, including getting ranked as one of America’s Top Colleges of 2019 by Forbes, and it was voted the No. 3 most innovative liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report.

Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA)

Lehigh University
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Lehigh University Williams Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0

Lehigh University, a school of a little more than 5,000 undergraduate students, was founded by a businessman and industrialist who was looking for more people educated in science and technology who could carry out innovative research in the 1860s.

Today, the school is still well-known for its sciences, math, computer science, technology, engineering, and business programs. But don’t discount the arts. Lehigh, due in part to its short distance from New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, also pulls talented musical and theater students.

Greek life is popular on campus — approximately one-third of students are members of a sorority or fraternity — and the school has more than 200 student organizations. Community service is also important, with students collecting more than 65,000 hours per year.

Lehigh has produced some impressive alumni, too. They include Pulitzer Prize winners, Fulbright Fellows, and Medal of Science winners.

The University of the South (Sewanee) (Sewanee, TN)

University of the South
Rex Hammock, McClurg Hall, Sewanee – The University of the South, CC BY-SA 2.0

Located amongst the mountains and forest, the University of the South sits between Nashville and Chattanooga and is home to a little more than 1,700 undergraduate students, making it one of the smallest schools on our list.

Sewanee is an Episcopal school, and its values show throughout campus. In “Hidden Ivies,” Howard and Matthew Greene describe the historical All Saints’ Chapel as the focal point of campus. Its school of theology attracts graduate students, and the campus offers a number of optional religious on-campus programs, like Bible studies and small groups.

Sewanee prides itself on its tight-knit community. Nearly all of its students live on campus, which is called the Domain. The 13,000 acres allow students to conduct scientific research, study the environment, and even go hiking and rafting.

The school offers 36 majors, ranging from earth and environmental systems to medieval studies to music. The School of Letters is particularly well known. It houses the university’s English and creative writing programs. In fact, Sewanee is home of the “Sewanee Review,” which is the country’s oldest continuously published literary journal.

According to “Hidden Ivies,” Sewanee is one of the top producers for Rhodes Scholars and has had plenty of Watson and Fulbright Scholars, too. Additionally, 96 percent of graduates who apply to law or medical schools after graduation are accepted.

Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX)

Southern Methodist University
Yelpet, Fondren Science Building, CC BY-SA 4.0

Southern Methodist University, situated just outside of Dallas, is home to more than 6,000 undergraduate students and nearly as many graduate students, making it the largest school on this list.

Just because it’s the largest doesn’t mean is sacrifices quality. This year it was ranked No. 64 in national universities by U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, U.S. News & World Report ranked it the second top school in Texas, of more than 300 colleges and universities.

One of the most impressive parts of SMU is its extensive list of notable alumni. They include Laura Bush, former First Lady of Texas and the United States; a number of award-winning actors, including Brian Baumgartner or “Kevin” from “The Office;” Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS; John Tyson, the chair of Tyson Foods; and Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder and CEO of Bumble and co-founder of Tinder.

This is good news for current students, too, who can network with these powerful graduates. In fact, the Princeton Review ranked SMU No. 6 for internship opportunities and No. 13 for its alumni network. SMU’s motto sums it up perfectly: World Changers Shaped Here.