It’s no secret that the Ivy League is elite, and each of the eight schools that make up the league is elite in its own right. Originally formed as an athletic conference, the Ivy League was thus named because of the ivy that often grew on the outer walls of the buildings of private campuses.
Today, the universities that make up the Ivy League have two main things in common: location and age. They are among the oldest schools in the nation and are all located in the northeastern part of the United States.
Ivy League schools are consistently ranked among the top 25 universities globally and in the U.S. Many other schools in that group are not Ivy League members, including Johns Hopkins, Rice, Stanford, MIT, and Duke.
If you’re determined to make it into the small pool of students who receive invitations to these eight prestigious schools, you must learn how to get accepted into the Ivy Leagues and be resourceful by accepting all the Ivy League admission help you can get.
What Are the Ivy League Universities?
The eight Ivy League schools include:
While it’s true that every one of these prestigious schools is extremely selective with admissions, it’s also true that with the right attitude, preparation, and perseverance, you can give yourself an excellent shot at becoming an Ivy League student.
What Are the Ivy League Acceptance Rates?
Each Ivy League school has its own acceptance rate, and all of those rates are undeniably low, even at the high end of the range. Each university also has its own way of making admission decisions, so you should become familiar with the specifics of the school you’re most interested in.
The approximate current acceptance rate for each Ivy League university is:
- Princeton: 5.8%
- Harvard: 4.4%
- Yale: 6.5%
- Dartmouth: 6.3%
- Brown: 6.3%
- Cornell: 10.8%
- UPenn: 7.4%
- Columbia: 10.6%
The word “elite” is often used in reference to Ivy League schools. You may have learned that these universities invite only elite students to become a part of the campus. But what exactly does “elite” mean?
“Elite” can have varied meanings depending on the context in which it’s used. For example, you may be one of the elite students in your high school, earning straight As, being involved in extracurricular activities, and performing well on standardized tests. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re elite by Ivy League standards.
The students these schools are looking for have different combinations of characteristics that make them elite. While one student may be in the 99th percentile in musical talent but in the 50th percentile in GPA, another will be weak in musical talent but strong in academics.
They balance each other out, and the Ivy League is all about balance. Each university aims to have a student body that is well-rounded in more ways than one. It’s no longer just the students who must be well-rounded — it’s the student body at each campus.
Ivy League Application Help: What Do the Schools Look For?
From the first day of your high school career, you will need to cultivate a strong showing in academics, performance, and extracurricular activities.
Each university assesses applications using a holistic review policy, so several different factors are considered, and they all matter. The Ivy League schools are looking for intellectually inquisitive students who have ambition and make an impact on the lives around them.
What GPA Do You Need to Make It into the Ivy Leagues?
Not one of the eight schools has set a cut-off for a required GPA, and the same holds true for other admission factors. However, even though no concrete benchmark GPA guarantees acceptance into the schools, there is definitely a trend — the higher, the better.
In fact, more than half of the students accepted into the most recent Harvard class had high school GPAs of 4.10. The average high GPA for the Ivy League as a whole is 4.0.
It’s not good enough to just achieve this academic level, however. The Ivy League wants students who are able to earn straight As while taking the most rigorous and challenging courses available to them.
Each of the schools will look more favorably on an A- in an Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) class than an A+ in a “routine-level” course. When a student takes as many challenging courses as possible, it shows that the student welcomes challenges and is ready for a college-level curriculum.
The approximate average GPAs of incoming students to each of the Ivy League schools are:
- Princeton: 3.90
- Harvard: 4.10
- Yale: 3.90
- Dartmouth: 4.01
- Brown: 4.05
- Cornell: 4.19
- UPenn: 4.04
- Columbia: 4.13
If you’re looking for tips on how to get into Ivy League schools, remember that you must achieve the highest grades you can in all of your courses and not shy away from the most challenging classes available.
But what if no AP or IB courses are offered at your high school? The Ivy League schools always review applications and make determinations on criteria within the available context.
In other words, it will not count against your application if you didn’t take these courses because none were offered. However, the universities do expect you to give an explanation about such scenarios on your application.
If no challenging classes are available, it’s recommended that you take classes at a community college to demonstrate to the Ivy League universities your commitment to taking on challenges in the name of education.
Ivy League Admission Help: What SAT or ACT Scores Do Ivy League Schools Require?
As with GPA, no strict SAT or ACT requirements will guarantee or bar a student’s admission. Over the past couple of years, most universities adopted a temporary “test-optional” policy, where applicants could submit test scores as part of their applications but were not required to do so.
Therefore, the average SAT and ACT scores for the universities since 2020 appear to have risen sharply. That’s in part due to the fact that the only test scores being submitted by students are those that are exceptionally high.
The average accepted SAT and ACT score ranges (25th percentile to 75th percentile) for each of the Ivy League universities are as follows:
- Princeton: 1430–1570 (SAT); 32–35 (ACT)
- Harvard: 1460–1590 (SAT); 33–35 (ACT)
- Yale: 1460–1580 (SAT); 33–35 (ACT)
- Dartmouth: 1430–1560 (SAT); 31–35 (ACT)
- Brown: 1430–1550 (SAT); 32–35 (ACT)
- Cornell: 1390–1550 (SAT); 32–34 (ACT)
- UPenn: 1420–1560 (SAT); 32–35 (ACT)
- Columbia: 1410–1570 (SAT); 31–34 (ACT)
Make sure you’re aware of whether your preferred Ivy League school is following a “test-optional” protocol for admissions or requiring test scores. In addition, you will need to know if your university superscores test scores, which means that it takes the highest scores from multiple sittings.
Some schools will allow you to take these tests multiple times and will consider only the highest scores; others may not, depending on their current policies.
What Extracurricular Activities Do Ivy League Schools Look For?
These elite schools don’t have a specific list of the “best” and “worst” activities for students, and they certainly don’t admit or deny students solely based on what kind of activities they were busy with during high school.
However, they do look at the impact a student made during their time in the activity and how the activity relates to the student’s interests and goals for their time on campus. They also seek students who show promise that they will continue their extracurricular activities during college.
The number of extracurricular activities will not be nearly as important as the type of activities. For example, a student who spends their free time writing drafts of children’s books, volunteering as a literacy tutor, and participating in national media fairs will be a stronger candidate than one who plays the guitar at a club on weekends, is on an intramural volleyball league, and attends the neighborhood chess club.
Why? The first student shows continuity; all of these activities relate to the student’s passion — literature. The second student is active in just as many activities, but the activities seem unrelated to the student’s area of interest.
Ivy League schools want to see participation in the same types of extracurriculars through the years; this proves focus and passion. Without a steady interest, extracurriculars appear less significant.
These universities also want to see leadership and impact. Serving the community is huge with all Ivy League schools. How did you use your time with these activities? What difference did you make? Sought-after students are those who will continue to lead and impact their campuses in the same ways.
How to Get into Ivy League Schools: Interviews, Demonstrated Interest, Letters of Recommendation, and Essays
Aside from high school transcripts, mid-year reports, GPA reports, and test scores, most Ivy League schools require additional documents to accompany your application for admission. These usually include:
- Admission interviews with an alumnus of the university
- Demonstrated interest
- Teacher and/or counselor letters of recommendation
- Essays and personal writing prompts
This is not an exhaustive list; each university has its unique list of requirements that must be met for an admission application to be considered complete.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities have either made alumni interviews optional on a per-availability basis or done away with them altogether. Some offer students the opportunity to submit a two-minute introduction video instead of doing interviews, and others don’t.
If you are applying to a school that offers optional interviews, the school will contact you to do one if there is an alumnus in your area who is able to talk with you. If there are no available alumni and you are not offered an interview, it will not hurt your admission chances.
Some universities track which students have shown the most interest in the university during their high school years. This demonstrated interest could be in the form of making a personal visit to the campus, talking with alumni and/or admissions staff members, participating in recruiting events at your high school, and taking virtual tours.
Regardless of whether the university you are applying to tracks demonstrated interest, it’s always a good idea to visit campus and participate in activities that will help you decide which school is best for you.
Letters of Recommendation
Almost every school requires at least one letter of recommendation to accompany each admission application. Yours should be written by a teacher who, ideally, taught a core academic class that relates to your primary area of study. This teacher should be able to discuss your academic strength and the positive contributions you brought to your class.
Essays and Personal Writing Prompts
Every university requires essays and writing prompts as part of the application for admission. While each school is unique in its guidelines, none want to read an essay that rehashes the same information a student has already added to another portion of the application.
For instance, these writing prompts and essays are no place for students to discuss their list of activities or grades because that is done elsewhere in the app. What you must do with your essays, regardless of the school, is talk about yourself as a person.
Speak in your own voice, be honest, and get personal. These essays exist so the universities can get a sense of who you are beyond all the numbers and statistics.
How to Get Accepted into the Ivy Leagues
During your entire high school career and throughout your extracurricular activities, be authentic. Be an inspiration. Be personable and always perform to the very best of your ability — academically and otherwise.
Remember that these universities are looking for the elite of the elite, and to be that, you’ll need to go far beyond learning just the basics of how to get into Ivy League schools. You’ll also need to secure Ivy League admission help early on to give you the best chance of admission success.