SEARCH THE DATABASE is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What do I need to get into an Ivy League Plus school?

Getting into an Ivy League school is a major accomplishment from any standpoint. These schools are highly selective, and the admission rates are very low compared to other colleges. The eight members of the Ivy League are considered among the world’s top universities with long-held traditions for academic rigor and prestige. The eight Ivy League schools are Brown University in Rhode Island, Columbia University in New York, Cornell University in New York, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Harvard University in Massachusetts, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University in New Jersey, and Yale University in Connecticut.

The Ivies are mostly located in the northeast, but there are other colleges that are equally prestigious with the same reputation for academic excellence, selective admission, and social prominence. These colleges include Stanford in California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Chicago and Duke University in North Carolina.

Related resource: 50 Most Affordable Competitive Colleges and Universities

Admission Process to Ivy League Schools and Similar Colleges

The process of applying for admission to Ivy League schools is the same process as applying to other colleges. All eight of the Ivies accept the Common Application, which is a college application accepted by all member colleges. The same application is used to apply to any of the member colleges although supplemental forms may vary from one college to the next. Stanford, University of Chicago and Duke University accept the Common Application, but MIT uses its own MyMIT application.

The application packet may include the following proof of academic standing: standardized test results from SAT, ACT and AP subject tests, the grade point average or GPA, class rank and description of coursework. Some colleges may require submission of a personal essay along with letters of recommendation from teachers, guidance counselors , nd community leaders. Some colleges may provide opportunities for personal interviews with college representatives. These interviews may be held on campus or in locations accessible to applicants in their home state.

Ivy League schools subscribe to a holistic review of applicants’ qualifications. This means that they take various elements into consideration, including academic performance, SAT/ACT scores, extracurricular activities and community engagement. Preparing a college application for the Ivy League and comparable high-prestige colleges is a process that begins in 9th grade or as soon as the students enter high school.

Preparing for Ivy League Consideration

Students who intend to apply to highly selective schools will need to prepare for the process as soon as they enter high school. The transcript of records that colleges require should demonstrate that students are highly motivated with a stellar record of achievement. The transcript should prove that the student took rigorous courses that would include Honors and AP classes. Students should be conscious that grade trends will show in the final transcript that college admissions officers will see. Straight-A students are generally viewed as good candidates for admission to the best universities, but make sure not to shift from Honors classes early in high school to regular classes in junior and senior year in an effort to earn better grades and raise the GPA.

These are the average GPAs of students admitted to Ivy League schools. GPA calculations are based on a weighted standard of 4.0 with Honors and AP courses accounted for by using a 4.5 or 5.0 scale. With these average GPAs, it is clear that students vying for admission to an Ivy League school will need to earn straight As or close to that to be considered.

•Brown University – 4.05

•Columbia University – 4.13

•Dartmouth College – 4.01

•Harvard University – 4.10

•University of Pennsylvania – 4.04

•Princeton University – 3.90

•Yale University – 3.90

•Cornell University – 4.19

•Stanford – 4.18

•University of Chicago – 4.29

•MIT – 4.13

•Duke – 4.17

Standardized Tests

Students have to be prepared with the highest possible SAT or ACT scores. These students should consider taking the Preliminary SAT or PSAT as soon as they are qualified to do so to hone their test-taking skills. Plan to take the SATs or the ACT at least twice to improve your scores. There is no limit to the number of times that a student can take the SAT, but make sure to comply with final deadlines.

Here are the average SAT scores for students admitted to Ivy League colleges.

School75% SAT25% SAT75% ACT25% ACT
  1. of Pennsylvania

Just for reference, this is the percentile grouping by course for students who took the SAT in the most current year according to Prepscholar.

90th percentile (excellent)670*680*1350
73rd percentile (good)6005901190
50th percentile (average)530**520**1050
25th percentile (poor)460450910

Clearly, students who want to be considered for admission to any of the Ivies are expected to perform better than 90 percent of their peers.

Understanding Early Action

To facilitate the application process, colleges have initiated two strategies that will help applicants to know the results of their application sooner and to make the commitment sooner. Early decision plans are binding, which means a student who applied to a college as an ED and is accepted should then commit to this college. On the other hand, early action plans are nonbinding so that students receiving an early response to their application for admission are given up to May 1 to commit to the college.

Applying for admission to any of the Ivy League schools and similarly prestigious colleges is a long drawn-out process that must start as soon as the student starts high school. These students have to stay focused, organized and motivated because Ivy League schools are considered extremely competitive when it comes to GPAs and highly selective when it comes to test scores and other requirements.

Related Resources: