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Secure Admission in the Ivy League: Requirements and Guidelines

Secure Admission in the Ivy League

The Ivy League was founded in 1954 and comprises eight private universities in Northeastern America. The organization’s foundations were laid on a shared interest in athletics. However, as time went on, the Ivies added academic excellence and social prestige to their list of priorities too. Today, their standards have made the Ivy League the most sought-after for higher studies.

Having a reputation that precedes itself, both international and domestic students aim to have the honor of studying there. Hence, the low acceptance rates and complex application process fail to deter them.

To better understand the Ivy League’s status, look at the table below.

Schools Under Ivy Leagues Student-to-Teacher Ratio Total International Students
Brown University 10.3 19%
Columbia University 5.2 35%
Cornell University 10.0 24%
Dartmouth University 7.4 16%
Harvard University 9.0 25%
University of Pennsylvania 6.2 22%
Princeton University 7.3 23%
Yale University 5.2 21%

We will now set out to get a brief overview of the universities.

The Globally Recognized Institutions

The eight institutions of the Ivy League and their rankings are listed below:

Schools Under Ivy Leagues

Global Ranking National Ranking
Times Higher Education US News


Brown University

64 9 15

Columbia University

17 12 (tie) 6

Cornell University

20 12 (tie) 12

Dartmouth University




Harvard University


3 (tie)


University of Pennsylvania




Princeton University




Yale University 10 5


Why is it Difficult to Get Into?

Having maintained its rankings, the Ivy League is very selective about its acceptance. The acceptance rates vary from 3% to 7%, with Harvard taking the least amount of students and Cornell taking the most. Due to this tough competition, getting into an Ivy League institution can be considered difficult.

Schools Under Ivy League Acceptance Rate
Overall  Early Action Regular Decision International

Brown University

5.00% 14.60% 3.60%


Columbia University

3.73% 10.31% 2.96%


Cornell University

6.91% 19.18% 4.99%


Dartmouth University

6.24% 21.27% 4.70%


Harvard University

3.19% 7.87% 2.34%


University of Pennsylvania

6.50% 15.52% 4.99%


Princeton University

5.69% 15.63% 5.69%


Yale University

4.47% 12.09% 3.17%


How to Counter the Difficulty?

You have two options when applying to the Ivy League, i.e., the early action in November and the regular decision in January.

During early action, you can only apply to one of the Ivies. Hence, by prioritizing the institution, you will be increasing your chances of getting accepted. Additionally, your chances will further improve due to the higher acceptance rates of the early action.

However, note that acceptance through early action is binding. Once accepted, you are obligated to join the university offering admission.

 Requirements Needed for Securing Admission

The Ivy League institution’s requirements can differ depending on the academic level and program. For example, application requirements can vary for undergraduate or postgraduate degrees.

Nonetheless, the general requirements for the Ivy League institutions remain the same.

Below are the requirements to ensure your admission to the Ivy League.

  1. Academics
  2. Standardized Test Scores
  3. Essays and Personal Statement
  4. Recommendation Letters
  5. Extracurricular Activities
  6. Supplement Material
  7. Interview
  8. English Language Proficiency

Steps to Get Admission

1. Academics

To better understand this requirement, we will first see what a weighted and unweighted GPA is. An unweighted GPA shows your original score, while a weighted GPA considers the difficulty of the courses taken too. Hence, it is advisable that you not only score well but also take difficult courses for a good weighted GPA.

All in all, the Ivy League has no fixed academic criteria. Nonetheless, students are still expected to aim for higher grades. The average weighted GPA for the Ivies is 4.0 or above on a 4-point scale.

Though intimidating, a low GPA should not discourage you due to the admission committee’s holistic approach. They will prefer your achievements over academics if you have faced an illness or a difficult situation.

Schools Under Ivy Leagues Average GPA
Weighted  Unweighted 

Brown University



Columbia University



Cornell University



Dartmouth University



Harvard University



University of Pennsylvania



Princeton University



Yale University



2. Standardized Test Scores

In recent years, the Ivy League has adopted a test-optional approach. Resultantly, if you fail to submit a SAT or ACT score, your chances of getting accepted are not affected.

Students, however, continue to submit their scores to leave a lasting impression on the committee. If interested in improving your application, score well by practicing and using professional help.

Aim for the average SAT score for the Ivies that ranges from 1500 to 1530 out of 1600. Likewise, for the ACT, aimfor an average score of 32-35 with the total score being 36.

Schools Under Ivy Leagues Average SAT Score Average ACT Score
25th Percentile 75th Percentile 25th Percentile 75th Percentile

Brown University

1490 1560 33


Columbia University

1500 1560 34


Cornell University

1460 1570 33


Dartmouth University

1480 1520 32


Harvard University

1490 1580 33


University of Pennsylvania

1500 1570 33


Princeton University

1510 1570 33


Yale University

1460 1560 33


3. Essays and Personal Statement

For the Ivy League application, you have to submit two types of essays i.e., primary and supplementary. The primary essays are available on the common app while the supplementary essays are provided only on the university portal.

Use your essays to stand out by choosing an interesting topic and talking eloquently about it. As compelling as adding all your achievements can be, go against the urge. Only provide information that reflects on more than your grades and extracurricular achievements. Further, ensure that the statement sounds authentic since essays can make or break the application.

For primary essays, you should personalize them to help the committee see the person behind the application. To do so, you should share your personal experiences, aspirations, and personality traits to stand out.

You are, then, supposed to write a supplementary essay, which is school-specific. When drafting it, relate to the school’s mission and explain your ability to contribute to the community.

Lastly, note that the prompts can differ with each passing year so stay updated.

4. Recommendation Letters

The Ivy League applicants are expected to submit three recommendation letters through the common application. Out of the three, two are to be written by teachers of your choice and one by the school counselor.

For starters, approach the teachers who know you well on both a personal and academic level. Then, seek the teacher’s permission for recommendation letters before the application process begins.

When seeking approval, also inquire the teachers regarding the details they might need for the letters. With all the information at hand, the teachers will have time to write wholesome letters.

Note that the third-party perspective of the applicants in the recommendations is essential. Hence, coordinate with your teachers all the way through.

5. Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities represent you as more than your academic achievements. In the application, you are supposed to mention the activities that display your passion and commitment. The achievements can, hence, mention your community service, leadership skills, creativity, etc.

Since putting forth a long list of extracurricular activities will only display mediocrity, avoid doing so. Instead, you should talk about the activities that best showcase your depth and potential.

Some examples of extracurricular activities are athletics, music, research, and business endeavors. However, if some other area interests you, do not hesitate. No matter the interests, the only thing that will matter eventually is your dedication and consistency.

6. Supplement Material

Supplement material can be added to your application to further strengthen it. It primarily includes the work previously done by the applicant in a field of interest. The material, hence, helps provide an insight into your potential.

For example, the students of art, architecture, and landscape architecture opt for portfolios. The students of environmental analysis, and fashion designing use design supplements. Some students also add musical recordings to increase the value of their application.

7. Interview

Ivy League interviews are not compulsory for all applicants. However, some students are still called for an in-person or online interview. The feedback is then reported back to the admission committee. You should, hence, try to leave a lasting impression on the interviewee i.e., a volunteer alumni.

As far as the interview questions are concerned, they are mainly informational and conversational. Most of the questions discuss hobbies, interest in college, aspirations, and childhood. Hence, brainstorming is essential to touch on subjects that were not mentioned anywhere else.

By the end of the interview, you are also encouraged to ask questions from the alumni regarding the institution.

8. English Language Proficiency

Lastly, international students are required to take an English language proficiency test for the Ivy League. If you are a second-language speaker of English or have not used English as a medium of instruction, the proficiency test is compulsory for you.

The most commonly accepted tests for the Ivy League are TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo. The iTEP, C1 advanced/C2 proficiency, PET, etc. are also accepted by some universities.

The recommended scores in the English language proficiency test submitted are:

  • 100 or above in internet-based TOEFL.
  • 600 or above in paper-based TOEFL.
  • 7.5 above in IELTS, 120 or above in DET.
  • 70 or above for PTE.
  • 191 or above for Cambridge C1/C2 and.
  • 5.5 or above for iTEP.

Considerations to Improve Your Chances

To further prepare yourself, you should know the factors that are out of your control. If any of these factors can be used in your favor, feel free to take advantage. Some of these factors include your area, legacy status, and representation.

Firstly, the Ivy League aims to accept students from all states and areas. Hence, if you are from a rural, underdeveloped area, you will have an edge over an equally competent student from an urban area.

Secondly, legacy status can also improve your chances of getting accepted. If a family member has attended the Ivy League, you have an edge over others. The reason is the alumni donation and the applicant’s familiarity with the institution.

Lastly, the Ivy League believes in a diverse campus community since it can add to the exposure of the students. If you belong to a diverse and underrepresented group, your chances can improve. Hence, a student from South Africa will have a better chance compared to a student from the USA.

Furthermore, for underprivileged students, the Ivy League also provides scholarships and job programs. To understand the expense, given below is a list of the total cost per annum.

Schools Under Ivy Leagues Annual Cost (USD)
Total Tuition Fee Living Cost

Brown University

$80,986 $65,146


Columbia University

$88,280 $60,420


Cornell University

$79,544 $62,456


Dartmouth University

$80,757 $62,658


Harvard University

$76,763 $57,261


University of Pennsylvania

$81,340 $63,452


Princeton University

$76,040 $57,410


Yale University

$80,700 $62,250


Key Takeaways

  • Apply early
  • Take difficult and different courses
  • Get good grades
  • Show commitment to a few extracurricular activities
  • Write an eloquent and compelling essay
  • Be wise with your recommendation letters
  • Add supplement material if needed
  • Provide information not previously mentioned during the interview
  • Develop English proficiency and score well

How can CounsellingX aid you to Get Admission in the Ivy League?

All in all, your application should showcase how your interests align with the school’s. The essays, extracurricular activities, and supplementary materials should, hence, provide an exceptional narrative. For the narrative, a professional counselor’s guidance and approval are recommended. Learn more about professional help through CounsellingX.

Feel free to contact our counselors for a free fifteen-minute session!

Frequently Asked Questions

🙋 What is the easiest Ivy League to get into?

👉 Cornell University has the highest acceptance rate out of the eight institutions of the Ivy League. A rate of approximately 8% makes it the easiest to target. Though calling it the “easiest” will be a stretch since the competition is always tough.

🙋 How many schools are there in the Ivy League?

👉 The Ivy League comprises eight schools in total. Namely, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, UPenn, Princeton, and Yale universities. These institutions have some other schools under their wing too.

🙋 Are Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology part of the Ivy League?

👉 No, Stanford and MIT are misunderstood to be a part of the Ivy League. Due to their academic excellence, the two institutes stand at the same level as the Ivy. However, athletics is not a part of Stanford’s and MIT’s repertoire.

🙋 What is the minimum ACT/SAT score for the Ivy League?

👉 The minimum ACT score for the Ivies is 32 out of 36. Likewise, the lowest score for SAT is 690 in reading and 700 in mathematics out of 800 each.

🙋 What GPA will get me into the Ivy League?

👉 The average weighted GPA for the Ivy League is 4.0 or higher on a 4-point scale. Resultantly, the top 10% of students in a class mostly get into the Ivy League.

🙋 Are straight A’s important for the Ivy League?

👉 Straight A’s are recommended though they are not all. The application needs more, in the form of extracurricular activities and essays.

🙋 Can a single C ruin my chances of being accepted by the Ivy League?

👉 No, regardless of being competitive, the admission committee looks at every aspect. Since bad semesters and challenging courses happen, every student is equally considered.

🙋 Are SAT and ACT compulsory for the Ivy League?

👉 No, the Ivy League has adopted a test-optional approach. Students without a test score in their application will have no disadvantage. However, due to the tight competition, good scores can work in your favor.

🙋 What else do I need other than grades and test scores?

👉 Given below are the things you will need apart from grades and tests:

  • Personal projects
  • Community service or volunteer work
  • Leadership roles
  • Summer programs
  • Meaningful relationship with teachers
  • Authentic essays
  • Early action

🙋 When can I apply for the Ivy League?

👉 Early action and the regular decision are the two options you have. According to the Ivy policy, all the universities have the same admission deadlines. For early action, the date can be either the 1st or 15th of November. For regular decisions, the date can range from 1st January to 5th January.


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