How to Get Into an Ivy League School

Applying for college is an exciting time in your high school career. For many students, attending an Ivy League college is an important aspiration. Lots of qualified students apply to Ivy League colleges every year, but only a fraction of them are admitted, with most Ivy League acceptance rates averaging around 5%.  If you are wondering how to get into Harvard or other Ivy League colleges, read on! In this article, we will discuss important application strategies to keep in mind as you move forward with your college applications. 

An Overview of the Ivy Leagues

Ivy League colleges are socially and academically elite institutions with exclusive admissions rates that help alumni jump-start their careers through the school’s reputation, prestige, and networking opportunities. Earning a degree from an Ivy League school will grant you a competitive edge in your professional field.

How Many Ivy Leagues Are There?

Although there are over 5,300 universities in the United States, with many highly-selective universities, there are only eight (8) Ivy League colleges: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University.

What to Know About Each College

Although all of the Ivy Leagues are top-tier schools, each school is unique and is known for different programs. If you are serious about attending an Ivy League college, research each school carefully and make a list of schools that are most reflective of your interests and talents. 

It is also important to tailor your college application to each Ivy League college that you apply to. This is also important to consider when trying to figure out how to get into Harvard medical school, how to get into Harvard law school, or how to get into Harvard business school. Below is a quick overview of each Ivy League college and what they are most known for.

Ivy League Acceptance Rates (2021) and Statistics

Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island, and has an undergraduate population of 6,792, with an acceptance rate of 5.4% for the class of 2025. It is best known for its English and History programs, as well as its medical school, The Warren Alpert Medical School.

Brown released their class of 2026 data recently and revealed their new acceptance rate is 5%.

Columbia University is located in New York City, New York, and has an undergraduate population of 8,842, with an overall acceptance rate of 5.1% for the class of 2025. It is best known for its School of Engineering, as well as its role in administering the Pulitzer Prizes. 

Columbia’s acceptance rate for the class of 2026 gets tighter at reportedly 3.73%.

columbia

Cornell University is located in Ithaca, New York, and has an undergraduate population of 14,743, with an overall acceptance rate of 10.6%. It is best known for its Colleges of Arts and Sciences, as well as for its Agriculture and Life Sciences programs. 

Cornell has not disclosed their class of 2026 admissions data yet.

Dartmouth College is located in Hanover, New Hampshire, and has an undergraduate population of 4,170, with an overall acceptance rate of 6.2% for the class of 2026. It is best known for its research and study abroad opportunities.

Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has an undergraduate population of 5,222, with an overall acceptance rate of 4.5% for the class of 2025. It is best known for its business, law, government, and medicine programs. It also has the oldest collection of books in the US, as well as the largest private book collection in the world. 

Following regular decision, Harvard released their acceptance rate for the class of 2026 at 3.19%. with 2,400 admitted students.

The University of Pennsylvania is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and has an undergraduate population of 9,872, with an overall acceptance rate of 7.4%. It is best known for its business school, The Wharton School.

UPenn did not disclose its acceptance rate for the Class of 2026 yet saying, “After the class settles into place in May, we’ll post the details about who is enrolling and some of the academic and demographic characteristics that represent students in our incoming class…”

Princeton University is located in Princeton, New Jersey, and has an undergraduate population of 4,773, with an overall acceptance rate of 5.8%. It is best known for its programs in international affairs and engineering. 

An announcement made on the university’s website stated that Princeton will not be releasing admissions data on the Class of 2026 until later on in 2022.

Yale University is located in New Haven, Connecticut, and has an undergraduate population of 4,703, with an acceptance rate of 5.9% for the class of 2025. It is best known for its drama and music programs.

Yale disclosed their acceptance rate has “shrunk” for the class of 2026 at 4.46%.

Test Scores and GPAs

Are you wondering how hard is it to get into Harvard? Or what is a good weighted GPA for Ivy League? Or how to get into an Ivy League school in general? Realistically, in order to be considered a competitive applicant, you need an impressive GPA, a rigorous course load — with lots of AP, IB, and Honors classes — and outstanding SAT and ACT scores. In general, students admitted to Ivy League schools score no less than 1400 on the SAT or 30 on the ACT. 

Your GPA is also an important admissions factor. Admissions committees favor students who take the most challenging coursework available to them, while consistently receiving high grades. If you’re wondering what GPA you need to get into Harvard, 54% of Harvard’s admitted students received a 4.0 on their high school transcripts. While it is not impossible to attend an Ivy League institution without a 4.0 and impressive standardized test scores, academics are still a huge factor.

Extracurricular Activities

Ivy League colleges are less interested in admitting well-rounded students than they are interested in admitting well-rounded student bodies. Your extracurricular activities are an important factor in your college applications. Admissions committees are interested in students who have meaningful, unique, and well-integrated extracurricular activities. Ideally, your extracurricular activities should tell a story. Ivy League colleges want to admit students who stand out and have interesting narratives. 

For example, a student who has starred in several community plays, has completed an internship with a notable playwright, is passionate about teaching at-risk youth theater, and produces a monthly podcast about the history of intersectional feminism in theater, demonstrates passion, commitment, and innovation. This student will stand out more than a student with more typical extracurriculars — such as a student who plays soccer, works at their local coffee shop, takes flute lessons, and volunteers at the food pantry.

Social Connections

Being well-connected will grant your application a more competitive edge, especially when considering how to get into Harvard university or other esteemed universities. Ivy League institutions are known for admitting legacy applicants, students recommended by wealthy donors, students who are famous in their own right, as well as children of powerful public figures, such as world leaders or celebrities.  

That said, colleges also recognize the difficulties of minority students and value cultural diversity. Depending on how you present your personal background — particularly in your college essays — you can use your life experiences to your advantage when considering how to stand out to Ivy League colleges.

how to get into harvard

Additional Admission Factors

Not all students will have high academic achievements and engaging extracurriculars, in addition to being well-connected. Admissions counselors, however, are looking for students who present an interesting combination of these three factors. 

In order to strengthen your chances of admissions, tailor your college applications, apply for Early Action or Early Decision, schedule college interviews, and make sure to keep track of Ivy League application deadlines as well as any other Ivy League requirements such as supplemental essays or a portfolio.

It’s also important to do your best to write an exceptional college application essay that is authentic, personable, and addresses something that does not appear in the rest of your application. Your college application essay is your best chance to win over admissions counselors, so approach this aspect of your application with care and make sure you read several winning college essay examples from top schools as you prepare.

Key Takeaways

Ivy League schools present students with valuable resources and opportunities. Many qualified students from all over the world apply to these schools every year but only a small fraction of them are admitted. If you have your heart set on attending an Ivy League, consider hiring a college counselor or reaching out to learn more about our services.

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