Is an Ivy League College for You?

How to improve your chances for admission to ivy league schools.

Edited By Christa Fletcher | August 13, 2014


Ivy League colleges are some of the most prestigious and academically challenging in the country. There are eight universities that make up the Ivy League, all of which can be found in the northeastern United States. High school students would be hard-pressed to find a college that offers a more rigorous four-year bachelor's degree program.

All eight Ivy League universities routinely rank as the top colleges in the country and have award-winning professors. If you are interested in earning a bachelor's degree or other degree from one of these prestigious schools, read on to find out the credentials you need to have to increase your chances.

Admission Requirements for Ivy League Colleges

Getting an education from an Ivy League college first depends on your ability to get accepted. Each four-year college in the Ivy League has different entry requirements, but all are relatively demanding compared with other schools. Your GPA and how you score on standardized tests are just some of the factors schools use to determine whether you’ll be accepted. Check out the average GPAs for each Ivy League school below:

Brown University

SAT Critical Reading: 660 to 760 | SAT Math: 670 to 780 | SAT Writing: 670 to 770
ACT Composite: 29 to 34 | GPA: 3.5 or Higher | Percent Applicants Admitted: 9 percent

Columbia University

SAT Critical Reading: 690 to 780 | SAT Math: 700 to 790 | SAT Writing: 690 to 780
ACT Composite: 31 to 34 | GPA: 3.5 or Higher | Percent Applicants Admitted: 7 percent

Cornell University

SAT Critical Reading: 640 to 740 | SAT Math: 680 to 780 | SAT Writing: 650 to 750
ACT Composite: 30 to 34 | GPA: 3.5 or Higher | Percent Applicants Admitted: 15 percent

Dartmouth College

SAT Critical Reading: 670 to 780 | SAT Math: 680 to 780 | SAT Writing: 680 to 790
ACT Composite:30 to 34 | GPA: 3.5 or Higher | Percent Applicants Admitted: 10 percent

Harvard University

SAT Critical Reading: 700 to 800 | SAT Math: 710 to 800 | SAT Writing: 710 to 800
ACT Composite:32 to 35 | GPA: 3.5 or Higher | Percent Applicants Admitted: 6 percent

Princeton University

SAT Critical Reading: 700 to 800 | SAT Math: 710 to 800 | SAT Writing: 710 to 790
ACT Composite:31 to 35 | GPA: 3.5 or Higher | Percent Applicants Admitted: 7 percent

University of Pennsylvania

SAT Critical Reading: 670 to 760 | SAT Math: 690 to 780 | SAT Writing: 690 to 780
ACT Composite: 30 to 34 | GPA: >3.5 | Percent Applicants Admitted: 10 percent

Yale University

SAT Critical Reading: 700 to 800 | SAT Math: 710 to 790 | SAT Writing: 710 to 800
ACT Composite: 32 to 35 | GPA: >3.5 | Percent Applicants Admitted: 6 percent

Test scores are courtesy of the National Center for Education Statistics; scores represent the middle 50% of first-year students at each school. Percentages are from each school (2014 data).


Remember, the test scores above are averages of all students enrolled at each Ivy League school. A lower test score than the average does not automatically disqualify you from admission. However, it does likely mean that your other criteria (GPA, community service, etc.) will need to be exceptional.

Improving Chances for Admission to Ivy League Colleges

Only about 8.75% of applicants are accepted into Ivy League schools. So how do you pursue your desired major and earn your bachelor's degree at one of these schools? Work hard, test well and find ways to set yourself and your application apart from the pack. Here are some key ways to do this:

  • Participate in school clubs – taking a leadership role in an established club or starting your own club are great ways to show your initiative.
  • Take demanding classes, including AP classes, in high school, and take core high school classes (English, math, science and social studies) all four years.
  • Take three or four years of a foreign language.
  • Get good grades -- most Ivy League students place in the top 10% of their high schools.
  • Write a personal essay that highlights your uniqueness to help leave a lasting impression with admissions counselors.

Alternatives to the Ivy League

Worried that the Ivies are out of your league? Ivy League schools are one way to get a quality education, but they’re not the only way. Many successful people didn't earn an Ivy education, like Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, who attended Reed College, Colin Powell (City College of New York), Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State) or Tom Hanks (Chabot College, a community college).

Dive deeper into your college search and you’ll find schools with great reputations that may not have the Ivy League name but may suit you better in terms of cost, location or academics.

Quick Tips

  • Apply early action or early decision to your top choice to show that school that you’re committed to attending.
  • Keep track of upcoming SAT Subject Test dates; they’re required at all the Ivies. You can take up to three subject tests on a test date, but you can’t take the subject tests and the SAT on the same date. So give yourself time to take all the required tests, and retake them if necessary to improve your scores.
  • Maintain good relationships with your teachers so they can write compelling, personal letters of recommendation for you. Let them know your high school achievements, careers you’re considering and the majors and programs you’re interested in so they can give a complete profile of you as a student and how you would utilize your education to further your career goals.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

College Matching vs. College Rankings: Which Matters More?
Is a College’s Prestige Important?
How to Start Your College Search
The Pros and Cons of Using College Rankings
Explore All Higher Education Options: Types of Colleges

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