If you’re interested in applying to one or some of the Ivy League schools then you’re probably curious about the Ivy League rankings and which school is the “best” for you to seriously pursue. So let’s take a few minutes to talk about what the Ivy League is, who’s part of it, and where each school falls in the Ivy League rankings.

What is the Ivy League?

The Ivy League is a group of eight highly selective universities on the East Coast. These schools are among some of the oldest in the country and have deep history of producing some of the world’s most successful people, including Mindy Kaling and John Legend. When the Ivy League began, the group was actually focused on sports, specifically football.

The schools within the Ivy League sought to make athletics part of their students’ education instead of exploiting students or recruiting professionals for entertainment. This concern was due to the increasing popularity of broadcasting football games over television. Because these eight schools had similar education standards and ideas about the place of sports within a collegiate environment, they joined forces.

Today, the term Ivy League is synonymous with the rigorous education you can receive there, in addition to sports played in their NCAA Division I league.

What Schools are Ivy League?

Because the term Ivy League is so closely linked with schools that are tough for you to get into and tougher academics for their students, many people apply the term to schools outside of the eight official Ivies. A good example of this is Stanford University, who recently became more selective than any of the Ivy schools, and MIT. So who are the real Ivy League schools?

  •    Brown University
  •    Columbia University
  •    Cornell University
  •    Dartmouth College
  •    Harvard University
  •    Princeton University
  •    University of Pennsylvania
  •    Yale University

Recognize any of these names? It’s not surprising considering the Ivies’ reputations for breakthrough research and famous alumni. In fact, when most students start thinking about college, they usually start with some of these eight names.

Ivy League Rankings

Now that we’ve covered what the Ivy League is and who is actually part of it, we can talk about rankings. For the most part, the Ivy League rankings change every year and can vary depending on which list you look at. And trust me when I say there are a lot of lists out there. So how do you know which ones to pay attention to?

The three lists I focus on when I talk about college rankings with my students are the Forbes, the Niche, and the US News’s list. And I don’t just focus on one list; I look at all three to make my determinations, because each list ranks schools on a completely differently quality.

Forbes examines schools’ alumni, taking their salaries, amount of debt, how many students default on loans, and accomplishments into consideration when they rank schools.

Niche’s list focuses on quality of life for students, including athletics, the party scenes, the quality of campus housing, and technology available.

The US News list zeroes in on academic reputation by surveying experts in the education community like deans of admissions and university presidents for their thoughts on the schools’ academic quality.

So you can see why I pull from multiple lists. When you’re looking for the “best” school, you need to figure out what you’re defining as the best. Because of this, I don’t have a straight answer for which of the Ivy League schools will come out as number one. What I can give you is the information I have from these lists, the average ranking, and the acceptance rate.

School Location Acceptance Rate Forbes Ranking Niche Ranking US News Ranking Average Ranking
Brown University Providence, RI 9.3% 8 10 14 11
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14% 29 29 15 24
Columbia University New York, NY 6% 16 12 4 11
Dartmouth College Hanover, NH 10.5% 17 13 11 14
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 5.4% 4 4 2 3
Princeton University Princeton, NJ 6.5% 3 5 1 3
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 9.4% 11 8 8 9
Yale University New Haven, CT 6.3% 6 3 3 4

What Do the Ivy League Rankings Mean?

So even though the Ivies are known for being some of the best schools in the country, you can now see which of those schools are the best of the best.

The top Ivies like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale tend to trade spots with each other for the highest rankings. These three are comparable to non-Ivy League schools like MIT and Stanford in terms of providing incredible academic opportunities for their students and for being difficult to get into.

Brown, Columbia, and U Penn are still incredibly competitive schools, but are relatively easier to be admitted into. They still carry the Ivy League weight behind their name so don’t think you’ll be missing out if you end up attending one these prestigious universities instead. They’re on par with Duke and the University of Chicago, which are amazing institutions.

Dartmouth and Cornell are the Northwestern and Vanderbilt equivalents of the Ivy League. They’re strong universities with incredible academics and student opportunities. Of the Ivies, these two schools are also the easiest to get into. But that still makes them extremely competitive.

Ivy League rankings are a great way to determine which of these eight prestigious schools you want to attend and which ones you could have an easier time being admitted to. Working with a college consultant can help give you a more in-depth look at which schools you’re a strong applicant for and how to improve your odds of being accepted.

Were you surprised by the Ivy League rankings? Did you guess all eight schools correctly? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!