20 Top Non-Ivy League Schools You Should Consider

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If you have commendable grades, high test scores, and an impressive roster of extracurriculars, you might have dreams of attending one of the Ivies.

 

Referring to eight elite East Coast schools, the Ivy League consists of Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Columbia University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell University. While attending an Ivy can undoubtedly help pave the way for a brighter future, these schools aren’t the only ones to consider.  

 

As application numbers skyrocket for Ivy League institutions, top students are increasingly turning to other great colleges and universities around the nation. Often just as selective and academically rigorous, these schools help students achieve success in numerous fields, from law to medicine to business. In fact, 89 percent of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies actually attended non-Ivies. Keep reading to learn about the best non-Ivy colleges to add to your school list.

 

How to find the right college

 

It’s important to do your research when creating a school list to ensure you will get accepted into at least one school you will be happy to attend. If you apply to all safety schools, for example, you will run the risk of not being challenged enough and growing bored. If you apply to only reach schools, you might not get accepted to any of the schools on your list.

 

We recommend students apply to 8-12 schools, with 25% being safety schools, 40% target schools, and 35% reach schools. One easy way to make sure you have a healthy school list is to be able to search for schools based on your personal acceptance rate (not the average acceptance rate, which we explain below is not accurate for everyone).

 

We’ve made this simple, by allowing you to calculate your personal chances and then filter through hundreds of schools based on them using our School Hub. It’s all free, you just need to be logged in to filter for your chances.

 

You can also filter for other helpful things, such as location, major, cost, and even application difficulty! We highly recommend you check it out.

 

 

10 Top Schools That Aren’t in the Ivy League

 

It’s no secret that graduating from an Ivy League school comes with a certain cachet. However, the best non-Ivy League colleges in the country tend to score equally high marks in terms of student satisfaction, extracurricular options, study abroad opportunities, and other metrics. Below are ten of the top schools in the country that aren’t in the Ivy League. They are still quite selective, so keep reading for a list of 10 other schools with higher acceptance rates!

 

1. Stanford University

 

Location: Stanford, CA

Acceptance rate: 4%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1570 SAT, 32-35 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,087  

 

Holding the No. 6 spot on US News & World Report’s list of national universities, Stanford actually ranks ahead of several of the Ivies. So, it’s no surprise that this institution is unofficially referred to as the Ivy of the West. Along with exceptional academic programs, the school offers small class sizes — almost 70 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students — and the opportunity to work closely with faculty. Students are encouraged to participate in professors’ research efforts and seek out mentorship opportunities while earning their degrees.   

 

Learn more about Stanford and see your chances of acceptance.  

 

2. MIT

 

Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance rate: 7%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1500-1570 SAT, 34-36 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,602

 

MIT ties with Columbia for the No. 3 spot on the list of national universities, ranking just behind Princeton and Harvard. Along with world-class research facilities featuring the latest technologies, MIT students enjoy access to the Independent Activities Program, a month-long January term featuring special courses and projects. While the university’s engineering school is its largest in terms of enrollment, MIT also earns high marks for non-tech programs such as political science and economics.   

 

Learn more about MIT and see your chances of acceptance.  

 

3. Caltech

 

Location: Pasadena, CA

Acceptance rate: 7%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1530-1580 SAT, 35-36 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 948

 

Students who are passionate about a career in science would be remiss not to consider Caltech. Home to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the country’s leading center for robotic space exploration, the university provides students with plenty of opportunities to take part in research during the school year and the summer. While Caltech is known for its academics, the school also offers plenty of extracurricular programs and student clubs, including archery, karate, and Ultimate Frisbee.   

 

Learn more about Caltech and see your chances of acceptance.  

 

4. University of Chicago

 

Location: Chicago, IL

Acceptance rate: 7%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1490-1570 SAT, 33-35 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,552

 

UChicago is perhaps best known among students for having the quirkiest supplemental essays, such as “A hot dog might be a sandwich, and cereal might be a soup, but is a __ a __?” Academics-wise, research is a major feature of life at the University of Chicago, where students are encouraged to embark on opportunities at the Argonne National Laboratory, Marine Biological Laboratory, and the Giant Magellan Telescope. However, the school isn’t just known for its exceptional programs in science and technology. In fact, the University of Chicago offers over 50 different majors, including a nationally recognized program in economics. And with 400 student clubs, you won’t have to worry about finding your niche at this fine institution.

 

Learn more about UChicago and see your chances of acceptance.

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5. Northwestern University

 

Location: Evanston, IL

Acceptance rate: 8%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1430-1550 SAT, 33-35 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 8,231

 

Another university in Illinois, Northwestern holds the No. 9 spot on the list of best national universities. While the school offers students a choice of 112 different undergraduate degrees, Northwestern earns particular acclaim for its journalism program, which boasts well-known alumni such as Pulitzer Prize winner Lisa Gartner and author George R.R. Martin. As a bonus, Northwestern students have plenty of opportunities to take courses overseas. In fact, 50 percent of undergrads participate in study abroad.

 

Learn more about Northwestern and see your chances of acceptance.

 

6. Duke University

 

Location: Durham, NC

Acceptance rate: 9%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1450-1570 SAT, 33-35 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,682

 

With 53 majors and 52 minors, Duke students have plenty of options when it comes to crafting an education. In fact, the school offers something called Program II, whereby students with interdisciplinary interests can design their own degree programs. Additionally, the school provides 18 lucky students a year with the opportunity to participate in the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. The winners receive a four-year scholarship along with special access to academic and extracurricular opportunities.   

 

Learn more about Duke and see your chances of acceptance.

 

7. Johns Hopkins University

 

Location: Baltimore, MD

Acceptance rate: 11%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1470-1560 SAT, 33-35 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,064

 

Johns Hopkins has a reputation as a top medical school. However, the university also offers highly rated programs in the humanities and social sciences, with popular majors including public health and international studies. Moreover, undergraduates praise the school’s financial aid offering. According to U.S. News data, the mean aid package totals $47,492, and the college’s alumni earn an average starting salary of $62,700.  

 

Learn more about Johns Hopkins and see your chances of acceptance.

 

8. Williams College

 

Location: Williamstown, MA

Acceptance rate: 13%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1410-1550 SAT, 32-35 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,073

 

If you haven’t heard of Williams College, then you aren’t alone. Although lesser known as a liberal arts college, Williams is one of the best non-Ivy colleges in the nation, with majors ranging from economics to political science, government, and history. Additionally, Williams offers 60-70 courses in the style of the tutorial system employed by Oxford and Cambridge. Consisting of a professor and two or three students, these tutorials allow undergraduates to learn in an intimate, personalized atmosphere. During their free time, Williams students enjoy plenty of outdoor activities in Western Massachusetts, such as hiking, canoeing, and cross-country skiing.  

 

Learn more about Williams and see your chances of acceptance.

 

9. Amherst College

 

Location: Amherst, MA

Acceptance rate: 13%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1390-1540 SAT, 31-34 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,855

 

Another liberal arts college located in the Bay State, Amherst holds the No. 2 spot on the list of best national liberal arts colleges. Considered one of the Hidden Ivies, along with Northwestern and Stanford, Amherst is one of the few open curriculum schools, meaning that there are no general education requirements. Additionally, Amherst is part of the Five Colleges consortium, so students can take courses and participate in clubs at local schools like Smith and the University of Massachusetts. Amherst is known for its generous need-blind, no-loan financial aid, and the school promises to meet 100% of each student’s demonstrated need. More than half of the students who attend this college receive aid, with the average need-based grant totaling $54,715.   

 

Learn more about Amherst and see your chances of acceptance.

 

10. UC Berkeley

 

Location: Berkeley, CA

Acceptance rate: 15%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1300-1530 SAT, 28-34 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 30,853

 

A public university, UC Berkeley has a tuition rate of around $14,000 a year for California residents, a fact that makes it one of the more affordable schools on this list. However, that doesn’t take away from Berkeley’s prestige. In fact, the school lists over 90 faculty members and graduates who are Nobel Prize winners. While UC Berkeley is known for attracting pre-med students, undergrads can choose from more than 150 majors, including less common choices like peace and conflict studies, atmospheric science, and Tibetan studies.

 

Learn more about UC Berkeley and see your chances of acceptance.

 

10 Non-Ivy League Schools with Intellectual Rigor & Higher Acceptance Rates

 

Given that there are more qualified candidates than spots at highly selective schools, it makes sense to include schools on your list that offer intellectual rigor, but have higher acceptance rates. Some on this list may be familiar to you, but others may be hidden gems.

 

1. Brandeis University

 

Location: Waltham, MA

Acceptance Rate: 31%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1390-1500 SAT, 30-33 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,600

 

Brandeis, a nonsectarian research university focused on undergraduates. Justice, openness, and inclusion are in its DNA. Not surprising given that it was founded in 1948 by the American Jewish community at a time when Jews and other racial and ethnic minorities, as well as women, faced discrimination in higher education. More than 70 years later, the school is driven by the values of inclusion, reverence for learning, critical thinking and self-criticism. 

 

Learn more about Brandeis and see your chances of acceptance.

 

2. Carleton College

 

Location: Northfield, MN

Acceptance rate: 20%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1320-1530 SAT, 30-34 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,000

 

A close-knit community located in rural Minnesota animated by intellectual curiosity – that’s a summary of the Carleton experience. The school has a liberal arts focus and encourages deep, broad, and dynamic learning to make sense of the “interesting messiness of life.” Fun to note:  a former long-term employee who regularly invited students to her home for chocolate chip cookies donated her house to the college where students gather to hang out—and even bake her beloved chocolate chip cookies and make bran, beer, or carrot muffins using ingredients from the fully-stocked refrigerator. 

 

Learn more about Carleton and see your chances of acceptance.

 

3. Colgate University

 

Location: Hamilton, NY

Acceptance Rate: 23%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1370-1500 SAT, 31-34 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,900                       

 

Colgate has a picturesque campus in the heart of upstate New York for students to develop as wise, thoughtful, critical thinkers and perceptive leaders and to enjoy direct access to faculty. The school is neither a giant research university nor a tiny liberal arts college. To deliver on its mission, Colgate requires all students complete a course by the end of their sophomore year in each of five areas of its Core Curriculum: Legacies of the Ancient World, Challenges of Modernity, Communities and Identities, Scientific Perspectives of the World, and Global Engagements. 

 

Learn more about Colgate and see your chances of acceptance.

 

4. College of William & Mary

 

Location: Williamsburg, VA

Acceptance Rate: 37%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1320-1510 SAT, 30-34 ACT

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,300

 

The College of William & Mary is a premier public research university located in historic and picturesque Williamsburg, Virginia. It offers undergraduate degrees in liberal arts and business. Founded in 1693 by a royal charter issued by King William III and Queen Mary II, it is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States (Harvard is the oldest). William & Mary is among the select top public schools considered “Public Ivies.”

 

Learn more about William & Mary and see your chances of acceptance.

 

5. Connecticut College

 

Location: New London, CT

Acceptance Rate: 38%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1310-1450 SAT, 30-33 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,800

 

Conn College is the quintessential college on a hill—overlooking Long Island Sound, across the street from the Coast Guard Academy. It has 750 acres of arboretum and is two hours from Boston, one hour from Providence, and three hours from New York City. “Connections” is the name of the school’s new approach to a liberal arts education, designed to encourage students to integrate their interests into a meaningful interdisciplinary curriculum or educational pathway (rather than a checklist of classes) along with study abroad, and/or a college-funded internship—preparing students for a fulfilling, effective career. 

 

Learn more about Connecticut College and see your chances of acceptance.

 

6. Grinnell College

 

Location: Grinnell, IA

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1370-1530 SAT, 30-33 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,700

 

Grinnell students design their own academic journey in conjunction with a faculty advisor. (The school labels their approach an Individually Advised Curriculum.) There is only one required class (called a First Year Tutorial which is a small, writing-intensive, discussion-based class with topics such as Kendrick Lamar, Coping with Climate Change, Exploring the Magical World of Calvin and Hobbes) and no general education requirements. The school prides itself on attracting students who have the curiosity and intellect to ask hard questions and question easy answers.

 

Learn more about Grinnell and see your chances of acceptance.

 

7. Kenyon College

 

Location: Gambier, OH

Acceptance Rate: 34%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1280-1470 SAT, 29-33 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,700

 

The oldest private college in Ohio, Kenyon is also the first in the U.S. to implement the model of faculty members serving as academic advisors. With a long-standing literary tradition and home of the Kenyon Review, (an esteemed literary magazine), it’s not surprising that 100% of recent alumni say they learned to write better at Kenyon. Perhaps you’ll find it surprising that the school it ranks 8th in the country (ahead of every Ivy) for the proportion of STEM grads to earn a doctorate in the field. 

 

Learn more about Kenyon and see your chances of acceptance.

 

8. Macalester College

 

Location: St. Paul, MN

Acceptance Rate:  32% 

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1350-1530 SAT, 30-34 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,100

 

With students from all 50 states and 98 countries, a philosophy of global citizenship, and a collaborative learning approach, Macalester prepares students to have an outsized impact on the world. Civic engagement is central to the ethos of the school, bolstered by Macalester’s Civic Engagement Center and the Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship.

 

Learn more about Macalester and see your chances of acceptance.

 

9. Oberlin College

 

Location: Oberlin, OH

Acceptance Rate: 36%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1330-1520 SAT, 30-34 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,700

 

With both a top-rate College of Arts and Sciences and a Conservatory of Music, Oberlin is a school that inspires profound connections between intellectual and artistic discovery. Moral idealism, social engagement and creativity are also valued at Oberlin. It was the first college to adopt a policy to admit Black students and to grant undergraduate degrees to women in a co-ed program.

 

Learn more about Oberlin and see your chances of acceptance.

 

10. Occidental College

 

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Acceptance Rate: 37%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1460 SAT, 28-33 ACT

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,900

 

Los Angeles’ first and only liberal arts college, Occidental is nestled in the beautiful hills of LA’s Eagle Rock community, founded in 1887—before LA even had its first paved street. Oxy students have the resources of a vibrant, global city as well as a high-quality interdisciplinary and multicultural education to prepare them for leadership in a complex, independent, and pluralistic world. The school has a legacy of recruiting talented students regardless of their background. 

 

Learn more about Occidental and see your chances of acceptance.

 

Understand your chances at these schools

 

Shooting for selective colleges can be daunting, as only a few students can reasonably expect to stand a chance in admissions. You may look at the low acceptance rates and wonder what your chances actually are of getting in.

 

Schools calculate acceptance rate by dividing the number of accepted students by the total number of students who applied. It only applies to the group as a whole. Within that applicant pool, some students have a 99% chance of acceptance, while others have a less than 1% chance of getting in.

 

The low acceptance rates apply to each school’s entire applicant pool; therefore, this rate should not be taken as your own personal chance of acceptance. One way to better understand your personal rate of acceptance is to compare against students with your background and to be able to compare all aspects of your profile (including extracurriculars). You can do this easily with our free admissions calculator.

 

It’s important to understand your personal chances to be able to make the best decisions for your school list moving forward.

 

 

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Short Bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.

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