Black Ivy League Schools: Which is Right for You?
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The Ivy League has its origins in athletics but has long been used to describe a group of eight colleges and universities in the Northeast known for their exceptional academics, competitive admissions, and rich histories. The term “Ivy” is also commonly applied to other schools that share similar characteristics with the traditional Ivy League—such as the Southern Ivy league, Public Ivy League, Little Ivy League, and Black Ivy League.
What is the Black Ivy League?
The Black Ivy League is composed for the most prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). There is no formal “Black Ivy League”. The schools thought of as belonging to the collection of colleges and universities are subjective, although high academic standards and selective admissions are generally considered the base criteria a school must meet.
Like their namesake in the Northeast, Black Ivy League schools attract high-performing students focused on academic excellence and are held as the pinnacle of educational achievement, innovation, and social movement. Also similar to the other Ivies, Black Ivy League schools are home to well-known and distinguished alumni in a wide variety of fields, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Alice Walker, Spike Lee, and Ralph Ellison.
Should you apply to a historically Black college or university? There are numerous advantages offered by HBCUs, including a supportive environment, strong alumni network, and cheaper tuition. But, if you hope to get accepted at a Black Ivy League school, you’ll need an impressive profile—admissions standards are high and competition is fierce.
Schools in the Black Ivy League
Although there is no formal list of Black Ivy League schools, the colleges and universities listed below are commonly thought of as belonging to the Black Ivy League.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Acceptance Rate: 52%
Undergrad Enrollment: 3,300
Although Clark Atlanta University was formed in just 1988, the school has a rich history. The university is the result of two prestigious HBCUs consolidating: Clark College (founded in 1869) and Atlanta University (founded in 1865). Clark College was the nation’s first four-year liberal arts college to serve a primarily African-American student population, while Atlanta University is notable for being the first institution in the U.S. to award graduate degrees to African Americans.
Today, the university’s 20+ undergraduate degree programs and academic excellence keep it in consideration among the schools thought of as belonging to the Black Ivy League, while its renowned “Mighty Marching Panthers” Band, Essence Dance Team, and CAU Drumline keep it in the spotlight.
Location: New Orleans, LA
Acceptance Rate: 61%
Undergrad Enrollment: 1,300
Founded in 1869, Dillard University honors its long and distinguished history while helping today’s students develop the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly global economy. The university is located in the Gentilly neighborhood of the New Orleans 7th Ward district. Graduates repeat the time-honored tradition of walking down the Avenue of Oaks to commencement. Dillard University is the only U.S. partner of the Melton Foundation—an organization that promotes global citizenship—with universities in Chile, China, Germany, Ghana, and India.
Location: Nashville, TN
Acceptance Rate: 72%
Undergrad Enrollment: 700
Established shortly after the Civil War and just two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Fisk School opened its doors in January of 1866—making it the oldest institution of higher learning in Nashville, Tennessee. A little more than a century later, in 1967, Fisk became the first historically Black institution to be awarded university status.
Among the many notable programs offered by Fisk today is its Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters to Ph.D. Bridge Program, which cultivates and supports underrepresented minorities pursuing PhDs in astronomy, biology, chemistry, materials science, and physics—the program is the top producer of African American master’s degrees in physics. The Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge program has been incredibly successful; it’s the top producer of minority PhDs in astronomy, materials science, and physics.
Location: Hampton, VA
Acceptance Rate: 44%
Undergrad Enrollment: 3,600
Founded in 1868 as the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute to educate freedmen following the Civil War, Hampton University has grown from a small trade school to one of the best and most prestigious HBCUs. Steeped in history, the school’s notable alumni include Tuskegee University founder Booker T. Washington, NASA mathematician Mary Jackson, and Alberta Williams King, mother of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The University’s campus is home to several Historical National Landmarks and the Emancipation Oak, the site of the first southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and one of the National Geographic Society’s 10 Great Trees of the World.
Location: Washington D.C.
Acceptance Rate: 32%
Undergrad Enrollment: 6,200
Founded in 1867, Howard University has cultivated a sterling reputation over the past century and a half and is undoubtedly a member of the Black Ivy League. Often called “Black Harvard” and “the Mecca,” Howard University is one of the most recognizable and elite of all the HBCUs. Howard University is known for many things, including:
- Its proximity to the U.S. capital and the extremely influential people who work there
- Its notable alumni, including former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris, and Nobel Prize/Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison
- Its talented marching band, “Showtime,” which has performed everywhere from Presidential Inauguration to football halftime shows
- The Karsh STEM Scholar Program, which identifies and supports gifted and motivated high schoolers interested in earning a PhD in a STEM field
Location: Atlanta, GA
Acceptance Rate: 58%
Undergrad Enrollment: 2,200
Founded in 1867, Morehouse is a traditionally all-Black, all-male school. Morehouse College is notable for being the college where Martin Luther King Jr. earned his bachelor’s degree (at just 19 years old). Today, the college is home to an extensive collection of items produced by King Jr., including speeches, sermons, and handwritten notes. Recently, Morehouse College made news when billionaire Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off the student loan debt of the 396 students graduating the college during his commencement speech.
Morris Brown College
Location: Atlanta, GA
Acceptance Rate: N/A
Undergrad Enrollment: N/A
Since its founding, Morris Brown College has been thought of as one of the standard-bearers of excellence in African-American education—it was the first institution of higher education operated by and for African Americans in Georgia.
Sadly, financial mismanagement and loss of accreditation in 2002 severely damaged the college’s reputation and threatened its future. The school is poised for a renaissance with recent reaccreditation and is undergoing what it’s calling a “Hard Reset”—hoping to return to its legacy of educating bright young minds, supporting students who might not otherwise have access to a college education, and returning to its standing as a member of the Black Ivy League.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Acceptance Rate: 39%
Undergrad Enrollment: 2,100
Founded in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, Spelman College is one of the oldest and most respected historically Black colleges for women and just the fourth historically Black female institution to receive a collegiate charter. Although Spelman is a liberal arts college, it has a remarkable reputation for STEM—the National Science Foundation has recognized Spelman as the leading producer of Black women who go on to earn doctorates in the sciences. It’s not all STEM at Spelman, though; the school is also home to the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, a unique museum focused on art Black women artists.
Location: Tuskegee, AL
Acceptance Rate: 52%
Undergrad Enrollment: 2,500
Founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee University has grown from a rundown church to a renowned institution of higher education, on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Tuskegee University is the largest producer of African Americans with baccalaureate degrees in math, science, and engineering in Alabama, and its College of Veterinary Medicine produces over 75% of African-American veterinarians in the world.
Tuskegee University is historic itself, as its campus is designated a National Historic Site by the National Park Service (NPS). The university was also home to the Tuskegee Airmen, the famous group of African-American pilots and airmen who served in World War II.
What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?
Wondering what your odds of admission are at one of the Black Ivy League schools? CollegeVine can help. Our free chancing calculator uses information such as GPA, test scores, and extracurricular activities to predict your odds of acceptance to over 600 colleges across the U.S., including HBCUs and the schools of the Black Ivy League. It will even show you how you stack up against other candidates and how to improve your profile to increase your chances of gaining admission.