Ivy League Schools in Virginia: Does Virginia Have Ivies?
- Are There Ivy League Schools in Virginia?
- What Are The Top 10 Colleges in Virginia?
- What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?
The Ivy League is a group of eight schools in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic—hence, there are no Ivy League schools in Virginia—known for their rigorous academics, rich histories, and fantastic resources. From their stunning campuses to their esteemed faculty to their impressive alumni, there are numerous reasons why many high schoolers dream of attending one of these prestigious institutions. Consequently, admission to an Ivy League college is extremely competitive.
Are There Ivy League Schools in Virginia?
Today, the schools of the Ivy League are known for their academics and long histories (many of its schools predate the American Revolution). However, the Ivy League origins are in athletics and is a relatively new convention—the Ivy League was formed in the 1950s as an athletic conference.
While there are no Ivy League schools in Virginia, the state is home to schools like the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia that are commonly considered Public Ivies—a term used for several public universities known for their abundance of resources, selective admissions, and in some cases academic departments that rival the eight Ivy League schools.
Virginia is also home to highly ranked private schools like the University of Richmond and Washington and Lee University, which are commonly counted among an elite group of schools called the Southern Ivies. Like their Northern and Public counterparts, the Southern Ivies are prestigious institutions known for their high academic standards and challenging admissions.
What Are The Top 10 Colleges in Virginia?
Location: Lexington, VA
Acceptance Rate: 19%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,800
Like its Ivy League counterparts, Washington and Lee University has a fantastic reputation for academics and deep history—the website Niche ranks it as the 10th best Liberal Arts College in America. It’s also the ninth-oldest institution of higher education in the nation. Washington and Lee is known for its unique calendar, which features two 13-week terms and a four-week, off-campus spring term.
Washington and Lee distinguishes itself from other schools through its strict, student-run honor system, a non-codified commitment to the collective good that evolves with each generation of students. There is only one penalty for violating the honor system: expulsion.
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Acceptance Rate: 21%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 17,200
UVA might not date to before the American Revolution like some of its counterparts in the Ivy League, but it can trace its existence to founding father Thomas Jefferson. He recruited faculty, planned the curriculum, and designed its iconic Rotunda. Jefferson considered the founding of UVA as one of his greatest achievements—high praise from the person who drafted the Declaration of Independence and served as President.
A variety of traditions from Jefferson’s time continue today. For example, rather than calling students “freshmen” or “seniors” students are referred to as first-years or fourth-years because Jefferson believed no one was senior in their education. Another Jeffersonian tradition is to all the campus the “grounds” (perhaps because of the school’s striking architecture and well-manicured gardens).
Location: Richmond, VA
Acceptance Rate: 29%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 3,100
Accepting a little over a quarter of applicants, the University of Richmond is highly selective. Even more competitive than admissions is the Richmond Scholars Program. The university’s most prestigious academic scholarship, just 25 Richmond Scholars are chosen annually to receive an award equal to full tuition, housing, and food.
The University of Richmond is home to the nation’s first-ever undergraduate school of leadership studies, the Jepson School, which aims to educate tomorrow’s leaders who drive change everywhere from local communities to the world at large.
Location: Williamsburg, VA
Acceptance Rate: 37%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,500
William & Mary is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the U.S. (only Harvard is older) and has been educating students for more than three centuries. It was established in 1693 by royal charter and is the only American institution of higher education to receive a coat of arms from the College of Heralds.
Over the years, William & Mary has been home to a number of firsts. For example, it was the home to the first intercollegiate fraternity (Phi Beta Kappa), the first institution of higher education to have an elective system of study and an honor system, and the first school to offer professional education in law.
Three presidents attended William & Mary: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler. It’s also worth noting that George Washington earned his surveyor’s license from the school.
Location: Lexington, VA
Acceptance Rate: 64%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,600
Founded in 1839, Virginia Military Institute is the oldest state-supported military college in the country. Like UVA, VMI doesn’t refer to students as freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Rather, VMI uses a class system: cadets are first called “rats,” and after an extended boot camp (called the “Rat Line”), they break out to become the 4th class. Sophomores are the 3rd class, juniors are the 2nd class, and seniors are the 1st class.
All VMI students must enroll in a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) unit—either Air Force, Army, Marines, or Navy—to earn their degree. Roughly half of VMI graduates are commissioned each year upon graduation.
Location: Blacksburg, VA
Acceptance Rate: 56%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 29,700
Virginia Tech is home to the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, one of only two senior military colleges in the U.S. located within a major state university. The Corps of Cadets dates back to the school’s founding in 1872, although it didn’t become official until the 1890s. About 1,200 students participated in the 2022-2023 academic year and about a fifth of cadets are female.
Virginia Tech offers more than 110 undergraduate majors through its nine colleges. The campus sprawls over 2,600 acres and includes 200+ buildings. All new buildings on Virginia Tech’s central campus must bear Hokie Stone—a limestone common in Southwest Virginia and first used in campus construction in 1899. The school has operated its own quarry since the 1950s.
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
Acceptance Rate: 86%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 20,000
James Madison University was founded in 1908 and named after the fourth American President, whose estate is located in nearby Orange, Virginia. The school was originally aimed at women; men couldn’t enroll as regular day students until the 1940s and the school didn’t become truly coeducational until the 1960s.
Today, there are more than 70 undergraduate degree programs available to JMU students, ranging from Accounting to Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication. Outside of the classroom, more than 400 student-run clubs and organizations call the campus home. And what an impressive campus it is—the website Niche ranks it as the 7th best college campus in America.
Location: Hampden-Sydney, VA
Acceptance Rate: 37%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 800
Hampden–Sydney College is the 10th oldest institution of higher learning in the nation and the last American college founded in British Colonial America—it was founded in 1775. H-SC is also one of just three all-male colleges in the country. The college has a 10% higher graduation rate than the national average for men.
H-SC awards a $20,000 scholarship that’s renewable over four years to students who have attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Roughly 10% of the H-SC’s student body are Eagle Scouts—one of the highest percentages at any college or university in the country.
The cornerstone of H-SC’s academic experience is its Rhetoric Program, which focuses on argumentative and analytical writing, and presentational speaking. The program aims to ensure graduates can express themselves clearly and confidently and students are required to pass two rhetoric courses to graduate.
Location: Ashland, VA
Acceptance Rate: 84%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,500
One appealing aspect of the Randolph-Macon College educational experience is its four-year guarantee—that is, the college commits to waive tuition costs for courses to complete a degree if a student hasn’t graduated within four years. The program is working; an astounding 95% of Randolph-Macon students complete their degrees in four years or less, which is particularly impressive considering that less than 60% of students at four-year colleges have earned a bachelor’s degree after six years.
Helping get students into a cap and gown at Randolph-Macon are a 16-student average class size, a low 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and accomplished teachers—97% of full-time faculty hold a Ph.D. or other terminal degree. Not a single class at Randolph-Macon College is led by a teaching assistant.
Location: Lynchburg, VA
Acceptance Rate: 99%
Undergraduate Enrollment: 47,600
With nearly 50,000 undergraduate students, Liberty is one of the largest nonprofit institutions of higher education in the country. In fact, it’s larger than many of the nation’s biggest public universities. Liberty is a Christian college and it enforces a strict honor code, known as the “Liberty Way,” which prohibits the use of alcohol and tobacco, establishes a dress code, and forbids spending the night with a member of the opposite sex.
Liberty University is one of the most conservative colleges in the country. It also is on the Campus Pride Index’s Worst List: The Absolute Worst Campuses for LGBTQ Youth.
What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?
The majority of the top colleges in Virginia are extremely selective. However, your personal odds depend on the strength of your profile. CollegeVine can help you better understand your chances of admission at the top colleges in Virginia and across the country. Our free college admission calculator uses metrics like grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities to estimate your odds at over 1,600 colleges, allowing you to strategically build your college list and see how you stack up against other applicants.