Timothy Peck 8 min read 11th Grade, 12th Grade, College Lists

The “Easiest” Ivy League Schools to Get Into

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The eight schools of the Ivy League are some of the most hallowed institutions in the United States, counting presidents, Nobel Prize winners, founders, and CEOs among their alumni. Because of this, the best and brightest minds from around the world compete for admission into the Ivy League. While no Ivy League school is easy to get into, gaining admission into some Ivies is easier than others. Keep reading to learn about the easiest Ivy League Schools to get into. 

 

What is the Ivy League?

 

Known for containing some of the United States’ oldest, most well-known and well-respected institutions in the northeast, the eight schools of the Ivy League were originally grouped together as an athletic conference. And while these schools have histories dating back hundreds of years, the Ivy League itself was only formed in 1954. Despite its underpinnings in athletics, the Ivy League today is better known for its scholars more than its sports, as admission into these institutions is highly competitive.

 

Here are the schools in the Ivy League and some more basic information about them.

 

School Name Location  Acceptance Rate Undergraduate Enrollment
Cornell University  Ithaca, New York 10.6% 15,043
Dartmouth College  Hanover, New Hampshire 7.9% 4,417
University of Pennsylvania  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  7.7% 6,311
Brown University Providence, Rhode Island 6.6% 6,752
Yale University  New Haven, Connecticut 6.3% 5,964
Princeton University  Princeton, New Jersey  5.7% 5,267
Columbia University New York, New York 5.2% 9,001
Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts 5.1% 6,699

 

3 Easiest Ivy League Schools to Get Into

 

Note: We want to reiterate that no Ivy League is “easy” to get into, but some historically have higher acceptance rates than others. This is the case for these 3 schools.

 

1. Cornell University 

Location: Ithaca, New York

Acceptance rate: 10.6%

Undergraduate enrollment: 15,043

 

Founded in 1865, Cornell University’s motto, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study,” is as relevant today as when the words were first uttered by its cofounder, Ezra Cornell. The easiest Ivy to get into based on acceptance rate, Cornell offers over 4,000 courses through its seven undergraduate schools, meaning that students are sure to find a subject of interest to study. Cornell was the first university to offer a degree in journalism and the first to teach modern Far Eastern languages. Students will find more than academics to interest them at Cornell—start with these 161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do. Set in the Finger Lakes region of New York, the 2,300-acre campus is replete with green space and natural beauty. 

 

Note on Cornell’s Acceptance Rate: Cornell requires students to apply directly to one of their eight undergraduate colleges. While the overall acceptance rate at Cornell makes it the easiest Ivy League school to get into, the acceptance rates vary quite a bit by college. For example, below are the acceptance rates for the eight undergraduate colleges in 2019:

 

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: 11.38%
  • College of Architecture-Art and Planning: 10.25%
  • College of Arts and Science: 9.87%
  • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: 6.4%
  • College of Engineering: 10.53% 
  • Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration: 24.17%
  • College of Human Ecology: 18.34%
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR): 15.89%

 

Explore the different acceptance rates between Cornell’s Colleges further on their website

 

2. Dartmouth College 

Location: Hanover, New Hampshire 

Acceptance rate: 7.9%

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,417

 

The second-easiest Ivy League school to get into, Dartmouth College was founded in 1769. Dartmouth is the smallest Ivy League school, but don’t be fooled by its diminutive undergraduate class size—the school has a large number of offerings. The university is notable for its outstanding faculty, small class sizes, and incredible research opportunities—the Carnegie Foundation has classified Dartmouth as a university with “very high research activity.” Dartmouth is also home to the nation’s oldest and largest outing club, which provides students the opportunity to explore and enjoy the beautiful natural landscape surrounding the school’s rural campus. 

 

3. University of Pennsylvania 

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Acceptance rate: 7.7%

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,311

 

Founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, University of Pennsylvania seamlessly blends its rich history with the innovative spirit it was founded on: Franklin believed that higher education should focus not merely on the education of the clergy, but on teaching knowledge of arts and humanities, plus the practical skills needed to make a living and to do public good. The University of Pennsylvania is home to the world’s first collegiate business school (the Wharton School), as well as the oldest medical school in the United States. On campus, students can take in a game at Franklin Field, the nation’s oldest operational football stadium. 

 

Note on UPenn’s Acceptance Rate: When applying to the University of Pennsylvania, you don’t apply to the school as a whole; rather, you apply to one of its four schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Nursing, Penn Engineering, and the Wharton School of Business. If you’re interested in a dual-degree program and that program falls under the umbrella of two schools, you need to get accepted by both. Acceptance rates for the individual schools aren’t available, but acceptance rates for specialized schools are likely lower than that of the College of Arts and Sciences.

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The Rest of the Ivy League Schools

Here are the rest of the Ivy League schools, listed in order of highest to lowest acceptance rate.

 

Brown University

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Acceptance rate: 6.6%

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,752

 

Founded in 1764, Brown is another Ivy League institution with a long and storied history. Known for its unconventional approach to education, Brown’s “Open Curriculum” allows students to develop their own core curriculum and explore more than 80 academic programs before choosing to focus on a particular field of study. Brown’s picturesque 150-acre campus is within easy walking distance of downtown Providence, and provides easy access to the vibrant Thayer Street, which offers numerous shopping, dining, and entertainment options. 

 

Yale University 

Location: New Haven, Connecticut 

Acceptance rate: 6.3%

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,964

 

One of the leading U.S. institutions of higher education since its founding in 1701, Yale is a beacon to a wide variety of scholars, as it’s equally well-known for its drama and music programs as its more than 800 science, math, and engineering labs. Students are housed in residential colleges, each with their own head and dean who live and eat with the students. This structure creates a unique social system at Yale and a sense of community. The city of New Haven, Connecticut, is often called the “Cultural Capital of Connecticut,” but students looking to escape enjoy easy access to the big cities of Boston and New York. 

 

Princeton University 

Location: Princeton, New Jersey 

Acceptance rate: 5.7%

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,267

 

Founded in 1746 as the College of New Jersey and renamed in 1896, Princeton University is among the oldest and most renowned institutions of higher education in the United States. Well known for its stunning ivy-covered campus that sprawls across 500 acres and is set in the idyllic town of Princeton, it’s no wonder that almost all undergraduate students choose to live on campus, creating a well-connected and vibrant community. While there are a plethora of restaurants, shopping, art, and culture surrounding Princeton, big cities like New York and Philadelphia are only about an hour away and easily accessed via the “Dinky” train which provides regular service.

 

Columbia University 

Location: New York, New York

Acceptance rate: 5.2%

Undergraduate enrollment: 9,001 

 

Established by the royal charter of George II as King’s College in 1754 and renamed Columbia College following the American Revolution, Columbia is the fifth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and the oldest in New York. At the heart of Columbia’s academics is their common “Core” curriculum—a set of classes ranging from literature and humanities to the sciences that every student must take. Outside the classroom, students live and learn in one of the world’s great cities, New York, where they have unparalleled access to leading institutions of media, science, education, health, politics, finance, and technology.

 

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Acceptance rate: 5.1%

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,699

 

The oldest institution of higher education in the United States, Harvard University was founded in 1636 and remains at the forefront of education today—almost 400 years later. Located in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, Harvard students can take advantage of the university’s world-class resources while surrounded by some of the globe’s most talented and intellectual students, from Harvard as well as neighboring schools like MIT, Boston University, Boston College, Tufts, and Northeastern. 

 

How Can I Increase My Chances of Getting Into an Ivy League School?

 

1. Take Rigorous Classes and Get Strong Grades

 

It should come as no surprise that a common characteristic shared by students accepted into all eight of the Ivy League schools is a strong GPA—just read our blog post, What Are the Average High School GPAs of Admitted Students at Ivy League Schools?, to get an idea of the type of awesome academics you’ll need. None of the Ivy League schools have a minimum required GPA; however, the higher your GPA, the better your chances are at admission.

 

Although the Ivies don’t have a minimum GPA, many selective schools use the Academic Index as part of the admissions process, which places considerable weight on your grades. Academic Index (AI) is a calculation of a student’s overall academic performance combining factors like GPA, SAT or ACT score, and SAT Subject Test scores into a single metric. This allows admissions offices to establish a minimum AI threshold, where applicants who don’t meet that threshold might be automatically rejected. A good AI will get your foot in the door (it won’t get you automatically accepted!), but a bad one could keep you out. Learn more about the Academic Index in our article, What is the Academic Index? How is it Calculated?

 

2. Pursue Quality Extracurriculars

 

In addition to fantastic grades and challenging coursework, you’ll also need impressive extracurriculars to get into an Ivy League school—in some cases, a truly extraordinary extracurricular activity may even help you overcome an underwhelming GPA. An easy way to judge the value of an extracurricular activity in admissions is to use the four tiers of extracurricular activities

 

All extracurricular activities are good—they show depth and paint a more personal portrait of yourself that grades and test scores cannot—but some activities are more impressive than others. The tiers are set up from the extraordinary to the ordinary; the rarer and more distinguished the achievement, the more value placed on it. For example, Tier 1 is reserved for activities such as being selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American basketball game, or winning first prize in the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO). Conversely, Tier 4 activities are for more common activities like being a member of your school’s debate team. 

 

One way that students can improve their extracurricular profile during high school is to take on leadership roles in the clubs and organizations they belong to. The more a student uses their position in a club to guide and shape its future, the more impressive it will be in admissions. For more ways to create a strong extracurricular profile, see our post How to Improve Your Extracurriculars Junior and Senior Year.

 

3. Write Engaging Essays

 

Along with extracurricular activities, the essay is the other way in which admissions departments learn about a student’s interests and life outside of the classroom. All eight Ivy League schools accept the Common Application, so understanding how to write the Common Application essays is a vital skill for those with Ivy aspirations. 

 

Standout essays are engaging to the reader, separate the student from their competition, and give admissions departments a glimpse at the applicant’s personality and identity. With this in mind, a winning essay will answer four key questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is unique about me? and What matters to me? 

 

Check out CollegeVine’s extensive collection of blogs and articles about college essays for everything from tips to breakdowns to guides for more information on acing your college essay. 

 

CollegeVine’s chancing engine is another useful tool for gauging your chance of admission to any of the eight Ivy League schools. Using factors like GPA, test scores, and extracurricular activities, our chancing engine can not only help you assess your odds of acceptance, but also highlight areas for improvement. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to this helpful tool.

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.