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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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Ivy League Schools in Massachusetts: Does Massachusetts Have Ivies?

What’s Covered:


Are there Ivy League Schools in Massachusetts?


Massachusetts is home to one Ivy League institution, Harvard University, located in Cambridge. Founded in 1636, Harvard was the first college not only in the Ivy League, but is the oldest college in the United States. While the term “Ivy League” began to reference the athletic conference shared by Harvard and its constituents, the term has grown to represent the prestige that the institutions share, all of which are some of the most highly-ranked schools in the country and are located in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.


Overview of Harvard University


Being the oldest college in the country, Harvard University paved the way for not only its fellow Ivy Leaguers but all other colleges that followed. Beginning as Harvard College in 1636, it was a long road until Harvard University became the school it’s known as today. Originally focused on theology and classical studies, Harvard began expanding its curriculum in the 18th century to include subjects like law, medicine, and science. 


It wasn’t until nearly the turn of the 20th century that Harvard began pioneering fields of research and technology, and truly became a leader in nearly every single field, offering immensely prestigious programs of study for its undergraduates and graduates, with Harvard now ranked as the #1 Global University in the world.




Location: Cambridge, MA

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,178

Acceptance Rate: 3.4%

Middle 50% SAT: 1480-1580

Middle 50% ACT: 33-36


Today, the acceptance rate for Harvard stands at 3.4%, with 1,966 applicants gaining admissions out of a hopeful pool of 56,937. There’s no beating around the bush here. This is a daunting figure. Harvard isn’t just looking for the best, they’re looking for students who display commitment to academics, social advancement and achievement in community, leadership, knowledge and curiosity, and do not back down in the face of immense rigor or challenge. 


Having that and showing that are two very different things, particularly in the face of Harvard’s test-optional policy, which, while technically true, can prove disadvantageous to students who choose not to submit test scores and are unable to make up ground in other areas. 


But this is true even for students who are able to submit outstanding test scores. While a great student on paper may be enough to gain admission at some other schools, Harvard is looking for students who completely jump off the page. Students who engage in other unique endeavors, whether creative, community-based, or intellectual, are far more likely to gain admission to Harvard. 


For more information on Harvard admissions, check out this article titled “How to Get into Harvard in 2023”, written by a Harvard graduate.




Harvard is located in the historic neighborhood of Cambridge, which is connected to the sprawling city of Boston through public transit. Having not only the city of Boston to learn and live in, but the community of Cambridge is one of Harvard’s greatest attributes. 


Cambridge stands very much with its own identity, known for not just Harvard, but MIT as well. This means that there’s always a new subject to explore, a new guest lecture to attend, and more to learn. Walkable and historic, the town fosters this sense of intellectuality and curiosity at every turn, whether that’s through its libraries and museums, theaters and music venues, or other cultural and art events year-round. 


Being located right next to Boston and in an area filled with so many young students and professionals also makes Harvard lie at the heart of one of the most prominent start-up communities in the country. Entrepreneurship and innovation are everywhere, and students at Harvard will undeniably have more of a front-row seat to it than nearly anyone else in the country. 




Harvard sources faculty and lecturers from around the world, bringing together some of the world’s most renown researchers, Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, and pioneers in nearly every field. And its not just to show off. Students are able to engage with faculty through First-Year Faculty Dinners, Faculty Luncheons, and other various initiatives.


Harvard has several “Academic Life” programs in place to enhance both the individual and communal student experience, ensuring that no student feels they don’t have the support they need to succeed. Through extensive advising, study abroad opportunities, and resources like the Academic Resource Center, which helps students build their repertoire of study skills, time management strategies, and other learning techniques, Harvard makes a strong effort to not let any student feel left behind.


Harvard offers over 50 undergraduate majors, and a unique program known as “Special Concentrations” which allow students to create their own customized interdisciplinary program of study. With thousands of courses to choose from, Harvard allows students to explore spaces and fields that they may never have even thought of. Programs like the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Program, which explores the relationship between cognitive thought, neuroscience, and psychology, the Science of Happiness, and Ethical Reasoning, all give students the opportunity to combine disciplines, learn in new ways, and forge their path to becoming the next pioneers of research and theoretical and practical thought.


It’s no wonder that about half of students pursue an honors track within their concentration, or even choose to cross-enroll with Harvard’s graduate schools and other institutions in Cambridge and Boston.


Research is of course a massive part of Harvard’s culture, and many students choose to pursue research in some shape or form while at Harvard. Distinct initiatives like Harvard and MIT’s Broad Institute, which focuses on data analysis, precision medicine, and genomics, the Global Health Institute, and the Stem Cell Institute, are some of the most prestigious programs in their field, and are all available for students to participate in while at Harvard. 


Faculty will encourage their students to reach out to them for research opportunities, and the school will host various networking events for students to learn about opportunities that may be available to them.


Financial Aid


Harvard University practices need-blind admissions, meaning Harvard does not factor in an applicant’s financial need in the slightest while evaluating applications. As such, Harvard is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need and has had a “no-loan” policy since 2007, in which it eliminated any form of loan for students in need of financial assistance, instead opting to cover the cost of attendance for students with grants and scholarships.


The Top 10 Non-Ivy League Schools in Massachusetts


1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 4,600


Located in Cambridge, the same town as Harvard, MIT is placed in a vibrant community of scholars and intellectuals. MIT is renowned for its emphasis on STEM-fields, fostering a culture of innovation that has led to some world-changing innovations in computing, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, the development of MRI, and even space exploration, such as contributing to the design of the Lunar Module that first landed on the moon. 


And while it may seem like students at MIT have massive shoes to fill, the truth is that MIT’s culture of innovation extends itself to each and every student, and students are always encouraged to defy boundaries and collaborate across disciplines. This is seen in unique programs such as the OpenCourseWare Initiative, which gives students online access to MIT’s library of lecture notes, assignments, and exams, an Independent Activities Period in which students engage in a month-long term in January to pursue a non-traditional subject or independent study of their choosing, and access to various laboratories in fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Poverty Action, Games, Media, and more.


2. Olin College of Engineering


Location: Needham, MA

Acceptance Rate: 18%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 300


Olin College of Engineering is a unique engineering institution located in Needham, MA, right outside of Boston. Founded as recently as 1997, this small specialized school is among the best in the country in terms of its engineering education, which combines experiential learning, creativity, collaboration, and entrepreneurship. Due to the small student body, classes are specifically intimate, giving students the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with their peers and faculty, which only continues to enhance the individual learning process that Olin cultivates. 


From the very first semester, students will engage in hands-on, team-based projects to tackle real-world engineering challenges. The courses and projects students work on range from Mechanical Prototyping, where students build functional prototypes using 3D printing and other fabrication techniques, to Design Nature, where students learn to create nature-inspired solutions to problems. All students will also complete a Senior Capstone project known as SCOPE, in which students will work on projects provided by external partners such as nonprofits and companies.


3. Williams College


Location: Williamstown, MA

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,100


Williams College is a private liberal arts institution located in Williamstown, and is one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the country. Besides its close-knit community, the school is perhaps best known for its Open Curriculum structure, in which students are granted nearly total autonomy in designing their academic paths. While the school does require students to fulfill certain distribution requirements, students can choose from a variety of majors or design their own major, allowing them to engage in topics that seem interesting or they haven’t had the chance to learn because of previously structured curricula.


Williams College also has a variety of unique offerings when it comes to teaching styles and programs. The school offers Oxford-style tutorials, in which students will meet with their professors in small-group sessions to discuss complex topics in the goal of advancing their critical thinking and communication skills simultaneously. The school even has a critical exchange program with the University of Oxford, in which Williams students will spend a full-year abroad at Oxford University’s Exeter College.


4. Amherst College


Location: Amherst, MA

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,900


Located in beautiful Amherst, Amherst College has a fierce rivalry with Williams College, and it’s easy to see why – both schools offer some of the best liberal arts educations in the United States. Like Williams, Amherst also offers its students an Open Curriculum, allowing students to design their own field of study on top of 41 majors and some distribution requirements. However, Amherst is part of a Five College Consortium, including neighboring institutions such as Smith College and Mount Holyoke, meaning students not only have access to over 400 courses at Amherst, but thousands more at any of the institutions also a part of the Consortium.


The school offers many resources for students to pursue their own independent studies, such as the Self-Directed Research and Inquiry program, in which the school provides funding for students to design and pursue independent projects. And resources like the Amherst College Press, an in-house scholarly publishing house for students to learn the publishing process, and the Creative Writing Center, help students of any year get involved and further their writing skills.


5. Wellesley College


Location: Wellesley, MA

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,400


Wellesley College is a women’s liberal art college, one of two on this list. The school offers a supportive and empowering community that focuses on academic, personal, and leadership development of women. Students are able to participate in the Twelve College Exchange Program, in which they can take courses at MIT and expose themselves to fields in STEM. And as a member of the Women’s Colleges Global Consortium, students have unique access to study abroad at other women’s colleges around the world. 


This unique learning is highlighted by Wellesley’s beautiful location boasting numerous green spaces, an on-campus lake, Botanic Gardens, and tons of natural trails and walking paths around. The Eliot House system, the school’s residential housing, places students in one of several houses, often with students from other years, and each with its own character and community, which bolsters a spirit of collaboration and identity at Wellesley.


6. Tufts University


Location: Medford, MA

Acceptance Rate: 11

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,600


Tufts was founded on the principle of interdisciplinary studies, where students are encouraged to combine multiple fields of studies in order to understand and conquer complex issues and problems. With a strong emphasis on active citizenship and civic engagement, the school fosters an incredible spirit of community through social justice initiatives and public service. 


Tufts is dedicated to being an agent of change in the world, and making sure its students follow the same path. In fact, Tufts even offers a Civic Studies major, where students examine theories and practices of citizenship, community engagement, and social change, as well as a Open Civic Semester, where students can take a leave of absence to engage in a civic project or internship related to their field of study.


Outside of just service, Tufts is known for their unique programs that collaborate with other institutions both in and outside of the University. Many students opt for combined degree programs which enable them to receive both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Tufts in a shortened timeframe, the Engineering+ Program combines engineering with other disciplines such as business, liberal arts, and international relations, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts allows students to integrate a fine arts education with their liberal arts foundation. 


7. Smith College


Location: Northampton, MA

Acceptance Rate: 30%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,500


Smith College is a women’s liberal arts college that is in the same consortium as Amherst, amongst others. From a concentration in Sustainable Food, to Critical Social Thought, to Jazz Studies, to concentrations in Book Studies, Child Studies, and Museums, Smith College may not have the most majors on this list, offering around 50, but they do offer incredible flexibility for students with unconventional and expanding interests. Not only is it easy for students to take classes across majors at Smith College, but the Five College Consortium it remains a part of means students don’t have to fear any kind of educational limit.


As a college for women, Smith College is inherently devoted to advancing and empowering women, specifically offering a variety of Women’s Leadership Programs aimed at equipping students with the skills, confidence, and knowledge to become effective leaders. The crown jewel in this mission is the Wurtele Center for Leadership, which offers students one-on-one coaching, workshops, and guest speakers for students to make use of.


8. Boston College


Location: Chestnut Hill, MA

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 9,900


Boston College is a Jesuit institution located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Boston, easily accessible to all that the city has to offer. The school’s academics are perhaps most unique for its “Core Curriculum for the Common Good”, which integrates the liberal arts with these pillars of ethics, social justice, and community engagement. 


This uniqueness is perhaps best seen with the “Perspectives” program, a concentration offered within the Philosophy program, but a very popular one for all students at Boston College. In Perspectives courses, students will engage and wrestle with broad and wide-reaching questions and topics, such as Western culture, the Fine Arts, and Diversity.


Similarly, Boston College’s PULSE program works to combine academics with community service by having students commit to ongoing community service projects over the span of their undergraduate years.


9. Boston University


Location: Boston, MA

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 18,200


As the biggest school on this list, Boston University offers a bit of a different experience than the rest. Located in the heart of Boston, the school is built along a busy metropolitan road that makes students feel that they’re truly living and learning in the city. The school undoubtedly has more than any other on this list for the undecided student to choose from, ranging from world renown programs in Biology, Business, and Psychology, as well as less conventional majors like Film and Environmental Analysis and Policy. 


The school also has an abundance of large facilities for its students to work in and showcase their work. Places like the BUild Lab help students develop their entrepreneurial skills and even supports student startups, while BU’s Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground hosts cultural events, discussions, and workshops that promote dialogue among students from diverse backgrounds.


The question at BU then is just where to begin. Luckily, the school makes it easy by offering “exploratory” tracks for students to start out on, and students are even encouraged to enter their respective school or college undecided as to really open themselves up to the various concentrations and tracks BU has to offer.


10. Babson College


Location: Babson Park, MA

Acceptance Rate: 25%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,500


Babson College is a small college primarily focused on business and entrepreneurship education, consistently ranking among the top schools for entrepreneurship in the country. As its core focus, the school’s Entrepreneurship program is known for its hands-on, experiential learning approach. Students engage in real-world projects, consulting assignments, internships, and entrepreneurial ventures.


Students can make use of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, which offers resources, mentorships, and special events such as workshops, lectures, and competitions. One such competition is known as the Rocket Pitch, which occurs annually and challenges students to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges using only three minutes of time. 


It should be no surprise then that Babson is also home to an extensive and successful alumni network who often choose to remain connected to the college and its students hoping to break into the business world. Being located near Boston also gives students an edge when it comes to securing opportunities in the city’s vast startup community. On top of everything, students are still encouraged to pursue a wider education in the liberal arts, from subjects like science and technology, the arts, and humanities. 


What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?


It’s commendable to set your sights on top-tier institutions, but it’s equally crucial to have a pragmatic approach during the college application journey. Building a diverse list of colleges is essential. This list should encompass safety colleges (where you have a higher likelihood of being accepted), match colleges (where your credentials align well with the average admitted students), and dream colleges (such as the ultra-competitive institutions). It’s worth noting that for many students, even those with stellar records, these elite institutions often fall into the dream category.


To gauge your potential fit and acceptance odds at specific colleges, you might want to explore tools like CollegeVine’s admission calculator. By inputting details such as GPA, extracurricular involvements, and standardized test scores, you can get a clearer picture of your college admission landscape. Understanding where you might have the best chance can be a valuable asset as you navigate your college application journey.

Blog Writer