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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Ivy League Schools in Pennsylvania: 11 Top Schools

What’s Covered:


The state of Pennsylvania is home to one Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). Although there is just one Ivy League school in Pennsylvania, numerous great schools are found in the state, ranging from prestigious institutions like Carnegie Mellon to top-rated liberal arts colleges like Swarthmore to religious-affiliated schools such as Villanova.


Are there Ivy League Schools in Pennsylvania?


The University of Pennsylvania is the state’s lone Ivy League institution. While the Ivy League is associated with long-standing traditions, rigorous academics, and extremely selective admissions, the term was originally coined to describe the schools’ athletic programs.


The origins of the term “Ivy League” date back to the 1930s and a sportswriter named Stanley Woodward who used the phrase “Ivy colleges” to describe Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale, all of which had common athletic programs.


The Ivy League didn’t become a reality until the 1950s when the eight schools officially formed an athletic league. While the Ivy League originally was focused on athletics, over the years it’s taken on a larger meaning and is now a common way of describing the eight prestigious schools in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.


Key Facts About the University of Pennsylvania


Harvard lays claim to being the first college in the United States, however, UPenn claims the title of the nation’s first university. It also has a founding father to thank for its establishment—Benjamin Franklin helped organize and found the university in the 1750s and served as the school’s first president.


UPenn Admissions


Location: Philadelphia, PA

Undergrad Enrollment: 11,200

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Middle 50% SAT: 1500-1570

Middle 50% ACT: 35-36


Much like other Ivy League schools, admission to UPenn is extremely competitive. However, some schools at UPenn are more challenging to get into than others.


For example, the Wharton School, UPenn’s highly esteemed business school, requires students to have significant achievements outside of the classroom and demonstrated substantial leadership in addition to earning exceptional grades.


Conversely, students applying to the UPenn College of Arts & Science (CAS) will find admissions less academically stringent than top schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. That said, they’ll still want to see accomplishments outside of the classroom. UPenn values well-rounded students and extracurricular activities carry considerable weight with the admissions office.


UPenn Location


UPenn is located in Philadelphia, one of the most historic cities in the country and the sixth-largest city in the nation. Philadelphia itself offers a variety of professional, cultural, and educational opportunities to UPenn students. There are also sports—Philadelphia is one of the most sports-crazed cities in the country. (Go Eagles!)


While there is a lot going on in Philadelphia, it’s easy for students to get trapped in the “Penn Bubble.” The college is home to more than 450 student groups and there is seemingly always something happening on campus. Those who manage to break the imaginary barrier between 30th and 42nd Street, Market Street, and Baltimore Avenue will discover a vibrant city and an abundance of other college students—Temple, Drexel, La Salle University, and St. Joseph’s all call the City of Brotherly Love home while schools like Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Villanova are located just outside the city.


Students interested in traveling farther afield will love Philadelphia’s location. New York City is just a few hours away.


UPenn Academics


UPenn is divided into four undergraduate colleges and schools: the College of Arts & Sciences, the Wharton School, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Nursing. Through these four schools, the university offers nearly 100 majors in fields ranging from Accounting to Visual Studies. The majority of UPenn students (roughly 63%) are enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.


UPenn offers a number of dual-degree programs which allow students to earn degrees from two different schools within the university. In fact, 30% of Wharton students pursue two undergraduate degrees. Many of these dual-degree programs—like the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, and Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management—are incredibly selective and require students to apply during their freshman year.


The college ranks first among Ivy League schools for the number of students studying abroad. Undergraduate and graduate/professional students earned academic credit in 49 countries during the 2019-2020 academic year.


UPenn Financial Aid


UPenn is need-blind and meets 100% of the demonstrated need of U.S. students. In fact, UPenn is need-blind and meets 100% of the demonstrated need of students from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.


Students with family incomes under $75,000 receive financial aid packages that cover tuition, fees, housing, and dining at UPenn. They’re also eligible to receive additional benefits, like funding for a laptop, summer courses, or an internship experience. Students with family incomes up to $140,000 receive aid packages that cover at least tuition.


Nearly half of undergraduates (44.6%) received grant-based financial aid in 2021-2022 and the average package was valued at $61,425—more than the cost of tuition.


Top 10 Non-Ivy League Schools in Pennsylvania




Acceptance Rate

Undergraduate Enrollment

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, PA 



Haverford College

Haverford, PA



Carnegie Mellon University | CMU

Pittsburgh, PA 



Lehigh University

Bethlehem, PA



Lafayette College

Easton, PA 



Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr, PA 



Franklin and Marshall College | F&M

Lancaster, PA 



Bucknell University

Lewisburg, PA



Villanova University

Villanova, PA 



Dickinson College

Carlisle, PA 




1. Swarthmore College


Location: Swarthmore, PA

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,600


Swarthmore has a well-deserved reputation for rigorous academics, however, it doesn’t give grades to first-semester students. For clarity, students—known as “Swatties”—are graded, but the grades don’t appear on their transcripts. It’s essentially pass/fail, which allows students to focus on learning and not grades.


The college also fosters interactions between students and faculty and collaboration (not competition) between students. The school boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1 and prides itself on creating a close-knit and personal learning experience. 96% of Swatties live on campus.


2. Haverford College


Location: Haverford, PA

Acceptance Rate: 18%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,400


Haverford embodies the collegiate spirit and tight community commonly associated with small liberal arts colleges—98% of Haverford students live on campus, and a preponderance of them in single rooms. It’s not just students who call Haverford home; 40% of faculty also live on campus. While Haverford isn’t an Ivy League school in Pennsylvania, it does offer a program with one. Its 4+1 Engineering program awards graduates with a B.S. from Haverford and a master’s from UPenn.


Haverford’s honor code is one of its defining characteristics and oldest traditions, dating back to 1896. The honor code governs everything from the academic to the social spirit of the school, is student-run, and must be ratified every year. And that’s not the end of student control—Haverford’s student council controls the $400,000 activities budget and students sit on all major committees at the college.


3. Carnegie Mellon University | CMU


Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,900


Carnegie Mellon is best known for its STEM programs. The website Niche ranks CMU as the best college for information technology in America and the fourth-best for computer science. The renowned mathematician, John Forbes Nash, on which the film A Beautiful Mind was based, graduated from the university.


However, it also offers an exceptional education outside of the STEM fields. Niche ranks it as the nation’s third-best college for design and artist Andy Warhol was a graduate of the university. The Andy Warhol Museum is located just a few miles away from CMU and students are admitted for free if they show their student ID.


4. Lehigh University


Location: Bethlehem, PA

Acceptance Rate: 46%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,400


Lehigh University has a reputation for creating career-ready graduates in fields such as engineering and entrepreneurship. The school touts a low 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a small average class size of just 26. Forty percent of Lehigh students have an international experience, 91% of students complete an internship or experiential learning experience, and 93% participate in an extracurricular activity.


Lehigh has a long-standing rivalry with the next college on this list, Lafayette. There’s a saying that Lehigh fans have two favorite teams, “their own Mountain Hawks and whoever is playing Lafayette.” The two schools, located less than 20 miles apart, began playing each other in 1894 and have played each other more than any other set of rivals in the nation.


5. Lafayette College


Location: Easton, PA

Acceptance Rate: 41%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,700


Lafayette College might be a small liberal arts school, but it has big-time sports. The Lafayette Leopards compete in 22 NCAA Division I sports, the most notable of which is football thanks to its historic rivalry with Lehigh University. Rivalry week, the week of the game between the two rival schools, is one of the biggest events of the year and includes a pep rally, concerts, and a class spirit competition.


In the classroom, the college offers 34 bachelor of arts degrees and 15 bachelor of science degrees, including in engineering. Students from 44 states and more than 60 countries call the college home and benefit from small, personal classes. The school is proud of its low 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio.


6. Bryn Mawr College


Location: Bryn Mawr, PA

Acceptance Rate: 39%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,400


Brynn Mawr is one of the Seven Sisters, a name given to a group of seven historically all-women’s colleges. From its outset, Bryn Mawr’s intent was to provide women with a rigorous education and the school offered both undergraduate and graduate degrees. It was the first women’s college in the country to offer a Doctor of Philosophy program.


Bryn Mawr is also a member of the Tri-College and Quaker Consortiums, which includes other top Pennsylvania schools Swarthmore, Haverford, and UPenn. Through these partnerships, Bryn Mawr students can take courses and participate in activities at other member institutions. For those who prefer to stay on campus, the college offers more than 100 student organizations and 35+ majors.


7. Franklin and Marshall College | F&M


Location: Lancaster, PA

Acceptance Rate: 38%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,100


In addition to being one of the best colleges in Pennsylvania, Franklin and Marshall College is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the country. It was founded in 1787, and named in part after Benjamin Franklin, who made a generous financial contribution, helping to facilitate its founding. F&M was also one of the nation’s first coeducational institutions, with its first class consisting of 78 men and 36 women.


Today, F&M students hail from 45 states and 47 countries. The college features a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a low 18-student average class size. Franklin and Marshall students also learn outside of the classroom. The school offers 200 off-campus programs in 60 countries and half of undergraduates study off-campus before graduation. In addition, 65% of students engage in research or one-on-one educational experiences under the guidance of faculty mentors.


8. Bucknell University


Location: Lewisburg, PA

Acceptance Rate: 35%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 3,700


Bucknell was established in 1846 (as the University of Lewisburg) and is the nation’s 100th college or university in order of founding. The college is known for its brick-clad and tree-filled campus which is counted among the most beautiful in the nation. A favorite spot of students is known as “the Grove,” a stand of trees as old as the university itself between its upper and lower campuses.


Bucknell offers 64 majors through its three colleges: the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the Freeman College of Management. Studying abroad is popular among Bucknell students; roughly 45% of undergraduates study in far-flung destinations ranging from Barbados to South Africa to Japan.


9. Villanova University


Location: Villanova, PA

Acceptance Rate: 25%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,000


Villanova was founded in 1842 by the Order of Saint Augustine and today continues to follow the Catholic tradition. It commonly appears on lists of the best Catholic universities in the country. Villanova students perform approximately 250,000 hours of service annually and, since 2006, the school has held the St. Thomas Day of Service, honoring Villanova’s patron saint—the 16th-century Augustinian bishop of Valencia, Spain—known for his great charity to the poor and marginalized.


Villanova has also made a large commitment to sustainability. The university has adopted an aggressive sustainability plan that aims to achieve some lofty goals by 2023, including purchasing all its electricity from renewable energy, eliminating the sale of single-use plastic on campus, and a 50% reduction in all emissions. The university also intends to eliminate food insecurity by all Villanovans and ensure all Villanovans are paid a living wage.


10. Dickinson College


Location: Carlisle, PA

Acceptance Rate: 48%

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,100


Dickinson College’s long, storied history will rival that of any Ivy League school. It was founded in 1783 by Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), less than a week after the Treaty of Paris, becoming the first college chartered in the new United States. The college set out to provide students with an education grounded in a strong sense of civic duty to become citizen leaders—a mission it continues to follow today.


While Dickinson is a relatively small college, it takes a big-picture view. Nearly two-thirds of students study abroad in programs in 24 countries and on six continents. The college is also a leader in sustainability. The school became carbon neutral in 2020 and is home to an 80-acre USDA-certified organic farm, the majority of food from which is served in the campus dining hall.


What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?


All of the colleges above are very selective with extremely competitive admissions. However, your chances of getting into any of the aforementioned schools depend on the strength of your profile. CollegeVine can help you better understand your odds of acceptance. Our free chancing calculator uses your individual metrics like GPA, test scores, and extracurricular activities to estimate your odds of admission at over 1,600 colleges across the country, including the top schools in Pennsylvania.

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.