What It Takes to Get Accepted Into the Ivy League

Many students dream of attending one of the colleges in the elite Ivy League for their undergraduate education.

While getting accepted to one of the eight Ivy League schools in America, including No. 1-ranked Princeton University, has long been notoriously difficult, admission at top colleges overall has become increasingly challenging as more students apply.

[Read: A Complete Guide to the College Application Process.]

An average of just 8.1 percent of all applicants to Ivy League colleges were admitted for fall 2017, U.S. News data show. The average acceptance rate at all other National Universities — schools that offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs — was about 62.7 percent for the same time period.

Students who apply early may fare better in the Ivy League admissions process. Each Ivy League college offers an early admissions program. Among these eight schools, six provided U.S. News with information about their early acceptance rates. And at each of these six schools, early acceptance rates dwarfed regular acceptance rates.

For instance, at Dartmouth College, students who applied through the college’s early decision program were more than three times as likely to get in than students who applied later. The school’s early decision acceptance rate was 28 percent, whereas its acceptance rate for regular decision applicants was only 8 percent. The school’s overall acceptance rate for fall 2017 was 10 percent.

The average early decision acceptance rate at Ivy League schools that offer this option and that provided their early admissions statistics to U.S. News was about 22 percent for fall 2017. These programs are binding, meaning students pledge to attend if they get in.

[Read: Applying Early Decision: 10 Frequently Asked Questions.]

Yale University, which has a nonbinding single-choice early action program, accepted 20.2 percent of its early action candidates in fall 2017.

The average early decision acceptance rate for non-Ivy National Universities that offer an early decision program was about 50 percent for fall 2017 admission, according to U.S. News data. In contrast, the average early action acceptance rate at non-Ivy National Universities that offer an early action program was about 67 percent.

Applicants typically need to have high test scores and top-notch grades to land a spot at an Ivy League school.

Every Ivy League school besides Columbia University provided U.S. News with information about the average standardized test scores among their 2017 college freshmen. The average SAT evidence-based reading and writing score among freshmen at these schools was 737, while students scored an average of almost 747 on the math section, out of a total 800 for each part, according to 2017 data that Ivy League schools submitted to U.S. News. The average ACT score was just shy of 33 out of 36.

An average of about 93 percent of freshmen at institutions in the Ivy League were in the top 10 percent of their high school class, U.S. News data show.

Ivy League institutions may be reach schools for most students, so applicants could benefit from looking beyond these schools to less selective colleges that align nicely with their academic and career interests. There are also plenty of highly rated, very selective schools that aren’t in the Ivy League.

Students interested in applying to Ivy League schools — all among the top of the U.S. News National Universities rankings — can explore the chart below. It includes important statistics to help teens prepare for the admissions process.

School (state) Overall acceptance rate Early decision or action acceptance rate Freshmen in top 10 percent of high school class (fall 2017) U.S. News National Universities rank
Harvard University (MA) 5% 14.2% (EA) 95% 2
Columbia University (NY) 6% 17% (ED) 96% 3 (tie)
Princeton University (NJ) 6% Data not provided (EA) 91% 1
Yale University (CT) 7% 20.2% (EA) 94% 3 (tie)
Brown University (RI) 9% 22% (ED) 94% 14 (tie)
University of Pennsylvania 9% 22% (ED) 96% 8 (tie)
Dartmouth College (NH) 10% 28% (ED) 93% 12 (tie)
Cornell University (NY) 13% Data not provided (ED) 86% 16 (tie)

Want to learn more about other top colleges? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find enrollment data, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for the 2018 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. The enrollment data above are correct as of Sept. 25, 2018.

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What It Takes to Get Accepted Into the Ivy League originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 09/25/18: This article has been updated to reflect the 2019 rankings.