Rankings, Majors, Prestige – College Reality Check (2024)

Planning on going to only the best college?

Apply to the Ivy Leagues.

But since there are a total of 8 of them and you are thinking about adding only 1 or 2 to your list, think HYP — Harvard University, Yale University and Princeton University, which are widely known as the best of the bunch.

It’s undeniable that the Ivies are exceptionally good colleges. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that any of them can be anyone’s best-fit school.

Some students may be served better by non-Ivy institutions. And that is why you should know each of them better before the college application season comes.

What are the Ivy League Schools?

The Ivy League schools are prestigious American research universities known for their academic distinction and selectiveness.

They convened to maintain shared interests and standards in sports.

In 1945, all 8 elite institutions signed the Ivy Group Agreement. Then, in 1954, the collegiate athletic conference became an official NCAA member.

Here’s a table showing the profile of each Ivy League:

Ivy LeagueLocationEndowmentEstablishedEnrollment
Brown UniversityProvidence, Rhode Island$6.5 billion176410,696
Columbia UniversityNew York City, New York$13.3 billion175430,135
Cornell UniversityIthaca, New York$9.8 billion186525,582
Dartmouth CollegeHanover, New Hampshire$8.1 billion17696,761
Harvard UniversityCambridge, Massachusetts$53.2 billion163621,648
Princeton UniversityPrinceton, New Jersey$37.7 billion17468,478
University of PennsylvaniaUniversity City, Philadelphia$20.7 billion174023,431
Yale UniversityNew Haven, Connecticut$41.4 billion170114,567

And now, let’s get to know the 8 Ivy Leagues quickly before we further compare them with each other:

Brown University

When it came into being, Brown University was known as Rhode Island College, which was an institution for men only.

It relocated to Providence in 1770 and was christened its current name in 1804 in honor of Nicholas Brown, a benefactor.

Among all Ivy League schools, Brown has the oldest engineering program.

Some of its highly-ranked undergraduate engineering programs are biomedical and mechanical engineering.

Brown was also the first Ivy to accept students from various religious backgrounds. As of this writing, tuition and fees cost $65,146 per year.

How to Get Into Brown University

Columbia University

Because of the fact that it was by the royal charter of King George II of England, it isn’t surprising that Columbia University used to be known as King’s College.

Back then, it was the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth oldest in the US.

In 1784, it became Columbia College, which became Columbia University in 1896.

Officially known as Columbia University in the City of New York, it has a total of 3 undergraduate schools, and undergraduate tuition and fees amount to $65,524 per year.

How to Get Into Columbia University: Ultimate Guide

Cornell University

It may consist of 7 different undergraduate colleges and schools that accept their respective students alright.

However, each and every undergraduate student is conferred with a degree from Cornell University.

This prestigious institution was also the first American school to establish a medical school outside the US, which is Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.

Costing $63,200 in tuition and fees to attend per year, Cornell has more than 1,000 student clubs and organizations as well as a total of 60 fraternities and sororities, which pretty much explains why the Ivy League is a party school.

How to Get Into Cornell University: Ultimate Guide

Dartmouth College

Prior to the American Revolution, there were 9 colonial colleges that were chartered, and Dartmouth College was included.

In 1970, the Ivy League established one of the first Native American programs in the US.

These days, approximately 200 indigenous students, representing over 70 different tribal nations and communities, attend it.

The cost of attendance at Dartmouth costs $62,430 in tuition and fees.

Among all the Ivy League institutions, Dartmouth is considered the smallest in terms of both enrollment and campus size.

How to Get Into Dartmouth: Ultimate Guide

Harvard University

Of the 8 various Ivy Leagues, Harvard University had the greatest number of US presidents attending its campus — a total of 8, including John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama.

Arguably the most popular of all Ivies, Harvard has a total of 11 graduate and professional schools but only 1 undergraduate school: Harvard College.

Its library, which is the largest academic library on the planet, is home to some of the oldest collections in the US.

Per year, undergraduate tuition and fees amount to $57,261.

Getting Into Harvard: Unconventional Guide

Princeton University

When it was founded, Princeton University was the fourth oldest college in the US and it was referred to during that time as the College of New Jersey, and it was located in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

In 1756, it was relocated to Princeton. And in 1896, it was renamed into its current name after achieving university status.

Per year, the cost of tuition and fees at Princeton amount to $57,410.

Among all Ivy Leagues, the elite institution has won the most athletic awards, officially having a total of 500 different ones back in 2020.

How to Get Into Princeton University: Complete Guide

University of Pennsylvania

Costing $63,452 in tuition and fees per year to attend, the University of Pennsylvania was founded by Benjamin Franklin.

Back then, UPenn or simply Penn was known as the Academy and Charitable School in the Province of Pennsylvania.

These days, UPenn has a total of 12 schools and colleges — 5 offering both undergraduate and graduate programs, while the other 7 offering only graduate programs.

According to the top-tier institution itself, it has the most number of students studying outside the country through its robust study-abroad program.

How to Get Into University of Pennsylvania: Admission Tips and Hacks

Yale University

Considered the third oldest university in the US, Yale University was originally known as the Collegiate School.

In 1718, it was renamed Yale College in honor of Elihu Yale, a rich British merchant and philanthropist who made hefty donations to the institution.

It was in 1887 when Yale was renamed into its current name.

The Ivy League has more than 500 student clubs and organizations as well as almost 100 athletic teams.

All incoming freshmen students are assigned to one of Yale’s 14 residential colleges. Tuition and fees per year cost $62,250.

How to Get Into Yale: 11 Admissions Tips

Ivy League Acceptance Rates

The Ivy Leagues tend to attract a lot of college-bound teens and also scare away many of them.

Rankings, Majors, Prestige – College Reality Check (1)

That’s because even though they have some of the best academic programs as well as the oldest and richest traditions, these top-notch institutions are also notorious for being highly selective, as evidenced by their very low acceptance rates.

Let’s take a look at the acceptance rates at the Ivy League schools for early and regular decision admission plans:

Ivy LeagueEarly Acceptance RateRegular Acceptance Rate
Brown University15%6%
Columbia University12%6%
Cornell University19%9%
Dartmouth College21%6%
Harvard University14%4%
Princeton University15%4%
University of Pennsylvania16%6%
Yale University15%5%

As you can see, your chances of getting into any Ivy League school are better if you apply early.

But refrain from assuming that applying early decision or restrictive early action, depending on the Ivy League school, is enough to secure you a spot that many dream of.

Given that the goal is to get into a selective institution, it’s a must for you to have a competitive application, the kind that can make you worthy of receiving an acceptance letter.

Some Ivy Leagues are slightly harder to get into than the rest.

In this article, you will learn which of Ivy schools are more likely to admit you based on your application, so check it out!

Before we proceed to another topic, let’s take a look at another table showing a few other interesting matters about acceptance rates, including the percentage of waitlisted students.

Ivy LeagueMalesFemalesWaitlisted
Brown University7%4%Unpublished
Columbia University4%3%Unpublished
Cornell University7%8%3%
Dartmouth College7%6%2%
Harvard University4%4%Unpublished
Princeton University6%6%0%
University of Pennsylvania6%7%4%
Yale University6%5%0.40%

Ivy League Rankings

When it comes to college rankings, it goes without saying that the Ivy Leagues are staples in all of them, especially the kinds that rank some of the best national and global institutions of higher education.

As a matter of fact, a particular list might cause some eyebrows to raise if it does not include any Ivy.

But before anything else, let’s get one thing straight: avoid choosing an Ivy League based on its ranking alone.

Different college ranking sites consider different benchmarks and data points, each of them given different weights by various rankers. Therefore, college rankings have a subjective touch instead of being purely objective.

There is nothing wrong with looking at rankings provided that they are used the right way.

For instance, you may consult a trusted college ranking site to compare similar colleges that are hard to evaluate against one another.

Case in point: Ivy League schools that are a league of their own, sharing seemingly equal prominence.

Let’s compare the average rankings of the Ivy Leagues based solely on the following lists:

  • Best National University Rankings by US News
  • QS World University Rankings: Top Global Universities
  • America’s Top Colleges by Forbes
Ivy LeagueAvg RankingUS NewsQSForbes
Princeton University#7#1#16#4
Harvard University#8#3#5#15
Yale University#10#3#18#8
University of Pennsylvania#10#7#13#10
Columbia University#15#18#22#5
Cornell University#18#17#20#16
Brown University#32#13#63#19
Dartmouth College#77#12#14#205

For reference purposes, the #1 institution on America’s Top Colleges 2022 by Forbes is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is followed by Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Meanwhile, MIT also takes the #1 spot on QS World University Rankings 2023: Top Global Universities. It’s followed by the University of Cambridge, Stanford University and the University of Oxford.

Ivy League Schools With Best Financial Aid

Some of the most generous institutions in terms of financial aid awards are those with large endowments such as the Ivy Leagues.

As a matter of fact, 3 out of 10 of the national universities with the biggest endowments are Ivy League schools.

Of those, Columbia University has the most generous need-based financial aid package, averaging $71,030 per year.

It’s true that the Ivy Leagues are some of the most expensive schools in the land.

However, since they are wealthy, they can also afford to award some of the largest amounts of financial aid.

What’s more, they vow to meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need of students from low-income backgrounds.

Rankings, Majors, Prestige – College Reality Check (2)

It’s for this reason that, in some instances for certain degree-seeking students, attending an Ivy League school can be affordable.

You can even get your hands on a full-ride Ivy League scholarship how!

Below, you will come across a table comparing the average need-based financial aid packages at the Ivy Leagues as well as the percentage of freshmen students attending them.

Please take note that the recipients column is based on the percentage of students who were awarded any need-based financial aid among all first-time, first-year students enrolled full-time who applied for need-based aid.

Ivy LeagueRecipientsPercentage of Need MetAverage Financial Aid Package
Brown University79%100%$62,234
Columbia University82%100%$71,030
Cornell University77%100%$59,644
Dartmouth College77%100%$68,902
Harvard University86%100%$62,252
Princeton University85%100%$62,844
University of Pennsylvania81%100%$62,265
Yale University83%100%$67,437

Based on the figures in the table above, it’s apparent that Columbia is the most generous of all Ivy League schools in terms of the average amount of need-based financial aid it awards to eligible full-time freshmen students.

On the other hand, Harvard is the most generous as far as the number of need-based aid recipients goes.

Best Ivy League Schools by Majors

Generally speaking, some of the most popular majors among Ivy League schools include economics, history and political science.

Still, different Ivy Leagues have different strengths in terms of academic majors offered, which is why some of them are more popular for certain majors than the rest of the group.

Below is a table containing 36 of the most popular majors among degree-seeking students.

It will tell you which Ivy League institution is known to offer the best kind for each undergraduate major as well as which one is considered the second-best for it so that you can manage your college list better.

MajorBest IvyRunner-Up Ivy
Aerospace engineeringCornell UniversityPrinceton University
ArchitectureCornell UniversityYale University
ArtYale UniversityColumbia University
BiochemistryHarvard UniversityCornell University
BiologyHarvard UniversityPrinceton University
Biomedical engineeringUniversity of PennsylvaniaHarvard University
BusinessUniversity of PennsylvaniaCornell University
ChemistryHarvard UniversityPrinceton University
Civil engineeringCornell UniversityColumbia University
CommunicationsUniversity of PennsylvaniaBrown University
Computer scienceCornell UniversityPrinceton University
Criminal justiceUniversity of PennsylvaniaHarvard University
Data scienceCornell UniversityColumbia University
EconomicsHarvard UniversityPrinceton University
Electrical engineeringCornell UniversityPrinceton University
EnglishYale UniversityHarvard University
EntrepreneurshipUniversity of PennsylvaniaCornell University
Environmental scienceColumbia UniversityBrown University
FinanceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPrinceton University
HistoryPrinceton UniversityHarvard University
HumanitiesHarvard UniversityYale University
International relationsYale UniversityUniversity of Pennsylvania
JournalismDartmouth CollegeBrown University
MarketingUniversity of PennsylvaniaColumbia University
MathematicsPrinceton UniversityHarvard University
Mechanical engineeringCornell UniversityPrinceton University
MusicPrinceton UniversityHarvard University
NeuroscienceHarvard UniversityUniversity of Pennsylvania
NursingUniversity of PennsylvaniaColumbia University
PharmacyHarvard UniversityUniversity of Pennsylvania
PhilosophyPrinceton UniversityHarvard University
PhysicsHarvard UniversityPrinceton University
Political scienceHarvard UniversityPrinceton University
Pre-lawYale UniversityHarvard University
Pre-medHarvard UniversityUniversity of Pennsylvania
PsychologyHarvard UniversityPrinceton University

Best Ivy League Campus

Some of the most beautiful and picturesque college campuses in the US are Ivy League schools, given that they are old and wealthy.

Many of them are also found in some of the best locations in the country.

Although it’s true that you should not judge a book by its cover, it’s important to take into account the campus when building a college list, which not a lot of high school teens do.

Believe it or not, attending a beautiful campus is not only good for your social media but also your academic performance — a beautiful campus can mean higher grades.

Check out the table below that ranks the Ivy Leagues according to their campuses, based on the following lists:

  • Best College Campuses in America by Niche
  • 50 of the Prettiest College Campuses in America by College Rank
  • Top 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by Research.com
  • The 53 Prettiest College Campuses in America by Architectural Digest
Ivy LeagueRankingNicheCollege RankResearch.comArchitectural Digest
Columbia University#1#46#24#29#26
Yale University#2#41#30#50
Brown University#3#106#13#4
Cornell University#4#97#21#32#32
Princeton University#5#35#48#50#49
Harvard University#6#98#44#12#39
Dartmouth College#7#128#39#42
University of Pennsylvania#8#246#28

Not all Ivy Leagues made it to the list done by College Rank — 2 of them failed to make the cut.

On the other hand, 3 Ivies were unsuccessful in getting themselves a ranking on the list by Research.com.

It only goes to show that while they can impress with their programs and reputation, not all of them have campuses that can win the hearts of all college rankers.

On the ranking by Niche, however, all Ivy League schools were able to get a ranking each. That’s because the said college ranking site considered over 2,600 institutions of higher education, although it ranked only up to 680 of them.

Meanwhile, all Ivy Leagues were ranked by Architectural Digest even though it only considered 50 different schools.

Which Ivy League Has the Best Dorms?

Freshmen students at Ivy League schools are required to live on campus.

As a matter of fact, half of all Ivy Leagues make it mandatory for both first-year and second-year students to live on campus, and they are Cornell University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University.

Rankings, Majors, Prestige – College Reality Check (3)

As a result, it’s also important to consider housing options available when creating a college list, especially something that consists mostly of those prestigious Ivy Leagues.

Below is a table comparing the rankings of Ivy League college dorms as per different lists, which are as follows:

  • Best College Dorms in America by Niche
  • The 20 Best College Dorms in the US by Insider
  • The 25 Best College Dorms in America by Newsweek
  • The 15 Best College Dorms That Are Nicer Than Your Apartment by House Beautiful
Ivy LeagueNicheInsiderNewsweekHouse Beautiful
Brown University#521
Columbia University#118#19
Cornell University
Dartmouth College#228
Harvard University#106
Princeton University#138
University of Pennsylvania
Yale University#30#19#5

With the exception of Niche’s Best College Dorms in America, it’s rare for most Ivy League schools to make it to some rankings of the best college dorms in the country.

It’s important to point out that Niche considered more than 1,400 college dorms in the US but only ranked the top 660, which explains why most Ivy Leagues were able to get themselves ranked.

Still, the fact remains that both Cornell and UPenn failed to make it to the top 660 best college dorms.

Based solely on the rankings above, it’s apparent that Yale has the best dorms among the Ivy Leagues.

It doesn’t mean, however, that you should cross your top-choice Ivy League out of your college list just because it has a low ranking or no ranking at all.

As always, college rankings, no matter the category, are subjective because different ranking sites use

criteria and methodologies that they find suitable for the purpose.

Taking a campus tour and stepping foot inside the residence hall and even the dorm rooms themselves are the only definitive ways to determine whether or not the prestigious school you are eying offers housing that suits your needs and preferences.

Best Ivy League for International Students

Ivy League schools take pride in being able to attract a lot of international students, which adds to their prestige and reputation.

Similarly, many students from across the globe put the Ivy Leagues at the top of their college list because they are known worldwide, thus allowing them to earn degrees that are recognized and respected everywhere.

Typically, the population of international students attending the Ivies range anywhere from 10% to 13%, which is relatively higher than at other colleges and universities, some of which have less than 5%.

But there’s one Ivy League school that has far more international attendees than the rest: Columbia.

As of June 2023, the total number of students and scholars from outside the US attending Columbia University amounts to more than 19,000.

As a result, the prestigious school has one of the largest international attendees among all degree-granting institutions in the country and definitely among all Ivy Leagues.

Columbia itself says that the international members of its community represent 152 countries.

Among its non-resident alien students and scholars, 9,174 are from China, which makes the Asian country the biggest in terms of enrollment.

Meanwhile, 2,194 are from India, while 677 are from Canada.

Let’s take a look at the following table showing the percentage of international students attending the Ivies:

Ivy LeaguePercentage of International Students
Brown University11%
Columbia University55%
Cornell University10%
Dartmouth College12%
Harvard University12%
Princeton University12%
University of Pennsylvania13%
Yale University10%

Best Ivy Leagues to Transfer To

All Ivy League schools accept transfer applicants.

As a matter of fact, it’s not just degree-seeking individuals enrolled in 4-year institutions who may apply as transferees but also those attending 2-year colleges.

They can apply even if they haven’t earned their associate degrees yet for as long as they meet or exceed minimum transfer application requirements.

Here’s an article on how to transfer from a community college to an Ivy League school.

More often than not, applicants with at least 1 year and/or no more than 2 years of college coursework upon matriculation at an Ivy League are eligible to apply as transfer students.

Rankings, Majors, Prestige – College Reality Check (4)

On the other hand, in many instances, those with a bachelor’s degree already may not apply as transferees.

Some Ivy Leagues have higher acceptance rates for transfer applicants than first-time, first-year applicants, while others have lower acceptance rates for them — so much so that some admit less than 1% of all transfer applicants.

What’s more, at most Ivy League institutions, transfer students can enter in the fall term only.

Below is a table showing the transfer acceptance rates at the different Ivies per admissions cycle.

It also includes the minimum grade required for admitted transferees to earn course credit.

Ivy LeagueAcceptance RateEnrollment TermsMinimum Grade for Transfer Credit
Brown University5%Fall, springUnpublished
Columbia University11%Fall2
Cornell University14%Fall, spring2
Dartmouth College7%Fall2
Harvard University0.80%Fall2
Princeton University3%Fall2
University of Pennsylvania5%Fall2
Yale University0.80%FallUnpublished

What Ivy League is Best for You Quiz

Still undecided as to which Ivy League school to put at the top of your college list? Take this 5-question quiz!

Every question comes with 8 answer options — just choose the letter you like best. Afterward, check which letter you have picked the most and see what the results say.

1. What are your favorite color combinations?

  • A. Brown, red and white
  • B. White and blue
  • C. Carnelian red and white
  • D. Green and white
  • E. Crimson, black and white
  • F. Orange and black
  • G. Red and blue
  • H. Blue and white

2. In what state would you be willing to relocate to?

  • A. Rhode Island
  • B. South-eastern part of New York
  • C. South-central part of New York
  • D. New Hampshire
  • E. Massachusetts
  • F. New Jersey
  • G. Philadelphia
  • H. Connecticut

3. Which college major are you interested in?

  • A. Computer science
  • B. Environmental science
  • C. Architecture
  • D. Journalism
  • E. Economics
  • F. Mathematics
  • G. Finance
  • H. Art

4. What kind of college campus do you see yourself on in the next 4 years?

  • A. Medium-sized with a city vibe
  • B. Small with an urban setting
  • C. Large with a rural atmosphere
  • D. Medium-sized with a rural environment
  • E. Very large with an urban feel
  • F. Very large with a suburban setting
  • G. Medium-sized with an urban air
  • H. Medium-sized with a city appeal

5. If you played a sport, what would it be?

  • A. Basketball
  • B. Baseball
  • C. Lacrosse
  • D. Rowing
  • E. Football
  • F. Hockey
  • G. Fencing
  • H. Golf


  • Mostly As – It seems like Brown University is the best-fit school for you
  • Mostly Bs – Columbia University may be worthy of the top spot on your college list
  • Mostly Cs – Perhaps it’s Cornell University that can give you the college experience of your liking
  • Mostly Ds – It could be that Dartmouth University is right for you
  • Mostly Es – Maybe it’s Harvard University that you should make your top-choice Ivy
  • Mostly Fs – You might be happier and more academically successful at Princeton University
  • Mostly Gs – Apparently, you and the University of Pennsylvania are a great match
  • Mostly Hs – It appears like Yale University is the most suited Ivy League for you

Best Non-Ivy League Schools

There are only 8 Ivy League schools. However, it doesn’t mean that they are the only ones that are worthy of respect and admiration.

If truth be told, there are many non-Ivy League schools that have Ivy League-like reputations.

So much so that some of them have earned titles such as New Ivies, Little Ivies, Hidden Ivies, Black Ivies and Public Ivies.

In this part of the post, let’s bring our attention to some of the colleges and universities that you might also want to consider applying to if some of the actual Ivy Leagues are on your college list.

Here’s a table comparing their acceptance rates and US News rankings, too:

InstitutionAcceptance RateUS News Ranking
Amherst College9%#2 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
California Institute of Technology4%#9 in National Universities
Carnegie Mellon University14%#22 in National Universities
Duke University6%#10 in National Universities
Emory University13%#22 in National Universities
Georgetown University12%#22 in National Universities
Johns Hopkins University8%#7 in National Universities
Massachusetts Institute of Technology4%#2 in National Universities
New York University13%#25 in National Universities
Northwestern University7%#10 in National Universities
Pomona College7%#3 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
Rice University9%#15 in National Universities
Stanford University4%#3 in National Universities
Tufts University11%#32 in National Universities
University of California, Berkeley15%#20 in National Universities
University of California, Los Angeles11%#20 in National Universities
University of Chicago6%#6 in National Universities
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor20%#25 in National Universities
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill19%#29 in National Universities
University of Notre Dame15%#18 in National Universities
University of Southern California13%#25 in National Universities
University of Texas at Austin29%#38 in National Universities
University of Virginia21%#25 in National Universities
Vanderbilt University7%#13 in National Universities
Washington University in St. Louis13%#15 in National Universities

Residing in the East Coast or willing to relocate there in exchange for a prestigious undergraduate degree?

Here’s an article talking about some of the best non-Ivy League institutions located in the said region that you might want to consider adding to your college list if you are on the hunt for colleges that are as elite as the Ivies.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

Rankings, Majors, Prestige – College Reality Check (2024)


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