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Ivy League Universities: List of colleges, ranking, selectivity & admissions

Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, Oxford and other top brands have long been considered the most coveted and toughest universities to get into (Read Choice between Harvard/Stanford or Oxford/Cambridge – How would you decide?). Those who are not aware, often mistakenly refer to these as the revered Ivy League Universities.

That confusion also prompts a lot of questions:
What does Ivy League mean? How many schools are there in the list? Is Stanford / MIT / Duke an Ivy League school? What are the top ivy league schools in Canada / UK / India? Read List of the best Universities in the world, for Undergraduate Studies

Why are they called Ivy League schools?

Ivy League Universities

There are 8 universities in the Ivy League:

Try a Google search on the origin of Ivy League universities and you’d be inundated with various theories about the origin of the term. According to one such school of thought, the word ivy in Ivy League comes from the ivy growing on the walls of the buildings that all of these schools share in common (yes, go ahead and check out the buildings in Google images).

Another theory is that there was an athletic association of four big schools, which was referred to as IV in Roman numerals. These were Columbia University, Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale University.

Later on, four more schools joined them and they became the Ivy League. The late joiners include Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College and University of Pennsylvania.

The official formation of the big 8 took place in 1954 when the Council of Ivy Group Presidents came into being with the headquarters of Ivy League at Princeton University. It is now the ‘most diverse intercollegiate conference’ with over 8,000 student-athletes from the member institutions competing every year. Today, the Ivy League institutes represent the epitome of scholastic achievement and academic prestige.

Most common features among them are that these are located in Northeast of the United States, all of them are privately owned institutes and it is not easy to get admission in these.

How difficult is it to get into an Ivy League university

The admission process is highly selective and for many who get into one of these, it is a matter of pride and celebration as not everyone can get through. So when you read about wonder kids who get through all Ivy Leagues, each of those stories is special.

Here are some statistics to add clarity on the selectivity. The statistics below are for acceptance to the 2020 undergrad class.

University Name Applications received Applications accepted Acceptance rate
Brown University 32,390 2,919 9%
Columbia University 36,292 2,193 6.04%
Cornell University 44,966 6,277 13.96%
University of Pennsylvania 38,918 3,661 9.40%
Princeton University 29,303 1,894 6.46%
Harvard University 39,041 2,037 5.20%
Dartmouth College 20,675 2,176 10.50%
Yale University 31,455 1,972 6.20%


MBA from an Ivy League School

Among the big 8, not all offer MBA. In fact, only six universities in this list have a business school. Brown and Princeton Universities are the only ones that don’t have a business school to their portfolio.

According to the Global MBA Rankings by Financial Times (FT), here’s how these Ivy League schools are placed:


Relative Rank Business School University
1 Harvard Business School Harvard University
2 The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania
3 Columbia Business School Columbia University
4 Yale School of Management Yale University)
5 Tuck School of Business Dartmouth College
6 Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management Cornell University

Going by their dominant position in the world of MBA aspirants, the Ivy League B-schools use the same to dig deeper and sift the best of the lot. When you say best, it refers to people who are not only at the top of their game with their GPA and GMAT scores, but also portray a picture perfect image of theirs.

There is no pretence, it is ultimately the real you out there when you meet the admission committee. And armed with glowing recommendations (you don’t just get such a recommendation, you earn it by the way!), you’d want you to shine bright, isn’t it?


Some tips to prepare for admission to an Ivy League

All Ivy League universities have the reputation of being very choosy in terms of their student pool. Securing an admission here would be really tough for sure, but at the same time all these universities also compete with one another when it comes to attracting the highly qualified students. The admission officer at the university does not know you so she would rely on what you are in your file.

Your GMAT score, high school accomplishments, common application essay, recommendations, extra-curricular activities and the like, are what give the admission officer an insight of what to expect from you. And, all these things need time.

As pressing as it sounds, the preparation really must start early. Improve your high school grades, study hard to clear your GMAT with a certain desirable score with which you can apply at all the Ivy’s.

Show your other side to the admission committee with your extra-curricular activities. But don’t go for just any activity like a sport or art alone. Take up something that you really believe in, something that would define you or be an extension of your thoughts be it volunteering or NGO work or even sports, just about anything that is close to your heart and gives you happiness.

Most importantly, build up the trust of people you want should recommend you. That comes with consistent performance. So you see, you ought to start early in life.

And if anyone asks you any of the earlier questions, let them know:
MIT and Duke are not Ivy League colleges. There are no Ivy League schools in Canada, UK, India. In fact, outside the 8 that we’ve talked about, there are no ivy league schools anywhere else in the world.

Read these related articles on Ivy League colleges:
How to get into Harvard Business School from India
Admission consultant shares Ivy League success story
What’s it like to study in an Ivy League masters program (UPenn) as an international student
The dark side of attending Ivy League programs
What Dartmouth Tuck looks for
All about Tuck MBA Admissions
All you need to know about the Wharton MBA Dual Degree
Q&A with Brown University Computer Science Professor
Reference: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 | Image source

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

9 thoughts on “Ivy League Universities: List of colleges, ranking, selectivity & admissions”

  1. sir. I took environmental science as my subject and at present am a second year student in a central govt. university in india. I am having a difficult time finding out about my options for higher education in abroad and when and how to apply for the application and forms and what exams i should give in order do my MS from a renowned university in the US. please tell me about the options and your opinion on pursuing higher education in environmental science in one of the Ivy League colleges.

  2. Dear Sir,
    This is Siddharth Das
    Here are my scores
    10th – 85.4%
    12th – 82% (PCB)
    B.Sc (Chemistry Hons) 75.97%(Barkatullah Univ, MP)
    Distance MBA – 7.78 CGPA (ICICI Manipal Academy)
    Experience after Grad – 63 months(ICICI Bank Ltd)
    NSS B Level Certificate
    Director’s Medal for the best student at Graduate School
    Awards for speech and paper presentations

    Does it qualify me for the Ivy Leagues? I haven’t given GMAT till date though.

  3. Hi Sameer,

    I am a 26 yrs old female from India. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics, post which I have worked in PWC for 2 years. I then did an MBA from one of the top 10 B-schools (not IIM) and currently working in Flipkart for the past 2 years. I am exploring an option of a 2nd MBA, and wanted to know how strong or weak my profile is for the ivy league colleges.

  4. @sakshi: Read this article on how to select the right Masters / MS program and specialization?

    @Siddharth: The distance MBA is a little tricky. Some universities ask for 16 years of education, so it’s best that you check with your target universities whether you are eligible.

    @Anonymous: Some colleges accept second MBA applicants, while others don’t. Read these articles to know more on the topic:

  5. Hello Sir,

    I am a girl who has big dreams but just happened to take a little longer to realize them. I haven’t had very good marks in 10th and have just passed in 12th. However, I am the topper of my college. I am good in sports, dance and art. I have also helped with many NGOs and worked for passion with other organisations. Do you believe that I could still get into an ivy league for MBA?

  6. Your articles are great, i almost visit daily to MBA crystal and always find the right information, Thank you for such providing such great articles.

  7. Dear Sameer Sir,

    This is Siddhant Pawar. Academics :
    SSC : 88.46
    HSC : 74.83
    B.E in Mechanical Engineering : 62.67 from University of Mumbai

    I ‘m extensively searching for an International MBA programs. According to my academics would it be possible to get into top ranking B-Schools

    Siddhant Pawar.

  8. Hello Mr.Kamat ,
    Thank you for publishing this article,it was indeed very helpful!
    I dream about pursuing MBA in Finance from Harvard/Wharton/Yale ,given below is my academic performance so far,can you please suggest a future course of action to help me achieve my dream?
    I scored 91% in SSC, 88% in HSC (Narsee Monjee College,Mumbai), secured a Bcom Degree from Narsee Monjee with CGPA of 5.60,Mcom degree from Mumbai University(Distance Learning) and recently even qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2nd attempt and looking for jobs, I had actively participated in my school and college extra curriculum activities & undertaken leadership roles in college associations too!
    I would love to know what is the minimum GMAT & TOEFL Score I will require and is it recommended to apply for MBA now or after taking one/ two years experience?
    Does the CA articleship experience count?
    Thanking You in advance!

  9. I see this list is a bit dated, which makes Yale SOM’s #4 ranking even more ridiculous. Also, would Brown’s EMBA program be considered here or does it not count because it’s not an official business school. I have peers who got their MBAs from Penn, Cornell, HBS, and Yale (I went to NYU Stern which I know for a fact is way better than Yale SOM), and we laugh that Cornell is not regularly in the 3-4 range of Ivy MBAs and how Yale should always be dead last, at least for now. With Cornell consolidating their 3 schools to the College of Business, their recent additional Johnson endowment, and the Cornell Tech MBA and the Metro NY EMBA now based in NYC, can the haters please stop it already? My list will be as follows, and excuse me as I add in NYU here 🙂

    1- HBS/Wharton
    3- Columbia/Cornell/NYU (I think all 3 schools are different, but they are so great in what they do, they kind of even out)
    6- Dartmouth Tuck
    7- Yale SOM
    8- Brown (if you count their program with IE, which seems basically like an online class)


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