As you plan for your future you might be wondering “What is the easiest Ivy League school to get into?” Graduating from any of these prestigious colleges can give you a competitive edge in the job market and establish your reputation as an accomplished scholar. In this blog, I’ll go over Ivy league admission stats, let you know which is school is the easiest to get into, and finally, I’ll tell you how to increase your chances of acceptance.


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What is the Ivy League?

The Ivy League universities are considered some of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world. They have a reputation of academic excellence, high social status, and incredibly selective admissions process. The League has eight member colleges: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. Getting an acceptance letter from any of these schools is truly a great achievement.

Admissions Statistics

To learn about your chances of getting into Ivy League schools, let’s look at their latest admissions statistics and find out more about their matriculants.

Brown University

Brown University has an acceptance rate of 7.1%. Brown does not have a minimum GPA requirement. Although this school does not officially report its students’ average GPA, any applicant wishing to attend Brown must have outstanding secondary school transcripts. Brown has made standardized tests submission optional for its applicants. This means that you will no longer need to submit your SAT or ACT scores. According to Brown’s admissions website, students who do not submit test scores will be at no disadvantage. In the past, their matriculants' SAT scores ranged between 1405 and 1570. ACT scores were between 31 and 35. If you choose to submit, make sure your scores are in this range.

Brown University overall acceptance rate:

Columbia University

Columbia University has a 5.3% admissions rate. Just like other Ivy League colleges, Columbia does not have a minimum GPA requirement. Regarding your grades, you can calculate your GPA standing using Columbia University’s own GPA calculator. As one of the top schools in the world, Columbia expects great academic successes from its matriculants. As reference, consider this: over 95% of Columbia’s matriculants were in the top 10% of their graduating class. Columbia University requires the submission of your standardized test scores. According to the latest statistics, over 50% of admitted students scored between 1480 and 1560 on their SATs. ACT scores range between 33 and 35.

Columbia University overall acceptance rate:

Cornell University

Out of all the Ivy League schools, Cornell has the highest admissions rate: 10.85%. For reference, you should be aware that 83.4% of Cornell matriculants were in the top 10% of their graduating class and 95.5% of Cornell matriculants were in the top 25% of their graduating class. SAT scores range between 1420 to 1540. More than half of Cornell’s admitted students have 1500 SAT scores. ACT scores range between 32 and 35. Half of Cornell matriculants have an ACT score of 34.

Cornell University overall acceptance rate:

Dartmouth College 

Dartmouth College has a 7.9% acceptance rate. While Dartmouth does not have a GPA cut-off for matriculating students, the average undergraduate GPA of current Dartmouth students is 3.52. As a reference, most admitted transfer students have a GPA of 3.7 or higher. This gives you an idea of how important your grades will be for the admissions committee. The average SAT score of a Dartmouth matriculant is 1486. The average ACT score of Dartmouth matriculants is 33.

Dartmouth College overall acceptance rate:

Harvard University

Harvard University admits only 4.6% of its applicants and students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. While at Harvard, you must maintain a GPA of 2.0 to be considered in good academic standing. According to the latest statistics, the average GPA at Harvard is 3.67 with A- as the most common grade. There is no standardized tests minimum, but admitted students represent a range of scores from 600 to 800 on each SAT section. The 75th percentile scores around 1570. Typical ACT scores range between 33 and 35.

Harvard University overall acceptance rate:

University of Pennsylvania

UPenn’s admission rate is around 7.7%. As with many other Ivy League schools, UPenn does not have a GPA cut-off, but specifies that high school performance is the single most important factor in the applicant selection process. SAT or ACT test scores are required for admission. The latest data indicates that UPenn matriculants have SAT scores of 1460 to 1550 and ACT composite score of 33 to 35.

UPenn overall acceptance rate:

Princeton University

Princeton’s acceptance rate is 5.8%. According to the latest statistics, the college-wide GPA is 3.46, while the average grade is A-. Princeton requires SAT or ACT scores as part of students’ applications. SAT scores for accepted students range between 1460 to 1570, while the composite ACT score is from 33 to 35.

Princeton University overall acceptance rate:

Yale University

Yale University has an acceptance rate of 6.3%. There is no GPA cut-off. Keep in mind that 92% of matriculants into the last year’s class were in the top 10% of their graduating class. Yale requires the submission of SAT or ACT scores. About half of the admitted students have SAT scores between 1450 and 1560, with more than 86% scoring between 32 and 36 on their ACT test.

Yale University overall acceptance rate:

What Is the Easiest Ivy League School to Get Into?

Based on the information provided above, you probably noticed that Cornell University has the highest acceptance rates out of all the Ivy League schools and can therefore be classified as the easiest Ivy league school to get into. While admissions rates can give you an idea of how easy it is to get into a school, they are not the only indicator of your admissions chances. For example, notice that only 25% of Cornell’s matriculants were in the top 10% of their graduating class, compared with Yale’s 92% or Columbia’s 95%. Keep in mind that Cornell’s standardized test scores are on par with other Ivy League schools. So, can statistics tell the whole story?

Ivy League undergraduate admissions are difficult to assess because each school claims to take a holistic approach to reviewing students’ applications. A holistic application review considers a broad range of student’s accomplishments and circumstances. This allows admissions committees to consider your candidacy as a whole, rather than focusing on only one component of your application. A good example of this theory is the elimination of GPA stats for Brown’s applicants. The college announced that it does not calculate its students’ GPA and relies on other criteria for evaluation, such as students’ coursework, course performance reports and letters of recommendation. As you might have noticed, the majority of the Ivy League schools do not have specific GPA or standardized test score requirements – all of this is meant to demonstrate that no ONE application component outweighs the other.

Don’t be fooled, each of these schools still have specific expectations for their applicants. According to the latest data from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), academic performance in high school is still the most important consideration in first-year admissions decisions. The majority of schools, including members of the Ivy League, consider high school and college prep courses as the most important indicators of the student’s candidacy. As Yale University states, they are “above all an academic institution”. This inevitably means that students’ academic prowess and success will be among the top considerations for Ivy League admissions committees. Don’t forget, academic success consideration also includes the strength of the student’s curriculum – the difficulty level of your courses will be judged.

Standardized tests are also important, since they provide an overview of what the student has learned over the years. According to the NACAC, test scores are less vital than academic performance, but they are still a big factor in decision making. Other important factors include essay and writing samples, teacher and counselor recommendations, the student’s interests and extracurriculars. Before you write your essay, make sure to read personal statement for college examples to get ideas for your own applications. 

Now, if all schools consider these factors important in their admissions processes, consider how uncompromising Ivy League schools will be in their applicant choices. Due to the highly selective admissions process of these schools, they put a lot more value in all these factors. They place more emphasis on grades and college prep courses; they pay more attention to your essay and writing sample; and they will certainly take a closer look at your recommendation letters, as well as your extracurriculars. You must not give admissions committees any reason to cut you out of the applicant pool.

Strategies to Increase Your Chances of Getting In

Now let’s consider some of the strategies you can implement to strengthen your application and increase your chances of getting into an Ivy League program.

Apply to Early Action/Early Decision Programs

It is easy to say “plan ahead”, but there is a lot of advantage in knowing what school and program you would like to attend in the future. If you are certain about which school you want to enroll in, it might be wise to apply through the Early Action/Early Decision program. This way, your deadline for application is earlier, but so is your response date. To utilize this opportunity, you must research your school of choice and determine whether you are a good fit for the program to which you’re applying. Early Action programs give you an early answer as to where you stand in the admissions process. According to most recent data, Cornell’s acceptance rates for their early decision program is 22.7%! UPenn’s early decision program admitted 18% of early applicants! Other Ivy League members show similar trends.

The catch is that early decision programs restrict your applications to other universities, i.e. you’re allowed to apply through the early decision program to one school only. Early decision applicants are contractually bound to attend the school if offered admission. This is to ensure that you make a commitment to a first-choice school and if admitted, you will definitely enroll and withdraw all your other applications that you submitted.

Apply early! Cornell's acceptance rate in the Early Decision program is 22.7%!!!

Get Your Grades Up

Your high school coursework is the biggest evidence of your academic abilities. The single most important document in your application is your high school transcript. Not only does it tell the admissions committee what kind of grades you received throughout the years, it also demonstrates your drive, dedication, and improvement over time. Impress the adcoms with a broad range of challenging courses, that you enjoy and find interesting. Try to take courses in different disciplines, including sciences, arts, humanities, and languages. To increase your chances of success, take courses in disciplines you typically ace but do not forget to complete necessary requirements for graduation. If you’re struggling with a discipline, try to get some help. You can find a study partner, ask your teacher for help, get a tutor, or design a study plan that would increase your understanding of the content.

If you can, take advanced placement (AP) or international baccalaureate (IP) courses. These types of courses and educational programs tend to be more difficult and prestigious. AP and IB graduates tend to have strong academic reputations. Having AP or IB courses in your transcripts may give you a competitive edge. Succeeding in these courses shows your willingness and motivation to seek out the most challenging and rigoros coursework that is academically available during high school. In addition, many of these courses either give you college credit automatically or replace other courses so that you can take higher level college courses at the very start of your undergrad.

Prepare for Standardized Tests

Regarding your test scores, try to plan ahead. Typically, you will write your SAT or ACT tests in the second half of your junior year, i.e. grade 11. Before you begin studying, decide which test you would like to take, the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT). Although they are accepted by most schools interchangeably, the two exams are different. For example, both exams test your knowledge of high-level high school math, but the ACT has a lot more geometry and trigonometry problems, as well as a larger number of mathematical questions. The SAT provides students writing the exam with mathematical formulas, while students who write the ACT must memorize the formulas. The ACT allows calculator use for the entire math section, while the SAT does not allow calculator use for the math section. SAT does not have a science section, while the ACT does. The best way to learn which test is right for you is to take SAT and ACT practice tests.

Once you take the practice tests, you can decide which test you would actually like to write and start planning your study strategy. Be careful, if you start studying too early, you might forget everything you learn and start to burn out. However, do not leave studying to the last minute, you need ample time to prepare. You must train your critical reading and thinking skills, grammar, math, and in the case of the ACT exam, science knowledge. Most students start studying for these tests in freshman or sophomore years, so 2 or 2.5 years before the exam, because they have the chance to take the Preliminary SAT exam (PSAT) in the beginning of junior year. It is easier and shorter than the actual SAT test, but it’s a great way to practice your standardized testing skills and check out the testing environment. Additionally, writing PSAT can qualify you for the National Merit and other scholarships. While you are studying and taking practice tests, note what concepts and application of concepts you get wrong and keep a list of challenges. At the end of each week, set aside some time to go over concepts and areas of knowledge you are struggling with. Use active learning techniques like explaining concepts out loud to yourself or your friend, drawing charts and tables with concepts and explanations rather than simply reading a textbook. If you keep having trouble with a concept, seek out help from a teacher, tutor, or a peer.

The summer before your junior year of high school should be dedicated to rigorous SAT or ACT study. This is when you should start pushing hard to prepare. Set score targets and work to achieve and surmount them, if possible. Take practice tests that are available online for free by searching for them in Google.

The SAT exam consists of three sections:

The ACT exam consists of four sections:

Both SAT and ACT exams have optional essay portions, which add 40 to 50 minutes to the exam. Although the majority of colleges do not require this essay as part of your test scores, you should consider writing it if it plays to your strengths. The essay is meant to test your reading, comprehension, analytical skills, and writing. If you can impress your readers with these skills, by all means, write the essay. To prepare, find samples of previous SAT and ACT essay prompts. Try completing the essay tasks and see how difficult you find them. Practice reading and writing with other materials. Pick up magazines like the New York Review of Books or the Economist and read and summarize the main arguments of complex articles. Broaden your scope by reading classics of literature and philosophy, like Earnest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Alice Munro, Charlotte Brontë, and others – these are great sources that will help develop your reading, writing, and comprehension skills.

Note that the majority of students still complete the essay, even if it’s not compulsory. If you choose to ignore this test component, it might poorly reflect on your candidacy compared with other Ivy League applicants. Writing the essay shows your dedication and desire to show off your writing skills. It also demonstrates that you will go above and beyond the basic requirements.

When you take the practice SAT or ACT tests, you should recreate the test setting. The SAT takes three hours to complete (plus 40 minutes for the essay), while the ACT takes just over three hours (plus 50 mins if you choose to do the essay), including breaks. When practicing, take the entire test in one sitting. If you’re taking the SAT, include one 10-minute break and one 5-minute break. If you’re taking the ACT, take one 10-minute break after the Math section. Avoid writing practice tests at home, rather schedule a private room in a library or a computer room on your school’s campus. Avoid distractions like your phone and headphones. Recreate the setting as much as you can to feel the stress of the real exam day. Remember, the right practice makes perfect.

Along with building knowledge and academic expertise, you must have a testing strategy, i.e. the way you’ll go about answering exam questions on the day of your actual exam. Some things to keep in mind:

  • you need to go through the test at a good speed – remember there’s a time limit on each section.
  • do not get sidetracked by challenges and difficult questions.
  • do not miss questions and do not leave them blank. The SAT no longer penalizes students for guessing an answer, neither does the ACT.
  • do not lose focus.

Extracurriculars

Without exception, all Ivy League schools emphasize the importance of extracurricular activities, interests, and hobbies in their admissions process. While grades and scores are really the yard stick by which you will be initially measured, your extracurriculars will bring your application to life. What you do outside of high school walls can help admissions committees understand what kind of person you are. Your interests and talents must answer this one important question: why would an Ivy League school want you to be a part of its student and campus life? For example, are you an accomplished athlete or musician? Have you won numerous Spelling Bees or won multiple chemistry Olympiads? Have you participated in plays put on by your school? Keep in mind that you don't have to win multiple awards and solve world hunger to fit in at an Ivy League school. Think about what makes you special, what you can bring to the table and what you can offer that others cannot? What are the activities you love and feel passionate about? These are the activities that help you learn, grow, and make you unique because no one else has the exact same background as you. These are also the activities through which you impact others, because you love doing them.

Ivy Leagues look for passion and perseverance in whatever extracurricular activity you choose. Beware that adcoms can tell if you picked up an activity in your junior or senior year just to build up your applications. It takes a long time to cultivate skill and reach great heights, and your dedication will make you stand out in your application. Being involved in activities outside of high school speaks volumes of your ability to take on responsibility and manage your time effectively. Your experiences in the wider world help you develop problem-solving skills and communication skills.

Do not forget that there are activities that may be less glamorous but are nevertheless impressive. Your talent can be in working with kids with special needs, helping at a retirement home, volunteering at the homeless shelter, and other compassion-driven activities. Again, remember that volunteering at a soup kitchen once a year is not going cut it. But if you can demonstrate a commitment to the betterment of your community, your application will not be seen as any less in comparison to a varsity athlete’s.

College Admissions Essay

Grades, test scores, and extracurriculars create the initial impression of the candidate. However, you may have guessed that the majority of Ivy League school applicants have outstanding grades, test scores, and are often involved in similar extracurricular activities – after all, like you they want the chance to attend one of the most prestigious schools in the world. The admissions essay is often the weak link in the student’s application. Because essay topics are often open to interpretation, many students tend to focus on the same topics, i.e. a challenging test, a sport victory, a memorable trip to our nation’s capital, etc. Imagine reading hundreds of essays that speak of the same experiences?

Rather than playing it safe, take your chance to be unique and unforgettable. Your essay is your chance to be personable and real. Ivy League admissions websites tell their applicants to write honestly and with heart – take this advice. Seize this opportunity to stand out by avoiding clichés. Under no circumstances should you turn your admissions essay into a research paper. The essay is meant to reflect your worldview and how your chosen Ivy League school can help you grow and develop as a human being. The essay prompts are typically very open-ended, so your essay can be about anything, including climate change, the war in Syria, or your preferred genre of music.

Most importantly, the essay must convey your deep self-reflection and awareness. Do not forget to include a gripping first sentence and strong introduction to capture the reader’s attention. Keep your readers interested and engaged by using clear and concise language as this helps the reader easily follow your thoughts. Use transition sentences between thoughts to create a flow. Lastly, give your essay time and thought - it might take you weeks or even months to shape it into a great paper. To prepare your paper, start by reading the prompt and ensuring you understand what it is asking. Reflect on your life and experiences and brainstorm some ideas that would come together into a narrative. Create an outline and write your first draft. Revise, revise, revise! Let 2 or 3 other people read it and then finalize before you submit.

Letters of Recommendation

Your letters of recommendation for Ivy League schools must be outstanding. Member schools typically ask for recommendation letters from two of your teachers. Some schools will accept a letter from your school’s counselor as an addition, but it cannot replace a teacher’s reference.

The best letters come from teachers who know you well and in whose class you succeeded. You do not need to present a letter from a teacher in your area of academic interest. Most importantly, your writers must be able to speak to your accomplishments and virtues from first-hand experience. The letters should be written by instructors in your junior and senior years, as these are the most recent and most difficult years academically. There are no strict guidelines on who should write your letter. You do not need to submit one “science” letter and one “humanities” letter. It’s better, of course, to show diversity; try not to submit two letters from teachers in the same subjects. However, a letter from an algebra teacher and one letter from a physics teacher is perfectly fine. Likewise, an English teacher and a World Religions teacher can provide you with one letter each.

Do ask for recommendation letters in advance. Give your writers plenty of time, at least 2 months, to reflect on your accomplishments and your performance in the class. To help your recommenders, provide them with supporting materials, including your grades from other courses, a CV, a list of your volunteer and work activities, any awards and other achievements you might have and be prepared to answer questions from the referee, such as why you are applying to that school.

Do you need help preparing your undergraduate CV? Watch our video:

It can be intimidating to ask for a recommendation, but most teachers are familiar with this process and consider it as part of their job. Ask teachers with whom you have a good rapport and who would be glad to write you a letter. Try to ask your recommender for a letter in person if possible, as it is more professional. Approach the teacher politely and ask if he or she would be willing to write you a strong recommendation letter. If you’re no longer their student, email your teacher and ask if they could write your recommendation. If they agree, you can either meet to discuss your letter or you can simply email the supporting materials. If your writer hesitates when you ask, it might be better to ask for a reference from someone else.

Conclusion

Although Cornell University has the highest acceptance rates of all Ivy League schools, this does not mean that it’s an easy school to get into. To be a competitive applicant for any of these eight prestigious institutions, you cannot slack off when it comes to your applications. Start planning your acceptance strategies early, which means studying hard at school and planning ahead for your standardized tests. If you have not been involved in an extracurricular activity since childhood, plan to seriously commit to an activity as early as you can. Choose something you love to do as this will be evident in your application components. Most importantly, do not choose to go to an Ivy League school for appearances. Choose a program you actually want to attend and graduate from, rather than a program that will look good on your CV. Prestige and social status do not necessarily translate into better educational fit for you. Choose happiness and invest in your education in a school you truly want to attend.

FAQs

1. Will attending an Ivy League increase my chances of getting into graduate schools?

Graduating from an Ivy League school will certainly boost your reputation if you have good grades and exceptional reference letters from your alma mater. These schools are symbolic of academic excellence and prestige, so it doesn’t hurt to have that on your transcript. However, do not think that attending an Ivy League school guarantees an acceptance into an MD or an MBA – your achievements, experiences, suitability and personality are the key components in graduate school admissions.

2. What is so great about Ivy League schools?

In many ways, Ivy League schools perpetuate their own reputation. It’s true that their programs are of high quality and they have great instructors, but they are not the only institutions in the world that provide an excellent education. Be mindful, that Ivy League schools can be “cliquey”. Every one of Ivy League institutions has a number of matriculants that are descendants of graduates of those schools. While it should not damage your chances if you have a good application, it does make you wonder about Ivy League nepotism. Remember to choose a school you like and the program you would actually like to attend. If one of the Ivy Leagues offers the curriculum and the content you would enjoy, do not hesitate to submit your application.

3. Do Ivy League schools offer financial help to its students?

Yes, they do. All Ivy League schools offer financial aid based on the students’ financial needs.

4. Are interviews required at Ivy League schools?

No Ivy League school lists the interview as a requirement. Interviews are optional, but if you choose to schedule an interview – be ready to be evaluated. It would be a good idea to do some research about the school and prepare a list of questions you would like to ask. Whoever you speak with will report about your interview to the admissions committee. If you schedule an interview with the school of your choice, you will have the chance to speak with a member of your admissions committee or an alumni representative. Both can be a valuable source of information for you.

5. Can I take both SAT and ACT?

You can certainly take both the SAT and the ACT. Be aware that no school will require you to submit both tests. There are some pros in taking both tests, like having more opportunity to do well, more test dates to choose from, and submitting extra information to the schools. The cons include the need for extra preparation, the double anxiety of taking a test, and extra costs. The SAT costs $52 and $68 with the essay component. The same costs apply to the ACT test.

6. What is the hardest Ivy League school to get into?

According to statistics, Harvard University has the lowest admissions rates and therefore you have the lowest statistical chance to get accepted.

7. What’s the best way to find out if a school is right for me?

Research the universities carefully. Look at their websites, visit, talk to current students and alumni. You will be spending 4 years in the school so consider all of your options. During your visit, you can ask questions about the program you want to attend, the campus environment, clubs, advocacy opportunities, etc. You should feel that it’s a great fit for you. Ivy Leagues or not, make sure you want to attend your program and school.

8. Do I have to go to an Ivy League school to achieve the career of my dreams?

No, you don’t. While students often wonder if they must go to an Ivy League school to be successful, the truth is that the choices you make and experiences you have will matter more than the university or college you graduate from. If you take initiative and excel at your classes, seek out mentors, and have great experiences through research, volunteering, or extracurriculars, you can work towards achieving the career of your dreams no matter the college you attend.

9. I’ve heard about crash courses or special tricks or tips that will get me into an Ivy League school. Should I pursue them?

No. Crash courses and tricks will not get you far. Instead of relying on trickery, you need to start planning for your post-secondary education early and work on improving your grades, test scores, and experiences. This strategy will also make you more mature and self-aware. It’s not just about getting into a particular school, but about becoming a more professional person fit to apply for any university and program you want.

10. Can Canadian or international students get into Ivy League schools?

Yes, Canadian and international students are welcome to apply. If your first language is not English, you will need to pass a language proficiency test. You must fulfill all the other requirements, including writing the SAT or ACT.

Check out our video below for a recap:

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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