Students who want to study abroad in well-known universities often wonder how to get into an Ivy League school as an international student. Ivy Leagues are a group of eight educational institutions situated in the Northeastern United States and are known around the world for their reputation, credibility, and prestige. You might wonder, “what is the easiest Ivy League school to get into?” and search for the answer online to test the waters and understand where you stand as an applicant. However, we have made it easy for all aspiring undergrads to learn about how to study in the US as an international student, become better informed about Ivy League schools, and assess their eligibility, so that no deserving student misses out on the opportunity to have an excellent academic experience at their dream school.
Disclaimer: Although we have made every effort to provide the most accurate information, admissions information changes frequently. Therefore, we encourage you to verify these details with the official university admissions office. You are responsible for your own results. BeMo does not endorse nor affiliate with any official universities, colleges, or test administrators and vice versa.
The eight schools that fall under the Ivy League umbrella are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. They are considered highly prestigious, both for their stringent, selective admission requirements and because they are the oldest schools in the United States. They are sought out for their history, legacy, and academic excellence. These schools are known for producing graduates with shining academic performance, glowing extracurriculars, and promising careers.
Many international students from around the globe dream of studying at these schools to experience US-style education and gain exposure to the American culture and lifestyle. They hope that a degree from a school with a world-class reputation will open opportunities and lead to a bright career future.
Ivy League Schools Acceptance Rates for International Students
Ivy League schools are known for their low acceptance rates and high admission standards. For a recent admission cycle, the overall acceptance rate for Ivy League schools ranged from 3.4% (Harvard) to 8.7% (Cornell). In Harvard’s case, 14.8% of the class was constituted of international students, and in Cornell’s case 10.2%. These figures give you an idea of how much more competitive it is for international students.
Ivy League Schools Acceptance Rate (Lowest & Highest):
With the focus on how hard it is to get into an Ivy League school, the fact that many have a significant proportion of international students is often missed. For instance, a recent class at Columbia was comprised of 13% foreign citizens, while 12% of admitted students came from the Midwest, a large region in the US comprised of 12 states. Other parts of the US will have even lower representation, so the country you were born in shouldn’t discourage you from applying if that’s what you really want.
International Students in Ivy League Schools:
Nevertheless, to be eligible for consideration, your academic profile must be exceptional, and you need to stand out in other ways as well. We should also stress that if you are serious about attending school in the US, you should focus on a list of schools that are ideal for you, beyond just their status and name. You can try to get into an Ivy League school but consider other schools as well; there are many excellent alternatives.
It’s also easier to get into an Ivy League graduate program, so doing your undergraduate degree somewhere else could be a good strategy for getting closer to your goal if you’re not accepted to your first-choice school.
In any case, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Even if the admission statistics are daunting, you will never know unless you try, and we provide some excellent tips here to ensure that you put your best foot forward.
International Student Checklist and Timeline for Ivy League Applications
If you want to get into an Ivy League school as an international student, the most important word of advice is to be well prepared. While the application process for these schools is difficult for all students, it can seem overwhelming for international students. However, this is mainly because you must fulfill some additional requirements to study in the US.
The following checklist and timeline with dates and tasks to be accomplished will help you get your application ready.
Research Your Preferred Schools
As previously noted, just because an Ivy League school is considered one of the “best,” it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the best for you. A good way to start is to search online for your preferred program or main interests. For example, Columbia University has produced more Nobel Prize laureates than any other American university, so if you are passionate about research and innovation, this school might show up in your search as a good choice.
Each Ivy League school has webpages devoted to international students, and many have dedicated organizations and programs, such as the Harvard International Office, to help with the admission process and welcome you when you arrive on campus. Others, such as Dartmouth College, provide services through their Student Affairs department and may have an Office of Visa and Immigration Services. Once you decide on a school, you should reach out to these services and avoid relying on second-hand information for what may be the most important move you ever make.
Register and Prepare for Entrance Exams
Request School Transcripts
It is important to plan and organize well in advance all related documents and paperwork that will go into your application. A strong academic transcript is one that shows a well-rounded individual with good grades. Your secondary performance should be excellent, and if you want to get into an Ivy League school, you should be focusing on your academics and choice of subjects from early on. However, if your grades improved over the course of your high school years, you can still compete with a candidate who had excellent grades from the start, provided your transcript shows that you evolved as a student.
Applicants should get their transcripts translated into English by a certified translator, and you should check that your subjects and your best extracurriculars for college are accurately represented. Note that the original documents in the original language are also often required.
Identify Referees and Request Letters of Recommendation
Your recommendation letters, offering a third-party view of who you are as a candidate, must be exceptional. To get an idea of what’s expected, you can check out college recommendation letter samples. Most schools prefer two letters from teachers and one from your school counselor. Although students often feel that the counselor’s letter carries the most weight, it is often the opposite. Letters from teachers give more detailed insights into who you are as a student and add a personal touch. Consider asking for a letter from a math/science teacher and another from an English/social studies teacher to cover two different aspects of your academic performance.
Request recommendation letters well in advance so that your teachers have time to reflect on your accomplishments and performance. In many cases, your teachers will ask you to provide supporting materials for any accolades, prizes, or volunteer activities that can be mentioned in the letter. Be prepared with all such documents so that they are covered in your recommendation letters.
Letters of recommendation must be written in English or translated into English by a certified translator/agency with their signature/stamp. Keep in mind that translations can take a few weeks to produce.
Write Your Application Essay
College admissions essays can make or break a student’s application. They provide a comprehensive view of who you are as an applicant and allow the admissions committee to consider any breaks or disparities in your overall academic profile. Essays are an essential part of the application for international students; your personal statement distinguishes you from other applicants. They’re so important that you may want to consider a college essay advisor.
International student essays tend to be different from those of other students because you need to address the main question of why you want to go to school in the US, rather than in your home country. If you are wondering about how to start a college essay as an international student, keep these pointers in mind:
- Why did you choose the college you are applying to and why the US and not your home country?
- Establish some of your core values and demonstrate how you’ve made the best of your current situation.
- Specify what cultural experiences you are looking for and why you feel they are important for you.
- Outline how your chosen Ivy League university will aid you in accomplishing your goals.
- Justify any gaps in your academic profile with good reasoning and back it up with clear explanations.
- Talk about your diverse background and what inspired you to consider the program/university that you are applying for and what makes you a distinct candidate.
- Talk about your extracurriculars and any accolades that you want to highlight in your application.
- Avoid clichés and refrain from talking about the prestige and reputation of the college.
- Create an outline of the essay to establish the flow and tone. Revise at least three times on different days with fresh eyes.
Ensure Adequate Financing and Acquire Documents to Prove It
International students who request financial aid need to provide proof of financial status, including your own and your parents’ income to establish whether you fit the criteria of economic need. Although the evaluation process is different for each school, students aiming to apply for financial aid should have their family’s income proofs, tax slips, and employment certificates handy.
Note that several schools will only grant financial aid if you request it as part of your application. They may not consider you at all if you decide to apply after you have been admitted or during your undergraduate studies. For help, reach out to the financial aid office at the university and consider an international student scholarship consultant.
Submit Your School Application
Most international students will apply to Ivy League schools as typical first-year applicants. However, in some cases, international students can apply as transfer students, based on certain conditions. To see whether you qualify as a transfer student, look this up in the admissions section of your preferred school’s website. (Note that graduate admissions for international students, which are different and vary widely depending on the school, program, and reason for study, are not covered in this article.)
Many Ivy League schools use the Common Application or Coalition Application, which enable students to apply to several schools at once. Once you have settled on your first choice, you can generally use these applications to apply to your second and third choices as well.
International students should keep in mind that certain academic materials are vital in their application. For example, unlike American students, you may need to request an evaluation of your academic credentials, which must be conducted by recognized academic bodies, such as World Education Services (WES), the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES), or the Association of International Credential Evaluators, Inc. (AICE). Students should apply for their credential evaluation well in advance. Before making such a request, confirm your intended school’s requirements by contacting admissions directly if necessary.
Get Your Passport in Order
A passport is your main ID when applying as a student abroad. You should ensure that the passport is valid, and that the expiration date is not within 1 year. You will need your passport for all travel purposes as well.
Apply for Your Student Visa
The visa process begins only once you get into an Ivy League school. The school will then issue a letter of acceptance, which is used in the visa process. Many Ivy League schools have established departments to handle visa processes for international students. The visa process is complex, requires specific forms, and may involve an interview. You will need a valid unexpired student visa to enter the United States.
Important School-specific Information for Ivy League International Applicants
The following GPA averages, test scores, application requirements, and additional information should help you compare Ivy League schools and see how you measure up.
English proficiency test required? Brown states that it is highly recommended.
To apply to Brown, complete the Common Application and Brown Member section online.
For more information, visit the Global Brown Center for International Students (GBC).
You can also consult the financial aid for international applicants page.
English proficiency test required? Columbia has specific requirements for proof of English proficiency. You must also be “comfortable with rapid and idiomatic spoken English.”
You can apply to Columbia using either the Common Application or Coalition Application.
For more information, visit the international applicants page.
You can also consult the international financial aid page.
English proficiency test required? Cornell has specific requirements for proof of English proficiency. Cornell will consider and accept various exams and qualifications from around the world, including, but not limited to, the following:
To apply to Cornell, complete the Common Application online.
For more information, visit the international students page.
International applicants who require financial aid must request it when they apply for admission. You can also consult the prospective international students page.
All academic credentials and documents must be submitted directly to the university by the respective school and not by the students themselves.
All applicants should complete their application materials without the assistance of paid agents or credentialing services.
English proficiency test required? Dartmouth has specific requirements for proof of English proficiency. Dartmouth will consider various other test scores, in addition to the following:
To apply to Dartmouth, complete the Common Application by adding Dartmouth to the “My Colleges” section.
For more information, visit the international students page and the Office of Visa and Immigration Services (OVIS) for guidance on the visa application process.
You can also consult the financial aid page.
English proficiency test required? First-year and transfer applicants are not required to take an English proficiency test but visiting undergraduate students program applicants are required to take the TOEFL.
Test cut-off scores: n/a
To apply to Harvard, complete the Common Application or Coalition Application.
For more information, visit the international students page.
You can also consult the how (financial) aid works page.
English proficiency test required? It depends on the program. All international students must submit a graded written paper in English from a senior level, such as O- or A-level coursework.
To apply, complete the Common Application and the Princeton Supplement.
For more information, visit the international students page and the Davis International Center.
You can also consult the financial aid page.
University of Pennsylvania
English proficiency test required? Yes, and you must designate Penn as a recipient university each time you take a test to have your score sent directly to the university.
Test cut-off scores:
To apply to Penn, complete the Common Application or Coalition Application.
For more information, visit the international applicants pages.
International applicants who require financial aid must request it when they apply for admission. For Penn, a family’s ability to pay does factor into admissions decisions. Consult the costs & financial aid page.
English proficiency test required? Yes. Yale will consider various other test scores, in addition to the following:
Test cut-off scores:
To apply to Yale, apply directly to the school, college, or program where the degree will be awarded. Each program has its own procedures for international applicants and for applying for financial aid.
For more information, visit applying to Yale as an international student.
You can also consult the financial aid page.
Wondering “what is the easiest Ivy League school to get into”? Check out this video for answers:
Ivy League Undergraduate Tuition Fees in 2023
Recent tuition estimates, in USD, for Ivy League schools range from about $55,000 to $65,000. Actual fees will differ somewhat depending on the program you take, and international students do tend to pay more. These estimates exclude several other fees as well as the cost of accommodation and other considerations international students must keep in mind.
Most schools also allow an application fee waiver if the student meets certain eligibility criteria. Each college provides different types of financial aid to students depending on the economic bracket they fall into.
In addition to your academic documents, recommendation letters, and essays, the most important factor in applying to an Ivy League school is whether it is a good fit. Prestige and popularity do not mean much if the school doesn’t offer the program you really want, a healthy environment in which you will thrive, and a balance of challenges and benefits. Use sound reasoning to assess whether this school is the best for you and conduct in-depth research to justify your choice.
Try to present both academic excellence and extracurriculars in your application. Ivy League schools are also looking for authenticity and passion.
1. Is it difficult for international students to get into Ivy League schools?
With an overall low acceptance rate, Ivy League colleges are difficult to get into. For international students, the process tends to be more difficult due to the extra paperwork involved. However, if you are well prepared and present a convincing case in your application essays, you can compete with the best. And why not consider college admissions counseling for international students? This type of support can really reduce your stress level and help you avoid any pitfalls.
2. Which is the hardest Ivy League school to get into?
Harvard University has the lowest overall acceptance rate of about 3.5–5% for undergraduate students. The rate varies by year.
3. Which Ivy League school accepts the most international students?
Harvard, Penn, and Columbia generally accept the largest number of international students.
4. Can I translate my own transcripts into English?
No, all academic transcripts must be translated into English by a certified translator and have a signature/stamp.
5. Which Ivy League school is the most expensive?
Although all the tuition fees are within a similar range ($55,000 to $65,000), those of Columbia, Brown, Cornell, and Yale are currently the highest (over $62,000 USD).
6. Where should I get my academic credentials verified/evaluated?
Although each school has its own process, some generally accepted agencies are World Education Services (WES), National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES), and the Association of International Credential Evaluators, Inc. (AICE).
7. Should I take IELTS, Duolingo, or TOEFL?
Although all three are proficiency tests recognized by virtually all institutions and government bodies, you can go for the test that is available in your home country. First check the specific requirements for the school you are applying to.
8. Which Ivy League tuition fee is the lowest?
While Harvard has the lowest tuition fee at around $54,768, it also has the lowest acceptance rate, making admission highly competitive.
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