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Is Stanford an Ivy League School? Is Duke? MIT?


Most people have at least heard of the Ivy League, but not everyone knows which schools belong to the venerable group. Is Stanford Ivy League? Is Duke Ivy League? Is MIT Ivy League?

In this article, we'll answer these questions and more as we take a look at which schools comprise the world-renowned Ivy League and which schools are most often mistaken for Ivy League institutions. We'll also explore what being in the Ivy League means for schools and how Ivy League schools compare with those not in the Ivy League in terms of national rankings and selectivity.


Is Stanford Ivy League? What About Duke and MIT?

Contrary to what you might think, none of these schools are in the Ivy League. But this doesn't mean that Stanford, Duke, and MIT are not prestigious schools; rather, it simply means they're not affiliated with the Ivy League.

Confused? Let's begin by looking at what the Ivy League is and why it was formed.

The Ivy League (often called the Ivies) is a consortium of eight private universities based in the northeast region of the US. Its members are as follows:



All Ivy League schools are extremely selective and highly ranked—but this wasn't the initial motivation behind the schools' unification.

The Ivy League (or the "Ivy Group," as it was once called) originated as an athletic conference back in the 1950s. Over the years, the phrase has come to be associated with more general notions of prestige, selectivity, and academia due to the esteemed reputations of its members. Essentially, "Ivy League" is nothing more than a name for this particular group of schools—that's it!

While Stanford, Duke, and MIT are all clearly prestigious schools with high national rankings and low selectivity rates comparable to those of Ivy League schools, they are not Ivy League schools simply because they are not members of the Ivy League. Of course, this doesn't stop people from assuming they're Ivies due to their many similarities!

Ultimately, though, no matter how prestigious or competitive a school is, if it's not one of the eight schools listed above, then it is not an Ivy League school.



Even if a school sounds like it could be an Ivy, that doesn't mean it actually is one!


What Schools Are Often Mistaken for Ivy League Schools?

Stanford, Duke, and MIT are not the only schools often thought to belong to the Ivy League. Other schools commonly mistaken for those in the Ivy League are those that are:

  • Highly ranked and extremely selective. Ivies are almost always ranked in the top 15 nationally, (though there are exceptions to this rule!) with acceptance rates below 15%. Schools commonly mistaken for Ivies tend to be those with similar rankings and acceptance rates—even though many aren't located in the northeast where the Ivy League is based.
  • Located in or near the northeast. All Ivies are in the northeast, but not all schools in the northeast are Ivies! Highly acclaimed or well-known schools in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and other nearby states are often mistakenly assumed to belong to the Ivy League.

Below is a chart containing all Ivy League schools and those commonly believed to be Ivies. I've included each school's location, US News ranking, and acceptance rate so that you can easily compare Ivies with non-Ivies. The Ivy League schools have been bolded for clarity.


School Location US News National Ranking (2022-23) Acceptance Rate
Princeton Princeton, NJ 1 4%
MIT Cambridge, MA 4%
Harvard Cambridge, MA 3 (tie) 4%
Stanford Stanford, CA 3 (tie) 4%
Yale New Haven, CT 3 (tie) 5%
University of Chicago Chicago, IL 6%
Johns Hopkins Baltimore, MD 7 (tie) 8%
UPenn Philadelphia, PA 7 6%
Caltech Pasadena, CA 4%
Duke Durham, NC 10 (tie) 6%
Northwestern Evanston, IL 10 (tie) 7%
Dartmouth Hanover, NH 12 6%
Brown Providence, RI 13 (tie) 6%
Vanderbilt Nashville, TN 13 (tie) 7%
Rice Houston, TX 15 (tie) 9%
Washington University in St Louis St. Louis, MO 15 (tie) 13%
Cornell Ithaca, NY 17 9%
Columbia New York, NY 18 (tie) 6%
Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN 18 15%
UCLA Los Angeles, CA 20 (tie) 11%
UC Berkeley Berkeley, CA 20 (tie) 15%
Georgetown Washington, DC 22 (tie) 12%
Emory Atlanta, GA 22 13%
Carnegie Mellon Pittsburgh, PA 22 (tie) 14%
USC Los Angeles, CA 25 (tie) 13%
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 25 (tie) 20%
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 25 (tie) 21%
Wake Forest Winston-Salem, NC 29 (tie) 25%
Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA 36 (tie) 19%
College of William & Mary Williamsburg, VA 41 (tie) 37%
Boston University Boston, MA 41 (tie) 19%
Penn State* University Park, PA 77 58%
Amherst Amherst, MA 2 (National Liberal Arts Colleges) 9%
Vassar Poughkeepsie, NY 13 (tie) (National Liberal Arts Colleges) 20%


*This school, though not as selective as the others in this table, is sometimes mistaken for the University of Pennsylvania (also called Penn)—one of the eight Ivy League schools—due to its similar name.


As you can see, Ivy League schools generally make the top 20 positions of nationally ranked universities, with most of them in the top 10. Additionally, all Ivy League schools are extremely selective; the lowest acceptance rate for an Ivy is just 4% for Princeton and Harvard, while the highest acceptance rate is 9% for Cornell.

This table also indicates that there are many schools that are just as good as, if not better than, Ivy League schools—which explains why schools such as Stanford and MIT are frequently confused for Ivies. For example, MIT is currently ranked #2, beating out all Ivies except Princeton! Similarly, Stanford, UChicago, Johns Hopkins, and Caltech and are all highly ranked at #3, #6, #7, and #9, respectively, giving them rankings higher than Dartmouth, Brown, Cornell, and Columbia.

MIT, Stanford, and Caltech (not Ivies) share the award for most selective schools with Princeton and Harvard: all five schools have a 4% acceptance rate. After those schools, the most selective schools on this list are a mix of Ivies and non-Ivies. Yale (Ivy) has a 5% acceptance rate, and six schools on this list all have a 6% acceptance rate: UChicago (Non-Ivy), UPenn (Ivy), Duke (Non-Ivy), Dartmouth (Ivy), Brown (Ivy), and Columbia (Ivy).

Lastly, this table shows us that schools are sometimes mistaken for Ivies due to their being in the northeast. Examples of such schools include the highly selective Johns Hopkins, Amherst, and Georgetown, in addition to some slightly less selective (but still popular and prestigious) schools such as Boston College and Boston University.



Ivies and non-Ivies are like two different flavors of cookies: they may be different, but they're both equally delicious!


Recap: Is Duke Ivy League? Is MIT Ivy League?

Stanford, Duke, MIT, and many other well-known universities are often mistaken for Ivy League schools due to their superior academic reputations and high selectivity. But in reality, the Ivy League consists of just eight extremely selective schools, which are all located in the northeast. Once again, these schools are as follows:
  • Brown University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Yale University

Although the Ivy League is generally associated with prestige and high rankings, this doesn't mean non-Ivies can't be as good as or even better than Ivies. Many non-Ivies, such as Stanford and the University of Chicago, are actually ranked higher than Ivies and maintain similar (or even lower!) acceptance rates.

Ultimately, the Ivy League is just a name for a particular group of schools that just so happen to share strong rankings and low acceptance rates. When it comes down to it, any top-tier school—Ivy or otherwise—is an excellent choice for college!


What's Next?

Want to make a great impression on the Ivy League? Learn what a good SAT/ACT score is for the Ivy League, and get tips on what classes you should take in high school in order to impress admissions committees.

Ready to apply to a top-tier school? Awesome! Now all you need is some step-by-step advice. Check out our in-depth guides on how to get into the Ivy League and how to get into Stanford—both written by admitted applicants to these schools!

Want to stand apart from other applicants? Learn how to score a perfect 1600 on the SAT, so you can increase your shot at getting into the school of your dreams!



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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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