SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

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

Posted by Hannah Muniz | Mar 16, 2017 12:00:00 PM

College Info



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 to 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 may 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 referred to as the “Ivies”) is a consortium of eight private universities based in the northeast region of the U.S. Its members are:

  • Brown University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University
  • University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)
  • Yale University



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!

So 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, with acceptance rates below 15 percent. Schools commonly mistaken for Ivies tend to be those with similar rankings and acceptance rates — sometimes despite not even being 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 Ivy League schools and those commonly believed to be Ivies. I've included each school's location, U.S. News ranking, and acceptance rate, so that you can easily compare Ivies to non-Ivies. All Ivy League schools have been bolded for clarity.




U.S. News National Ranking

Acceptance Rate


Princeton, NJ




Cambridge, MA



University of Chicago

Chicago, IL

3 (tie)



New Haven, CT

3 (tie)



New York, NY

5 (tie)



Stanford, CA

5 (tie)



Cambridge, MA




Durham, NC

8 (tie)



Philadelphia, PA

8 (tie)


Johns Hopkins

Baltimore, MD




Hanover, NH




Evanston, IL




Providence, RI




Ithaca, NY

15 (tie)


Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN

15 (tie)



Houston, TX

15 (tie)



Nashville, TN

15 (tie)



Washington, DC

20 (tie)


UC Berkeley

Berkeley, CA

20 (tie)


Carnegie Mellon

Pittsburgh, PA

24 (tie)



Los Angeles, CA

24 (tie)



Medford, MA

27 (tie)


University of Michigan — Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

27 (tie)


Boston College

Chestnut Hill, MA



College of William & Mary

Williamsburg, VA




New York, NY



Boston University

Boston, MA



Penn State*

University Park, PA




Amherst, MA

2 (National Liberal Arts Colleges)



Poughkeepsie, NY

12 (National Liberal Arts Colleges)


*This school, though not as selective as the others on this table, is sometimes mistaken for UPenn, one of the eight Ivy League schools, due to its similar-sounding name.


As you can see from the table above, Ivy League schools generally stick to the top 15 positions of nationally ranked universities, with a majority of them in the top 10. Additionally, all Ivy League schools are extremely selective; the lowest acceptance rate for an Ivy is just 6 percent for Harvard and Columbia, while the highest acceptance rate is 15 percent for Cornell.

This table also indicates that there are a number of 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, the University of the Chicago is currently ranked #3 in the country, tied with Yale and beating out five other Ivies! Similarly, Stanford, MIT, and Duke are all ranked fairly highly at #5, #7, and #8, respectively, giving them higher rankings than Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell have.

In terms of selectivity, Stanford wins the award for most selective school. Its mere 5-percent acceptance rate makes it more selective than all Ivy League schools! That being said, the Ivies aren’t far behind: after Stanford, the most selective schools on this list are Harvard (6%), Columbia (6%), Princeton (7%), and Yale (7%).

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 popular and prestigious) schools such as NYU 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 only eight extremely selective schools, which are all located in the northeast. These schools are:
  • Brown
  • Columbia
  • Cornell
  • Dartmouth
  • Harvard
  • Princeton
  • University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)
  • Yale

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 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 can take in high school that are certain to impress admissions committees.

Ready to apply for 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 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!


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Enroll Now

Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)


Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

You should definitely follow us on social media. You'll get updates on our latest articles right on your feed. Follow us on all 3 of our social networks:

Twitter and Google+

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!