Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Harvard, Princeton, and Yale—known as the “Big Three”—are historically the three toughest Ivy League schools to get into. In recent years, they have been joined by Columbia in the top half of the most selective Ivy League schools. In 2021, Columbia edged past Princeton and Harvard to become the most competitive Ivy.


Ivy League acceptance rates are of great interest given that the eight universities—Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Yale—routinely rank among the best in the world.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students with perfect or near-perfect grades and test scores submit their applications with the hope of getting into one or more of these elite schools.

The admissions statistics are sobering. The 311,948 Ivy League applications for the Class of 2023 were a record high. Unfortunately, the 6.78% acceptance rate across all eight schools was, at the time, a record low.

While there was a slight uptick in Class of 2024 acceptance rates at most Ivy League schools—largely due to uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak—getting into Ivy League schools was still incredibly difficult.

Now that admissions results are in for the Class of 2025, it’s clear that applications to Ivy League schools surged in the most recent application cycle, with nearly 100,000 more students applying than the year before. Unsurprisingly, acceptance rates for the Class of 2025 are historically low.

For years, Ivy League admissions data have triggered annual headlines in major publications, which reinforce the exclusivity and selectivity of Ivy League schools. Here are a few examples:

Rather than accept defeat before your child ever applies to the Ivy League, it’s important to understand the numbers at each individual school. Below, we’ll go over the most recent admissions statistics and discuss key takeaways. Then, we’ll review the strategies your child can employ to maximize their chances of Ivy League admission in future application cycles.

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Ivy League acceptance rates: Class of 2025

(Note: This table will be updated as new data are released. Princeton canceled early action for the Class of 2025.)

Overall Acceptance RatesEarly Action/Early Decision Acceptance RatesRegular Decision Acceptance Rates
AcceptedAppliedAcceptance RateAcceptedAppliedAcceptance RateAcceptedAppliedAcceptance Rate

*Early decision schools | ^Single-choice early action schools


2021 Ivy League acceptance rates takeaways

The “Big Three” Ivy League schools, plus Columbia, continue to be the most selective

Harvard, Princeton, and Yale—known as the “Big Three”—are historically the three toughest Ivy League schools to get into. In recent years, they have been joined by Columbia in the top half of the most selective Ivy League schools. In 2021, Columbia edged past Princeton and Harvard to become the most competitive Ivy. While all four schools reported overall acceptance rates below 5%, with a 3.9% acceptance rate, Columbia is now the hardest Ivy League school to get into.

The remaining schools had overall acceptance rates ranging between 5.5% (Brown) and 8.7% (Cornell), meaning that, for the first time, acceptance rates for all Ivy League schools were in the single digits. The average acceptance rate across all eight schools was 5.4%.

Here is a list of the Ivy League schools in ascending order of overall selectivity:

1. Columbia (3.9%)
2. Harvard (4.0%)
2. Princeton (4.0%)
4. Yale (4.6%)
5. Brown (5.5%)
6. Penn (5.9%)
7. Dartmouth (6.2%)
8. Cornell (8.7%)

Selectivity is highly associated with Ivy League rankings; that is, the highest-ranked schools tend to have the lowest acceptance rates.

Early action and early decision applicants enjoy higher acceptance rates 

It’s widely known that students who apply early action or early decision typically get accepted to Ivy League schools (and others, like Stanford and MIT) at significantly higher rates than regular decision applicants. 

For instance, whereas 22.2% of early decision applicants got into Dartmouth in 2021, only 4.5% of regular decision applicants were accepted. These statistics tell a very different story from Dartmouth’s 6.2% overall acceptance rate.

However, the difference between the two types of acceptance rates fell at Harvard, where only 7.4% of early action applicants received an offer of admission. While that number is more encouraging than the mere 3.3% of regular decision applicants who got in, the difference is far less pronounced than in previous years (in 2020, Harvard’s early action and regular decision rates were 13.9% and 3.3%, respectively).

(Note: Princeton canceled early action for the Class of 2025, and Columbia and Cornell haven’t reported early-decision-specific statistics.)

Nevertheless, if your child knows that one of the Ivy League schools is their top choice, they should strongly consider applying early action or early decision to maximize their odds of getting in. Applying early demonstrates strong interest and is attractive to schools who want to protect their yield rate.

At the same time, it’s important to remember the following confounding variable: the early action and early decision applicant pool tends to be stronger than the regular decision pool. Therefore, it’s difficult to quantify the impact of applying early vs. the impact of a higher-achieving group of early applicants.

(Suggested reading: Early Action vs. Early Decision: Pros and Cons and What Your Child Should Do)

Getting into an Ivy League school is incredibly difficult

When we evaluate which Ivy League schools are “easiest” or “toughest” to get into, it’s easy to miss the big picture: Ivy League universities are some of the most selective in the country. Given the low overall acceptance rate, the vast majority of Ivy League applicants will not get into any of the eight schools.

While this is a tough pill to swallow, it reinforces our recommendation to create a balanced college list. Specifically, high-achieving students should consider Ivy League schools as part of an overall admissions strategy that includes reach, target, and safety schools, rather than as their exclusive focus.

At the same time, Ivy League acceptance rates are misleading in another way: odds of getting in are not the same for everyone. For instance, a student with a 4.0 GPA, 36 ACT score, and outstanding extracurricular activities does not have has the same chance of getting in as a student with a 3.7 GPA, 1420 SAT score, and above-average extracurricular profile. The former student’s odds of getting in are much higher than the overall acceptance rate, whereas the latter student’s chances are lower.

Want to learn more about getting into specific Ivy League schools?

With the increasing number of applications and high level of achievement among America’s high school students, Ivy League acceptance rates are likely to remain low during the foreseeable future.

While these admissions statistics can be disheartening, your child can get into Ivy League and other elite schools through high academic achievement, standout extracurricular activities, and writing great college essays (e.g., the Common App Essay and supplemental essays).

However, every Ivy League school is different and maximizing your child’s odds of getting into each one will require slightly different approaches. Click below to learn more school-specific strategies:How to Get Into Princeton: Essays and Strategies That WorkedHow to Get Into Yale: Essays and Strategies That WorkedHow to Get Into UPenn: Essays and Strategies that WorkedHow to Get Into Dartmouth: Strategies and Essays That WorkedHow to Get Into Harvard Undergrad: Strategies and Essays That WorkedHow to Get Into Cornell University: The Definitive GuideHow to Get Into Columbia: Strategies and Essay ExamplesHow to Get Into Brown University: Strategies and Essays That Worked

You may also be interested in the following guides to getting into Ivy+ schools:

  • How to Get Into Caltech
  • How to Get Into Duke
  • How to Get Into Johns Hopkins
  • How to Get Into MIT
  • How to Get Into Stanford

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Previous Ivy League acceptance rates

Ivy League acceptance rates: Class of 2024

Overall Acceptance RatesEarly Action/Early Decision Acceptance RatesRegular Decision Acceptance Rates
AcceptedAppliedAcceptance RateAcceptedAppliedAcceptance RateAcceptedAppliedAcceptance Rate

*Early decision schools | ^Single-choice early action schools

Ivy League acceptance rates: Class of 2023

Overall Acceptance RatesEarly Action/Early Decision Acceptance RatesRegular Decision Acceptance Rates
AcceptedAppliedAcceptance RateAcceptedAppliedAcceptance RateAcceptedAppliedAcceptance Rate

cornell university ivy league

Ivy League schools are considered the most sought-after institutions of higher learning in the country and around the world. These eight private Northeastern schools are known for their highly selective admissions process, academic excellence and promising career opportunities for those who attend. The name recognition and social prestige don’t hurt either.

First grouped together by athletic conference, Ivy League schools have been known to churn out not only well-rounded student-athletes, but future presidents, Nobel Prize winners and other high-achieving graduates. The list of Ivy League schools includes some of the oldest institutions in education, with well-respected professors, ample research grants and generous financial aid resources. To make it to the halls of Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and the like, prospective students’ applications must be extraordinary.

Check out the Ivy League schools ranking based on U.S. News’ National University ranks, and see how these schools stack up against each other to find the best fit.

The Easiest Ivies to Get Into

According to life hack experts, it is a good idea to do the hardest tasks first. Doing so allows things to get easier.

In this article on the easiest and hardest Ivy League colleges to get into, it’s different. We will start talking about the schools that are likely to accept you due to their high acceptance rates.

This way, when creating a list of schools to which you should send applications, you may put these Ivy Leagues on the top:

Cornell University

Cornell University

Various reasons exist why a lot of senior high school students are enticed to apply to Cornell University.

For one, it has a massive tree-filled campus in Ithaca, New York. Students can choose from the more than 4,000 courses available. This means that they will surely find a field of study that they can focus on.

Then there’s also the fact that Cornell University is regarded as the easiest Ivy League school to get into. Such is based on its acceptance rate, which is higher than the rest of the Ivies year after year.

As a matter of fact, later on in this article, you will come across a table of the acceptance rates of the different Ivy League schools from 2016 to 2020. Based on that table, you will learn that Cornell University has a consistently high acceptance rate.

It doesn’t mean, however, that anyone who applies to the school gets accepted. Always keep in mind that, being an Ivy, Cornell University is very picky when it comes to choosing its students. But compared to the rest of the Ivies, you have higher chances of being accepted into it. Just make sure that you will be able to impress its admissions officers.

For instance, you will need to have a high GPA — 3.8 is the average GPA of students accepted into the school. Experts agree that you should have an SAT score of 1,390 or higher as well as an ACT score of 32 or higher to stand a chance against exceptional applicants.

Also, it’s a must for your letter of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and essay to meet the high standards of Cornell University.

Dartmouth College

Among all the Ivies, Dartmouth College is the smallest. It’s not just its campus that is the smallest of the bunch but also its class size.

That is a good thing because it means that the school’s professors can devote plenty of their time to the students. And speaking of which, Dartmouth College is revered for its outstanding faculty.

Founded back in 1769, the school is located in Hanover, New Hampshire. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) dubbed Dartmouth College as a higher education learning institution with very high research activity.

CFAT, by the way, is a US-based research facility. Have you heard about or used the computer programming language BASIC? Well, it was invented at Dartmouth College.

Since it’s one of the Ivy League schools in the US, getting into Dartmouth College is no picnic. However, compared to the rest of the Ivies, you have higher chances of going to it. That is if you are able to grab the fancy of its admissions officers with your GPA as well as SAT and ACT scores.

Impressing the school’s admissions officers with your academic and standardized test scores, unfortunately, is not enough. For instance, you will have to produce a couple of essays.

The first essay is a very short one, and it’s based on a question that all applicants need to answer. The second essay is longer, and you will have to choose it from different choices that Dartmouth College will provide. Needless to say, both of your essays should be brilliant.

University of Pennsylvania

There are many wonderful reasons why the University of Pennsylvania is considered one of the elite schools not only in the US but globally, too.

For instance, a famous person was the one who founded it back in 1740. It’s none other than Benjamin Franklin, a statesman, author, scientist, and inventor. Franklin believed that the students should be taught the arts, humanities, and the skills they need to serve the public and make a living.

What’s more, the University of Pennsylvania is home to a couple of the firsts in the world of higher learning. For one, it is the birthplace of the Wharton School, which is the first business school on the planet. Then it is also where the oldest medical school in the US came into being.

According to statistics, only eight are admitted by the University of Pennsylvania for every 100 applicants. Needless to say, it is very selective when it comes to choosing which applicants will be able to go to it.

However, the school is in this part of the article where we are talking about some of the easiest Ivy League schools to get into. This means that you have higher chances of going to it compared to the Ivies listed below.

To go to this top-notch school located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you should have a 3.9 GPA score. Worry not if yours is lower than that. It’s because having high SAT and ACT scores can make up for it.

However, they should be higher than the scores of those whose GPA scores are 3.9 or higher for you to be preferred by the school’s admissions officers over them. You should also be able to wow them with your essay and extracurricular activities.

Brown University

Finally, there’s Brown University — the least easy of the easiest Ivy Schools to get into. Many senior high school students are enticed to send their application to this institution for higher education.

This is especially true for those who are aware that the school is offering what it refers to as an open curriculum.

Put simply, it allows its students to come up with their own curriculum. They can do so based on their personal preferences. They can choose from nearly a hundred different academic programs at the onset. Later on, they can decide to concentrate on a specific area.

Such freedom that Brown University offers is ideal for students who want to enjoy the customized college experience. If you want to have the same, first you will have to get into the school.

No one really knows the GPA requirement of Brown University. However, some people believe that it should be 4.0 or higher.

This will only mean that you should be at the top of your high school class. Then you should also have above-average SAT and ACT scores to make it to the first round of screening.

Yes, that’s just half the battle. After passing the initial screening, the admissions officers of Brown University will then check out the rest of the requirements.

They include your letter of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and application essay. You should be able to impress them in these departments, too. That’s because, aside from being intelligent, Brown University also prefers its students to have the potential to change the world one day.

List of the Ivy League Schools

Princeton University Princeton, NJ 1
Columbia University New York, NY 2 (tie)
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 2 (tie)
Yale University New Haven, CT 5
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 8
Dartmouth College Hanover, NH 13
Brown University Providence, RI 14 (tie)
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 17 (tie)

The Hardest Ivies to Get Into

Now that you have an idea of which Ivy League colleges are the easiest to get into let’s now take a look at the Ivies that are the hardest to get into.

Are you completely confident that you can impress the admissions officers of these schools with your grades, letter of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and essay?

Then go ahead and send your application to one or all of the following Ivy League schools.

Princeton University

College of New Jersey was the name of Princeton University when it was founded in 1746. Obviously, it’s for the reason that it is situated in New Jersey. Because the municipality of Princeton is the exact location, it doesn’t come as a surprise why the school’s name was changed back in 1896.

In the US, Princeton University is considered as one of the oldest colleges. It is regarded as one of the most prominent as well. This Ivy League school has an expansive campus, the majority of which is covered with Ivy.

Many of its students choose to live within the campus than anywhere else. Those who reside in it tend to enjoy a community that is both tightly knit and lively.

Princeton offers a wide variety of shopping centers, restaurants, coffee shops, and art venues. If you were a Princeton University student and you felt like you could use some more unwinding between classes, you have many neighboring cities to visit. They include New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston.

Needless to say, Princeton University is one of the Ivy League schools that are the hardest to get into. You can rest assured that you have to be at the top of your high school class for its admissions officers to give you a chance to become one of its students.

For instance, your GPA score should be a whopping 3.9 or higher for your application to be noticed. However, that’s not all that counts.

Princeton University, just like the other Ivies, has an inclination towards well-rounded students. This means that you have to excel in various things, too, including those outside the classroom.

If are eager to know what it takes to get into Princeton, listen to a “Who Cares About College” podcast episode with a person who was just accepted to the college:

Yale University

Because it is one of the Ivies, getting into Yale University is reserved for above-average students. Despite this, many senior high school students still try their luck by sending applications to it. One of the reasons for such is that Yale University is known to have a unique culture.

For instance, its students live in residential colleges. Each one of those residential units has a dean that the students can interact with freely.

Other than that, the school is admired by many because it offers fantastic drama and music courses. There are also programs outside of performing arts. As a matter of fact, Yale University’s labs for science, math, and related branches of learning amount to more than 800!

Founded way back in 1701, Yale University is located in New Haven, Connecticut. The said city is nicknamed the Cultural Capital of Connecticut. That’s because there is never a shortage of museums, theaters, and music venues there.

Students of Yale University also love the fact that they can easily unwind in nearby beautiful cities after a long and exhausting school week. The school is close to the likes of New York and Boston.

It’s given that, to be able to get into Yale University, you will need to have a high GPA, SAT, and ACT scores. However, according to the school’s admissions officers themselves, they take a look more than the numbers.

For instance, they admit to investigating if applicants took advantage of the opportunities that their high schools provided. They also have a soft spot for students who will make the most of their talents while at Yale University.

Columbia University

For 2020, Columbia University’s acceptance rate is 6.0% only. This is why it is the second to the hardest Ivy League school to go to. Despite being extremely picky when it comes to accepting applicants, many high school graduates are still trying their luck.

That’s because the school is in one of the greatest cities in the US and the rest of the world, too. It’s none other than New York City — the Big Apple!

This Ivy was founded in 1754, which makes it almost three centuries old. As a matter of fact, it is the oldest college in New York and the fifth oldest in the US. Back then, the school was known as King’s College. It became Columbia University after the American Revolution.

Do you want to have an increased chance of going to Columbia University? Well, you should be ready to impress with your incredibly high test scores. Based on the analysis of some SAT and ACT preparation experts, you need to have an SAT score that is close to 1,580.

On the other hand, you should have an ACT score of about 34. And by the way, they add that you should have a 4.13 GPA score.

However, as the case in many Ivy Leagues, the admissions officers of Columbia University are hard to please. They look for a bunch of other things than academic grades and standardized exam scores.

So if you want to be a certified Columbian one day, you will also need to excel in other stuff.

Harvard University

Last but not least, there’s Harvard University. It has always been known as the hardest Ivy League school to get into.

For 2020, it has an acceptance rate of 5.2% only. You will surely have to impress its admissions officers in a grand way if you want to spend your college years there.

By the way, it’s not just the hardest of the Ivies to go to. Harvard University is also the oldest Ivy around. It was founded way back in 1636, which is nearly 400 years ago!

If you are studying at Harvard University, it’s not just the school’s brightest students that you may come into contact with. You may also mingle with students from nearby premier universities.

They are Northeastern University, Boston University, Boston College, Tufts University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Do you have a fantastic performance in high school, as evidenced by your high grades and a stellar recommendation letter? Then you may be able to go to Harvard University. However, sky-high grades are not the only ones that the school’s admissions officers will be looking for.

According to the school’s website itself, many other factors will be considered as well. One of those is having merits in extracurricular activities — being the president or founder of a group is a huge plus.

You should also have stellar community involvement, character, and personal qualities. In other words, it’s a must that you can impress your grades, skills, talents, and personality to increase your chances of going to Harvard University.