Updated at: 16-03-2023 - By: Eden Wise


It’s natural to aspire to attend one of the Ivy League universities if you’ve got stellar academic credentials, strong standardized test scores, and a long list of extracurricular activities.

The Ivy League, a group of eight prestigious universities on the East Coast, includes institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Penn, and Cornell. While it’s true that attending an Ivy League school can improve your prospects, you shouldn’t limit your options just to Ivies.

Ivy League applications are at an all-time high, but top students are expanding their search to include other prestigious institutions in the United States. These schools are often just as selective and academically rigorous, preparing students for successful careers in fields like law, medicine, and business. In fact, 89% of Fortune 500 company chief executive officers did not graduate from an Ivy League institution. In this article, we will discuss the top non-Ivy League schools that you should consider applying to.

Best Non-Ivy League Schools

Best non ivy league schools

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 

Non-Ivy League schools cannot compete with MIT’s prestige. As stated on their website, MIT’s goal is to “advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.”

The university emphasizes experiential learning, equipping students with the skills they’ll need to solve problems in the real world with imagination and originality.

In the most recent admissions cycle, only 4.1% of all applicants were accepted into the school. Despite the stiff competition, if you’re interested in technology or engineering, MIT is a fantastic addition to your list of schools to apply to.

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Undergraduate enrollment at California Institute of Technology is just under 950. Caltech may be small in comparison to other universities, but don’t be fooled by its reputation: “Caltech is a world-renowned science and engineering institute that marshals some of the world’s brightest minds and most innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions and pressing societal challenges.”

Approximately 240 students are accepted each semester at Caltech because of the campus’s small size. The most recent application cycle for Caltech saw over 8,000 submissions but only 244 students accepted. Since no data on admitted students was provided, we can assume that Caltech has an acceptance rate of 3% (although this number is likely higher).

New York University (NYU) 

The campus of New York University can be found in the Manhattan section of New York City. The goal of New York University is to “serve as a model for global excellence in education and research.”

New York University takes a cue from its multicultural setting and embraces a similar ethos. According to the article, “with more international students and more students studying abroad than any other U.S. university,” the school is a frontrunner in international education.

Recent statistics show that New York University has an acceptance rate of 12.8% and a more diverse student body than ever before. Nearly a third of admitted students come from underrepresented groups, and nearly a fifth are from outside the United States.

NYU is the best northeastern university to attend if you want to broaden your horizons internationally or participate in a study abroad program.

John Hopkins University 

Johns Hopkins University, located in Baltimore, Maryland, is one of the top universities in the East along with Duke. A liberal arts college’s stated goal is to “educate its students and cultivate their capacity for lifelong learning, to foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world.”

One common misconception about Johns Hopkins is that it is primarily a school for future doctors. There are more than 50 undergraduate majors to choose from, so your options aren’t limited to just pre-med.

According to the profiles of their students’ classes, we learn that 38,513 people applied to Jon Hopkins in the most recent admissions cycle and 1,338 were accepted. The acceptance rate would be 3.5% if all admitted students enrolled, but it is likely higher than that because some students may decline or accept other offers.

Pre-med students in particular will benefit from attending Johns Hopkins University, but any student with an interest in science and research will do well there because it is the top university in the country in terms of total spending on R&D.



Just behind Princeton and Harvard on the national university rankings is MIT, which shares third place with Columbia. During the month of January, in addition to having access to state-of-the-art research facilities, MIT students can participate in the Independent Activities Program. While engineering is the most popular major at MIT, the school’s non-technical offerings, like those in political science and economics, are also highly regarded.

University of Chicago

Students often joke that “A hot dog might be a sandwich, and cereal might be a soup, but is a __ a __?” is the most famous of UChicago’s wacky supplemental essay questions. Students at the University of Chicago are encouraged to participate in research opportunities at the Argonne National Laboratory, the Marine Biological Laboratory, and the Giant Magellan Telescope, among other institutions. It’s true that the university’s science and technology offerings are among the best in the country, but that’s not all they’re known for. As a matter of fact, the University of Chicago features a highly regarded economics program among its more than fifty available majors. You won’t have to worry about feeling out of place because there are 400 student clubs to choose from.

Williams College

We won’t judge you if you haven’t heard of Williams College. Williams is one of the best non-Ivy League colleges in the country, and its academic offerings span from economics and political science to government and history, despite the school’s reputation as a liberal arts institution. Williams also employs the same tutorial system as Oxford and Cambridge, with sixty to seventy different courses available. Undergraduates can benefit from the personalized learning environment provided by these tutorials, which typically consist of a professor and two or three students. Williams students have access to a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities in Western Massachusetts, including hiking, canoeing, and cross-country skiing, during their free time.

Carleton College

Carleton is a small, rural college town in Minnesota where people are friendly and everyone is interested in learning. In order to make sense of the “interesting messiness of life,” the school emphasizes the liberal arts and promotes in-depth, interdisciplinary, and experiential education. It’s interesting to note that a former long-term employee who used to host students at her house for chocolate chip cookies gave her home to the college where students congregate to socialize and, with ingredients from the fully-stocked refrigerator, bake her beloved chocolate chip cookies and make bran, beer, or carrot muffins.

Duke University

Duke University

There are a total of 53 undergraduate majors and 52 minors available to Duke students.

In fact, the school provides a program called “Program II” for students who want to craft their own degree plans based on their unique interests.

In addition, each year 18 students are selected to take part in the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program.

The winners will receive a full ride scholarship for four years in addition to numerous other prestigious benefits.

Check out Duke’s acceptance rate and your admissions prospects.

California Institute of Technology

Caltech is a great option for students who want to major in science and work in that field.

The university’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the primary research facility for robotic space exploration in the United States. Furthermore, it provides students with numerous research opportunities both during the academic year and during the summer.

Although Caltech is most well-known for its academics, it also provides a wide range of extracurricular activities and student groups, including archery, karate, and Ultimate Frisbee.

Figure out if you stand a chance of getting into Caltech and what the acceptance rate is like.

Amherst College

Another top-tier liberal arts institution located in the Bay State is Amherst College.

Amherst, along with Northwestern and Stanford, is often referred to as a “Hidden Ivy” because of its reputation as one of the few elite universities to offer an open curriculum. That means you don’t have to worry about fulfilling any general education requirements.

Students at Amherst can also take advantage of the resources available at other member institutions of the Five Colleges consortium, such as Smith and the University of Massachusetts.

Amherst College is well-known for its generous need-blind, loan-free financial aid, which is guaranteed to meet each student’s full demonstrated need.

The average need-based award at this school is $54,715 and more than half of the students receive some form of financial aid.

Learn about the admissions requirements of Amherst University and figure out if you have a shot at getting in.

Colgate University

Colgate University

Colgate University’s stunning upstate New York campus provides students with ample opportunity to interact with faculty members, fostering their development as knowledgeable, intelligent, critical thinkers and perceptive leaders.

This school does not fit the mold of either a large research university or a small liberal arts college.

By the end of their second year, all Colgate underclassmen are expected to have completed a course in each of the five areas that make up the college’s core curriculum: the Ancient World, the Modern World, Communities and Identities, Scientific Perspectives on the World, and Global Engagements.

Get the facts about Colgate’s acceptance rate and your admissions prospects.

Grinnell College

At Grinnell, students consult with a member of the faculty to map out their scholastic futures. In this institution, this method is referred to as “Individually Advised Curriculum.”

There is only one required class, and it is a First-Year Tutorial, which is a small, writing-intensive, discussion-based class on topics like Kendrick Lamar, coping with climate change, and exploring the magical world of Calvin and Hobbes.

The institution is proud to attract inquisitive and bright students who will ask probing questions and test conventional wisdom.

Find out as much as you can about Grinnell College, including the admissions process and your odds of getting in.

Rice University

Not only is Rice University one of the best non-Ivy League schools in the United States, but it also ranks seventh in the country in terms of its resources, first in terms of its access to race/class interaction, and first in terms of its quality of life, according to the Princeton Review.

At Rice University, students are encouraged to think critically and take intellectual risks, and the institution hosts a number of prestigious research centers, institutes, and groups studying a wide range of topics, from the literature of the 16th century in England to bioengineering and the ethics of healthcare delivery.

The fact that Rice University has a long history of working with the one and only NASA is likely to pique the interest of many potential new students. Space City, USA is home to the university, and 14 of its faculty and alums have gone on to become astronauts.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University is rated as the ninth best university in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Northwestern is distinguished by its emphasis on diversity and inclusion within a community that values high-quality education and groundbreaking research.

Northwestern is proud to stress that there is no one-size-fits-all mentality on campus. Students currently enrolled and graduates of the institution serve as living examples of the school’s guiding philosophy.

Numerous prominent people have graduated from this institution, some of whom are astronauts, Pulitzer Prize winners, jazz composers, and judges on the United States District Court. It is the common desire to work hard and make extraordinary contributions that unites Northwestern’s widely varied student body, faculty, and alums.

Stanford University

U.S. News & World Report ranks Stanford University at #6 overall, making it one of the world’s most desirable universities. For over 125 years, Stanford University has been at the forefront of fostering innovation in the academic world, preparing its students to assume positions of leadership in a constantly evolving global community.

The current faculty at Stanford University includes 19 Nobel Laureates, 4 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 2 Presidential Medal of Freedom winners. Notable people from all walks of life have called Stanford University home, including Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, actress and producer Reese Witherspoon, and Yahoo! Inc. co-founder and former CEO Jerry Yang.


What is the Best Non-Ivy League School on the East Coast? 

Among the east coast’s universities, MIT is widely considered to be the best that is not part of the Ivy League.

Should I Apply Through Early Decision or Early Action to Non-Ivies? 

When you decide to submit your college application is entirely up to you. You should consider applying for early decision or action if your top school of choice is also one where you feel you can submit a competitive application by the deadline.

Early applications demonstrate to schools that the applicant is committed to attending if admitted; as a result, early decision acceptance rates are typically higher than regular decision acceptance rates. It’s possible, though, that students typically submit strong applications, which accounts for the higher acceptance rates.


Feel free to expand your search for excellent universities beyond the Ivy League. Top notch alternatives to Ivy League universities include the best schools outside of the United States. These non-Ivy institutions give you more freedom to choose your own courses, conduct research on a topic that interests you, and study abroad.

Inquire about as many potential destinations and educational establishments as you like until you find the one that best fits your needs and career aspirations. With this information in hand, you’ll be able to select the best non-Ivy school for you.