How To Get Into An Ivy League School? The Essential Guide - Crimson Education CA (2023)

Getting into one of the Ivy League schools almost seems like a dream. Who really gets that coveted acceptance letter? If you’ve always dreamed of attending one of the Ivies, but you don’t have perfect test scores, excellent grades, dozens of extracurriculars, and a stand-out essay, you’re in luck!. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Ivy League admissions. This blog will go over key requirements, what you need to submit, and six ways to make your Ivy League application stand out from the rest!

How hard is it to get into an Ivy League school?

The schools in the Ivy League are notoriously difficult to get into, even more so in the last couple of years. Harvard and Princeton continue to top the list with acceptance rates as low as 3.19%. The Class of 2027 acceptance numbers at all eight Ivies were some of the lowest in history. You can find out your chances of acceptance with our free college admissions calculator!

Ivy League Class of 2027 Acceptance Rate
IviesRegular Acceptance RateEarly Acceptance Rate
U Penn4.1%15%

How Ayaka Got Into Brown University

Will applying early boost your chances of acceptance?

Comparing the acceptance rate numbers between regular decisions and early decisions, the Ivies seem much more attainable. While no proof applying in the early decision round will tremendously increase your chances of getting into an Ivy, showing interest in specific universities early on will definitely help you.

Ivy League universities want to feel special, and one of the only ways to make them feel special is to apply early. If you are sure you want to go to an Ivy League, apply early but keep in mind that early decision applications are binding. If you get in, you have to go.

What is the easiest Ivy League to get into?

While it's debatable which Ivy League is the easiest to get into, comparing acceptance rates of Ivy League Schools is the simplest way to figure this out. According to the table above, Cornell is the easiest Ivy League schools to get into, with the highest acceptance rates for the class of 2027.

(Video) How to get into Ivy League Colleges | 2023 College Admissions Explained

Key Components of Ivy League Applications

The critical components of your Ivy League application include:

  • Academic performance (grades)
  • Test scores
  • Personal essays
  • Extracurriculars
  • Recommendation letters

1. Academic Performance

Ivy League schools expect you to have outstanding grades, and it’s practically a prerequisite to applying. Unless you’ve experienced an extreme illness or a life-changing experience, Ivy League schools expect you to have a good GPA of at least 4.0.

Tip: Choose Coursework Wisely

When you take a holistic approach to your application, it’s still important to choose courses that challenge you academically and personally. But, keep in mind that if your strengths are math and science, you may not be an exceptional English scholar. It’s better to take AP, Honors, or IB courses that showcase and define your passions than struggle through one that lowers your GPA and doesn’t help your overall objective.

While grades are important, they don’t tell everything about you. Don’t focus so much on grades that you neglect the other pieces of the puzzle.

Average GPA for Ivy League Schools
IviesAverage GPA
Brown University4.08
Columbia University4.16
Cornell University4.04
Dartmouth College4.06
Harvard University4.1
University of Pennsylvania3.93
Princeton University3.9
Yale University4.19

Use our GPA Calculator to find out what your High School GPA is and see where you currently stand!

2. Test Scores

SAT and ACT scores matter, but not as much as you think. Students who get accepted into Ivy League schools have very high test scores, but most are far from perfect. Only 300-500 students who take the SAT score 1600.

Tip: Submit your SAT/ACT scores

Many universities are also going test-optional, meaning you may choose not to submit test scores. While skipping the tests may seem enticing, remember this means the rest of your application needs to shine. Submitting your test scores is an excellent way to stand out in your application.

Average SAT/ACT Score for Ivy League Schools
UniversityAverage Composite SAT ScoreAverage Composite ACT Score
Brown University151533-35
Columbia University152033-35
Cornell University150532-35
Dartmouth College150032-35
Harvard University153033-35
University of Pennsylvania152533-35
Princeton University151533-35
Yale University153033-35

3. Personal Essays

The personal essay is just that - personal. A well-written essay can capture the authenticity of an applicant better than any other part of the Ivy League college application. Students can communicate personal motivations, share more about their passions, showcase leadership qualities, and build trust through a personal essay.

A personal essay also helps admission officers determine if you’re a good fit for their campus community. They want to know that you not only care about your goals but are also capable of furthering the university’s mission.

(Video) Top 10 Colleges that are NOT in the Ivy League in the U.S.

Tip: Check out our free eBooks on acing your personal essay

  • How to write the perfect personal statement
  • Everything you need to know about US application supplemental essays
  • 23 successful essays by Crimson students who got into the Ivy League!

4. Extracurriculars

Strong extracurriculars are critical if you want to get into the Ivy League. Ivy Leagues are not looking for applicants who have participated in dozens of extracurriculars, and they discourage dabbling in many activities. They prefer you dig deep into a subject, dedicate significant time to it, and use this experience to help the school propel you into a world-changing career.

Tip: Find an extracurricular activity that showcases your passion

Remember, it’s ok if your extracurriculars change later. Show them you’re capable of achieving big things now because what you accomplish now is a good indicator of what you will do in the future.

Check out the table below for some awesome extracurricular ideas that will stand out in your Ivy League application.

Extracurricular Ideas for Ivy League Schools
Extracurricular Examples
Science- Participate in original research at a local college- Compete in the Science Bowl or the Science Olympiad
Arts- Find a national level art competition and rank well- Win speech/debate competitions
Writing- Publish a book- Start a writing club and critique each other’s work
Tech- Create and sell a successful app- Start and successfully run a coding business for young people in your community
Athlete- Be the captain of your sports team- Compete at a national level
Business- Start a club or non-profit and raise awareness using social media or Kickstarter- Raise awareness for an important cause and help people in a quantifiable way
Hobbies- Start a YouTube channel and gain a large following- Mentor others in your hobby

For more extracurricular ideas, download one of our free eBooks to help you build your extracurricular profile!

  • How to Build an Extracurricular Profile for US Universities
  • 15 Successful Activities Lists for students who got into Ivy Leagues

Extracurriculars Around the World

5. Letters of Recommendation

Recommendation letters help build your holistic application by allowing influential people in your life to give their personal and professional opinions about your academic performance, character and drive. If you want to receive favorable and convincing recommendations, establish strong relationships with teachers, key staff, and leaders of your extracurricular activities.

Tip: Ask a school teacher that knows you well for a recommendation letter

The best way to ask for a recommendation letter is to request in person. Doing so allows your teacher to talk with you about any questions and prepare themselves to write a detailed letter that showcases your strengths in an academic setting.

Read more about how to ask for a recommendation letter or watch the video below for more tips!

5 Tips for Getting the Best Letters of Recommendation

(Video) Sciencious | Student Extracurricular Profile

What are Ivy League Schools Looking for in your Application?

While exceptional credentials don’t hurt candidates, it might come as a surprise that Ivy League universities are not looking for perfect students or even someone who looks perfect on paper. They’re also not looking for well-rounded students. The application pile is filled with students who participate in everything but don’t shine at anything.

Ivy League schools are looking for world changers

Ivy League schools are looking for people who stick out from the crowd, experts in their area of interest. They're searching for students who have transformed their big dreams into even bigger realities. Ivy League colleges want world-changers who are making positive marks on society with their resources.

World-changers drive change. They know what they want and go for it. They also know success doesn't happen overnight. Ivy League universities like to see growth, even if it means failing before succeeding.

Ivy Leagues are also looking for world-changers who can positively contribute to their university community. They’re looking for humble leaders who will bring accomplishment and recognition to the school and those who are willing to share their knowledge to help fellow students accomplish their goals.

How Crimson student Dasha got into Columbia University!

Our 6 Tips for Standing out in your Ivy League Application

Selection committees review thousands of student applications with high SAT scores, perfect GPAs, and countless AP courses. Even your deep passion for extracurriculars alone won’t get you into an Ivy League school. You have to stand out from the rest. Here are some tips on how to stand out in your Ivy application.

1. Take a holistic approach

Show the admissions committee you’re not one-dimensional. Highlight your strengths throughout your application.

2. Clearly define your goals

Use your grades, test scores, letters of recommendation, and essay to complement your present and future career goals.

3. Take challenging courses that inspire you

If you take difficult courses that inspire you and may lead to future goals, academic committees may favor a B in that course over an A in an uninspiring easy one.

4. Choose leadership positions

Choose one or two extracurricular activities and aim for leadership positions. Ivies love to see you strive toward leadership roles and how you challenge yourself in those roles.

5. Don’t be afraid of your challenges

It’s ok to make mistakes. Your application should show you’re a relatable person who’s driven, has experienced and overcame challenges, and is ready to make a positive imprint on the world.

6. Come alive on paper

It’s easy to think the admissions committee is looking for a specific type of applicant. If you fall into the trap that you have to be someone you’re not, you’ll miss the opportunity to showcase who you are and what makes you unique. Tell your story and why the school would be crazy not to admit you.

(Video) A Glimpse of the Admissions Process

Caution: Don’t try and fit into their mold

While the Ivy Leagues all share similar entrance objectives, their cultures and learning styles are not the same. Many applicants fail to get into certain Ivy League schools because they try to fit the university’s mold instead of finding one that fits their values and goals.

  • Do your research. Which college excites you?
  • Does it offer programs and classes that will challenge you and help you grow?
  • What’s the campus like?
  • Do you prefer a college in a large city or a suburb?

Communicate your answers throughout your application, and your passion for your dream school (or schools) will shine.

How Crimson Pathfinder can help you get into Ivy League Schools

Crimson recently released Pathfinder - a comprehensive in-app tool that not only helps you stay on track but helps you quantify the value of activities you do in preparation to apply to Ivy League schools.

Contained within the Crimson app, Pathfinder is a master list of everything you can do during high school to increase your chances of admission to top US universities. Pathfinder includes over 280 goals, each with an assigned point value based on how much admissions officers will value that achievement.

Pathfinder ensures you stay on track between now and when you apply to college. It accurately predicts your admission results (based on your achievements) with unbelievable accuracy. Combined with guidance from your personalized strategist, you’ll become a master of your college applications.

Crimson’s U.S. Pathfinder — Student Introduction

Pathfinder is a groundbreaking tool designed exclusively for Crimson Education’s students. Check out the Crimson Pathfinder introduction video to learn more about this innovative and exciting new tool.

Getting into Ivy League schools can be an incredibly difficult process. Our college counselors are here to help you! Book in a free consultation to learn more about our US College Application Support program, Pathfinder, or any other questions you may have!

What makes Crimson different?

Key Resources & Further Reading

  • Join our free webinars on college applications
  • Free eBooks and guides to help with the college application process
  • What are Ivy League Schools?
  • What is the best Ivy League School in 2022?
  • Benefits of an Ivy League Education
  • Ivy League Class of 2026 Acceptance Rate


How To Get Into An Ivy League School? The Essential Guide - Crimson Education CA? ›

Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.

What is the easiest Ivy League school to get into? ›

Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.

How do I get my child into Ivy League school? ›

Preparation well before their senior year can help them eventually submit a stellar college application ready to be well-received by whichever school they hope to attend.
  1. Focus and Develop Interests. ...
  2. Encourage Them to Boost Their GPA. ...
  3. Prepare for Standardized Tests. ...
  4. Research Specific Schools. ...
  5. Focus on the Essays.

How can I increase my chances of getting into the Ivy League? ›

6 Tips for Getting Accepted to an Ivy League School
  1. Be sure to have good grades and test scores. ...
  2. Try not to be late – apply early. ...
  3. Come up with an exceptional personal statement. ...
  4. Demonstrate True Depth in Your Extracurricular Activities. ...
  5. Create a well-thought-out high school curriculum. ...
  6. Do well in your interview.

What GPA do you need for Ivy League colleges? ›

However, for college applicants, the average GPA is more likely between 3.5 and 4.0. If you're aiming for a top university such as one in the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, or others of the same caliber, a 4.0 GPA — or close to it — is expected.

Will one C ruin my chances of Ivy League? ›

While receiving a “C” will impact your GPA, it will certainly not ruin it. That “C” won't ruin your chances of getting into college either.

What is the lowest GPA ever accepted Ivy League? ›

And maybe, you can get into a top tier college with a low GPA. We've always stated that the lowest GPA student we've ever helped get into an Ivy League school had a 3.3 unweighted GPA. And we're not saying that we could get anyone in with a 3.3 GPA. But it has happened before – and the student was Asian American too.

Are parents paying consultants $750000 to get their kids into Ivy League schools? ›

Parents are paying up to $750,000 on consultants to assist their kids in getting accepted for Ivy League colleges. Parents are trying to get their kids into Ivy League colleges by reportedly paying up to $750,000 to consultants for assistance. It was reported that this signifies a rise in demand for consultants.

Do Ivy Leagues look at 12th grade? ›

Your recent grades also matter more than grades for earlier years, so your courses and grades in grade 11 and grade 12 are of utmost importance. Ivy League schools will also ask for your mid-year grades report, so make sure you keep your performance consistently good amidst your application.

What are Ivy League schools looking for in a student? ›

1. Academic Performance. Ivy League schools expect you to have outstanding grades, and it's practically a prerequisite to applying. Unless you've experienced an extreme illness or a life-changing experience, Ivy League schools expect you to have a good GPA of at least 4.0.

What is the most accepting Ivy League? ›

Recent data shows Cornell University is the Ivy League school with the highest acceptance rate.

How many AP classes should I take? ›

This is when you should start taking your AP core classes. Take 3 to 5 if you are aiming for a highly selective school, and 2 to 4 if you are aiming elsewhere. Note that many students describe this year as significantly harder than past ones. And you'll also likely be taking your standardized tests.

What is the highest accepting Ivy League school? ›

Cornell University is the Ivy League school that receives the most applications each year, and it's not surprising since they also have the highest acceptance rate. They received 67,380 applications for their class of 2025.

What is the lowest GPA to get into Harvard? ›

You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application. We'll cover those details next.

Can I get into Harvard with 2 B's? ›

Does Harvard Accept B Students? Yes, just like I mentioned above, it's completely possible to get admitted into Harvard University with B grades.

Do Ivy Leagues accept average students? ›

Can an average student get into Ivy League? While it can be challenging for an average student to get into an Ivy League school, it is not impossible. The admissions process for Ivy League schools is highly selective.

Do Ivy Leagues accept one B? ›

An Ivy League school might accept a student who had all As and one or two Bs in the highest-level classes, but it probably wouldn't accept a student who had flawless grades in all mid- or low-level classes. These schools are looking for students who are up for an intellectual challenge and genuinely enjoy learning.

Will one B ruin a 4.0 GPA high school? ›

1 B on your HS senior mid-year report will not affect your admissions results. I think a C or D would raise a yellow/red flag but not a singular B.

How bad will one C hurt my GPA? ›

One C in your transcript will not greatly impact your GPA and if it is a rare occurrence some colleges will just consider it a fluke. Colleges will probably look past it if that is the only class you've ever really struggled with as reflected per your grades.

What is the lowest Ivy SAT? ›

Ideal ACT/SAT Scores for Ivy League School Applications

The minimum SAT score to get into an Ivy League school ranges from 690 to 730 for the reading section and from 700 to 730 for the math section. Getting 700 or 710 (or higher) on both of these sections will give you an advantage at most Ivy League universities.

What is a solid C GPA? ›

Common examples of grade conversion are: A+ (97–100), A (93–96), A- (90–92), B+ (87–89), B (83–86), B- (80–82), C+ (77–79), C (73–76), C- (70–72), D+ (67–69), D (65–66), D- (below 65).

What is the lowest grade Harvard accepts? ›

After being admitted with a 3.0 or higher grade-point average (GPA), you must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 to be considered in good academic standing. If your GPA falls below 2.0, you are in poor academic standing.

What high school sends most kids to Harvard? ›

AUSTIN (Austin Business Journal) — The public Texas high school that sends the most students to Harvard, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is right here in Austin. Westlake ranked No. 4 in the entire state for the number of students who matriculated to those elite East Coast universities and No.

Which Ivy has the richest students? ›

Harvard University

As one of the most prestigious universities in the world, it comes as no surprise that Harvard has a student body that is among the wealthiest in the country. Many of the students at Harvard come from families with significant wealth and influence, and many go on to become leaders in their fields.

How to get free tuition in Ivy League schools? ›

Just like Princeton, if your family makes less than $75,000 a year, you can get a free college education, including room, board and fees. Families earning between $75,000 and $150,000 are expected to contribute between 0% and 10% of their income toward a child's education.

How many AP classes do Ivy League students take? ›

Ivy League

To be a competitive candidate for admission, you will need to take at least 8 AP® classes, more if you can. It is a good idea to take 1 AP® course in each of the following core disciplines: English, Foreign Language, History, Math, and Science to impress the admissions officers.

Can you get into Yale with B's? ›

For example, at Yale a whopping 96% of students graduated in the top 10% of their high school class. If you have a few B's and are still at the top of your class, you remain in a strong position!

What years do Ivy Leagues look at? ›

Ivy League universities (and most universities, for that matter) consider student accomplishments from the ninth to 12th grades.

What is the hardest Ivy academically? ›

Harvard University

The most challenging Ivy League school to get into is Harvard, established in 1636 and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to Harvard Admissions, only 2,008 out of 43,330 candidates were accepted to the college.

What is the smartest Ivy League? ›

Ivy League Schools Ranked 2023
IviesCrimson RankingQS World Ranking
U Penn413
4 more rows
Feb 28, 2023

What is a crimson student? ›

Crimson students are guided by Former Admissions Officers, Ivy League and other top school graduates to assure the highest level of personalization and success. This is why 98% of our students gain admission to at least one of their Top 5 school choices.

Is it OK to only take 3 AP classes? ›

Take as many as you can handle without spreading yourself thin, and make sure you will have time to study for the ACT or SAT this year. An Ivy League hopeful might take 3 to 5 AP classes, while if you're aiming for less-selective schools, 2 to 4 would be enough.

Are B's in AP classes good? ›

This is because a "B" in an AP class demonstrates that the student was able to handle a high level of coursework and achieve a good grade in a challenging environment.

Who accepted 8 Ivy League schools? ›

Ashley Adirika applied not to one, but to all eight Ivy League schools her senior year of high school. Adirika told CNN that when Ivy Day finally came around on March 31, she sat at her computer with a tab open for each school.

What percentage of Ivy League students went to private school? ›

Although private school students made up only 8.5% of American students in 9-12th grades in 2019, they accounted for almost 40% of the incoming freshmen classes of 2025 at Harvard and Yale, and over 40% of the class of 2026 at Dartmouth.

Is a 6.0 GPA good for Harvard? ›

Maintain a GPA of at least a 4.18.

Does Harvard accept 4.7 GPA? ›

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 4.18, Harvard requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants.

What GPA is required for UCLA? ›

GPA and test scores of middle 25%-75% students
High School GPA4.18 - 4.32
ACT Composite Score29 - 32
ACT English Language Arts30 - 35
SAT Evidence Based Reading & Writing670 - 760
2 more rows

What kind of students does Harvard look for? ›

In our admissions process, we give careful, individual attention to each applicant. We seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors—individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond.

Can you get into Harvard with C? ›

There are people who have been accepted with C's on their transcripts and lower GPAs. You could certainly give Harvard a shot, but since its a tough school for almost anyone to get into, make sure to prioritize your applications to safety and target schools.

Do average students get into Harvard? ›

Yes, Harvard accepts some really accomplished students but they also take kids who are just nice, hardworking kids. The old adage is that your chances of getting in are much higher if you apply. Definitely apply because you never know what'll happen!

What is the easiest little ivy to get into? ›

Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.

What is the hardest non Ivy League school to get into? ›

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College, in Claremont, California, has a 13% acceptance rate.

Can a 3.7 GPA get you into Ivy League? ›

Yes, you can get into an Ivy League with a 3.7 GPA. Though, the lower your grade, the less your chances of getting into an Ivy League, but with a strong personal statement and a properly packaged application, you can get in with a grade even less than 3.7 GPA.

Which Ivy League has the highest acceptance rate? ›

Cornell University is the Ivy League school that receives the most applications each year, and it's not surprising since they also have the highest acceptance rate. They received 67,380 applications for their class of 2025.

What is the #1 hardest college to get into? ›

Niche, a ranking and review site, recently published its list of the “2023 Hardest Colleges to Get Into.” Using data from the U.S. Department of Education on various colleges' acceptance rates and SAT/ACT scores, they found, unsurprisingly, Harvard University to be the most difficult college to get into.

Is it possible to get a 5.0 GPA? ›

Students in an AP class with weighted grading receive a five-point weighted average for each of the four-letter grades: As, Bs, Cs, and Ds. As a result, a student who only takes AP classes and receives A's will have a 5.0 GPA.

Does Harvard kick out bottom 2% GPA? ›

If your GPA falls below 2.0, you are in poor academic standing. If you remain in poor academic standing for the following two terms, you are required to withdraw from the degree program. Your transcript will reflect this new status: RW (required to withdraw).

What is the lowest GPA UCLA will accept? ›

At a minimum, you must earn a 3.0 GPA or better (3.4 for nonresidents) in all college preparatory courses. No grades can be lower than a C.


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