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Ivy League Acceptance Rates: What You’re Up Against

Updated: June 5, 2024 | Published: April 8, 2021

Updated: June 5, 2024

Published: April 8, 2021

Ivy League Acceptance Rates What You're Up Against

Thousands of students each year submit applications to the Ivy League schools: Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, Penn, and Columbia. However, despite a large number of applicants, only a handful are accepted.

For the class of 2023, Ivy League acceptance rates hovered around 6.7%, making the chances of being accepted to one of these prestigious eight schools very low.

If you’re planning on applying to an Ivy League school, then it’s important to know what you’re up against. Knowing the statistics before applying can help you prepare an application to stand out, and also curb your expectations.

Here, we’ll go over the Ivy League admission stats, main takeaways, and how to improve your chances of being accepted. Keep reading to find out more about acceptance rates and about your competition.

Ivy League university student

What Is an Ivy League School?

If you’re not already familiar with the term “Ivy League school,” then you may be wondering what sets the eight Ivy League universities apart from the rest. The answer may surprise you.

Most people associate the eight Ivy League schools with a higher level of academic prestige. They’re also known as being incredibly difficult to get into and have long lists of famous academics who attended their institutions.

However, while each of these schools have important academic histories, the reason they are grouped together and named the “Ivy League” actually has nothing to do with academics. The term was originally coined in 1954 and was meant to denote a group of schools that belonged to a specific athletic conference.

That’s right, schools were considered Ivy League because of sports.

While the athletic rivalries exist between schools even to this day, the Ivy League has now become more associated with academic excellence and exclusivity rather than mere athletic competition.

Ivy League Acceptance Rates: Class of 2024

The most recent class to be accepted to Ivy League universities saw a slight increase in accepted applications from the previous year. Despite the uptick, the numbers still remain very competitive.

Here’s the breakdown of Ivy League acceptance rates in 2024:

  1. Harvard: 4.9%
  2. Yale: 6.5%
  3. Brown: 6.9%
  4. Cornell: not yet announced
  5. Dartmouth: 8.8%
  6. Princeton: 5.6%
  7. Penn: 8.1%
  8. Columbia: 6.1%

These numbers are still not yet finalized, but some speculate that the slight increase in acceptance rates can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the general uncertainty during the outbreak.

Higher Acceptance Rates Among Early Applicants

It’s no secret that students who apply earlier to both Ivy League schools and other universities tend to get accepted at higher rates than those who don’t. Therefore, if you’re planning to apply to an Ivy League school, sending in your application early can increase your chances.

For example, Harvard accepted 13.9% of early applicants for the graduating class of 2024 even though the overall acceptance rate was only 4.9%. The pattern is similar for early applicants at all the Ivy Leagues:

It’s clear to see from the early application acceptance rates compared with the regular application rates that applying early is in your best interest. By applying early, you show that you’re determined and interested in the school, traits that the Ivy Leagues appreciate.

That being said, it’s also important to take into account that the early applicants are often the stronger applicants, so it makes sense that they are accepted at a higher rate.

Ivy League Acceptance Rate Takeaways

Simply looking at numbers and statistics is one thing, but it’s important to be able to read the numbers and make logical deductions. Here are some of the main takeaways of the Ivy League schools’ acceptance rates.

The “Big Three” Are Still The Hardest To Get Into

Even within the Ivy League schools, there are a few universities that still remain more competitive than others. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, considered to be the “BIg Three,” are the most difficult schools to get accepted to, and that trend has remained the same over the years.

Getting Accepted is Still Very Difficult

Regardless of which of the eight schools you plan on applying to, one thing still remains true: it’s incredibly difficult to get accepted to an Ivy League school.

Remember that thousands of other students, who have equally good grades, are also applying for a coveted spot. While it’s not impossible, the average 6.7% acceptance rate means you probably shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket and send some applications elsewhere too.

Applying Early Can Increase Your Chances

The early bird gets the worm. In this case, the worm in question might be Harvard or Columbia. Applying early is your best option if you’re set on attending an Ivy League university.

While it’s still very competitive, your chances are slightly better in the earlier round. Don’t delay getting your application together and be sure to get yourself a spot in the first pool of candidates.

The Easiest Ivy League to Get Into

If you’re asking yourself what the easiest Ivy League school to get into is, then take a look at the average acceptance rates for each school. In general, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Penn have higher acceptance rates than the rest. You have a better chance of being admitted to these schools, so if you’re unsure about getting into any of the Big Three, make sure that your applications to these schools are very strong.

Strategies to Increase Your Chances of Getting In

Don’t be too intimidated by the low acceptance rates. Aside from just applying early, there are still some constructive steps you can take in order to increase your chances of getting into an Ivy League school.

Student studying to get accepted to Ivy League school

Improve Your Grades

This seems obvious, but boosting your grades remains the best way to increase your chances of acceptance.

In 2023, the average Ivy League GPA of admitted students in all eight schools was between 3.85-4.18. While there is no minimum GPA to apply, it stands to reason that the higher your grades, the higher your chances will be of getting accepted. Focus your efforts on your education in the years leading up to college, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting into the school you want.

SAT Prep

Many students find standardized testing to be very stressful. However, if you prepare in advance and ace your SAT or ACT tests, you can pave the way for your admission to an Ivy League school. It’s worth looking into SAT prep courses in the months leading up to your exam date. There are plenty of tips and tricks you can learn in a course that will make you a lot more prepared, and most importantly, calm when taking your exam.


Ivy League schools are looking for applicants with strong extracurriculars. Whether it’s sports, a spot on your school newspaper, or a regular volunteer position, extracurriculars can enrich your application and make you a more desirable candidate even if you don’t have perfect grades. Ivy Leagues want students who can demonstrate passion and dedication, and you can demonstrate these qualities by highlighting your extracurricular achievements.

Admission Essay

Don’t leave your admission essay to the last minute. Ivy League schools are looking for essays that show a high level of thought and attention to detail.

Admission offices will look at your grades to understand your academic history, but your essay is where you get to show your personality and who you are behind your grades. Make sure your essay is personable, honest, and reflective.

It’s a good idea to get someone you trust, like a family member or teacher, look over your essay so you can get some input before submitting it.

Good Recommendations

Finally, you want to complete your application with glowing recommendations. Most Ivy Leagues will require recommendation letters from your teachers, so be sure to get in their good graces in the months and even years leading up to applying for college.

It’s best to choose teachers in different fields so that they can each highlight different skills of yours.

Furthermore, you want to ask your teachers for letters at least 2 months in advance. There are probably other students who will also ask them for letters, so make sure you ask early to give yourself plenty of time to collect everything and submit your application on time.

To Wrap Up

Even if you don’t get into an Ivy League school, don’t be discouraged. The Ivy League acceptance rates are very competitive, and getting rejected doesn’t mean you’re a bad student.

Along with applying to Ivy Leagues, you should also be applying to other universities as well. Look at your options at local schools, international schools, and even remote learning schools like the University of the People. You can still get a good education, often at a fraction of the price.

At the University of the People, we offer quality tuition-free education with a much simpler admission process, so you can still learn what you want without worrying about incurring debt like you would at an Ivy League university.