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While the name Ivy League refers to a collegiate athletics league in the US, over time this group of schools has become synonymous with academic excellence. With some of the most prestigious and competitive universities in the world among its members, the Ivy League is comprised of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Dartmouth, and Cornell.

Students who apply to Ivy League colleges also apply to similar-caliber universities like Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Duke, and more. As such, these schools are commonly referred to as the Ivy League+

Chances of admission to these schools may fall as low as 2.4%. Getting into these schools will require more than just excellent grades and a well-rounded profile.

So, what does it take?

List of Ivy League Schools & their rankings

The Ivy League schools ranking are based on U.S. News’ National University ranks (September 2022).

NameNational University Ranking
Princeton University1
Harvard University3 (tie)
Yale University3 (tie)
University of Pennsylvania7 (tie)
Dartmouth College12
Brown University13 (tie)
Cornell University17
Columbia University18 (tie)

Ivy League Admissions Facts

Acceptance rates to these schools range from just 2.4% for Harvard’s Class of 2022 Regular Decision round to 10.3% at Cornell, making them amongst the most competitive institutions to enter. With almost 43,000 students applying to Harvard in any given year, what does it take for a candidate to stand out?

Academic Qualifications

Perfect grades and test scores alone are not enough to gain admission in these top schools, but neither is a lack of them an automatic disqualifier. Though top US colleges practice “holistic admissions” without strict testing or grade cut-offs, academic qualifications are still the first indicators that a candidate has a chance. 

Anything less than straight As on A Levels, a 38-39 in the IB, or a 3.7 GPA is a liability. For example, the average GPA of incoming students at Princeton is 3.84 out of 4.0, and almost 93% of incoming students at Stanford and Harvard have at least a 3.75 GPA. Typically, this means that applicants need to be the top of their class: 97% of MIT freshman graduated as top 10th percentile in their cohorts.

Applicants are also required to take standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT to be eligible to apply. Out of 1600, the 25th to 75th percentiles of SAT scores are 1460 to 1590 at Harvard, 1420 to 1560 at University of Pennsylvania, and 1420 to 1590 at Yale. Similarly, for the ACT, they are 32 to 35 out of 36 for all the aforementioned universities.

Lastly, two SAT Subject tests, though sometimes optional, are all highly recommended at top schools. Especially for international students, they demonstrate subject-area expertise on a standard scale against domestic applicants.\


Ivy League colleges are institutions where a student with a 4.0/4.0 GPA and a 1600/1600 SAT score might still receive a rejection letter. The holistic admissions process means that applicants need to show they are more than just smart test takers – that they have the personal and leadership qualities to thrive at an Ivy League school. 

The ideal Ivy League admit would be able to demonstrate continuous, engaged, and committed involvement in clubs, societies, and/or extracurricular activities. Often, students will excel across multiple areas – sports, science clubs, debate societies, community service, or others.

Universities like Columbia and Harvard also expect to grow the future leaders of the world. Casual membership in school extracurriculars does not make the cut – successful applicants often hold more than one leadership role in their clubs or school communities. 

Finally, students are encouraged to demonstrate their independence and passions outside of assigned work. Volunteering, personal business ventures, independent research projects, and charity work help applicants stand out and verify their potential to become changemakers who take matters into their own hands.

Ideal Application Timeline

Getting into an Ivy League college requires a multi-year plan. The earlier you start, the better.

9th & 10th Grade

Create a 4-year high school plan. Think about what you’d like to achieve in high school and meet with your consultant to make sure you’re taking the best classes for your goal. Think about what you’d like to achieve outside the classroom too. What kind of voluntary work and paid job experiences are you interested in? What are your interests? Gear your interests toward exploring extracurricular activities in your school. Start investigating the PSAT & SAT.

11th Grade

Take the SAT and/or the ACT. Maintain a good set of extracurricular activities and start polishing your communication skills. Do you have good leadership skills? How do you perform in group settings? Take on new roles and become more involved in community service projects and other volunteer opportunities that interest you most. Now is also the time to keep up with your reading and practice writing. It will help you in writing a promising college essay. Start your college search by making a list of factors that are important to you, and start creating a list of colleges. Reach out to those colleges to request for more information on their academics, programs, and activities that interest you. Utilize your summer holidays by writing initial drafts of your college essay.

Senior Year

Take an SAT/ACT and any SAT subject tests if required. By the start of your senior year, you should decide if you will be applying to colleges for early decision/early action. Create a Common App profile and start adding colleges to your dashboard. Meet with your counselor and other teachers who will write your letters of recommendations and give them a heads up. Start polishing your college essays and complete writing any supplementary essays. Keep track of deadlines: are you applying to early decision/action schools? What are the deadlines for regular decision? If you are applying for financial aid, keep track of FAFSA/CSS profile deadlines. Keep your grades up even after you have finished submitting your college applications.

Successful Applicant Profile Example

This profile is based off a real applicant who have gotten into the Ivy League. Do not use this as a reference for your application profile, but rather, think of it as an inspiration in terms of profile quality.

The student’s details have been changed to protect their privacy.


UPenn - Biomedicine


  • GCSEs – 12A*s and 1A
  • A levels – 4 As
  • SAT – 1580


Ace was a natural leader and actively involved in all school activities. Not only was he the Deputy Head Boy but worked on the organising committee of numerous school events like TEDx, MUN and even a charity Debating Tournament to name some.

Comments: The leadership experience helps the student stand out as someone committed to improving the community and making a difference. It is also a way to reflect that he would be an active part of the college community as they look for the future leaders.

Community service

An aspiring doctor, Ace was passionate about making a difference in reducing the inequality in the quality of healthcare people received. As such, he initiated and participated in fundraising events to raise money for terminally ill children and education for the children in underprivileged communities that he was from. He liaised with non-profit organisations in and outside his city in his effort to make change. His favourite activity was arranging the meals for security guards in his neighbourhood and the construction workers in the city. It was his way of showing appreciation for these silent and often overlooked architects of our cities.

Comments: Volunteering and community service are crucial components of any student’s profile. However, what helps Ace stand out is how he has chosen to make a difference to the people who matter to him. The meal distribution for the guards in his society is unique and demonstrates a student who cares about those around him.


Ace picked up debating towards the end of middle school and participated actively throughout high school. He also went on to participate in numerous World Scholar’s Cup Debating Championships winning a range of awards.

Comments: Admissions officers love students who have areas of excellence that they continue to develop.


We’re not too sure how he managed to find the time to earn the Silver for the Duke of Edinburgh award and still be on the school volleyball and football teams. When he wasn’t playing, he took the opportunity to referee in the inter-school tournaments.

Comments: Taking part in team sports and competing definitely demonstrates the holistic profile that colleges love.

X factor

Insatiable curiosity and desire to read. A self-proclaimed bibliophile, Ace had loved reading since childhood and devoured books. Right from journals on cancer research to feminist writing and historical fiction, he loves reading. This also inspired him to study French in GCSEs and eventually take DELF exams.

Comments: This helps Ace stand out. There are very few students who ace the sciences and also speak passionately about Jane Austen, JB Priestley and the lyrical genius of Post Malone.

Get Into Ivy League Colleges With Prep Zone Academy

Given the competitive and holistic nature of Ivy League school admissions processes, it is easy to become overwhelmed and confused about how to proceed with an application.

Prep Zone Academy’s Ivy League Consultants can definitely help to simplify this process and improve your admissions chance to these top colleges.

At Prep Zone, our comprehensive package’s unlimited structure allows us to dedicate the time necessary to an application to make sure the student has the highest chance of admission. 

Amongst other things and depending on sign-up time, our Ivy League package offer includes help with:

  • Finding the right schools to fit your profile and interests;
  • Coming up with an application timeline for profile building and standardized testing;
  • Brainstorming and editing college application essays and all other materials;
  • Individual interview preparation sessions;
  • Assistance assembling school transcripts, financial documents, and other application materials;
  • Alumni chat (subject to availability)

Our qualified admissions consultants, many of whom are Ivy League alums themselves, will be able to assist you at your convenience and provide flexible scheduling opportunities.

Our Success Stories

AmandaUC Berkeley
AditU of Michigan

The consultants were fantastic in helping me with my US essays; the feedback was always on time and very detailed. Furthermore, my mock interview practice with the consultants was invaluable for my UK medical interviews. Overall, I had a great experience with Prep Zone's professionalism and would highly recommend any applicants world wide to use their services.

R. A.Admitted To: Manchester, Medicine; Imperial, Medicine: King's, Medicine; UCL, Cancer Biomedicine; UPenn, Biology; Berkely, Biology; UCLA, Biology; Tufts, Biology; NYU, Biology; Wisconsin, Genetics and Genomics; George Washington, International Affairs and Politics; Yale-NUS, Life Sciences

Free Ivy League Admissions Consultation

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