How are IVY leagues different from the others
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How are IVY leagues different from the others

Admission Counselling :
  • Written by UnivAdmitHelp
  • Category: Admission Application
  • Published on 02 Aug 2019

Everyone wants to make it to Ivy league

The Ivy League is a group of extremely selective colleges in the US. IVYs refer to super selective schools. 

Traditionally, the IVY league refers to 8 colleges, namely: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Pennsylvania. HYPSM as an acronym is used to refer to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and MIT. Another acronym has started coming into prominence with the popularity of some of the other selective schools: SMCCB. That’s Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Cornell, Berkely. These all acronyms serve to point to the most selective schools that you can aspire for. 

These are extremely selective in their admission process. The top schools have the prestige and resources to be more selective. It could be roughly estimated that selective schools are those within the Top 75 schools in the USNews ranking. International rankings rankings from 1-50 are amongst the most sought after schools and colleges. (Other lists) The top few are super selective as discussed. And that is why they are so sought after. The number of applications that they receive are mind boggling.

With the number of applications in tens of thousands, it’s a tough nut to crack. 

  • In 2018 Princeton University had offered admission to 1,941 students, or 5.5 percent of the record 35,370 applicants for the Class of 2022, in what is the University's most selective admission process to date. In 2017, the University's admission rate was 6.1 percent.
  • Harvard rejects 1 in 4 students with perfect SAT scores. The University of Pennsylvania and Duke University reject three out of five high school valedictorians. Despite universities like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford having closely aligned admissions criteria and similar rates of admission, just because an applicant gets into one school does not mean the applicant will get into another. That’s why it makes headlines when a student is reported to have gained admission to all the Ivies. This is a rare, unexpected event.
  • Last year Harvard received close to 150000 applications for the Class of 2022 session

With numbers like these, colleges need to use many tools to filter out the applications. 

Their admission process works somewhat like this:

1.AI (Academic Index)

The admission officers use a combination of academic achievements clubbed into a single value known as the ACADEMIC INDEX or the AI. The AI uses GPA, class rank, and other test scores to give a more or less comprehensive picture of your academics.  If the AI is sub-par, the application is immediately relegated to the NO pile. 

To be more specific, the AI consists of:

  • The scores / GPA of grade 9 to 11 and the predicted score of grade 12. 
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • SAT subject scores etc.

While the relative weight might differ, it consists of all of these elements. You should take solace from the fact that if one of the exams did not go your way, that does not necessarily mean that the AI will plummet. That's because AI is not the only way academics are evaluated, but it does act as the single metric by which many students can be compared at one go. It is used as a screener for the tens of thousands of applications received. It helps to create an index of the possible admissions from the scores of applicants.



From the myriad other applications that eventually do make the AI cut, what really makes your application stand out is the essay. And yet sometimes, it is the essay that is the reason why an application is rejected or accepted. 

You can find some great advice on our blog for tips on how to write a great application. 


Getting admission into a top college, while not easy, should not be complicated. For selective schools, a high score will not get you in automatically, but it is definitely a first step towards being considered for selection. And so, raising your AI is the way into the ‘serious’ application pool for a more selective college.

Holistic admission process

AI is not the only thing that matters. Academics get you looked at. Thereon, it’s your story, or essay that gets you selected. You can use whatever angle that suits you. 

Selective colleges are schools where the admissions process is not solely based on an academic cutoff. Making the AI cutoff is not the sole criteria for getting admission. Even if you have achieved the academic cutoffs, you still need to qualify on the basis of extracurricular activities, essays etc. 

Get those grades and test scores up

For starters, if you want to go to an Ivy, you’re going to need stellar grades and test scores. These are the two most important admissions factors. Ambitious students should take rigorous courses that they can do well in.

Grades are still the most important factor in admissions. Course rigor is also extremely important. Schools look to see if students are challenging themselves and still succeeding.

Test scores are just as important. Students who lack scores in line with Ivy standards will find that their applications are sent straight to the "no" pile. 


Some more links to help you choose and prepare better: