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Top 10 US Universities That Aren't In the Ivy League

APR 28, 2021

The Ivy League is known worldwide for its prestigious universities; but there are plenty of non-Ivy League schools in the US that offer the same high caliber of education and resources.

The United States is home to more colleges and universities than almost any other country in the world, with nearly 4,000 degree-granting institutions recognized by the US Department of Education. Suffice to say, there’s no shortage of higher education opportunities in the US — meaning the competition amongst universities to attract students is fierce!

To help you understand just how far the US’s elite education system expands, we’ve compiled a list of 10 top US universities that aren’t in the Ivy League. Their classes are just as challenging, their professors just as distinguished, their academic and extracurriculars are just as sought-after — and their acceptance rates just as competitive (in some cases, even more competitive!).

Here’s our list of the 10 best non-Ivy League Schools in the US. Read on to learn more about all of them!

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2. Stanford University

3. University of California: Berkeley

4. California Institute of Technology

5. Northwestern University

6. Johns Hopkins University

7. University of California: Los Angeles

8. New York University

9. University of Chicago

10. Duke University


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1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT was founded in 1861 and is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a stone’s throw from Boston. The university offers some of the best research facilities in the world, with nearly 90% of MIT students participating in its Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

MIT Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
4%144,5305617%

To learn the answers to 15 common questions about studying at MIT, watch our YouTube video featuring MIT student, Barbi!

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2. Stanford University

Stanford was founded in 1885 and is located in Palo Alto, California, about 30 miles south of San Francisco. The university houses seven schools: Business, Education, Engineering, Humanities & Sciences, Law, Medicine, and Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

Stanford Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
5.2%266,3665813%

To learn how Crimson student Fresh got into Stanford, watch his recap of his admission journey on our YouTube channel!

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3. University of California, Berkeley

UC Berkeley was founded in 1868 and is located in Berkeley, California, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. It offers over 1,000 student organizations in addition to dozens of Greek life chapters, and is well known for liberal student activism.

UC Berkeley Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
13%302230,7995016%

To read about how Crimson students beat record-low odds of acceptance at UC Berkeley in 2021, check out our blog post!

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4. California Institute of Technology

CalTech was founded in 1891 and is located in Pasadena, California, about 10 miles north of Los Angeles. The institute is known for its academic excellence in science and engineering, receiving grants from the likes of NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Health and Human Services.

CalTech Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
6.4%49901288%

To read about Crimson student Zhong's experience as a student at CalTech, download his case study!

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5. Northwestern University

Northwestern was founded in 1851 and its two campuses are located along Lake Michigan in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois. The university is deeply interdisciplinary, with twelve different schools (nine of which offer undergraduate programs) ranging from Communication to Engineering to Education & Social Policy and much more.

Northwestern Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
6.8%299 (tie)8,3729017%

To hear an analysis of a Crimson student’s successful ‘Why Northwestern?’ application essay, head over to our YouTube channel!


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6. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins was founded in 1876 and has four campuses located in and around Baltimore, Maryland. It also has campuses for its School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC; Bologna, Italy; and Nanjing, China.

Johns Hopkins Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
7.4%259 (tie)6,2565119%

To find out your chances of gaining admission to Johns Hopkins and other top universities, check out our US College Admissions Calculator!

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7. University of California: Los Angeles

UCLA was founded in 1919 and is located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, about five miles from the Pacific Ocean. It offers 230 undergraduate and graduate majors, with more than two dozen academic programs ranked among the top 20 in their disciplines.

UCLA Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
12.3%362023,94512516%

To read the successful application essay of Crimson student Matthew, who got accepted to UCLA, head over to our Personal Statement blog series!

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8. New York University

NYU was founded in 1831 and is located in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, New York City. It’s known as a true city school, with no separation between the university buildings and New York skyscrapers. Its dorms and classrooms can be found in buildings scattered throughout the city streets!

NYU Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
12.9%353026,9819420%

To hear about a typical day in the life of an NYU student, visit our YouTube channel to watch Matthew’s day-to-day recap!

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9. University of Chicago

UChicago was founded in 1890 and is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. There are 91 Nobel Prize winners from UChicago, including 6 current faculty; and former US President Barack Obama taught at its law school for 12 years!

UChicago Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
6.7%966,3065213%

To read about how a Crimson student from London got accepted to UChicago, check out Don’s case study!

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10. Duke University

Duke was founded in 1838 and is located in Durham, North Carolina, a midsize suburban city on the east coast of the US. It is one of the wealthiest private universities in the world, and is well regarded for its Business, Engineering and Public Policy schools.

Duke Admission Stats
Acceptance RateQS World University RankingUS News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentUndergraduate Fields of StudyPercentage of International Students
16.7%42126,5425320%

For an example of a successful application essay from a Crimson student who got accepted to Duke, watch Allie read her personal statement on our YouTube channel!


Find the right school for you

All of these schools boast incredible academic resources, student organizations and alumni networks that make them highly competitive for applicants all over the world. But this list is far from exhaustive! In fact, 45 of the top 100 universities in the world are located in the US — meaning the opportunities for a top-tier college education in the US are vast.

At Crimson, we help students identify their best-fit universities based on a variety of criteria including location, size, academics, student organizations and much more, to make sure you find a school that suits all of your unique priorities.

Because our teams work with students to find universities where they can truly thrive, our students are up to 4x more likely to gain admission to leading US universities! We’ve helped over 2,200 students across the globe gain admission to the Top 50 universities in the US. To learn more about how Crimson can help you explore all that the US has to offer for ambitious college applicants, visit our Admissions Support page or click the link below to schedule a free consultation with an Academic Advisor.

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