background image

Beyond the Ivy League: 4 Reasons to Explore Other Top US Universities

FEB 16, 2021 • 11 min read

With over 4,000 institutions of higher education in the United States, there are countless prestigious schools beyond the 8 Ivies to consider. There are many factors that go into deciding where to submit the application you spend months building — and a university’s name and notoriety should not be the leading influences.

In any given year, the Ivy League enrolls around 150,000 students. Combined, Apple and Google employ around 200,000 people — meaning that even if every current Ivy League student graduated and landed a job at Apple or Google, there would still be hundreds of world-leading companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Tesla, Facebook and numerous other impressive names in need of college-educated employees. All this to say: an Ivy League education won’t, by sole virtue of its prestige, set you on the path to success.

In fact, for many, a dream career begins at any number of other universities that are better suited to them. While the Ivy League has properly earned its high stature and its colleges are certainly as esteemed as their reputations suggest, there are thousands of other institutions to consider for students chasing a US education. Schools like Stanford, MIT, NYU, UC Berkeley, UCLA and others are just the beginning of a long list of colleges that offer the same highly sought-after educational value that draws so many to the Ivies.

Curious what’s out there beyond the big names of the Ivy League? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of 4 reasons why even the most qualified students should explore other top US universities outside of the Ivy League.

Georgiatech

1) Other schools may better suit your interests

For students who already know the career path they’d like to pursue, the Ivy League may not host the best universities or programs to kickstart their career. For example, aspiring engineers may be better served by the resources at schools like MIT, CalTech or Georgia Tech; while future communications professionals may thrive at schools like Northwestern or USC; and those on their way to a business degree may be drawn to NYU or Carnegie Mellon.

Alongside the renowned programs at these colleges that garner worldwide recognition in their respective fields, their alumni networks are also replete with graduates now working at the companies you may be dreaming of. Studying alongside some of the brightest minds in engineering, communications or business could help you build the relationships and connections that will serve your career for years to come — and those networks extend far beyond the Ivy League.

Ucla

2) Location, climate and culture are all worth weighing

All eight Ivies are located in the northeast corner of the US, meaning the weather, geography and culture can be quite similar from one school to the next. Does the idea of trudging through snow on the way to class in the winter make you second guess whether a US education is really worth it? During weekends and school breaks, are you more of a beach bum than a mountaineer? Do you prefer a more laid-back lifestyle versus a fast-paced hustle? These could all be factors to consider when deciding where you want to spend your undergraduate years.

Don’t get us wrong — there are merits to studying in every region of the US. Leading universities are largely concentrated on the east and west coasts, and what one side of the country lacks may be easily made up for on the other. For students drawn to the tech-crazed entrepreneurial world of Silicon Valley, perhaps a school like Stanford or UC Berkeley is the best fit. For those who would thrive in the sprawling, sunny city of Los Angeles, USC or UCLA could be winners. Your college experience is about more than the academics; so a university’s location (and everything else that’s influenced by it) is important.

Carnegiemellon

3) Non-academic opportunities are also important

Career opportunities are not often born in the classroom; rather, they’re usually presented through extracurricular activities and practical experiences like student organizations and internships. Many universities have hundreds of registered student organizations spanning community, culture, politics, religion, media, recreation, student government and more. It’s safe to assume that no matter where you enroll, there will be no shortage of clubs to join. However, when deciding where to apply, it’s imperative to research the specific organizations on offer to ensure they align with your unique interests.

It’s also important to learn about the opportunities available to students off campus. Whether you’ve got your sights set on an internship at a Silicon Valley tech giant, a co-op at a Wall Street finance company, or a residency at a leading research hospital — learning about the resources you’ll need to get there can help you map out the best route to success, beginning with your studies.

Stanford

4) Your list of schools should span every level of feasibility

When it comes time to apply to colleges, you’ll want to include a range of schools on your list based on their selectivity as it relates to your capability. Understanding your goals, skills and preferences is the first step; then comes understanding their admissions criteria and acceptance rates and how they match up to your unique profile. Crimson’s US College Admissions Calculator is a great place to start: by inputting your standardized test scores (or an estimate of them), you can view a list of potential match, target and reach schools as an example of what your application list might look like.

Of course, selectivity isn’t the only factor — or even the most important one — that should contribute to your list. By the numbers, the 8 Ivies aren’t even the most selective schools in the US; so it’s important not to measure a university’s prestige by its acceptance rate alone. Not to mention, with the Ivy League’s acceptance rates already remarkably low and application numbers skyrocketing in the latest admissions round, the competition is stiffer than ever — meaning that even the brightest students will be hard-pressed to gain admission to one of the Ivies. 

Deciding which universities to apply to requires research, strategy and resources that many students don’t have access to on their own. That’s where Crimson can help: in our holistic approach to college admissions support, we begin by assessing every student’s unique interests, priorities and competencies to understand where their college application will be most valuable. To learn more about how Crimson helps students identify their best-fit universities, and where to go from there, click the link below to schedule a free consultation with an academic advisor.

Want to be a top applicant at a leading US university?

Crimson Education is the world's leading university admissions support company helping students get into Stanford, MIT, CalTech, UC Berkeley and more!