The Ivy Coach Daily

July 25, 2023

Is Stanford an Ivy League School?

Stanford university campus and yard
Stanford University is not an Ivy League school (photo credit: Namkota).

If you’ve ever wondered if Stanford University is an Ivy League school, the answer is simple: no, it isn’t. While Stanford is one of the most prestigious and selective universities in America — even eclipsing certain Ivy League schools — like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University, and Northwestern University, Stanford is not an Ivy. So what makes an Ivy League school, and why isn’t Stanford a member of the select group?

The Ivy League Consists of Eight Universities

The Ivy League, otherwise known as The Ancient Eight, is comprised of eight institutions: Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell University.

All the Ivy League Schools Are Older than Stanford University

The phrase, the Ivy League, was used as far back as the 1930s to group these institutions, seven of which date back to colonial times (or the nineteenth century in the case of Cornell). Yet it became the official moniker of the group in 1954 when the Division 1 athletic conference was formed.

All the Ivy League Schools Are in the Northeast, Unlike the West’s Stanford

Of the eight Ivy League schools, the youngest, Cornell, was founded in 1865 — a full 20 years before Stanford — and all are situated in the Northeast. Stanford is in northern California, a state that was only a few decades old at the time of Stanford’s founding.

Selectivity Alone Does Not Make a School Ivy League

The likely reason why some people mistake Stanford (or, in some cases, Duke, MIT, Caltech, UChicago, Johns Hopkins, or Northwestern) as an Ivy League institution is because of the sheer selectivity of earning admission to these schools.

The selectivity of these institutions is reflected in the school’s annual US News & World Report college ranking. Of the national universities ranked in the top 20 by US News in its 2023 ranking, Ivy League schools occupy eight of 20 slots, as per below:

College / University2023 US News Rank (“Best National Universities”)
Princeton University#1
Massachusetts Institute of Technology#2
Harvard University#3
Stanford University#3
Yale University#3
University of Chicago#6
Johns Hopkins University#7
University of Pennsylvania#7
California Institute of Technology#9
Duke University#10
Northwestern University#10
Dartmouth College#12
Brown University#13
Vanderbilt University#13
Rice University#15
Washington University in St. Louis#15
Cornell University#17
Columbia University#18
University of Notre Dame#18
University of California, Berkeley#20
University of California, Los Angeles#20

And while Stanford’s #3 US News ranking in 2023 was higher than all Ivy League schools but Princeton (#1), Yale (#3), and Harvard (#3), a magazine does not determine the member institutions of the Ivy League.

An overall admission rate — no matter how selective — also doesn’t determine membership in the Ivy League. Stanford’s overall admission rate for the Class of 2026 of 3.68% was lower than all of the Ivy League institutions, with the exception of Harvard. Yet Stanford is not now — nor do we anticipate it ever will be — a member of the Ivy League.

That said, when students are admitted to Stanford along with various Ivy League schools, they tend, in most cases, to choose Stanford over every Ivy League, except for Harvard. While, in recent years, more of our students at Ivy Coach have chosen Stanford over Harvard when admitted to both institutions than in the past, they still overwhelmingly choose Harvard over Stanford. The trend is backed up by Parchment’s finding that 56% of students admitted to both institutions choose Harvard, while 44% opt to attend Stanford.

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