Best Ivy League Schools for English

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Two students happily talking while walking.

Best Ivy League Schools for English

If you are a young student with goals of one day being one of the top literary minds of your generation, chances are good that you are already thinking about which undergraduate English programs you will eventually want to apply to.

Moreover, you are likely looking at least one Ivy League school that you will want to apply to and – hopefully – attend!

But what is the best Ivy League school for English, and why are English majors still highly valuable in a world that seems to be increasingly obsessed with STEM-related studies? Luckily, the answers to both of those very important questions are easily answerable.

At AdmissionSight, we believe that’s one of the most important tools that high school students can be equipped with when they begin their journey through the college application process.

That is why we have taken the time to break down all of the important information regarding the English programs at each of the eight Ivy League schools, so that students interested in pursuing a degree in English can know which Ivy League schools they should target primarily to fit their natural talents and interests.

So, if you are interested in which Ivy League schools you should go to if you are thinking about majoring in English and one day pursuing a career related to that degree then you have come to the right place.

Let’s break down everything you need to know about the best Ivy League school for English together! Hopefully, this will offer you a better understanding of what these schools offer English majors and what you can gain from going down this path during your years at university.

The Best Ivy League school for English

Just like the national rankings for best schools in the country change over time, so 2 do the rankings for the best Ivy League school for undergraduate English.

With that being said, there has been a pretty consistent trend in recent memory when it comes to which schools are the most attractive for students that are interested in going into the field of English either to one day become a writer themselves or to go to graduate school and become an English professor in the future.

Here is the Ivy League schools ranking for English majors as they currently stand today. Keep in mind that news rankings are based off the most recent rankings from the highly reputable U.S. News & World Report.

While those rankings are of course subject to change in the years ahead, students can comfortably assume that they will remain fairly consistent throughout their four years of their undergraduate education.

Yale University

Coming up number one on this list is the highly prestigious Yale University. Chances are good that if you have been a serious student throughout your life, then you have at least daydreamed about the possibility of one day attending this incredible school.

While Yale University is known to offer some of the most competitive and prestigious degrees in the sciences, the school is also known to offer one of the best English and literature programs in the world.

Yale University campus with its students walking and a wide green lawn in front.

For years, Yale University has placed in the top five for both its English and Arts and Humanities program.

At Yale, English students will begin their education with a number of fascinating introductory courses in which they will be introduced to some of the most important pieces of literature in the history of the world.

They will wrestle with academic and professional prose, ancient works of theater and literature, and also explore European literary traditions.

On top of that, Yale offers its department of comparative literature for students as well that has been highly heralded for its over 50-year existence. This is considered to be one of the best comparative literature degrees on the planet.

Harvard University

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Harvard is considered a top Ivy League school for undergraduate English. After all, Harvard commonly ranks as the number one school in the entire world overall and is known to offer some of the most advanced degrees across all topics.

Harvard University old red and white building with green, tall trees in front.

At Harvard, the department of English offers a three-year program that is specifically meant for students who are interested in an ambitious scholarly, critical, or creative approach to literature in the English language.

This program allows students to mix and combine their interests in English with a concentration in a different field from members and get supervision and guidance of the faculty of each individual department.

This allows for students to explore their many interests and passions deeply, also preparing them for seeking work or pursuing a master’s degree after they graduate from undergrad.

Princeton University

Up next in the Ivy League schools ranking for English majors is the fabulous Princeton University. In fact, Yale and Harvard, along with Princeton, are known as the “Big Three” of the Ivy League because they are considered to be the three most competitive and prestigious schools within the Ivies.

Through Princeton’s English department, undergraduate students take part in a three-year program in which they must take at least 10 individual courses.

There are, of course, many different courses that students can choose from and the only course that all students must take to complete the program is the Literary and Cultural History course.

University of Pennsylvania

Up next on the list for the best Ivy League school for undergraduate English is the University of Pennsylvania. At UPenn, undergraduate students in the English department are given the opportunity to explore language, literature, and culture from across time and the planet.

University of Pennsylvania's old brick, red and white building with its green lawn on the side.

Students are given the opportunity to study many different mediums within the greater umbrella of English literature, from books and manuscripts to film, TV, theater and more. Moreover, English majors are encouraged to cultivate their critical thinking and expressive skills throughout their time within the program.

On top of that, students within the English program can adopt many different concentrations such as Standard Curriculum, Creative Writing, Cinema Studies and Historical Concentration.

Columbia University

Up next on the list is Columbia University. Located in the heart of Manhattan, New York, some of the most influential writers of their time once called Columbia’s campus home. For students who end up enrolling in this program and seeking an English degree at Columbia, the reason why comes as no surprise.

The undergraduate English program at Columbia requires students to complete 10 courses that range highly in focus and topic. The major focuses on three specific principles related to the study of literature – history, genre, and geography.

The school takes this approach to encourage the students to take a wide variety of courses and also to arrange their thinking about literature on these three different grids, offering a broad exposure to the study of the past and gaining a greater understanding of the various forms of literature.

Cornell University

Though we are now getting to the lower ranked Ivies when it comes to English majors, Cornell University is still an incredible program for aspiring writers to attend. The English department at Cornell offers a huge range of courses in literature and writing and teaches students how to look at text closely and analyze them effectively.

Cornell University's Uris Library surrounded by tall trees.

Moreover, the English program and its staff makes sure that all of the students in the classes dive deeply into the relationship between literary works and historical context. Of course, there are other courses that focus more on sculpting young minds into effective and fabulous writers.

Finally, as Cornell says, the major’s program in the English department seeks to encourage students to accumulate a number of skills as the means to many kinds of futures.

Brown University

Brown is also a fabulous school for students to attend if they are interested in receiving a major in English. At the school, the undergraduate major puts a focus on how literature works, how people understand it, and how people write about it.

From there, the program closely examines language, form, genre as well as the critical method. They express a commitment to the understanding of the form of literature from a perspective that includes both the American and European literary tradition. They also seek to look through literature through the lenses of national borders, race, gender and sexuality both now and in the past.

Dartmouth College

Rounding out the final school on this list of the best Ivy League school for English is Dartmouth College. While Dartmouth is the last school on this list, it is by no means a bad school to attend for students who are interested in pursuing a degree in English.

At Dartmouth, the English program aims to instruct students in critical modes of thinking that are beneficial to students no matter what future career path they intend on going down.

Dartmouth College's buildings with some students resting on the green lawn.

Dartmouth offers students the chance to learn about many different mediums and modes of literary work including structuralism, post-structuralism, feminism, Marxism, deconstruction, queer theory, psychoanalysis, and post-colonialism and more.

Ivy League English admissions criteria

Now that you know about the ranking of the best Ivy League school for English, you are probably interested in what it takes for students to improve their chances of getting into any of the eight Ivy League schools for English.

While there are no specific Ivy league English major admissions criteria, there are many different things that students who are interested in impressing admissions officers at Ivy League schools should focus on during their high school years.

Let’s break down some of the most important things for high school students who are one day interested in majoring in English as an undergraduate should prioritize.

First off, there is a list of core reading that every high school student should focus on if they are interested in and passionate about English. While the core reading requirements for every high school is going to vary a bit, you should expect to ready a fair amount of the following historically and culturally significant works of literature fiction and non-fiction.

Table with information about universities.

While you may have a good idea of what pieces of literature you can expect to cover during your four years at high school, you should also be prepared for several different aspects of literature and English that you will want to focus on during your high school years.

Here is a good breakdown of what many high school students will encounter as it pertains to their English studies. So, while there is no ivy league English major admissions criteria, here are some important things to look out for during your high school years in high school.

In 9th grade you will focus on:

  • Practicing basic essay-writing skills
  • Studying different literary genres
  • Analyzing characters, plot and narrative voice

In 10th grade you will focus on:

  • Outlining essay, developing new drafts and revising your own work
  • Focusing on themes and common literary devices such as voice and imagery

In 11th grade you will focus on:

  • More complex writing, including doing your own research and sourcing outside information
  • Reading for historical context, setting, period and point of view
  • Taking advanced United States history (honors, AP or IB) to start grappling with historical context

In 12 grade you will focus on:

  • Reading British literature and world literature
  • Combining your skills and gaining better understand of fiction and non-fiction literary analysis
  • Crafting research papers, presentations, and multimedia projects
  • Taking advanced European or world history (honors, AP or IB)

Why students should consider majoring in English at an Ivy League school

Of course, students who are passionate about the English language and are interested in pursuing a career in writing, editing or journalism will want to seriously consider pursuing a major in English at the Ivy League school that they get into.

However, there are many other reasons why getting an English major can be highly useful and many other careers and areas of study that students can pursue after majoring in English in undergrad. Here are some of the primary opportunities students get to take advantage of when they decide to pursue a major in English.

  • Explore the English and American literary traditions
  • Develop your abilities as a reader and interpreter of literature
  • The role of critical perspective in any analytical situation
  • Enhance your pleasure in the enjoyment of literature
  • Improve your abilities as a writer and editor

And here are a number of skills that students who major in English will be able to gain and improve throughout their study at university:

  • Organization
  • Research
  • Attention to detail
  • Creativity
  • Analysis and processing information
  • Empathy
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Social awareness
  • Writing skill

Moreover, there are many more jobs and careers that people can go into after majoring in English other than simply being a writer or English professor.

After all, the skills that people gain when they major in English offer students the opportunity to learn about some incredibly important skills that lend themselves to a number of many different types of careers. Some of the most common jobs that English majors end up pursuing after undergrad include:

  • Communications executive
  • Brand strategies
  • Lawyer
  • Research analyst
  • English professor
  • Publisher
  • Professor
  • Content manager
  • Public relations manager
  • Human resources
  • Communication officers
  • Marketing associate
  • Reporter
  • Production assistant
  • Editor
  • Technical writer

As you can see, there are many more careers that English majors can pursue and excel in other than just being a writer or journalist. The reason for this is because studying English allows students to not only advance themselves as readers and writers but as well-rounded people as well!

Need more help getting into Yale to study English as an undergraduate

If you are interested in pursuing an English major, then you surely know some of the schools across the United States that are best known for offering students incredible educations and opportunities to expand as students of the English language and literature as a whole. If you are curious about whether or not you have what it takes to get into an Ivy League school to study English, AdmissionSight would love to offer clarity and help you achieve your goals.

For years, our highly trained and experienced admissions consultants have helped countless high school students get into Ivy League schools or other top-10 schools in the United States like Stanford, University of Chicago and MIT.

We offer many different kinds of training, tutoring and guidance to give high school students the best chance at beating the acceptance rates odds of the best schools in the country and get in. If you are interested in learning more about what AdmissionSight can do to improve your chances of getting into Harvard, Yale, Princeton or any of the other top schools in the country, then contact us today to set up a free consultation.




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