How Many Ivy Leagues Should I Apply To?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A female student holding a pen and thinking

How Many Ivy Leagues Should I Apply To?

If you’ve set your academic sights on the Ivy League, you’re probably brainstorming all the different ways you can increase your chances of getting accepted into this prestigious group of world-class schools.

The Ivy League comprises eight different universities that each hold an esteemed spot in the upper echelon of higher education. With thousands of students vying for limited spots in each incoming class, the competition is fierce. As you conceive a course of action to reach this laudable yet challenging goal, you might be wondering, “How many Ivy Leagues should I apply to?”

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At first, you might assume that applying to all eight universities is the right answer. After all, the math seems to add up. If your ultimate goal is to attend an Ivy League school, sending in an application to each university in this highly respected group greatly effectively increases your chances of success by eight, right?

Well, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. This strategy will end up spreading your efforts too thin, resulting in lower quality applications and an inaccurate reflection of your actual capabilities. It’s one of those times when less is actually more.

Here, we’ll discuss how to decide how many (and which) colleges to apply to, the downsides of applying to too many, and some tips for getting accepted into an Ivy League school.

How many schools should I apply to?

So, if applying to all eight Ivy League universities isn’t the right strategy, then what is? Should you go choose your favorite four and apply to half of the Ivies or should you focus all your efforts on one? In reality, it’s difficult to offer an exact number that’s applicable to all students.

After all, every applicant is different. As a result, the best strategy for applying to an Ivy League school will look different for each high school student. This difference extends all the way down to the ideal number of colleges to apply to.

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In order to find the best number given your academic abilities, professional goals, and personal strengths, it’s ideal to work with a reputable admissions counselor. These professionals have extensive knowledge about what’s required to get into the country’s elite universities. Instead of taking a wild guess, an admissions expert can give you a realistic and personalized plan for realizing your dream of getting into the Ivies, including the number of schools to which you should apply.

If pressed to offer a number, we’d say three to four Ivy League schools is the sweet spot. This way, you’re not diminishing the quality of your applications by biting off more than you can chew while also giving yourself more than one shot at the Ivies.

Of course, you should only apply to an Ivy League school which you plan to attend. So, if you know that Yale is the only college you’d attend at that level, then it’s the only one you should apply to. Keep in mind that this number is a general rule of thumb and should always be considered in light of a student’s unique situation.

Downsides of applying to too many Ivy League schools

The misconception about applying to all Ivy League schools for higher chances of acceptance isn’t just unfounded, it’s also potentially detrimental to your efforts. There are several consequences that students might face if they decide to tackle admissions processes at too many Ivies. Here are some of the most devastating downsides.

1. Too time-consuming.

High schoolers applying for college often have a hard time managing their time. With never-ending to-do lists and overwhelming requirements, it can feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to get the bare minimum done. If you do decide to apply to all eight Ivy League schools, this time factor will only compound.

Keep in mind that you’re not only worrying about applying to schools. You still have to manage time for school, extracurriculars, work, and your personal life. You’ll thank yourself later if you decide to set a limit on the number of Ivies you apply to.

A woman looking at the time

2. Diminished quality.

When applying to an Ivy League university, it’s paramount to submit a high-quality application. Not only does it need to be flawless in terms of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but it also needs to capture the attention of admissions officers who are reading thousands of applications.

If you apply to too many Ivy League schools, you have less time to spend on each application. This will potentially jeopardize the quality of each application and greatly reduce your chances of getting accepted to universities with such high standards.

3. Lack of clarity.

Ivy League schools have record-low acceptance rates due to the sheer number of students who apply each year for limited spots. In order to improve your chances of getting into one of these schools, you need to have a clear vision. With distinct goals, you can make actionable strategies to reach them.

When you’re stuck applying to too many Ivy League universities, it’s harder to narrow down your objectives. And with a lack of clarity, you’ll find it harder to manage and organize your time and energy properly.

How to decide which Ivy Leagues to apply to

Getting into an Ivy League school is a major accomplishment that anyone can and should be proud of. However, it’s important to understand that not all Ivies are made equal. While each provides a world-class education that can unlock excellent professional opportunities, that doesn’t mean each university is equally suited for you.

Everyone has unique interests, strengths, and preferences. While doing your research, you’ll find that some universities match these better than others since each of the Ivies also comes with its own strengths and special offerings. Here are some tips for deciding which of the Ivies to apply to.

Get started early.

Time is a precious commodity when you’re applying to Ivy League schools. If you start too late, you run into similar risks faced when applying to too many universities at once: lower-quality and lack of clarity.

In order to put yourself in the best position to confidently choose universities to apply to that are a good match for your academic goals, personal interests, and unique strengths, you’ll need to start seriously considering your options before your senior year of college. Generally, starting the process when you’re in your freshman year is a good rule of thumb.

While it might seem like overkill, once you start delving into the specifics of each Ivy League university, you’ll appreciate having the extra time. Not only will you have sufficient time to learn more about each university, visit campuses, talk to admission officers or alumni, and mull the decision over in your head, but you’ll also have time to plan your high school classes and extracurricular activities to put yourself in the best position to get accepted to the school of your dreams. It’s all about preparation. The more time you have, the better decision you’ll make in the ned.

Consider acceptance rates

Although Ivy League schools have a reputation for being highly selective (a reputation it lives up to), that doesn’t mean each university has the same acceptance rate. If you’re applying to some of the more exclusive Ivies, it’s not a bad idea to balance out your chances by also sending in applications to those with higher acceptance rates.

For example, if you’re attempting to get into Harvard, you might also want to fill out an application to Cornell as these universities represent one of the most selective and one of the most accessible of the Ivy League universities, respectively.

Be honest about your chances.

The rigorous applications, competitive admissions process, and tough requirements of Ivy League schools require students to take an honest look at their academic capabilities. Although each of the Ivies holds the prestigious title, they’re not all equally difficult to get into.

Some universities set higher bars than others to only allow in the very best. Others put greater stress on making higher education accessible to more people. In order to determine the best Ivy League schools to apply to, it’s important to be realistic about your chances of getting accepted. Although getting admitted to the most selective school would be an awesome feat, some students might be wasting their time if the university simply isn’t a good fit for them.

Think about deal-breakers.

A great way to narrow down the list of Ivy League schools you’ll apply to is to think of deal-breakers. Maybe you’re excited about being close to a large city so the idea of a rural campus is a major flaw. Perhaps you want the intimacy of smaller classrooms so a large student body is a no-go.

Compile a list of characteristics that would automatically take a school off your list and take each Ivy League school through this list to see which pass the test. This is a great way to get a better understanding of what you’re looking for out of a university while also trimming your options in a quick and efficient manner.

Make a list of pros and cons.

If you weren’t able to knock-off too many contenders by highlighting any dealbreakers, it might be time to break out the trusty pro and con list. Just as the name suggests, grab a piece of paper or your phone and list out the advantages and disadvantages of each Ivy League university you’re still considering.

Keep in mind that these upsides and downsides should be relevant to you. Just because a university is renowned for something, in particular, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a pro for you. Since you’re the one applying in the end, your opinion matters.

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Consider non-academic factors.

When wondering “should I apply to a top-tier Ivy League university?”, you’re not just asking about the academic offerings available at this particular institution. While educational opportunities are paramount, sometimes students get too caught up in majors, programs, and other academic-related factors when there are so many other components that contribute to the overall experience of attending a certain university. For example, you might love the courses offered at a school only to realize that you can’t take many due to their strict course requirements.

Instead of getting too carried away by the educational components of a university, it’s also important to take non-academic factors into account. Do students primarily live on or off-campus? Are there sports clubs and other intramural activities to keep you active? Is there a wealth of performing arts opportunities?

Keep in mind that many of these questions are unique to you. You’ll have to think about what you’re looking for in a university beyond just what you can gain in terms of academics. Besides, most Ivy League universities already have the educational offerings covered.

Gather accurate information.

It can be daunting to gather accurate, up-to-date, and relevant information regarding a university. When you’re making your decision about how many Ivy leagues to apply to, you’ll need to base your choice on factual information about each university.

Furthermore, choosing a limited number of sources is a great way to reduce the time you spend searching. Here, we’ll briefly outline some excellent places to find information on particular Ivy League universities to help make your decision easier.

  • University Websites – If you want information straight from the horse’s mouth, the official sites of Ivy League universities are your best bet. You can rest assured that these sites are timely and accurate. Besides, this is where many other sources get their information. Specifics such as tuition rates, application deadlines, and academic offerings will be easy to find, but you might not find many helpful tips or strategies for applying.
  • College Admissions Blogs – A great resource for finding practical methods for applying to Ivy League schools along with helpful information that you won’t find on university websites is a dedicated college admissions blog. As you can see from the Admission Sight blog, this resource is chock-full of college admissions-related content that’s relevant for those looking to apply to Ivy League school.

Work with an admissions counselor.

One of the most valuable resources parents and students can utilize when deciding which Ivy League schools to apply to is an admissions counselor. Not sure what that is? Well, imagine if all of your high school counselor’s attention and energy was focused on helping you get into college.

Not only that but your counselor also was dedicated to guiding you towards the Ivy League. Oh, and did we forget to mention that your counselor is also an expert in college admissions? If that sounds too good to be true, you’ve never heard of an admissions counselor.

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These professionals specialize in helping students in the college admissions process. Whether you need help perfecting your application or require some guidance on where to apply, these specialists have you covered.

When searching for a college admissions specialist, you want to be sure that they’re focused on the Ivy League as these universities demand more than the average state college. Working with one of these experts can put you on the right path towards success in the university of your dreams.

Get more advice on Ivy League admissions

Admissions Sight is a leading college admissions counselor with years of proven success helping applicants just like you get that coveted acceptance letter from the university of your dreams. Whether you have a goal of getting into the Ivy League in general or you’re dead set on Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or any other of these eight prestigious schools, we can help.

Not only do we know what it takes to get into an Ivy League school in general, but we also understand what each school is looking for and can help tailor students’ applications to greatly increase their chances of getting admitted. How do we do it? Well, it’s pretty straightforward.

Our team of admissions specialists offers a series of highly optimized and fully customizable services designed to help boost the quality of your application at all levels in the eyes of the Ivy League schools.

We offer everything from academic and extracurricular guidance to supplemental essay editing and even pre-high school consultation. We work with parents and students to transform the seemingly vague Ivy League admissions process into a clear and understandable process. Then we help develop an actionable and personalized route to success.

To learn more about our services and how you can benefit from them, please contact us today for a free consultation.



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