Ivy League Acceptance Rates 2019: What You're Up Against

Ivy League admissions statistics for the Class of 2023 and strategies to get in despite increasing competition

Ivy League acceptance rates are trending lower each year

Ivy League acceptance rates are trending lower each year

Ivy League acceptance rates are of great interest given that the eight universities—Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Yale—routinely rank among the best in the world.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students with perfect or near-perfect grades and test scores submit their applications with the hope of getting into one or more of these elite schools.

The admissions statistics are sobering. The 311,948 Ivy League applications for the Class of 2023 were a record high. Unfortunately, the 6.78% acceptance rate across all eight schools was a record low.

These numbers trigger annual headlines in major publications, which reinforce the exclusivity and selectivity of Ivy League schools. Here are a few examples:

Ivy League Acceptance Rates Dropping Shemmassian Academic Consulting.png
Ivy League Record Low Acceptances Shemmassian Academic Consulting.png

Rather than accept defeat before your child ever applies to the Ivy League, it’s important to understand the numbers at each individual school. Then, we’ll review the strategies your child can employ to maximize their chances. 

Ivy League Acceptance Rates: Class of 2023

Overall Acceptance Rates
Early Action/Early Decision Acceptance Rates
Regular Decision Acceptance Rates
Accepted
Applied
Acceptance Rate
Accepted
Applied
Acceptance Rate
Accepted
Applied
Acceptance Rate
Brown*
2,551
38,674
6.60%
769
4,230
18.18%
1,782
34,444
5.17%
Columbia*
2,190
42,569
5.14%
650
4,461
14.57%
1,540
38,108
4.04%
Cornell*
5,183
49,118
10.55%
1,395
6,159
22.65%
3,788
42,959
8.82%
Dartmouth*
1,876
23,650
7.93%
574
2,474
23.20%
1,302
21,176
6.15%
Harvard^
1,950
43,330
4.50%
935
6,958
13.44%
1,015
36,372
2.79%
Penn*
3,345
44,960
7.44%
1,279
7,110
17.99%
2,066
37,850
5.46%
Princeton^
1,895
32,804
5.78%
743
5,335
13.93%
1,152
27,469
4.19%
Yale^
2,178
36,843
5.91%
794
6,020
13.19%
1,384
30,823
4.49%
Total
21,168
311,948
6.78%
7,139
42,747
16.70%
14,029
269,201
5.21%

*Early decision schools | ^Single-choice early action schools

Ivy League Acceptance Rate Takeaways

The “Big Three” Ivy League schools continue to be among the most selective

Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are historically the three toughest Ivy League schools to get into. In 2019, they were joined by Columbia in the top half of most selective Ivy League schools. All four schools reported overall acceptance rates below 6%. With a 4.50% acceptance rate, Harvard is the hardest Ivy League school to get into.

The remaining four schools had overall acceptance rates ranging between 6.60% (Brown) and 10.55% (Cornell). Therefore, Cornell is the easiest Ivy League school to get into.

Here is a list of the Ivy League schools in ascending order of overall selectivity:

  1. Harvard (4.50%)

  2. Columbia (5.14%)

  3. Princeton (5.78%)

  4. Yale (5.91%)

  5. Brown (6.60%)

  6. Penn (7.44%)

  7. Dartmouth (7.93%)

  8. Cornell (10.55%)

Selectivity is highly associated with Ivy League rankings, that is, the highest-ranked schools tend to have the lowest acceptance rates.

Early action and early decision applicants enjoy much higher acceptance rates 

It’s widely known that students who apply early action or early decision get accepted to Ivy League schools (and others, like Stanford and MIT) at significantly higher rates than regular decision applicants. 

For instance, whereas 13.44% of early action applicants got into Harvard, only 2.79% of regular decision applicants were accepted. These statistics tell a very different story from Harvard’s 4.50% overall acceptance rate.

If your child knows that one of the Ivy League schools it their top choice, they should strongly consider applying early action or early decision to maximize their odds of getting in. Applying early demonstrates strong interest and is attractive to schools who want to protect their yield rate.

At the same time, it’s important to remember the following confounding variable: the early action and early decision applicant pool tends to be stronger than the regular decision pool. Therefore, it’s difficult to quantify the impact of applying early vs. the impact of a higher-achieving group of early applicants.

Getting into an Ivy League school is incredibly difficult

When we evaluate which Ivy League schools are “easiest” or “toughest” to get into, it’s easy to miss the big picture: Ivy League universities are some of the most selective in the country. Given the 6.78% overall acceptance rate, the vast majority of Ivy League applicants will not get into any of the eight schools.

While this is a tough pill to swallow, it reinforces our recommendation to create a balanced college list. Specifically, high-achieving students should consider Ivy League schools as part of their overall admissions strategy that includes reach, target, and safety schools, rather than their exclusive focus.

At the same time, Ivy League acceptance rates are misleading in another way: odds of getting in are not the same for everyone. For instance, a student with a 4.0 GPA, 36 ACT score, and outstanding extracurricular activities does not have has the same 5.78% chance of getting in as a student with a 3.7 GPA, 1420 SAT score, and above average extracurricular profile. The former student’s odds of getting in are much higher than the overall acceptance rate, whereas the latter student’s chances are lower.

Final Thoughts

With the increasing number of applications and high level of achievement among America’s high school students, Ivy League acceptance rates are likely to remain low during the foreseeable future.

While these admissions statistics can be disheartening, your child can get into Ivy League and other elite schools through high academic achievement, standout extracurricular activities, and writing great college essays. (e.g., the Common App Essay and supplemental essays)