Let’s supposed you’re a student with A grades and a fabulous set of SAT scores. You also have a horde of extra-curricular activities to boot. You’ve gotten a brilliant coterie of application essays to choose from, and a reasonably justified inkling that your teachers will write you glowing recommendations.

It follows then that you’ll be tempted to target the Ivy-League schools, or their equivalents. Let’s begin by listing out the Ivy Leagues schools first –

1) Harvard University

2) Princeton University

3) Yale University

4) Brown University

5) Cornell University

6) University of Pennsylvania

7) Dartmouth College

8) Columbia University.


The Ivy League Schools are a Outside of the Ivy-League, are what we also know as the Ivy League equivalents –

1) Stanford University

2) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

3) California Institute of Technology

4) University of Chicago.

So now we’ve largely established that what we mean by Ivy League Schools (the Ivy League Schools and their equivalents) let’s talk a little about why you should perhaps think a little bit beyond the Ivy Leagues.

Most of the Ivy League schools are large schools where the professors perform incredible volumes of groundbreaking research, year after year. Your classes are going to comprise large numbers of people, from all parts of the globe, with an overwhelmingly large number of interest. And they’re going to be the very brightest. And that is largely a good thing.

Yes, Ivy Leaguer’s are often well-informed and intelligent, and sometimes even street smart. If you picture a group of monocle-d elitists sitting in a Hogwarts-like setting discussing the future of Darfur or Kant’s theory on aesthetics, you aren’t far from the truth (barring the monocles. I am yet to come across one of those). Ivy Leaguers do, in fact, discuss politics, the environment, Zimbardo’s latest on the Lucifer Effect, and subjects. But the Ivy League hardly has monopoly over the above category of people.

There will be students from all kinds of backgrounds – you may hobnob with Turkish royalty, or even find yourself with a former subsistence farmer from Kenya for whom English is not the first nor the second, but the third language.
Each of these will be a wonderful learning experience for you. Much is learned from diversity of experience, and the Ivy League schools and their equivalents are a great place to begin your learning years.

However, it is also entirely possible that the competition too will be overwhelming. Remember, acceptances into Ivy League schools and their equivalents are bitterly competitive, which means that everyone who is accepted, is remarkably driven and good at what they do. You will be another bright fish in a pond of bright fish, and it is very difficult to rise above the crowds and get noticed. Some are built for that kind of persistent pressure, some are not. It is of greatest importance then to carefully consider what you are looking for from the college experience – challenging competition that motivates you, or a closer-knit more co-operative from of cohesive learning.

If what you’re looking for is a more intimate form of learning, high faculty-student ratios, perhaps schools in the suburbs, what you’re probably better suited for are the smaller liberal art schools.


1. Williams College

If commercial viability is what you seek, look at this. Williams College has even overtaken the Ivies at the return on investment on their degrees. The folks at Williams are also generous with their scholarships and awards, and has been consistently ranked the best undergraduate school for several years now.

2. Amherst College

It’s a remarkably small school, with a student body of less than five hundred students per year, allowing for much interaction between faculty members and students. You can take classes outside Amherst at the Consortium of 5 schools in Boston, and at all time find yourself among the most talented and industrious minds in the world. Readh more about the consortium, here.

3. Swarthmore College

This is among the larger of the liberal art schools. Set in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The college is part of the Tri-College Consortium with Bryn Mawr and Haverford where students can also take courses. Swarthmore offers a B.S. in engineering which makes it unique amongst other liberal arts colleges. Swarthmore has been home to CEOs, patent holders, Nobel Laureates, and Congressmen. Read more about it here.

Other schools deserving of a closer look are:

4. Bowdoin College

5. Middlebury College

6. Pomona College

7. Carleton College

8. Wellesley College

9. Claremont McKenna College

10. Davidson College

11. Haverford College

12. Vassar College

13. Colgate University

Note for Parents, Students, Counsellors: The information above was to the best of our knowledge at the time that this article was published. With every application cycle, or sometimes even during it, Colleges and Universities may change dates, policies, available majors and other relevant information. These updates will be reflected on the College and University websites themselves.

Please refer to the official college websites in addition to reading these articles. These articles are written only to provide general guidelines to students, not as a substitute for individual college websites.