why low acceptance rate in ivy league?

In this article let’s take a look at a few reasons why Ivy League colleges are so difficult to get admission into like Harvard University and why do these colleges have so low acceptance rate.

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So without any delay let’s dive right in.

Why do Ivy League colleges have low acceptance rate?

I think there are basically three reasons for low acceptance rate in Ivy League, I will take the example of Harvard University throughout the article because that is the University which has the lowest acceptance rate in the Ivy League, It is one of the top universities in the world and one of my favourite as well.

So the reasons are,

  1. Limited seats of students
  2. Focus is more on quality of the students
  3. Limited scholarships

Let me elaborate all the reasons now,

Limited seats of students

One of the main reasons for low acceptance rate and difficult admission is that these universities and colleges have limited seats and because most of the Ivy League colleges are top universities in the world like Harvard or Yale or Columbia, students from all across the world want to study in this universities so they apply for the admission from more than 100 different countries in the Ivy League.

For example in Harvard University alone, the median class size at Harvard is 12. Of the nearly 1,300 courses offered last fall, for example, more than 1,000 of them enrolled 20 or fewer students, Harvard University tries to give less admission because it believes in quality of the students and having a good interaction of students with the professors and providing lots of research opportunities for the students and if the number of students increases then it will be difficult to provide all the facilities to all the students because of the quantity, and the University has a traditional approach of teaching.

And it is a simple logic if there are limited number of seats and more students who want to get into the university then obviously it is going to be difficult and tough for admission.

For example in 2021 alone, The Harvard University has received 57,000 applications for admission which is really huge number as compared to the seats available which is less than 1500.

Now, you can see, there are more number of students applying for admission as compared to the seats available so the acceptance rate is so low in the university.

Focus on quality of students

Another reason for low acceptance rate is that University tries to focus more on the quality of students as compared to the quantity.

As I mentioned earlier that there are more number of students who apply for the admission as compared to the seats available so It will be very easy for the students to get admission only based upon the academic scores like SAT & ACT.

So Harvard University has set of standards and criteria they look for in students apart from good sat scores like

  • Leadership skills
  • Team working skills
  • Research abilities of the student
  • Creativity and critical thinking
  • Interest in extracurricular activities
  • Hard working ability
  • Curiosity and open mindedness

Most Ivy league colleges ask themselves 2 questions during review of applications like,

  1. Can the student utilise the facilities and resources in university to the maximum potential?
  2. How can the student contribute to the University community in return?

And because ivy league is not just popular for it’s research and great academics but also for the extracurricular activities and sports events that it conducts.

If the university accepts students based upon the academic school itself then the University might lose in the sports competitions like football basketball swimming tennis, etc which will be conducted between the colleges, so the University not only tries to

select students who are good at academics but also great sports and extracurricular activities so they can perform good in sports events as almost every student in Harvard and other university in Ivy League participate in some type of extracurricular activity after getting admission in the university.

And because of this there are many alumni of Ivy League who have represented in Olympics and won Olympic medals as well.

Harvard University has a graduation rate of 98 percentage, and if the university tries to accept more students and increase the acceptance rate then the graduation rate might decrease which will hurt the reputation of the university so the University focuses on quality of the students instead of quantity.

Another reason for focusing only on the quality of students is because of the alumni, alumni is very important for any University as They will act as a brand ambassador of the University & will increase the brand value and reputation of the University naturally in the world and also increases the ranking of the university.

And Ivy colleges have a strong alumni like many students who graduated from this colleges like Harvard, upenn or Columbia have been in top positions of the society like presidents, politicians, authors, businessman, Olympians, athletes, innovators, Nobel laureates, scientists, etc.

And if ivy league tries to increase the acceptance rate by giving admission to more quantity of students decreasing the quality, then alumni of the University will not be very great, University cannot provide strong network to the students, which will in future decrease the brand value and reputation of the university.

I hope you have understood this very well as this is crucial to understand why this colleges have low acceptance rate.


Firstly, all the Ivy League colleges like Harvard or Columbia offer need based financial aid and scholarships to students, there is no merit based scholarships in ivy league,

Which means if your family financial income is less than a specific amount of money like in Harvard it is 75000 dollars per annum then you will have to pay no money to attend and study in Harvard University, like this 55% of the students receive need-based scholarships and one out of five students pay nothing to study in Harvard.

You will find a similar rule in other Ivy League colleges, and even though for example Harvard has a endowment of approximately 50 billion dollars, It actually spends millions of dollars every year in scholarships and also in giving salaries to the professors, in funding the research projects, in maintaining the infrastructure and facilities, and many more and Harvard does not spend all of its endowment once rather it tries to save it for future.

So as I mentioned earlier that there are limited number of scholarships and if the university like Harvard tries to accept more students then it might have to give them scholarships which will decrease the funds, so the University tries to give scholarships to only best students possible so the acceptance rate is so low.

And when the University offers lot of scholarships and financial support for the students and after when the students get successful in life they can give funding to the university’s in future as alumni and this private funding are important source of revenue for the universities of Ivy League.

Like this University tries to provide scholarships and make University affordable to study for the student then they can get successful in life and in return increase the brand value and reputation of the university in future.

To conclude the article, Ivy league colleges are in quest of giving admission to best students in the university so that it increases the brand value of the University in future so the acceptance rate is so low.

With that said let’s end the article.


These are all the reasons I believe why Ivy League colleges have such a low acceptance rate.

Do comment down what are your thoughts about the acceptance rate in the colleges in the comment section below share the article and subscribe to my blog to receive notifications as whenever I publish a new article in future.