Best Non-Ivy League Schools

Updated on January 3, 2024

The Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale get a lot of attention as some of the best colleges in the United States. However, there are many incredible non-Ivy schools that provide world-class academics at more affordable prices and with higher acceptance rates. Here are 10 of the best non-Ivy League colleges and universities:

Rice University

Location: Houston, TX

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Avg SAT Score: 1520

Tuition: $49,918

Website: rice.edu

Description: Rice University is a private research university known for its competitive and unconventional approach to education. With a 300-acre tree lined campus in Houston, Texas, Rice promotes collaboration and interdisciplinary studies across programs like engineering, music, and policy analysis.

University of Michigan

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 26%

Avg SAT Score: 1490

Tuition: $52,266 (out-of-state), $15,558 (in-state)

Website: umich.edu

Description: The University of Michigan is a public research institution with over 600 degree programs for undergraduates. Michigan has excellent academic programs in business, engineering, medicine, arts and more. Its Division I sports teams, traditions and school spirit also make it a classic American university experience.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 22%

Avg SAT Score: 1355

Tuition: $36,000

Website: unc.edu

Description: UNC Chapel Hill is the flagship campus of North Carolina’s renowned public university system. Undergraduates can choose from over 70 majors and enjoy Tar Heel athletic traditions. High-achieving students may also apply for UNC’s honors program with smaller, discussion-based classes.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Location: Atlanta, GA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 21%

Avg SAT Score: 1500

Tuition: $33,794

Website: gatech.edu

Description: Georgia Tech is a technology-focused public university ranked in the top 10 public colleges nationwide. Georgia Tech has strengths in business, computing, engineering and the sciences with state-of-the-art facilities. Campus life includes Division I sports, Greek life, special interest groups and over 400 student organizations to get involved in.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Avg SAT Score: 1360 – 1540

Tuition: $13,239 (in-state), $43,780 (out-of-state)

Website: ucla.edu

Description: UCLA is one of the top public universities in the country and home to over 30,000 undergraduates in Westwood. This Southern California campus features renowned academic programs from film and business to pre-med and political science. Bruin pride is also strong with Division I sports, traditions like Midnight Yell and plenty of LA fun nearby.

College of William & Mary

Location: Williamsburg, VA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 37%

Avg SAT Score: 1355

Tuition: $22,207 (in-state), $44,482(out-of-state)

Website: wm.edu

Description: William & Mary holds the title of second oldest college in the nation behind only Harvard. Undergraduates study at a colonial campus complete with 18th century buildings and traditions like Yule Log. Academic strengths include business, public policy, environmental science and pre-law designed to train future leaders.

University of California, San Diego

Location: La Jolla, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 31%

Avg SAT Score: 1370 – 1530

Tuition: $14,226 (in-state), $44,400 (out-of-state)

Website: ucsd.edu

Description: Overlooking the Pacific Ocean by San Diego, UCSD is one of the top public research universities in the world. Undergraduates can choose from over 200 degree programs at 6 residential colleges focused on arts, engineering, sciences and humanities themes. With surf and sun nearby, UCSD offers a quintessential SoCal experience.

University of California, Santa Barbara

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 32%

Avg SAT Score: 1310 – 1510

Tuition: $14,102 (in-state), $43,683 (out-of-state)

Website: ucsb.edu

Description: UC Santa Barbara shines as a leading public research university near the Pacific coastline. Undergraduates enroll in small classes for 80+ majors in the arts, sciences, business and education fields. Outdoorsy students will love the campus beach, biking routes and surf culture of this classic California college town.

Boston College

Location: Chestnut Hill, MA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 27%

Avg SAT Score: 1390

Tuition: $60,050

Website: bc.edu

Description: Boston College provides private Jesuit education minutes from downtown Boston. BC students have 100+ academic programs to choose from across business, sciences, liberal arts and nursing/health fields. The wooded campus also features the original Gothic-style buildings along with modern facilities for living and learning.

Clemson University

Location: Clemson, SC

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 51%

Avg SAT Score: 1310

Tuition: $15,120 (in-state), $37,440 (out-of-state)

Website: clemson.edu

Description: Clemson University is a public institution set at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains featuring both natural beauty and historic buildings. Undergraduates pick from 80 majors while enjoying Southern culture with Tigers football tailgates, arts events and outdoor recreation options nearby like hiking and Lake Hartwell boating.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best non Ivy League schools for computer science?

Some top options are Georgia Tech, UC San Diego, Boston College, Rice University, and UNC Chapel Hill which all have highly ranked computer science programs.

Are non Ivy League schools affordable?

Yes, state schools like UNC Chapel Hill, UC schools, Georgia Tech, and Clemson offer much lower in-state tuition ranging from $14,000-$17,000 per year. Private options like Rice, Boston College, and William & Mary have higher costs but also provide financial aid.

Do non Ivy League schools have good academics?

Absolutely. All the non-Ivy colleges on this list are world-class in terms of academics and research. Public universities here like UCLA, Michigan, and UCSD rival private Ivies in program quality and offerings.

What non Ivy has the highest acceptance rate?

Clemson University has the highest acceptance rate at 51% compared to the other competitive colleges listed here. However, all the non-Ivies featured provide strong academics with higher acceptance odds versus the Ivies.

What is the easiest non Ivy to get into?

While not rated as highly overall, Clemson and College of William & Mary generally have the highest admissions rates around 50% and 35% respectively. Applicants with good grades and test scores stand a good chance being accepted.

Do the best non Ivies have merit scholarships?

Yes, strong applicants can earn lucrative merit scholarships $5,000 per year and up based on grades, test scores, extracurriculars and more. UNC, Boston College and Rice offer some excellent academic-based awards.

Are there non Ivy League rivals for Ivy League quality?

Schools like Rice, UCLA and UMich are seen as on par with Ivys in certain areas like engineering, business and medicine. These schools also rival Ivies in research output and world university rankings.

What is the most prestigious non Ivy League school?

Based on global reputation, college rankings and admissions competitiveness, most surveys list Rice University and University of California schools like UCLA and UC Berkeley as the top prestige non-Ivy options.

What non Ivies have the best sports teams?

In Division I athletics, standouts are University of Michigan (Big 10), Clemson Tigers (ACC), UCLA Bruins (Pac-12) and UNC Tar Heels (ACC) which all have very passionate fan bases and traditions around football, basketball and more.

What are unique facts about the non Ivies on this list?

Rice University students are known to ride bikes or skateboards around the shady campus which banned undergrad cars. UCLA holds the record for most Olympic medal winners at 257. Georgia Tech’s fight song “I’m a Ramblin Wreck from Georgia Tech” is the oldest in collegiate football.

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Rohit Mittal

Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.