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What Are the Little Ivies?

You may have heard of Ivy League universities, but do you know about the Little Ivy League schools? The “Little Ivies” are an unofficial group of colleges that offer rigorous academic programs similar to the ones offered by the Ivy League. They are very small schools, hence the title of “Little” Ivies. Keep reading to learn more about the Little Ivies and decide whether they’re the right fit for you!

Overview of the Little Ivies

There are a lot of Ivy League alternatives, such as Public Ivies, Hidden Ivies, and Ivy Plus schools. To clarify, all of the Little Ivies are also considered Hidden Ivies. The Little Ivies are small liberal arts colleges that focus more on undergraduate education since the majority of these schools don’t offer graduate programs. 

More than half of the Little Ivies make up the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), so students will have an opportunity to participate in sports on campus as well. 

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The Little Ivies

So, which schools make up the Little Ivies? Check out this list (arranged in alphabetical order) to read a snapshot of each Little Ivy. We also included where each school is located, undergraduate enrollment numbers, the most popular fields of study, and sports team names!

Amherst College 

This private liberal arts college is all about making college affordable. According to their website, Amherst’s average financial aid package is about $50,000 each year, making this small private liberal arts college a possibility for students who need financial aid. 

  • Location: Amherst, Massachusetts 
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,745 students 
  • Most popular field of study: Mathematics and economics
  • Team: Mammoths

Bates College 

Bates College is a private liberal arts college with an almost perfect graduation rate at 91%! Attending this college will prepare you for success, and your professors are there to help. An added perk is that  ACT and SAT scores aren’t required for your application. 

  • Location: Lewiston, Maine  
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,876 students 
  • Most popular field of study: Political science and government
  • Team: Bobcats

Bowdoin College

Bowdoin is constantly seeking out the common good for their students and community. If you’re considering applying, take time to consider what the common good means to you and highlight that in your supplemental essay.

  • Location: Brunswick, Maine
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,776 students
  • Most popular field of study: Political science and government 
  • Team: Polar Bears

Colby College 

This liberal arts college has an acceptance rate of 10%, so take the time you need to perfect your application. While Colby is one of the few liberal arts colleges that does not require supplemental essays, you’ll want to stand out in things like extracurriculars and volunteering. 

  • Location: Waterville, Maine 
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 2,155 students 
  • Most popular field of study: Economics 
  • Team: Mules

Connecticut College

Attending this college means you get a chance to explore a new kind of curriculum called Connections. It’s a spin on liberal arts education with seminars, advising teams, and more! 

  • Location: New London, Connecticut
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,711 students
  • Most popular field of study: Psychology
  • Team: Camels

Hamilton College

Hamilton College has an acceptance rate of 18%, but there’s plenty of resources to improve your chances of acceptance. For example, Hamilton offers sample supplemental essays that were successful along with tips for writing yours. 

  • Location: Clinton, New York
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,901 students 
  • Most popular field of study: Economics 
  • Team: Continentals

Haverford College

Along with having a 92% graduation rate, Haverford has a 9 to 1 student-faculty ratio. This ratio means that you’re more likely to have one-on-one time with professors and a close knit classroom environment for learning. 

  • Location: Haverford, Pennsylvania 
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,306 students
  • Most popular field of study: Political science and government
  • Team: Fords

Lafayette College 

At Lafayette College, you can discover your own path and create your own major! You can choose a happy middle between two departments or pick one of the current 51 areas of study.

  • Location: Easton, Pennsylvania 
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 2,489 students
  • Most popular field of study: Economics
  • Team: Leopards

Middlebury College

Middlebury is one of the top producers of Fulbright winners, which is saying a lot about this small liberal arts college. The Fulbright Program is an educational exchange initiative that awards several students with grants each year. 

  • Location: Middlebury, Vermont
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 2,571 students
  • Most popular field of study: Economics
  • Team: Panthers

Swarthmore College

This liberal arts college has an acceptance rate of just under 10%. However, it’ll all be worth it because Swarthmore students can win prizes for their cutting edge research. With a beautiful 425-acre campus, Swarthmore is home to the world famous Scott Arboretum which grows over 4,000 plant varieties.

  • Location: Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,435 students
  • Most popular field of study: Economics
  • Team: Garnets

Trinity College 

Along with four other colleges, Trinity College recently partnered with the Schuler Education Foundation to raise $60 million for a financial aid initiative. The funding will be used to help low-income students that have potential to succeed.

  • Location: Hartford, Connecticut 
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 2,194 students
  • Most popular field of study: Economics
  • Team: Bantams

Tufts University

This research college maintains the spirit of Pax et Lux, meaning “Peace and Light.”  Tufts does their best to motivate students to use their knowledge to illuminate others. There are four different campuses in the Boston area for students to choose from. 

  • Location: Medford, Massachusetts 
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 6,053 students 
  • Most popular field of study: Computer science 
  • Team: Jumbos

Vassar College 

Known for its beautiful campus in Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar was one of the first women’s colleges to become co-ed in 1969. This school focuses on providing equal education and opportunities for women and men alike.

  • Location: Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 2,421 students
  • Most popular field of study: Research and experimental psychology and economics
  • Team: Brewers

Wesleyan University 

This university is one of the few Little Ivies that offer a graduate degree program. Students are able to continue their education at the same school and receive their master’s or doctorate degree. Wesleyan states that “critical thinking and practical idealism go hand in hand” and provide the learning environment to support that. 

  • Location: Middletown, Connecticut
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 2,838 students
  • Most popular field of study: Area studies
  • Team: Cardinals

Williams College 

You’re likely to be guided toward success at Williams College since they have a 95% graduation rate. This school hopes to foster close relationships between students and teachers, especially with their Tutorials Program. Through those connections, you can start building a network to propel and support your future career. 

  • Location: Williamstown, Massachusetts 
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 1,917 students
  • Most popular field of study: Economics
  • Team: Ephs

Supplemental essays for the Little Ivies

The following Little Ivies either require supplemental essays or offer students the opportunity to submit one (which we recommend!). Before you start writing, take a look at our school specific guides to help you write the most impressive supplemental essay possible!

Amherst CollegeLafayette CollegeTufts University
Bowdoin CollegeSwarthmore CollegeVassar College
Haverford CollegeTrinity CollegeWilliams College

Advantages of attending a Little Ivy

Smaller classes 

The Little Ivies are known for their academics, but also for their size. Some of them even admit less than 2,000 undergraduate students per year. Fortunately, this allows for  smaller classes with low student faculty ratios for hands-on learning. 

Students might also have a better chance at networking and building relationships with their professors and peers. For example, Williams College offers a unique opportunity called the Williams Tutorial Program that pairs two students with one professor to further their learning and improve their skills. 

More affordable for some students 

One of the main differences between Ivy League universities and their Ivy alternatives is that other “Ivies” might offer merit scholarships as well as need-based ones. This gives applicants another way to make college more affordable and prevent student loan debt. 

Disadvantages of attending a Little Ivy

Limited graduate programs

While there are some exceptions such as Tufts and Wesleyan University, the Little Ivies do not offer graduate programs. However, they highly value undergraduate education, which is why the curriculums offered rival Ivy League schooling. Some of the Little Ivies also offer dual degree programs for students to study for two degrees at once. 

Hopefully, you’ll graduate from a Little Ivy and get a chance to pursue a graduate degree at an Ivy League! Or you might decide on another route and get a degree online while going to work. 

Liberal arts curriculum

Liberal arts schools don’t specifically focus on a certain area of study like research colleges. Instead, they offer students a chance to experience multiple different disciplines. You’ll still be able to choose your major in programs like STEM, but your requirements are more likely to be generalized. 

Centralized location

While some of the Ivy Leagues are spread out throughout the country, the Little Ivies have a more centralized location in the Northeast. Most of the colleges are found in states such as Maine, Pennsylvania, and New York. 

Is a Little Ivy right for me?

Choosing a college that’s right for you can be stressful and confusing, but it’s best to decide by considering the type of major you’re interested in pursuing. Popular majors at the Little Ivies are economics and political science, but they have stellar degree programs in other areas as well. It’s ideal to also schedule a campus tour to see what the campus is like as well as the surrounding environment. Do your research early on to help make sure that the college you choose works for you. Check out the websites of some of your favorite Little Ivies to learn more about them.

Tips for applying to a Little Ivy

Applying to any kind of Ivy school can be tough, so there are a couple of things you can do to make your application process easier. Since Little Ivies value academics, it’s important for you to maintain a good GPA.  If you are planning to submit the SAT/ACT, make sure that you strive for your very best score (especially if you are hoping for a merit scholarship). There are lots of resources to help you improve, including free practice tests.  

Remember, GPAs and test scores are only part of your application. Colleges are looking for applicants to stand out, and a great way to do that is through your supplemental essay and extracurricular activities.

Try to get started on your supplemental essay early on in order to edit and get feedback from your peers, teachers, or family members. Reading your essay aloud will also help you notice any errors or sentences that disrupt the flow of your paper. 

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Frequently asked questions about the Little Ivies

Is a Little Ivy education as good as one from the Ivy League?

Can I get merit scholarships at a Little Ivy?