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Not Just Ivies: Discovering Some Top Non-Ivy League Schools in the US


Table of Contents:


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Stanford University

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Duke University




Attending an Ivy League institution is a dream that many graduate students have. These universities have a reputation of excellence, with top-notch professors and a vibrant academic and social community. However, there are many other outstanding schools in the US that you should consider when applying. In other words, there is no doubt that the status and reputation of Ivy League Schools are recognised all over the world, but this doesn’t mean that there are no other options you should try. In this article, I will explore five of these institutions and provide you with some insights on their 2024 QS World University Rankings, locations, graduate acceptance rates, international students communities, and unique advantages.

  • QS World University Rankings 2024: 1

  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • Graduate Acceptance Rate: Extremely competitive, with an acceptance rate below 10%.

  • International Student Friendly?:This school is characterized by an active international students community. According to MIT, in the year 2022-2023 they welcomed 2,952 graduate students (42% of the total graduate population). Plus, MIT also hosts exchange and visiting students all year round.

  • Pros: The strengths of MIT lies in its excellence in STEM fields. If you are looking to pursue your graduate studies in engineering, natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, this school is right for you. Secondly, MIT is considered one of the best hubs for innovation and entrepreneurship worldwide. If you are interested in these topics, check out the webpages of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and the MIT Deshpande Centre for Technological Innovation.

  • QS World University Rankings 2024: 5

  • Location: Palo Alto, California (Silicon Valley around the corner!)

  • Graduate Acceptance Rate: Again extremely competitive, with an acceptance rate below 10%.

  • International Student Friendly?: Just as MIT, Stanford admits several international applicants. For the year 2022-2023, the school reports that 35% of its graduate students were international, and coming from over 123 different countries.

  • Pros: Stanford is globally recognized for its engineering, computer science, and business faculties. Plus, if you are interested in connecting with the work of top-notch research centers and think tanks, this is the school that you should apply to. Check out the Stanford Research Institute page to find out more. Lastly, the proximity to the Silicon Valley environment can be determinant for those students who want to become entrepreneurs and global innovators.

  • QS World University Rankings 2024: 15

  • Location: Pasadena, California

  • Graduate Acceptance Rate: Extremely competitive, with an acceptance rate below 10%.

  • International Students Friendly?: Graduate international students are welcomed in this institution as well. The numbers of enrollments are similar to those of other schools: in 2022-2023, 44% of the admitted graduate students at Caltech were international.

  • Pros: Caltech is known globally for its outstanding results in the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics. It is home to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which collaborates with NASA for groundbreaking space exploration missions. Also, this school has a very low student-to-faculty ratio of 3:1. This means that students are often able to receive tailored support and a personalized learning experience.

  • QS World University Rankings 2024: 33

  • Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • Graduate Acceptance Rate: Competitive, with an acceptance rate that ranges from 10% to 30% depending on the faculties and programs.

  • International Student Friendly?: This school is recognized for its international environment. In a recently released report, it was reported that there were 5954 graduate international students in the year 2022-2023, and showcased that the percentage of international students is growing year after year. You can access the report here for more information.

  • Pros: The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor stands out among the so-called “public ivies”, a group of public universities offering high quality education and learning resources. As reported on its website, it was classified as the best public institution in the US by QS World University Rankings in the period 2019-2022 (find these and more details here). Considering the strongest subjects taught at this school, it’s hard to indicate a specific one, as the majority of the programs rank high, from sciences to humanities.

  • QS World University Rankings 2024: 57

  • Location: Durham, North Carolina

  • Graduate Acceptance Rate: Competitive, with an acceptance rate around 20%.

  • International Student Friendly?: Around half of the graduate students enrolled at Duke have an international citizenship.

  • Pros: Duke features many top fields, like law, business, public policy, and environmental science. This institution comprises several research centers and schools, such as the Stanford School of Public Policy and the Fuqua School of Business.


In this post, we have analyzed some highly qualified and non-Ivy League schools in the US according to different factors. While all these institutions seemed to be frequently chosen by international students, admission rates, rankings, and top characteristics differed. I hope that this overview helped you to better understand the graduate educational offer in the US, and most importantly that it contributed to broadening your horizons with top non-Ivy League schools. Good luck with your application journey!

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