The Ivy League, The Little Three,The Little Ivies, and The Hidden Ivies.
I decided to define a few terms associated with potentially confusing groups of schools because I was shocked to discover how many parents do not fully realize the magnitude of their child’s achievement in getting accepted into some of these highly prestigious colleges.
Having said that, I also agree that it is confusing to understand all these groupings and nicknames for someone going through the college process for the first time. I hope having all this information in one place makes it easier.
Everyone is familiar with The Ivy League, but many people are not clear on which colleges belong to the ”The Little Three,” and “The Little Ivies.”
The Ivy League consists of 8 schools that all compete in the same NCAA Division 1 athletic conference. The schools are Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Dartmouth, and Cornell.
Ivy League schools are thought of as some of the most prestigious and best ranked universities. According to U.S. News and World Report on college and university rankings, all of the Ivy League institutions rank in the top 15 with 5 placing in the top 5.
They are all located in the Northeast region of the United States.
Enrollment ranges from 4, 000 to 14,000 undergraduate students making them larger than most private liberal arts college but smaller than a state university. There are no athletic scholarships given; financial aid is based on need.
The “Little Three is an unofficial athletic conference of three elite liberal arts colleges: Amherst, Wesleyan, and Williams. These are three of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation, and very difficult to get into. The Little Three first began competing in this triangular league in 1899 and in 1920 picked up the nickname, “Little Three.” This is in contrast to the “Big Three” universities (Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, HYP), in the Ivy League.
The NESCAC or New England Small College Athletic Conference is a NCAA Division 3 athletic conference of 11 highly selective liberal arts colleges: Amherst, Williams, Wesleyan, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, and Tufts. There are rules regarding season length, number of contests and post-season competition. There are no athletic scholarships; financial aid is solely based on need.
The “Little Ivies” is not an official term or group. It refers to a small group of highly selective liberal arts colleges. The list includes all the colleges in the NESCAC (above)(except Connecticut College), along with Colgate, Haverford, Swarthmore, and Vassar. Also note that Tufts is no longer a small, Liberal Arts College, but has become a larger research university.
As you can see, all of the colleges listed above are highly selective, very difficult to get into, and are highly regarded. One of the biggest differences between the Ivy League and the “Little Ivies” would be their athletic grouping. The Ivy League schools are in the Division 1 league, which trains and competes all year. The Little Ivy Colleges are in the Division 3 athletic grouping and only compete during their sports’ respective seasons.
For an outstanding student-athlete who wanted to compete in 2 sports, a NESCAC Division 3 college could satisfy both the academic and athletic desires and be a great match!
Here is a list of the top 20 colleges and another for the top 20 universities listed in U.S. News and World Report on college and university rankings. Please keep in mind that there are many lists that vary. The U.S. News rankings are most often used.
Liberal Arts College Rankings:
When colleges are ranked equal, they share the same number in ( ).
(6) Carleton College
(6) Wellesley College
Claremount Mckenna College
Washington and Lee University
United States Military Academy
United States Naval Academy
Harvey Mudd College
National University Rankings:
California Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Chicago
University of Pennsylvania
Johns Hopkins University
Washington University of St. Louis
University of Notre Dame