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What Are the "Little Ivies," the "Little Three," and the "Hidden Ivies?"

Most people are familiar with the Ivy League Colleges and have a pretty good idea that it’s extremely prestigious to attend one of them. There are many, many other colleges that are very academically rigorous and difficult to get into. The term The Little Three, The Little Ivies and The Hidden Ivies are sometimes confusing to follow. Not only do they have similar names, I was shocked to hear some parents having never heard of some of the colleges, and not realize the magnitude of the achievement of their daughter being accepted. Below is an explanation of the different groupings. I hope having a list in one place helps.

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!

Currently, 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 ( ).

  1. Williams College
  2. Amherst College
  3. Swarthmore College
  4. Pomona College
  5. Middlebury College
  6. Bowdoin College
  7. (6) Carleton College
  8. (6) Wellesley College
  9. Claremount Mckenna College
  10. Haverford College
  11. Davidson College
  12. Washington and Lee University
  13. Wesleyan University
  14. United States Military Academy
  15. United States Naval Academy
  16. Vassar College
  17. Hamilton College
  18. Harvey Mudd College
  19. Grinnell College
  20. Smith College

National University Rankings:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Princeton University
  3. Yale University
  4. Columbia University
  5. California Institute of Technology
  6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  7. Stanford University
  8. University of Chicago
  9. University of Pennsylvania
  10. Duke University
  11. Dartmouth College
  12. Northwestern University
  13. Johns Hopkins University
  14. Washington University of St. Louis
  15. Brown University
  16. Cornell University
  17. Rice University
  18. Vanderbilt University
  19. University of Notre Dame
  20. Emory University

To read more about assuring your student has the best chance in the college admissions process, check out http://www.harvardmomadvice.com

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