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Here are the Top National Universities in America that are Non Ivy League Schools

University of Chicago

Stanford University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Duke University

California Institute of Technology

Johns Hopkins University

Northwestern University

Rice University

Vanderbilt University

University of Notre Dame

Washington University in St. Louis

Georgetown University

Emory University

University of California – Berkeley

University of California – Los Angeles

University of Southern California

Carnegie Mellon University

University of Virginia

Wake Forest University

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Tufts University

New York University

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

A Mix of Schools

All of these colleges including the Ivy Leagues comprise the Top 30 Colleges in all of America.  There are a mix of Private and Public Universities.  The highest ranked public college is UC – Berkeley. The best colleges for Engineering and Science are MIT and Cal Tech.  There is a mix of schools that are strong and have great Division I Athletics like Stanford, Duke and Notre Dame.  There are big schools like the University of Michigan and small like Rice University.  If your child is lucky enough to get into any of these schools consider them fortunate and more importantly it means they busted their butts! 

The Requirements – Standardized Tests

The requirements for these schools are high and if you want your child to gain admission you must set the bar high.  That means great GPA, Class Rank, Course Rigor in High School, Extra Curriculars, Standardized Tests, Recommendations and writing the best common application essay. 

The best of the best want near perfect SAT and ACT scores.  Though some schools say that they don’t use Standardized Tests in their decision process.  The highest ranked school being University of Chicago.  I have my own thoughts on that but that is a different story for the future.  You need SAT II Subject Scores that are minimally over 700.  If your going into a STEM major usually Math II and Physics.  You must check each individual school for their exact requirements.

The last school on this list the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill has an average SAT of 1370 and an average ACT of 29.  That means trying to get into the school where Michael Jordan won his National Championship is the absolute baseline for getting into a top University in America.

GPA and Course Rigor

A high GPA and course rigor is incredibly important in the selection process.  Many students and parents are confused by this.  There is something called unweighted and weighted GPA.  It can get confusing because each school has their own way of giving weight to honors and AP/IB courses.  Some give GPA rankings based off a 4.0 plus and some other schools rank based off 5.0 plus.  Ask your school counselor for specifics.  The good thing is that college admission officers know this and look at what classes that the student take in their high school.  So it doesn’t really matter what the weighted average is so much, because if two students have the same unweighted GPA but one takes General Chemistry and the other take AP Chemistry, AP Chemistry is given more weight. 

Class Rank

Class Rank is important as well but can be a non-factor.  Many colleges want to see the class size and where the student ranks in the class.  If a student ranks 20th in a class of 100 that isn’t as impressive as ranking 20th in a class of 700.  To make things more confusing, some schools don’t rank students.  The admission officers would then have to weigh more heavily on GPA and course rigor. 

Extra-Curricular Activities

The age old question of quantity or quality?  What is really more important?  It depends on you.  If you are exceptional in one thing then make sure you are great at it.  If your NOT good at one thing then make sure you do a few things well that you are passionate about and have leadership roles.  By the time you are in high school you should know if you are good at the one thing.  That’s because be it playing a sport, music, math, science, writing,etc..  You will have been doing it for years up to high school.  Stick to it and roll with it and try and win at as high a level as possible. 

Beginning EC’s in High School

There a plenty of kids who don’t know what they can do because they either weren’t given the opportunity or never were exposed to it.  However, once in high school, students must find their passions.  There is no other way around it.  Join a few clubs that you are interested in or better yet start a club that isn’t available.  Either way you must gain leadership roles and provide value to your school and community.  This will show colleges that you can bring that same passion and hard work to their school and community. 


The majority of these schools want two recommendations from teachers specifically in classes such as Math, Science, History, Foreign Language and English.  Check specifically for each school.  However, from what we’ve seen it is usually from teachers in those classes that are considered most. 

What are college’s really looking for?

The most competitive schools want recommendations that basically say something likes this.  “The most outstanding student I’ve ever taught!”  “One of the best students I’ve had in the last 10 years!”  Something along those lines.  Here’s a tip.  Have your child talk to their counselors and other seniors and see which teachers give the best recommendations.  The truth is, that some teachers write better and that means better recommendations.  Recommendations are very important and you only get two to submit.  Don’t take this lightly!!!

The Essay

A lot of students and parents don’t know there is more than one essay.  There is the common application essay that is the most widely used.  This is the essay that most kids worry about the most.  You are basically telling a story that will give insight to colleges of who you are.  Are you someone that they can see coming to their school that will bring value to their school.  You are given 650 words to accomplish this and convey who the real you is.  Easy enough right?!! 

More Essays

Here is the part that most don’t even think about.  Each college that you are applying for has their own essays.  If you are applying to 10 schools that means you will write perhaps 30 to 40 more essays  in total.  The schools want to feel special and they want to know you in more depth and the reason why you want to go to their schools.  You must do individual research for each school to show each college your real desire to attend their schools.  These essays are much shorter perhaps 150 to 300 words.  Not a lot but still enough to add up if your doing multiple schools.  So start early!


As you can see there are multiple factors in the college process.  All of them are important and are used in the whole process.  You have to start early and make sure you are laying a foundation that can be checked off every year.  This might seem hard because it really is extremely hard. These colleges want the cream of the crop.  You must remember there are thousands of kids each year from every part of the world that is trying to take a spot in one of these schools.  Your competition is not the kids in your school.  Your competition is a kid in California, New York and in Shanghai.  What are you doing to get there?  If your goal is to get into one of these schools, set a goal and go for it!