Pencil with paper around it reading Plan A and Plan B pointing in two directions

How to Help Students Explore Ivy League Alternatives

Students setting their sights high on Ivy League colleges is great, but you can help them develop a backup plan by exploring other options with them.

During your career as a college counselor, you have no doubt encountered ambitious students with their sights set exclusively on attending Ivy League universities. As you know, these desirable eight schools are notoriously exclusive, to the extent that even highly qualified applicants are routinely denied admission. While you can’t protect them from such disappointments, you can soften the blow by equipping your students with a gratifying back-up plan.

Devise a plan of attack

Discuss with your students the schools they’re interested in attending and work to determine how realistic their choices are. Then help them to come up with a three-tier list of schools to which they’ll apply:

  1. The first-choice dream schools
  2. The selective schools with good chance of admittance
  3. The shoo-in safety schools

Related: How to Pick Your Match, Safety, and Reach Colleges

Go big at the Public Ivies

The term “Public Ivies” refers to public institutions that boast many of the same benefits as Ivy Leagues and other elite private schools. They also generally offer drastically lower tuition, particularly for state residents. The academic experience, faculty, and resources are in many ways comparable to the real Ivies. Large state schools such as the University of California, Berkeley,  the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas at Austin have been called Public Ivies. 

Make sure your students know that by choosing one of these big-name state schools, they will in no way be settling for a lesser education or overall college experience. Sizeable funding and large, dynamic student bodies translate into a myriad of resources, from vast libraries to pages-long lists of student organizations. Help your students by discussing their possible major and career goals, then see if any of the top-tier public universities in or near your state fit their bill. Just be sure to remind them that while these schools may be less exclusive than their Ivy League counterparts, they’re still highly selective, and admission isn’t guaranteed. Stellar GPAs, essays, and recommendations are a must.

Scale down at the Little Ivies

The proverbial “Little Ivies” are smaller private institutions that share the Ivy League’s selectivity and deep roots in the Northeast, but admission for a high-achieving student may be slightly more likely. Students looking for a more personal college experience steeped in tradition (perhaps on a bucolic New England campus) may find what they’re looking for at a Little Ivy. Some of these schools—such as Bates College in Maine and Middlebury College in Vermont—have small student bodies and student-faculty ratios.

As with the Public Ivies, admission is still highly competitive at these schools. You can help students applying to these schools by researching admission requirements and resources available in their proposed fields of study (one downside of an intimate college setting can be limited course or major offerings). Bear in mind that these elite private schools may not have the Ivy League seal, but they can certainly come with an Ivy League price tag. Tuition and room and board can be a lot steeper than public institutions, so students deprived of funds should begin searching for scholarships now

Related: 4 Myths About the Ivy League and Selective Colleges

Help students with their applications and encourage them to do whatever they can to boost their chances of admission to these schools. But also remind them there are many other colleges with amazing programs that will welcome them with open arms and offer an abundance of resources. Their experience is far more important than the name on their diploma at the end of four years.

Encourage your students to start learning about other notable institutions now using our College Search tool.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:

About Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah is a former writer and senior editor for Carnegie and CollegeXpress. She holds a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's in Journalism from the University of North Texas. At various times, she has been an uncertain undergrad, a financial aid recipient, a transfer applicant, and a grad student with an assistantship and a full ride. Stephanie is an avid writer, traveler, cook, and dog owner. 

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford

High School Class of 2021

As a UK student moving to California due to my dad's job in the military, when I first signed up for CollegeXpress a few months ago, the college process ahead seemed daunting and incredibly stressful. That all changed after I started to explore what this website had to offer. Not only was I helped by the vast array of resources available to me, but through being a CollegeXpress member, there have been so many more benefits. There have been emails with college tips—all of which I found incredibly helpful—as well as invitations to events and notifications of scholarships that'll make college possible for me. Overall, I'm very grateful to CollegeXpress for all of these things and more. Not only have they helped me grow my understanding of the college process, but they've also helped me to grow as a person, giving me new skills that I can take with me through life.

Khush

Khush

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress is a multi-maneuver platform that has been helping students in their college applications and scholarship hunt process. For me, CollegeXpress has been a boon. I've been able to find my dream university via CX, and I've also been able to apply to thousands of scholarships through it. All the thanks to CollegeXpress for doing such a great job for free. I express my sincere gratitude to you for doing such a wonderful job. I recommend CollegeXpress without any reservations.

Asia Stockdale

Asia Stockdale

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me overcome a huge hurdle. Because of the small town I live in, I felt like I would never achieve more. I felt like I could never go beyond because of costs. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find scholarships. I had no idea of where to start. With CollegeXpress, I easily found scholarships—they came to me. It was a helper, and I was instantly matched with opportunities to go above and beyond educationally.

Mimi

Mimi

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.

Anthony Vidal

Anthony Vidal

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress has helped me in a series of different ways when it comes to finding scholarships and learning information about different universities. I actually found my dream university through CollegeXpress and am working on getting there.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale, MI