Ivy League ACT Scores: What to Aim For to Maximize Your Chances

Before you begin preparing for the ACT, it’s important to have a sense of what your score goals are. A good way to start figuring that out is to generate a list of schools you’re interested in and then research score statistics for each. Test scores are one piece of information that applicants can use to sort their prospective future academic homes into the three categories beloved by college counselors everywhere—reach schools, target schools, and safety schools. Inevitably, though, many students are curious about the same thing: what ACT scores would I need to get into an Ivy League school? In this post, we’ll answer that question.

But First, A Piece of Unsolicited Advice

Look, the Ivy League is comprised of fantastic schools. There’s a reason names like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are used as benchmarks of academic excellence. And if you absolutely have your heart set on one of those illustrious institutions, feel free to skip this portion of the post.

If you’re here because you’re doing initial research, though, or even just because you’re curious, I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to say this: there are so many phenomenal schools outside of the Ivy League. No, really—higher education does in fact exist outside of the northeastern United States. I promise.

Joking aside, the best advice I can give to anyone in the early stages of the college search process is to start as broad as possible. Think about more than the name on the front of the building. Consider location, size, cost, and the specific strength of the school’s academic programs in any particular areas you’re already passionate about. This country has an incredible number of places where you can get a fantastic education, and the vast majority of them aren’t Ivy League schools. Don’t be so focused on applying to the “best” schools that you miss out on the best school for you.

Average Ivy League ACT Scores

Below is a list I’ve compiled of ACT composite score ranges for Ivy League schools. The first number is the 25th percentile score (so the score that would place you at or above the level of a quarter of the admitted students that year), while the second is the 75th percentile. All numbers come from the IPEDS database, provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, and represent the stats for the application class of Fall 2019.

  • Brown University: 33-35
  • Columbia University: 33-35
  • Cornell University: 32-35
  • Dartmouth College: 32-35
  • Harvard University: 33-35
  • University of Pennsylvania: 33-35
  • Princeton University: 33-35
  • Yale University: 33-35

Unsurprisingly, the trend is pretty consistent, and the takeaway is clear: if you want ACT scores that are competitive with the Yale average or the Harvard average, you’re aiming for roughly a 34 composite.

It’s also interesting to note that the ACT English scores that represented the 25th and 75th percentiles were higher than the corresponding ACT Math scores for all eight Ivy League schools. Princeton, for instance, had an English range of 34-36 but a Math range of “only” 31-35.

It’s likely that this has more to do with the relative strengths of students who choose to submit ACT scores versus those who choose to submit SAT scores than with any kind of preference on the part of the schools (particularly because the percentiles of SAT scores for admitted students showed the exact opposite trend); however, it does mean that your application may stand out slightly more if you apply with an extremely high ACT Math score. Whether that really makes any kind of a difference during the evaluation process is a question that I’ll leave to the admissions experts.

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If your dream school is an Ivy, why not schedule some time with our online ACT tutors? Our squad of test gurus would love to help you hit that sky-high score you’re aiming for.

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