Southern Ivy League Schools Ranked – 2024

January 21, 2024

southern ivies ivy league

Do you dream of a school known for its academic rigor, where excellence is prized and the faculty is top-notch? Perhaps you also dream of sunny skies, mild temperatures, and a lush, scenic campus. If so, you might be looking to attend a Southern Ivy. If you’ve never heard this term, don’t worry—you’re in luck. We’re here today to give you a list of schools in the South that you might consider adding to your college admissions list—the Southern Ivy League. Let’s get started!

What is the Ivy League?

The term “Ivy League” came about in the 1950s to refer to an athletic conference between eight private schools in the Northeast. (For more on the history of this term, see our article here.) Those schools include Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Yale. Over time, the Ivy League came to define much more than those eight schools’ sports teams. Today, you’ll often hear those words used as a shorthand to talk about universities of particular academic excellence and prestige. While it’s true that these eight institutions are prestigious, boasting low admission rates and stellar facilities, it’s important to remember that many elite universities, from MIT to Stanford to Duke (part of the Southern Ivy League), are not included in that limited classification of “Ivies.”

Why is the Ivy League Considered Prestigious?

The Ivy League’s prestige derives from its reputation (where are our Swifties at?), historical significance, broad social impact, and extensive alumni network. These are universities with multibillion-dollar endowments and rich histories, replete with influential alumni who help to continue enhancing the schools’ images through time. All this has enabled the Ivy League to thrive, drawing top professors, research facilities, and students. Given all this, it probably comes as no surprise that the Ivy League has some of the lowest admissions rates of any school of higher education. What this means is that when crafting your college list, you’ll want to ensure that you have plenty of options—both schools that are part of the Ivy League (if that’s your thing) and schools that are not. But where else should you be looking? That’s the exact question we’re here to help answer today.

What are Hidden Ivies?

The term Hidden Ivies was initially coined by authors Howard Greene and Matthew Greene in the book Hidden Ivies, where they delve into a review of the country’s top overlooked schools. The point, they stress, is that there are many schools out there that might not be on someone’s radar but may actually be the most appropriate choice for a student in terms of location, fit, student-to-faculty ratio, financial aid packages, and more. Schools often considered “Hidden Ivies” include liberal arts colleges such as Williams College, Amherst College, Middlebury College, Vassar College, and Bowdoin College, as well as universities like Washington University in St. Louis, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago.

What are the Public Ivies?

Public Ivies refer to state schools that offer competitive educations to those found at traditional Ivy League schools for a fraction of the cost. These schools’ large size means they attract students and faculties from all walks of life. Additionally, these schools are significantly cheaper than private institutions. A Public Ivy presents the best of both worlds for a student who believes they’d thrive in a larger setting. Some schools that make our non-exhaustive Public Ivy list include the University of California schools, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and more.

Note that many of these schools have specific admissions requirements that may differ for in-state versus out-of-state applicants, so make sure to talk to your guidance counselor about what you’ll need to qualify. Additionally, remember that these schools’ selectivity can vary widely. For instance, UC Berkeley and Georgia Tech accept 11% and 17% of students respectively, whereas many other state schools have higher acceptance rates (for comparison, the University of Arizona has an 87.3% acceptance rate).

What are the Southern Ivies?

The Southern Ivy League comprises southern schools that fit the criteria we outlined above: a robust and vibrant campus, devoted and high-performing faculty, competitive acceptance rates, and the promise of an outstanding education. One of the benefits of each of these schools is that they all boast a beautiful campus, even those in the urban settings of Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas, so if you’re dreaming of a bustling quad surrounded by picturesque buildings, you’re in luck! Without further ado, we present our list of the best Southern Ivies (note: the list is in alphabetical order and is the numerical

1) Duke University

Second on our list is another North Carolina-based school. Duke University is a private research university in Durham, North Carolina, whose campus spans an impressive 8,600 acres (which includes the three sub-campuses). Duke is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, though it is considered an independent institution. It is also known for its athletic prowess and research initiatives, particularly in the sciences. Tuition for Duke comes in at $63,450. For all you Blue Devil hopefuls out there, you’ll need top test scores and grades, as this is one of the most competitive universities. Only 6% of applicants to the Class of 2027 were accepted. For more information on applying to Duke, including SAT, ACT and class rank of accepted applicants, refer to our helpful article here.

2) Vanderbilt University

Last but certainly not least, we have Vanderbilt University, located in Nashville, Tennessee. Undergraduate enrollment here is 7,151, and tuition is $63,946. Vanderbilt is another top-ranked school, coming in at #18 on this year’s US News ranking. For tips on how to become a Commodore, see our guide here.

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3) Rice University

Another school with a stellar reputation is Rice University, located in Houston, Texas. Rice defines itself as a comprehensive research university focused on innovation. This makes sense, as Rice’s campus is right next to the Texas Medical Center and the Houston Museum District, offering students opportunities for hands-on internships in a wide variety of fields.  Total undergraduate enrollment is 4,494, and the campus is 300 acres. Tuition at Rice costs $58,128. Rice consistently ranks in the top 25 universities, making it an easy candidate for our list. It is particularly known for its engineering program. If you’re looking to apply here, know that the acceptance rate for the Class of 2027 came in at an all-time low of 7.7%. For more information on applying to Rice, see here.

4) Emory University

Next up, we have Emory University, located in Atlanta, Georgia. If you’re looking for a school that offers both the conveniences of city living and the benefits of traditional campus life, Emory might be the school for you. Emory enjoys a stellar reputation, particularly in business and medicine. Its total undergraduate enrollment is around 7,000, and the campus is 631 acres. Tuition at this prestigious university comes in at $60,774. Unfortunately, we aren’t the only ones who’ve caught onto Emory’s excellence, as applications to this school have steadily risen year after year. For the 2022-2023 cycle, the Emory College acceptance rate was 10.3%. Note that Emory has two campuses: Emory College and Oxford College. For more information on the differences between these two, as well as questions on applying to Emory in general, we’ve got you covered.

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5) University of Virginia

Another one of the Public Ivies, the University of Virginia is a public institution that consistently ranks in the top 25. In-state tuition runs $22,323, while out-of-state tuition is $58,950. Total undergraduate enrollment is 17,496. UVA is located in Charlottesville, VA, and is known worldwide as a renowned research university. For more information, see here.

6) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, or UNC-Chapel Hill, is the first Public Ivy on our list. That’s right, the prestigious UNC-Chapel Hill is a state school, making it a perfect choice for North Carolina residents who can take advantage of that in-state tuition of $8,998. For out-of-state residents, tuition will run $39,338—still quite reasonable! The total enrollment here is 20,210, and the acceptance rate is 17%.

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7) University of Texas at Austin

Hook’em! This large public research university in Austin, Texas has everything: business, arts, sciences—you name it. The University of Texas at Austin enjoys a stellar reputation, and it’s easy to see why. Austin, Texas consistently ranks among the top places to attend colleges in the country. It’s a bustling city (and a tech magnet!) where Longhorns have access to myriad opportunities in almost every field. In-state tuition runs $11,698, while out-of-state tuition is $41,070. Total undergraduate enrollment is 41,309, making it one of the larger options on our list. For more information on applying, see here.

8) Davidson College

Located in Davidson, North Carolina, this private liberal arts college is sometimes called the “Princeton of the South.” Davidson enrolls nearly 2,000 undergraduates, 95% of whom live on campus. For the class of 2027, Davidson College had an acceptance rate of 14.5%. What’s more, NBA champion Steph Curry is an alum! Yes, that’s right, Davidson College is in the NCAA Division 1 athletics conference. Tuition for Davidson runs about $60,050. For more information on applying to this school, see our guide here.

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9) University of Richmond

Sometimes called a Little Ivy, the University of Richmond is located in Richmond, Virginia. It is a private institution with a total undergraduate enrollment of 3,145. Tuition costs $62,600. Richmond is known for its integrated liberal arts core, as well as its well-respected business school. To guide aspiring Spiders, we’ve put together this guide on applying for the University of Richmond.

10) Tulane University

Located in New Orleans, Louisiana, Tulane is perfect for all you foodies. This private institution offers one of the smaller campuses on our list, with an urban setting and an undergraduate enrollment of 7,350. Tuition here runs around $65,000. Before you get too excited about living life in NoLa, know that the acceptance rate for Tulane for the Class of 2027 was at a record low of 13%. For more information on applying, see here.

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11) Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University, also known as SMU, was founded in 1911. Located in Dallas, Texas, with a secondary satellite campus in Taos, New Mexico, SMU is known for its Division I athletic teams and its BFA dance program. While the school does have the word “Methodist” in its name, it considers itself nonsectarian. Tuition costs $64,460, and total undergraduate enrollment is around 7,000. The good news is that SMU has a higher acceptance rate than some other universities on our list, with an admissions rate of around 52%. Due to its urban setting in Dallas, SMU offers students many opportunities in and around the city, particularly regarding research and the arts.

Southern Ivies – Additional Resources

You may also find these additional blogs to be of interest: