What do Ivy League Colleges Seek In International Students?

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As an international applicant, you might be wondering what these institutions look for when considering your application.

Originally purely grouped together as part of a sports tournament, Ivies have become renowned for their academic excellence, selectivity, and prestige. These universities — Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania — attract students worldwide, including a significant number of international applicants. (click here to read more on the origins of the Ivy League!)

In this article, we’ll delve into the aspects that Ivy League admissions officers particularly examine when reviewing applications from abroad.

Outstanding Academic Achievement

Unsurprisingly, the Ivy League expects top-notch academic performance. This expectation transcends national borders, and international applicants are no exception. Applicants should exhibit exceptional academic achievement in their home country’s educational system and perform well on standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. Applicants should aim for SAT scores at or above 1540 and ACT scores at or above 34 to be competitive.

International applicants may also need to take an English proficiency exam, such as TOEFL or IELTS, unless they come from an English-speaking country or have studied in English for several years.

Intellectual Curiosity

Ivy League schools seek students who are genuinely passionate about learning. Applicants can demonstrate intellectual curiosity through participation in academic clubs, competitions, research projects, or additional courses taken outside of school. Wherever possible, applicants should strive to go above and beyond what their peers are pursuing to make their commitment and quality of the level at which they operate clear.

Extracurricular Engagement

Being academically talented is essential, but so is showing that you’ve made a significant impact outside the classroom. Whether it’s excelling in a sport, leading a community service initiative, participating in the arts, or any other activity that you’re passionate about, Ivy League schools value students who have shown commitment and leadership in their chosen pursuits. Strong applicants would be performing at least one of these areas at a national or international level.

International Perspective

As an international student, you bring a unique global perspective. Admissions officers value the diversity and enrichment that international students bring to their campus community. Highlight your experiences, cultural insights, and global outlook in your application, demonstrating how you will contribute to the campus’s diversity and intellectual community.


Personal Qualities

Ivy League schools seek students with resilience, ambition, initiative and integrity, as well as the ability to work well with others. These characteristics can be demonstrated through your personal essay, recommendation letters, and supplements: through these writings, applicants should show how they have responded to challenges or made an impact in their community.


Demonstrated Interest

While not a requirement, demonstrating your interest in the university can be a plus. This can be shown through campus visits and attending university events in your country. In an applicant’s supplemental essays (I.e., the essays that are specific to each university), it is essential that the applicant mentions details about the university’s particular resources, opportunities and environment, making clear how the applicant’s interests and goals specifically reflect them.


Financial Consideration

While Ivy League schools are need-blind for domestic students (meaning financial need does not affect admission decisions), policies for international students vary. Many Ivies are need-aware for international students, which means they consider the student’s ability to pay tuition as one of many factors in the admissions decision. However, once admitted, Ivy League universities are committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need.

Gaining admission to an Ivy League school as an international student is an extraordinarily competitive process that requires outstanding academic performance, exceptional extracurricular involvement, and demonstration of strong personal qualities.


At A-List Education, we pride ourselves on our track record of helping students navigate this complex process and achieve their Ivy League ambitions. We are thrilled to announce that we achieved record success rates in 2023. This year, A-List Education students were awarded 288 acceptances at 100 institutions globally, with 81 in the US alone. In total, we have celebrated 41 Ivy League acceptances, with all eight Ivies represented, as well as acceptances at MIT and Stanford. It’s a remarkable testament to our students’ hard work and the expertise of our dedicated team.

If you are aiming for an Ivy League university, we’re here to help you reach that goal. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can support your journey to academic success.