ACT Scores for Ivy League Admissions

A Side-by-Side Comparison of Ivy League Admissions Data

Low Library at Columbia University
Low Library at Columbia University. Allen Grove

Admission to any of the eight Ivy League schools is highly selective, and ACT scores are an important piece of the admissions equation. Generally applicants will need a composite score of 30 or higher to be competitive although some applicants are admitted with lower scores.

ACT Scores for the Eight Ivy League Schools

If you're wondering if you have the ACT scores you'll need to get into an Ivy League school, here's a side-by-side comparison of scores for the middle 50% of enrolled students. If your scores fall within or above these ranges, you're on target for the Ivy League. Keep in mind that these schools are so competitive that being within the ranges below is no guarantee of admission. You should always consider the Ivy League to be "reach" schools, even when your ACT scores are well within the ranges below.

Ivy League ACT Score Comparison (mid 50%)
(Learn what these numbers mean)

Composite 25% Composite 75% English 25% English 75% Math 25% Math 75%
Brown 32 35 34 36 30 35
Columbia 31 34 33 35 29 35
Cornell 32 34 33 35 30 35
Dartmouth 31 35 33 36 29 35
Harvard 33 35 34 36 31 35
Princeton 32 35 34 36 30 35
U Penn 32 35 34 36 31 35
Yale 33 35 35 36 31 35

View the SAT version of this table

As the table reveals, successful Ivy League applicants typically have ACT scores in the 30s. More most of these elite schools, 25% of all applicants have earned a 35 or 36 on the ACT meaning they are in the top 1% of all test-takers nationally. 

What to Do if Your ACT Scores Are Low

Be sure to keep in mind that 25% of applicants score below the lower numbers above, so if you have impressive strengths in other areas, a less-than-ideal ACT score isn't necessarily the end of the road for your Ivy League chances. At all of the country's top colleges and universities, standardized test scores are just one part of the application. Most important is a strong academic record with lots of AP, IB, Dual Enrollment, and/or Honors Classes. Also important is a winning admissions essay, positive letters of recommendation, a strong interview, and meaningful involvement in extracurricular activities. At many top schools, demonstrated interest and legacy status can also play a small roll in the final admissions decision. That said, very few applicants get in with scores that are significantly below the ranges in the table above.

Be Realistic About Your Chances

Because the Ivy League schools are so selective, it's important to never be complacent about your chances of getting in. Being in the top 1% of ACT test-takers does not mean you will receive an acceptance letter. As an example, if you look at the graph of GPA-SAT-ACT data for Harvard University, you'll see that plenty of students with 4.0 GPAs and perfect standardized test scores did not get in. To be successful, all parts of your application need to impress the admissions folks. The Ivy League isn't simply looking for applicants who have strong numerical academic measures. They are looking for well-rounded applicants who will enrich the campus community in meaningful ways.

More ACT Score Information

Far too many ambitious students are obsessed with the Ivy League and lose sight of the fact that there are well over 2,000 non-profit four-year colleges in the United States. In many cases, an Ivy League school isn't the best choice for an applicants interests, career goals, and personality. If you compare ACT scores for top public universities, for example, you'll find that typical ACT scores are quite a bit lower than they are for the Ivy League.

Finally, keep in mind that the test-optional movement keeps gaining traction, and hundreds of colleges and universities don't require ACT scores as part of the admissions equation. Low ACT scores never need to mean the end of your college ambitions if you are a hard-working student with decent grades.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "ACT Scores for Ivy League Admissions." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). ACT Scores for Ivy League Admissions. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "ACT Scores for Ivy League Admissions." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).