Is Stanford Ivy League?

Stanford University has all the prestige of an Ivy League school but is in a league of its own on the West Coast.
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Anne Dennon
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Anne Dennon covers higher education trends, policy, and student issues for BestColleges. She has an MA in English literature and a background in research strategy and service journalism....
Published on October 18, 2023
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Margaret Weinhold is an associate editor for BestColleges, where she focuses on core content. She is passionate about increasing visibility and accessibility around higher education. Margaret holds a BA in English from the University of Virginia....
Learn more about our editorial process is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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  • One of the biggest, most beautiful campuses in the U.S. isn't in New England.
  • Far from the East Coast Ivy League, California's Stanford University is just as elite.
  • Like Ivies, Stanford has top professional schools, huge funding, and competitive admissions.
  • Stanford is not only “just as good” as the Ivy League schools. Many Americans think it's better.

South of San Francisco and north of San Jose, Stanford University rests in a hallowed nook off the California coast. At over 8,000 acres, its Mission-style campus is among the largest in the U.S. and is populated with a huge set of sculptures by Auguste Rodin.

Stanford University has a reputation for luxury: The Stanford Golf Course rests in the foothills above campus. The school is also synonymous with California entrepreneurialism. Stanford faculty and graduates built the local tech industry today known as Silicon Valley.

Stanford is linked to the birth of the internet itself, not to mention the creation of Yahoo, Google, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat. The university also produces powerful alumni, including Nobel and Pulitzer laureates, a U.S. president (Herbert Hoover, who briefly majored in geology), and the current British prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

While Stanford is not in the Ivy League, the institution's reputation has grown so great as to supplant the Ivies at the top of college rankings. U.S. students and parents have named Stanford the number-one dream college for much of the past decade.

Is Stanford an Ivy League School?

Stanford does not belong to the Ivy League — that pack of New England universities that includes centuries-old colleges like Harvard and Yale — but it is the most elite university on the West Coast, topping any list of public Ivies and Ivy equivalents.

While the U.S. has no shortage of big-name universities that vie for Ivy status, Stanford may deserve the comparison the most. Stanford's founders modeled the school after its East Coast forebearers, particularly Cornell University.

Cornell, the youngest of the Ivy League colleges, was founded just 20 years before Stanford. At Stanford's opening, the school was hailed as the “Cornell of the West,” with the majority of faculty hailing from the New York Ivy, including Stanford's first two presidents.

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School Profile: Five Facts About Stanford

  1. More grad students than undergrads: According to the NCES, Stanford has a higher number of graduate students compared to undergrads:
    • Total Enrollment: 17,680
    • Undergraduate: 7,645
    • Graduate: 10,035
  2. Almost all students live on campus: The majority of undergraduate students and over half of graduate students live in on-campus university housing. First-year undergraduates are required to live on campus.
  3. Students call campus The Farm: Despite the golf course and the outsized Rodin collection, Stanford students refer to campus as The Farm. Before the university's founding, the land was used as a stable for racehorses.
  4. Super low acceptance rate: Stanford's admission rate for the class of 2026 dropped to a record low of 3.68%. Out of its academic peers, only Harvard had a lower acceptance rate for incoming first-years.
  5. Grads earn big salaries: The typical Stanford student earns at least a six-figure salary 10 years after enrolling.

How Does Stanford Compare to the Ivy League?

Like the Ivies...

  • Massive Endowments: The multi-billion investment portfolio that houses Stanford's wealth is right up there with Harvard's and Yale's.
  • Research Superpower: Stanford is home to dozens of institutes and labs, a children's hospital, and the Hoover Institution, a public policy think tank.
  • Top STEM Programs: Stanford beats out many Ivies with nationally ranked computer science, engineering, and math bachelor's programs and career-building professional colleges.

Unlike the Ivies...

  • Less Traditional: Ivies have ties to old education systems, some admitting only men for theological studies. Stanford has always been coeducational and non-denominational.
  • Bigger Greek Life: Sororities were banned for 33 years at Stanford due to “extreme competition” — Since the 1970s, Greek life has been big on the Stanford campus. Among the Ivies, Greek life is small, concentrated at Cornell, Penn, and Dartmouth.

Frequently Asked Questions About Stanford University

Is it better to go to Harvard or Stanford?

East Coast Harvard and West Coast Stanford lord over the nation's colleges, splitting honors like top rankings, biggest endowments, and most decorated alums. While Harvard retains its old boys' club significance, Stanford has new-world weight.

Is it better to go to Stanford or UC Berkeley?

The public University of California, Berkeley, is somewhat less prestigious, with lower in-state fees and a larger student population. That said, Berkeley has even more Nobel laureates on faculty and a slate of STEM programs that go shoulder-to-shoulder with Stanford's.

Is it better to go to Stanford or UCLA?

The University of California, Los Angeles, is another one of California's leading public universities. Its urban setting and big student population differ from Stanford's small and secluded scene; both offer strong science curricula. UCLA is at the top of most rankings but still trails behind Stanford.

Is Stanford as good as the Ivy League?

In the 1960s, just as tech started to boom in the Bay Area, Stanford began appearing on college top 10 lists. As the decades passed, Stanford's innovation and academics revolutionized the aims of U.S. higher education. Today, that entrepreneurial superpower makes Stanford just as good, if not better, than the Ivy League by many measures. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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