Little Ivies

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Locations of New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) schools, often described as "Little Ivies"

Little Ivies is an informal term, and not an official body, that has been used in the U.S. to compare small liberal arts colleges to the schools of the northeastern Ivy League in some way, usually in academic quality or in social prestige. While a definitive list of such schools does not exist, they are generally a loosely defined group of small, selective[1] American liberal arts colleges.

Institutions identified as Little Ivies are usually old, socially and academically elite, small, exclusive, and academically competitive liberal arts colleges located in the northeastern United States. The colloquialism is meant to imply that Little Ivies share similarities of distinction with the universities of the Ivy League.

Schools include[edit]

Schools that are known as "Little Ivies" include:

Institution Location Little Three Greenes' Guides "Little Ivies"[16][18] NESCAC Class of 2019 Acceptance Rate[19][20] Notes
Amherst College Amherst, Massachusetts Green check.png Green check.png Green check.png 13.7% Founding NESCAC member.
Bates College Lewiston, Maine Green check.png 21.4%
Bowdoin College Brunswick, Maine Green check.png Green check.png 14.9%
Colby College Waterville, Maine Green check.png 22.5%
Connecticut College New London, Connecticut Green check.png 36.2%
Hamilton College Clinton, New York Green check.png 23.9%
Middlebury College Middlebury, Vermont Green check.png Green check.png 17.0%
Trinity College Hartford, Connecticut Green check.png 31.1%
Tufts University Medford, Massachusetts Green check.png Green check.png 15.8% No longer a small liberal arts college; a "research university" with approximately 10,000 students (about 5,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduates).[21]
Wesleyan University Middletown, Connecticut Green check.png Green check.png Green check.png 21.9% Founding NESCAC member.
Williams College Williamstown, Massachusetts Green check.png Green check.png Green check.png 16.8% Founding NESCAC member.


Founding of the institutions[edit]

Institution Founded Founding religious affiliation
Amherst College 1821 Congregationalist
Bates College 1855 (as Maine State Seminary) Free Will Baptist
Bowdoin College 1794 Congregationalist Colby College 1813 (as Maine Literary and Theological Institution) Northern Baptist Hamilton College 1812 Presbyterian
Middlebury College 1800 Informally Congregationalist Trinity College 1823 (as Washington College) Episcopal
Tufts University 1852 Universalist Church
Wesleyan University 1831 Methodist
Williams College 1793 Congregationalist
Note Founding dates and religious affiliations are those stated by the institution itself. Many of them had complex histories in their early years and the stories of their origins are subject to interpretation. See footnotes for details where appropriate. "Religious affiliation" refers to financial sponsorship, formal association with, and promotion by, a religious denomination. All of the "Little Ivies" are private and not currently associated with any religion.

Related colleges[edit]

The schools of the Seven Sisters, historically women's colleges, could be considered a counterpart of the Little Ivies. Schools in this group are occasionally described as "little Ivies" themselves; for example, the Business Times of Singapore mentions "Amherst, Williams, Smith, Wesleyan and Swarthmore" as examples,[1] and Greenes' Guides, illustrated in the chart above, ranks Vassar among the "little Ivies".

Examples of use[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Business Times of Singapore mentions Little Ivies as "elite liberal arts colleges" that are "small and selective." April 17, 2001.
  2. ^ a b Tyre, Peg & William Lee Adams (2005), "Prep Chic," Newsweek, May 4, 2005 "23 percent of Taft graduates attended one of the Ivies or little Ivies (Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst)."
  3. ^ Union-News (Springfield, MA), December 5, 1988, p. 13 (quotes a Bryn Mawr official: "If the Seven Sisters were now Siblings, she asked, did that mean that Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst colleges, referred to as the 'Little Ivies,' were cousins?")
  4. ^ The New York Times (1970): "Students decline Wesleyan offers," June 15, 1970, p. 28: "Amherst College, a member with Williams and Wesleyan in the Little Ivy League..."
  5. ^ Potts, David B. (1999) Wesleyan University, 1831–1910: Collegiate Enterprise in New England. Wesleyan University Press, ISBN 0-8195-6360-9. p. 183: "Wesleyan joined Amherst and Williams in early 1899 to form a new 'Triangular League.' Football, baseball and track competition in this league became something of a trial run for later contests in a wide range of sports under the rubric 'Little Three.'"
  6. ^ Watterson, John Sayle (2002): College Football. Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0-8018-7114-X. p. ix: "Wesleyan played big-time football in the 1880s and 1890s... but a hundred years later they played a small-college schedule and belong to the Little Three, which also included Amherst and Williams."
  7. ^ Bello, Michael T. "Around the Courts: College Squash Weekend Highlights (1/30/2011)". College Squash Association. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "2011 Top 300 Colleges and Universities Ranked by Internet ‘Brand Equity’". The Global Language Monitor. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  10. ^ Kingston, Paul William and Lionel S. Lewis, "Introduction: Studying Elite Schools in America" (1990). In The High Status Track: Studies of Elite Schools and Stratification. SUNY Press, ISBN 0-7914-0010-7. p. xviii: "More widely recognized is the distinctive cachet of an Ivy League education—and possibly that at the 'Little Three' (Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams) and a small number of other private colleges and universities."
  11. ^ United States Congress, Senate, Committee on Finance (1951): Revenue Act of 1951. p. 1768. Material by Stuart Hedden, president of Wesleyan University Press, inserted into the record: "Popularly known, together with Williams and Amherst, as one of the Little Three colleges of New England, [Wesleyan] has for nearly a century and a quarter served the public welfare by maintaining with traditional integrity the highest academic standards." Published by the U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951.
  12. ^ Duckworth, Henry. One version of the facts: my life in the ivory tower. University of Manitoba Press. p. 94. ISBN 0-88755-670-1. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Definition at MSN Encarta supports definition as the Little Three and calls Little Ivies schools "that have high academic standards and long traditions but are smaller than those in the Ivy League.". Archived 2009-11-01.
  15. ^ Upon its founding, the NESCAC (website) included: Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, Union, Wesleyan, and Williams.
  16. ^ a b "Greenes' Guides to Educational Planning: The Hidden Ivies". Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  17. ^ Greene, Howard and Matthew Greene (2000) Greenes' Guides to Educational Planning: The Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-095362-4, book description at
  18. ^ Howard Greene; Matthew W. Greene (11 May 2010). The Hidden Ivies: 50 Top Colleges—from Amherst to Williams —That Rival the Ivy League. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-201164-0. 
  19. ^ Caldwell, Tanya. "Colleges Report 2013 Admission Rates". New York Times. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ [1]