America's New Elite Ivies
By Barbara Kantrowitz and Karen SpringenThe nation's elite colleges these days include more than Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Why? It's the tough competition for all the top students. That means a range of schools are getting fresh bragging rights.
You could call it a classic case of supply meeting demand. A generation ago, elite schools were a clearly defined group: the eight schools in the Ivy League, along with such academic powerhouses as Stanford, the University of Chicago, MIT and Caltech. Smaller liberal-arts colleges -- like Williams, Amherst, Middlebury, Swarthmore and Wesleyan -- were the destinations of choice for top students who preferred a more intimate campus. But in the past few decades, the number of college-bound students has skyrocketed, and so has the number of world-class schools. The demand for an excellent education has created an ever-expanding supply of big and small campuses that provide great academics and first-rate faculties.
The bottom line: that one "perfect" school need not break a student's heart. The colleges on the following list -- the "New Ivies" -- are beneficiaries of the boom in top students. We selected them based on admissions statistics as well as interviews with administrators, faculty, students and alumni. In some cases, admissions directors have also provided examples of "overlap" schools -- rivals for applicants to the colleges on our list.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Founded by Jesuits to teach the sons of Irish immigrants, BC today serves 9,000 undergraduates and 4,500 graduate students. About 70 percent of the student body is Roman Catholic. The school's growing popularity among students from around the country has meant a 39 percent increase in applications in five years. "The greatest thing about BC is that you have the opportunity to pursue your individual passion or take electives," says sophomore Carly DeFilippo of Madison, Conn. Students appreciate the strong academics, but also seek out other opportunities. That means wide participation in student government, theater and intramural sports. High-profile alumni include actor Chris O'Donnell and "Saturday Night Live" star Amy Poehler, who were both onstage while at BC. Boston itself is also a major appeal; the campus is about five miles west of downtown.