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Little Ivies is a colloquialism referring to a group of small, selective American colleges and universities; however, it does not denote any official organization.

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

  • It is sometimes synonymous with the "Little Three," Amherstmarker, Wesleyanmarker, and Williams. (The term "Little Three" is well-defined as a former athletic league and has often been used to identify these schools as a socially and academically elite trio; the term has also been used to compare the three institutions with the so-called "Big Three" of the Ivy League: Harvardmarker, Yalemarker and Princetonmarker.) Encarta defines "Little Ivies" to refer to these three schools, which it characterizes as "small" and "exclusive" and as having "high academic standards and long traditions."
  • It can refer to the schools of the modern-day New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which includes the "Little Three" together with Batesmarker, Bowdoinmarker, Colbymarker, Connecticutmarker, Middleburymarker, Tuftsmarker, Hamilton, and Trinitymarker.
  • Greene and Greene's guide, Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence uses it to refer to "Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Tufts, and Williams," schools which it says have "scaled the heights of prestige and selectivity and also turn away thousands of our best and brightest young men and women."

Some schools that are often called "Little Ivies" include:
Institution Location Little Three Greene's Guides NESCAC Notes
Amherst Collegemarker Amherstmarker, Massachusettsmarker
Bates Collegemarker Lewistonmarker, Mainemarker
Bowdoin Collegemarker Brunswickmarker, Mainemarker
Colby Collegemarker Watervillemarker, Mainemarker
Connecticut Collegemarker New Londonmarker, Connecticutmarker
Hamilton College Clintonmarker, New Yorkmarker
Haverford Collegemarker Haverfordmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker [157683] [157684] [157685] [157686]
Middlebury Collegemarker Middleburymarker, Vermontmarker
Swarthmore Collegemarker Swarthmoremarker, Pennsylvaniamarker [157687] [157688] [157689] [157690]
Trinity Collegemarker Hartfordmarker, Connecticutmarker
Tufts Universitymarker Medfordmarker, Massachusettsmarker No longer a small liberal arts college; university with over 9,000 students (about 5,000 undergraduates and 4,000 graduates).
Wesleyan Universitymarker Middletownmarker, Connecticutmarker
Williams College Williamstownmarker, Massachusettsmarker


Founding of the institutions

Institution Founded Founding religious affiliation
Amherst Collegemarker 1821 Congregationalist
Bates Collegemarker 1855 as Maine State Seminary Free Will Baptist
Bowdoin Collegemarker 1794 Congregationalist
Colby Collegemarker 1813 as Maine Literary and Theological Institution Northern Baptist
Connecticut Collegemarker 1911 Methodist
Hamilton College 1812 Presbyterian
Haverford Collegemarker 1833 Quaker
Middlebury Collegemarker 1800 Informally Congregationalist
Swarthmore Collegemarker 1864 Quaker
Trinity Collegemarker 1823 Episcopalian, although not officially sectarian
Tufts Universitymarker 1852 Universalist Church
Wesleyan Universitymarker 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

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.

Examples of use

See also


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