The Ivy League universities all have a strong academic reputation. As often happens, history plays a big role. Giving them a long track record that attracts the best students. Over a third of US Presidents attended an Ivy League school, and collectively they have an impressive share of Nobel laureates.
There are few people in the world who will not have heard of the eight Ivy League schools, and fewer who would not be able to name at least a couple of the members. Regardless, most of those who couldn't name at least Harvard and Yale, will still assume that the Ivy League is about prestigious universities and high-quality research institutions. Ironically, the Ivy League — officially, at least — is not concerned with education or research at all. It’s actually a sports league!
What is The Ivy League? It does relate to sports.
Technically, the Ivy League is the sports conference for eight private universities in the north-east United States. The universities all compete against each other across the full range of student athletic events.
A visit to the Ivy League’s website will reveal it contains lots of sports news, but not much about the academic side of college and university life; there is just a single page of admissions advice for athletes who are interested in playing for one of the teams.
The Ivy League was formed in 1954, but the term was in use by the 1930s. Picking on a tradition of planting ivy that took place at many universities during the nineteenth century, sports writers used it to refer to the inter-college rivalry which existed between the historic colleges. The sporting origins of the term limit the membership to those eight universities with shared history and geography, making it an exclusive club.
Which are the Ivy League universities?
The select group of eight US colleges got its name thanks to sports. Needless to say all Ivies are old and highly regarded universities. Seven of them were founded during America’s colonial period, and they all have a reputation for academic excellence. Although they are all members of the Association of American Universities, an organisation that represents the best universities across America, Ivy League universities are often considered the best America has to offer.
List of Ivy League universities
- Harvard University (Massachusetts)
- Yale University (Connecticut)
- Princeton University (New Jersey)
- Columbia University (New York)
- Brown University (Rhode Island)
- Dartmouth College (New Hampshire)
- University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania)
- Cornell University (New York)
Indeed, the power of the Ivy League brand is such that it is frequently adopted when talking about other high-performing universities in America, with terms like Ivy Plus, Public Ivies, or Hidden Ivies used to create new lists and categories. While it might technically be about sport, the phrase is best known as a shorthand for America’s best universities.
Of course, the excellence of US Higher Education is not limited to the Ivies. There are plenty of universities besides the ones in the League, which provide excellent education and are worth considering because of their high international ranking and more affordable tuition fees. Among them are Stanford, M.I.T., and Caltech — schools that are not technically Ivy League schools, but tend to enjoy a similar reputation and social status. In fact, due to their prestige of MIT, Stanford are often mistaken as Ivy League, even though they are not.
Why are Ivy League universities so good?
This select group of universities in the USA boast a great academic reputation and tradition, but they also have big endowments, ensuring continued investment; collectively they are said to control endowments worth nearly $150 billion, and Harvard alone has more than $40 billion.
These create a high demand for places, typically for every student accepted there will be at least nine rejected. And that ability to be selective helps ensure a good supply of students to maintain not only academic records but also ensure continued donations!
When you’re beginning your search for undergraduate and graduate degrees, these universities are likely to be the first to attract your attention, for many reasons.
Firstly, they use a lot of resources to attract smart, hard-working, and career-minded students from all over the world. Secondly, it’s no secret that these schools strongly help students in their professional careers. Looking to several fields, extending from Law and Medicine, to Electrical Engineering and Business, Ivy League universities truly dominate these categories. Getting a degree from these schools will open a lot of doors for you in the future.
How big are they?
However, despite the highly selective nature of Ivy League universities, some are among America’s biggest universities and thousands of students head to them every year.
Nearly 150,000 students are enrolled across the eight colleges. Harvard is the biggest, with just over 30,000 students. What is notable, though, is that with their research focus, and high number of graduate schools, several of the Ivy League schools have more considerably more graduate than undergraduate students. In some cases, almost twice as many, both Harvard and Columbia have about 8,000 undergraduates but over 20,000 graduate students. Across all the Ivy League schools, about 60% of the students are graduates.
It’s also worth noting that their reputation and size means that they typically have a diverse student population. Although, like any universities, they draw many students from the region they serve, the Ivy League has a global reach. Every university has a higher proportion of international students than the American average, and Harvard — again — leads the way, with one-fifth of their student body comprising international students.
All this means that, despite the competition for Ivy League places, a little research to find the right course at the right school before an application can greatly increase the odds of success.
The value of prestige
Ivy League education offers moreFor many, the attraction of the Ivy League colleges are the benefits they bring. While any university education is a benefit, some argue that an than other universities.
In terms of education, it’s hard to argue that Ivy League are not among the best in the world. In the QS University rankings, they hold five of the top ten places in the US, and those five are all among the top 25 in the world. An enviable academic performance for a group that is technically just a sports league!
They can also boast good outcomes for their students. Professor Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist who looks at the impact various factors have on life outcomes, found that Ivy League graduates typically go on to high earnings, once finding that 20% of Ivy League graduates went on to be in the top 1% of US earners within 15 years.
However, these benefits do come at a cost. They are among the most expensive of US universities. Annual fees typically range between $40,000 and $50,000 a year and since many of the Ivy League colleges are in high cost-of-living areas, the initial costs may well mean that higher earning power after graduation is an essential.
Things to know before you apply
Studying at an Ivy League university is about much more than just a qualification. They represent not just exceptional education, but also the chance to study at universities that have their own character and stories, which are frequently part of America’s national story. And, for many, the universities provide the opportunities that start a lifetime of success.
Steeped in history, academic excellence, and of course, sporting rivalry, the Ivy League offers a selection of universities that would be hard to beat, whatever you study at them. Just keep in mind a few important facts:
- The admission process for these elite schools is highly competitive; you’ll need to achieve standards that are much higher than the ones at any average public university. For instance, the overall admission rates in 2020 were under 10%.
- Remember to check the admission requirements carefully, including test scores (SAT, GRE, LSAT, GPA), recommendations, extra-curricular activities, and other academic achievements. They matter!
- several of them score high in university rankingsYou should keep in mind, though, that there are thousands of higher education institutions in the U.S., and while having lower tuition costs. This is why, when searching for universities, you should really seek the perfect fit that suits your personal needs.