What Are Ivy League Universities? - Mastersportal.com

What Are Ivy League Universities?

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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.

ivy league campus

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

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 StanfordM.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.

ivy league graduates

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 Ivy League universities?

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 more than just knowledge. For 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, GRELSATGPA), 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.

5 Fun Facts about Ivy League Schools

Colleges and universities as old and prestigious as the Ivy League will, inevitably, be surrounded by stories — and some myths. Here are a few fun and, we think, interesting facts about Ivy League Universities.

1)  They first named them ‘Ivies’ as an insult.

The term started as a way of referring to the sporting rivalry between the eight universities. However, the sports journalist who first referred to the Ivy League was a graduate of Fordham, which had a strong football reputation, and unhappy at having to cover a Columbia-Pennsylvania match. It’s thought his use of ‘Ivy League’ was intended as a disparaging reference, suggesting the universities were more famous for foliage-covered walls than football.

how Ivy colleges got their name

2)   ‘The Ancient Eight’ are not that ancient... 

This is despite the name being totally inaccurate. The Ivy League colleges are about 500 years from being the eight oldest universities in the world, but aren’t even the eight oldest in the United States. Although Harvard is America’s oldest university, Cornell wasn’t founded until 1865, 96 years after the next youngest Ivy League university, Dartmouth. There are plenty of universities older than Ivy League members, including the University of William and Mary, America’s second oldest, founded in 1693.

3)  …but they’re older than America itself.

Seven of the members (all of them except Cornell) were colonial colleges, the nine universities established before the Declaration of Independence. The University of Pennsylvania even counts Ben Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers, as its founder. And Columbia University began life as King’s College, being founded by Royal Charter, before changing its name after the American War of Independence.

4)   Brown has a 'pick-your-own degree'.

Because the university wants to promote individuality and creativity, students can pick almost any course they want. The only limits are that, to graduate, students much complete at least 30 courses and have one concentration (or major). Each semester begins with a shopping period when courses can be sampled, and the system is designed to be as flexible as possible, with many courses having no pre-requisites, and even some taught master’s courses open. It means that it might be possible to have a unique degree!

5)   The 'primal scream' has become part of Harvard tradition.

In the 1960s, Harvard students would open their windows before exams to shot and yell for ten minutes to relieve stress, a practice that became known as the primal scream, although the tradition has now largely been replaced by streaking. Cornell also has a pre-exam ritual, with the university band taking over the library for an hour before exams begin, making last-minute revision difficult! And other Ivy League traditions are odder, at Penn they will throw bread and baked goods onto the sporting field to ‘toast’ their team.

Primal scream at Harvard

These facts just scrape the surface of the Ivy League universities. With thousands of students and faculty, and hundreds of years of history, when you start studying at one, you’ll soon start finding your own fun facts.

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