The Ivy League has an international reputation. The eight universities that, eventually, formed the exclusive club are among the best in the world, and every year hundreds of thousands of students compete for places.
But since the benefits of any university education are well researched and attested, what are the particular benefits of studying at an Ivy League school?
Sure, just being at an Ivy League school matters...
Perhaps the most significant benefit is that the university experience at an Ivy League college will likely be one of the best anywhere in the world. There are, of course, other comparable universities, even in the US, but the Ivy League are undoubtedly in the elite tier of universities.
This benefits students in several ways. First, they will be studying with exceptional peers. The atmosphere of excellence and competition is ideal for bringing out the very best academic performance in everyone. But as well as attracting a high calibre of students, the Ivy League attracts a high calibre of faculty.
Because of the reputation, the students, and the resources that the Ivy League can offer, many of the world’s leading academics choose to work there. Students will often find themselves being taught by world-famous names and even Nobel Prize winners. And, because they all have low staff-to-student ratios — as low as five-to-one in some cases, students will have easy access to lecturers and professors.
Ivy League universities also have large endowments, a consequence of their long history and successful alumni. This means they can afford some of the best facilities and resources for students.
And, finally, the reputation attracts a diverse and active student body. Every Ivy League college has an above-average number of international students, creating a diverse community. Along with the various schemes they offer to study at equally prestigious universities abroad, students have an unrivalled opportunity to work with the best students worldwide.
...but there are also concrete lifelong benefits
Any university education will improve outcomes for the rest of the student’s life. But the evidence is that an Ivy League Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree will have even more of an impact.
Several years ago, The Washington Post reported that top-earning Ivy League graduates could expect to earn up to three times as much as top-earning non-Ivy graduates ten years after their course. More recent research has suggested that the average Ivy graduate would be 29% better paid.
And graduates can often enjoy these earnings without the significant debts that other students have upon graduation. All the Ivy League schools offer generous, needs-based, grants and scholarships to every student, and they are all designed so that no student needs to take a loan. Despite the expensive fees of the Ivy League, they might prove one of the cheapest options.
What's with the 'Ivy' effect
Like all the best universities in the world, the Ivy League’s status is self-sustaining. Their reputation attracts the best students and faculty, helping maintain their standards, and maintaining their reputation. And that long-lasting effect transfers to every Ivy Leaguer.
Many alumni have benefited from the friendships and networks they built while they were at college, not least because of the high-profile positions that Ivy Leaguers have gone onto. This often helps new graduates who can tap into the well-developed alumni networks. Whether it’s finding out about opportunities, gaining access to mentoring, or even finding potential business partners, it means that Ivy Leaguers can benefit from their school years after they have left.
And that means the worlds of politics, business, arts, and entertainment are littered with Ivy League graduates. For example, over a third of US presidents attended an Ivy League college, in fact, Presidents Clinton, GW Bush and Obama all had two Ivy League degrees each.
There are plenty of non-political success stories too, Jeff Bezos attended Princeton, author Toni Morrison attended Cornell, and there are so many actors, from Emma Watson to Tommy Lee Jones (who was a roommate of Al Gore), that Hollywood is almost an Ivy League alumni association.
It’s safe to say that the Ivy League has a halo effect that works on top of all the academic benefits it offers students. The schools' reputation is so high, that an Ivy League graduate will have an advantage simply by virtue of their school, without even having to demonstrate their GPA. But, given the competition to get a place, and the rigorous academic standards and expectations that the Ivy League places on students, it’s hard to argue they don’t deserve that benefit.