The Ivy League is a historic union of sports teams from eight of the oldest private universities in the United States. Now the name is more often used to designate a group of the most prestigious universities in the country themselves.

List of Ivy League universities

Universities UniversityLocationSports nameUndergraduatenumber of studentsMasters and PhDsnumber of studentsCost, yearEndowment, billion USDFaculty
Harvard UniversityCambridge, MassachusettsCrimson72102161651,925 USD41.9 2400
Yale UniversityNew Haven, ConnecticutBulldogs5939746955,500 USD31.1 1915
Princeton UniversityPrinceton, NJTigers532129465280025.91161
University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PAQuakers1060514009 57,700 USD14.71480
Columbia UniversityNew YorkLions76662286161,788 USD11.33462
Cornell UniversityIthaca, NYBig Red15175841857,222 USD7.32026
Dartmouth CollegeHanover, New HampshireBig Green4357215457,638 USD6738
Brown UniversityProvidence, Rhode IslandBears6735321458,404 USD4.7991

Advantages of the Ivy League

  • More funding. It is the source of all the benefits that students receive in Ivy League universities. The endowment of universities is huge: for example, Harvard has a budget exceeding the GDP of Moldova or Latvia. Thanks to this, universities can build state-of-the-art laboratories, conduct research, and provide students with modern equipment and study materials. On average, Ivy League universities spend 92,000 USD per student, while other universities spend 12,000 USD[0].
  • High quality of education. Firstly, it is guaranteed by the professors — prominent specialists in their fields. The competition among staff is very high, only the best pass. So rest assured, these people have a lot to teach. Secondly, the quality of education relies on the teaching methods and the university environment. Students are taught to get knowledge on their own, carry out group projects and present them. The arrangement of campuses, libraries, student residences, the curriculum — everything is done in such a way as to immerse students in their studies as much as possible.
  • Networking. League students find like-minded people and make useful contacts, which then help them build a career. Many graduates become famous scientists, businessmen, and politicians. Five American presidents have graduated from Harvard alone.
  • Employment. Ivy League degrees are highly valued by employers. The salary of Ivy graduates is twice as high as the national average: 70,000 USD per year versus 34,000 USD[1].
  • The ratio of teachers to students. Ivy League universities employ more faculty members than most other institutions. This means they can pay more attention to students. At Yale University, for example, there are only six students per professor[2]. In comparison, the average in the US is 16 to 1[3].

Disadvantages of the Ivy League

  • High competition. The most talented students from around the world apply to Ivy League universities. Because of this, the requirements and competition are very high. The average rate of enrollment is just 7%.
  • High price. A year of studies at any Ivy League university costs more than 50,000 USD. It is expensive even for America: the average price in the country is 23,835 USD[4]. However, the universities offer financial assistance, it covers up to 100% of the cost of training. But only at Harvard, Princeton and Yale, the financial situation of the applicant does not affect the scholarship approval. Other universities, all other things being equal, will prefer someone who can fully pay for tuition.
  • Rankings by field of study. Princeton or Yale is not always the best choice for a student. In some areas, other universities, even relatively inexpensive ones, can rank higher. In geophysics, the State University of California at Berkeley is better than the League[5], and in computer science, MIT[6] (which is not part of the League, despite popular misconception) is the best.
  • Competition and pressure. High workload, constant tests, and hard exams lead to mental issues. According to alumni, studying in the Ivy League is very difficult — both physically and mentally. The high competition worsens the situation. All students are used to being "the best of the best", but, gathered in one place, struggle to distinguish themselves.
  • Elitism. The Ivy League is still mostly attended by applicants from the richest families. Despite the support programs, in Harvard, only 3% of students have low-income background[7].
Cornell university
Cornell university

History of the Ivy League

The first formal association of universities, including members of the current Ivy League, appeared in 1870 under the name Rowing Association of American Colleges. It was an association of varsity rowing teams. Today this association is the oldest sports student organization in the world.

In 1936, Cornell University sports administrator Romain Berry proposed to officially register the new association, the Ivy League, which already existed informally. He was supported by representatives of sports organizations, but the heads of the universities did not find creating such an association necessary.

And yet, at the end of World War II, the heads of the universities came to an agreement to create a football league association. By 1952, within the framework of the association, competitions were held in other sports.

Today, the Ivy League organization includes the Council of University Presidents, the Council of Head Coaches, the University Athletic Admissions Commissions, and the Division of Financial Aid and Athletic Scholarships.

Origins of the term 'Ivy League'

The true history of the name is still unknown.

In the 19th century, there was a tradition in American universities: on the first day of school, teachers and students planted ivy, which then grew and wrapped itself around the walls. Ivy had been a recognizable part of Princeton University's identity since before the League was founded.

In 1935, the name was first used in the press. It happened in an announcement of the agreement between universities in the eastern United States, which had had a long tradition of sports. But who coined the name is still unclear.

There is also a story that the sports columnist for the New York Herald Tribune once slandered the football teams of Princeton and Columbia universities on-air. He called them "ivy-covered" and said that they were far from the level of the team at Fordham University.

Another theory is that the League's name comes from the Greek number IV, which can be homophonically read as "i-vy". This story of the name was even published in Morris's Dictionary of Phrases and Origins. According to this opinion, the Ivy League was originally supposed to include Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia universities. Whatever the truth, today there are eight members of the League, and the name “Ancient Eight” in the United States means the same as the Ivy League. In addition to this, the association has an unofficial name “The Ivies”.

Columbia university
Columbia university

How to enter the Ivy League

UniversityEnrollment ratefor undegraduates in 2020QS ratingTHE ranking Best fields of study
Cornell University11%1819
  • Computer Science
  • Business and Marketing
  • Biology
  • Dartmouth College8%203101
  • Economics
  • Political Science and Public Administration
  • Computer Science
  • University of Pennsylvania8%1613
  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Nursing
  • Brown University7%6061
  • Economics
  • Computer science
  • Biology
  • Yale6%178
  • Economics
  • History
  • Political Science and Governance
  • Princeton University6%September12
  • Computer Engineering
  • Economics
  • Political Analysis
  • Columbia University5%1917
  • Economics
  • Computer science
  • Political science and governance
  • Harvard University5%33
  • Economics
  • Computer Science
  • Political Science and Public Administration
  • Ivy League universities are some of the most demanding in the country. The only university with lower admission rates than Harvard is the Curtis Institute with 4%. On the other hand, the competition at Cornell University is not as harsh as in many universities outside of the League. By that metric, it holds 27th place in the United States[8].

    Excellent grades are required to enter the Ivy League. At Yale and Columbia, 95% of students were among the top 10% in their schools[9]. Even the universities themselves state on the admission requirements pages of their websites that high academic performance is essential. It is evaluated through the GPA and standardized tests. In general, the minimal requirements look like this:

    The other parts of the application are equally important. An academically less successful candidate can benefit from high motivation, creativity, and social activities. To have enough time to collect all the documents, you need to start preparing in advance — preferably one and a half or two years before admission.

    The Commission especially values students who are passionate about their field of study. You don't have to be the best in everything. But if you are applying, for example, to Sociology, you need to show that you have already achieved something — won subject competitions, read Adorno and Weber, wrote some works. Prove that you are really interested in understanding how society works. Or in anything else. The important criteria are passion, willingness to learn, and the ability to achieve your goals.

    Features of training in the Ivy

    The Ivy League was conceived as an association of sports teams, and it shows — sports in these universities are still given great attention. Each university has several dozen sports clubs, huge stadiums, gyms, and everything you may need for training. Competitions are regularly held between universities, which are also broadcast on television. For talented athletes, universities offer generous scholarships that cover up to 100% of tuition fees.

    Another characteristic of Ivy League universities is the high workload. According to their alumni, due to the large amounts of work, students are constantly under stress, which can seriously undermine their health[10]. At the same time, oddly enough, the expulsion rates remain rather low. At Harvard, for example, only 2.9% of students do not graduate[11].

    Pennsilvania university
    Pennsilvania university

    Career Prospects for Ivy League Alumni It has

    It’s been long believed that an Ivy League university degree automatically raises salaries. Indeed, graduates of elite universities, on average, earn twice as much as all the others[12]. But research shows that it’s not that simple. In reality, the applicants whose portfolios were acceptable by the Ivy League, but chose lower-ranking universities, began to earn as much as graduates of Harvard and Yale after graduation[13]. Therefore, the personal characteristics of the student are more important than the status of the university.

    However, education in the most prestigious universities often plays a role in employment. The reason is not the diploma itself, but the fact that it implies experiencing the most effective teaching methods and studying in unique conditions. Students from elite universities have access to the best libraries and laboratories, they are taught by renowned scientists, they make connections who then help build their careers. For example, 235 graduates of Columbia University after graduation took a seat in the US Congress, and three of them later became presidents.

    Interesting Ivy League Facts

    • Of all the Ivy League universities, only Cornell has a non-Greek motto: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."
    • Ivy League universities have produced many Nobel laureates: Harvard University — 153the best result in the world, Columbia— 101, Yale — 52, Cornell — 45, Princeton — 37, and Pennsylvania — 29.
    • For quite a long time, Ivy League universities used to select students on religious and racial grounds: only white Anglo-Saxon Protestants were allowed admittance. And only children from wealthy families studied at the universities back then. Because of the arrogance of the American new aristocracy, the expression "Ivy League snobbery" even appeared in the literature. Elitism is still a feature of these universities. Two-thirds of Harvard students come from clans at the very top of the income ladder[14].
    • The last five US presidents, besides Joe Biden, graduated from Ivy League universities: Yale, Harvard, Columbia and Pennsylvania. In total, 15 US presidents have graduated from the Ivy League universities.
    • There is a men's haircut called the Ivy League, or Harvard Clip. It is worn, for example, by Matt Damon.
    • In 1805, tuition fees at Brown University were only 5 USD. In today’s money, it is approximately 111 USD.
    • Some periodicals and experts use the term Ivy Plus to refer to other prestigious universities in the United States. The League universities most often added are Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, and Duke University.
    Harvard old campus
    Harvard old campus
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