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  • Writer's pictureTrudy Horsting

Should You Care About Ivy Leagues? How Much Does The Name Matter?

Ivy League Universities are top, prestigious, private institutions. As a group of just eight schools, they are extremely competitive. The Ivy League universities include Harvard, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania. These schools have extremely low acceptance rates, averaging just 9%.

Ivy Leagues have a lot of appeal. High school students know that they are some of the most well respected universities with the highest reputation and they put every effort into getting into one of these schools. Ivy Leagues are often the dream.

The problem is, a student’s “dream university” is often not their dream. It is simply the school they have manifested because they believe they should want to go there. In reality, that school may or may not be the best fit for them.

Does attending an Ivy League make that much of a difference?

It could, but it also could not. In this article, we break down why an Ivy League may be worth pushing for and why that kind of university may not be quite as good of a fit.

Benefits of Ivy Leagues

There are many pros of Ivy League Universities. They are renowned for a reason. They have a reputation due to their academic rigor and their long-standing history of producing intelligent and successful graduates.

Students graduate with a fantastic education, the name of an Ivy League school on their resume, and get to join a vast network of successful alumni. Prestige can make a large difference when it comes to career prospects as well as graduate school placements.

Prestige doesn’t mean everything but it does mean something, sometimes.

An additional benefit of attending an Ivy League school is that you have the opportunity to meet highly successful people from across the globe. International students are more willing to pay for college in the U.S. if that university is highly prestigious. The interaction of ideas between international students and domestic students provides a rich learning environment. Due to the selectivity, students can learn a lot from one another.

Further, students at Ivy Leagues have many opportunities to engage with world-renowned faculty. You may be taught by individuals who have won Nobel Prizes or Pulitzer Prizes. Students learn in small seminar courses from renowned professionals and scholars. For instance, students at Harvard can choose from many seminars as a freshman. Students may take a course by the New York Philharmonic Leonard Bernstein Scholar-in-Residence, Carol Oja or by Pulitzer Prize winner, John Gaddis. This is not to say that other universities don’t have phenomenal faculty, but well-known names are certainly an appeal of Ivy Leagues.

Ivy Leagues are very expensive. But one benefit which comes with the high price tag of Ivy Leagues is a vast amount of resources. There is plentiful research funding, funding for extracurricular activities, performance spaces comparable to Broadway, huge libraries, and many other resources.

These resources and connections lead to great career prospects post-graduation. Ivy League graduates are overrepresented in corporate leadership roles and political positions. Further, graduating from an Ivy League has been found to positively impact future earnings, particularly among some groups of students. For instance, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, when women attend a university which has an average SAT score of 100 points more than the country's average, they tend to earn 14% more in their career. Another study by the Bureau found that students from low-income backgrounds earn more following graduation from elite universities than those who attend schools which are ranked lower.

Since Ivy League names are well recognized they carry a great deal of weight in everyday conversation. Whereas students who have had incredible accomplishments at lesser ranked universities need to disclose their successes, students from Ivy Leagues simply need to mention their alma mater. Furthermore, seeing an Ivy League title on a resume can lead to a greater chance of employment or internship placement.

As admissions for most elite universities are need-blind, and these schools are determined to ensure cost is not prohibitive, students from low-income backgrounds may receive up to 100% of their demonstrated need.


Despite all of the benefits of Ivy Leagues, there may be some reasons they are not the best fit.

Often we don’t know what we want. In high school we’re still figuring ourselves out, figuring out our goals, and figuring out what we want to pursue in life. So, we act based on what we think we’re supposed to do, or what we think is the highest goal we’re supposed to pursue. In regard to college, this is clearly an Ivy League.

However, if all of your focus is on Ivy Leagues, you may miss out on other universities which may be a better fit for you personally. Perhaps a different college has the major you’re really interested in. Or perhaps a different school has larger class sizes which appeal to you and your learning style. Maybe a different school is closer to home, less expensive, or you could receive a full scholarship for a different university. Perhaps you could receive an athletic scholarship for a different college and get to continue pursuing your athletic career along with your studies.

If your attention is solely on Ivy Leagues, you may not even know what else is out there. Many universities can give a similar quality education to Ivy League schools, particularly for certain majors and within certain departments.

Another concern surrounding focusing all of your energy on Ivy Leagues is that you may overwhelm yourself with the pressure of it all. You may spend your entire high school experience preparing for a college that isn’t right for you. Instead of overwhelming yourself with extracurriculars, leadership roles, and AP classes, you could choose a select few activities you truly enjoy and still have a very robust application for many universities.

Unfortunately, for some students, chasing an Ivy League isn’t even their dream. It is simply the expectation. They have a desire to attend college but an Ivy League isn’t their own goal.

Additionally, Ivy Leagues can be cost prohibitive. College debt can be overwhelming. It’s important to consider whether the price tag is worth it. Perhaps you could be just as happy at a less expensive university or at a university where you could receive a better scholarship.

You can still receive a great education attending a school that isn’t an Ivy League. Of course, where you go matters. But so do your own actions once you’re enrolled. You can join the honors program, take more challenging courses, join prestigious clubs and professional organizations, take on leadership roles, and more. Doing those things at any school may be better for future professional prospects than joining a prestigious university and doing none of those things.

The Ultimate Decision

We need to start thinking about life after college. When all of the focus is on college admissions, we forget about why we’re going to college in the first place. We’re going to college in order to provide ourselves the best opportunities following college. The goal is to set ourselves up for lifelong success.

Ivy Leagues are right for some and wrong for others. It’s important to weigh the decision carefully. Think about what you want your college experience to be, what price tag you can afford, and which school will offer you the best chance of future success in the specific field you want to enter.

Remember, you don’t have to decide at the application stage. You can apply to a few Ivy Leagues and a few other schools and see what happens. However, if an Ivy League isn’t the experience you want, don’t feel pressured to apply.


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