Eight universities make up what’s known as the ‘Ivy League,’ one of the most famous and prestigious groups of universities in the world. This guide will introduce you to these elite universities.
What does “Ivy League” mean, anyway? Some people think that ‘Ivy’ is actually a corruption of the original ‘IV League’ - so called because it consisted of four schools: Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth. But the most common explanation of the name is that these are amongst the oldest universities in the US and have old, ivy-covered buildings.
The Ivy League schools are extremely competitive - so getting accepted and being awarded a degree from one of these universities is seen across the world as a sign of excellence.
Here are the eight U.S universities that make up the Ivy League, plus their acceptance rates:
- Harvard University: 4.9%
- Columbia University: 6.1%
- Yale University: 6.5%
- Princeton University: 5.6%
- Brown University: 6.9%
- University of Pennsylvania: 8.1%
- Dartmouth College: 8.8%
- Cornell University: 10.7%
Although these universities have some of the more expensive tuition fees in the US (ranging somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 per year), thanks to their large endowments (basically, pots of money made up largely of donations from wealthy alumni) they can offer very supportive financial aid packages.
For example, here’s Harvard’s perspective: “Once you are admitted to Harvard, we work closely with your family to ensure you can afford to come here. Because we seek the best students regardless of their ability to pay, we are committed to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all four years.” At Harvard, around 20% of students pay nothing at all.
Teaching at the Ivies can be a bit of a paradox. Because they’re so prestigious, they attract some of the most famous scholars in any field… but these scholars may well be much more interested in their groundbreaking research than in teaching undergraduates. You may find that the famous professors you hoped to learn from don’t have much time for talking to students, or only offer a very few classes every year.
The Ivies were once distinguished by their inarguably superior teaching, earning their elite status because they really did provide the best education - but that’s not really the case anymore. The teaching is still excellent of course, but you can now get an equally high-quality education at many liberal arts colleges and public universities across the US.
Who they’re looking for
There’s no point mincing words: you’ve got to be the best of the best. You need to have excellent grades across the board, be taking A-level or IB coursework, and be in the top 5-10% of your class.
But at this level, perfect grades are a given. The thing that really separates out Ivy League acceptances is the passion and drive they put into extracurriculars and outside interests. Student body presidents who volunteer in their local MP’s office over the summer, award-winning athletes and musicians, small business owners, founders of charities… students who get accepted to the Ivies have a remarkable story to tell outside of their grades.