The Ivy League

3 minutes

Ivy League, Brown University
Ivy League, Brown University

Image courtesy of Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

The Ivy League is a term referring to eight elite universities in the Northeastern United States. The members of this consortium are Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pennsylvania. Each institution represents academic excellence and all are very selective with the students they accept.

History of the Ivy League

Each of the universities in the Ivy League are among the oldest in the U.S. going back to the earliest of them all, Harvard, which was founded in 1636. The nickname “ivy league” began as a reference to the ivy that adorned the walls of the buildings on these campuses. In the 1800s, it was a tradition for students to plant ivy in formal ceremonies and holidays.

The term “Ivy League” is given credit to a 1930s New York Tribune article written by Stanley Woodward. He referred to these eight schools and their football programs as “ivy colleges,” since they play in the same athletic division. Later, sports editor Alan Gould used the phrase “Ivy League.” The term was later used in the “Ivy Group Agreement” of 1945 that addressed common practices in academic standards and eligibility requirements for the schools’ football programs. Finally in 1954, the universities extended this agreement to all college sports, allowing the establishment of the Ivy League as the NCAA Division 1 athletic conference.


Today, the Ivy League universities are more known for their high academic standards and selective admissions process.  Getting accepted to one of these eight schools is no easy task as every one has acceptance rates less than 12%. Harvard, the most difficult school of all to get an offer from, only accepted 5.79% of its applications in 2013. This means that out of 35,000 applications received, they only accepted 2,029 students! Seven of the eight Ivy League schools experienced lower acceptance rates in 2013. In order be considered for a spot at one of these colleges, applicants must have impeccable GPAs, near perfect SAT scores, and a long list of extra curricular activities. Plus they need to write engaging, powerful college essays that grab the attention of admissions officers. If accepted, students at each of these schools will have access to a wide variety of courses and professors who are renowned in their fields.

Alumni Advantage

Individuals who graduate from an Ivy League institution are considered to have better career prospects that those who go to other universities. In the U.S., the most elite businesses, especially in Finance, heavily recruit exclusively from Ivy League schools. An Ivy League diploma shows a certain prestige to future employers. In addition, going to an Ivy League university will give you access to a wide alumni network full of highly successful people. It is no wonder that 15 out of the 44 U.S. Presidents have gone to Ivy League institutions. In fact, in the past 25 years every U.S. President went to either Harvard or Yale. Since so many high profile figures and important people were once students of Ivy League schools, the Ivies have come to represent social elitism in the U.S.

Recently, the value of Ivy League diploma has come under some scrutiny. Many people feel that the tuition costs are too high and that the education is not that much different from other reputable U.S. colleges and universities. Especially in today’s job market, no one is guaranteed a position once they graduate, Ivy Leaguer or not. Still, this has not tarnished the Ivy League schools’ image as the elite U.S. universities, and students from both the U.S. and around the world continue to compete fiercely for limited slots each year.

Sarah Wadlinger Sarah Wadlinger

A Pennsylvania native, Sarah Wadlinger has a B.A. in International Studies and served as the Participant Services Coordinator for InterExchange Career Training USA from 2011 to 2013.

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