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How Elite Universities Shape the Future: Inside the Ivy League Colleges

Ivy League Colleges & How You Can Get Into Them

The Ivy League Colleges, formed in 1954, are an athletic conference at the American collegiate level. It comprises eight private colleges on the East Coast or the Northeastern United States.

A common misconception is that the term ‘Ivy League Colleges’ refers to the best national universities. This is, incidentally, true, but the name has more to do with sports than academics.

Fact: The origins of the term ‘Ivy League’ can be attributed to the fact that many of these national universities had a tradition of graduating classes planting ivy at the university buildings.


Unlocking the Riddle: Delving into the Significance of Ivy League Colleges

Many aspirants dream of attending one of these Ivy League Colleges, which consistently rank among the best globally. Ivy League schools are known for academic excellence and highly selective admissions.

Ivy League colleges are prestigious for several reasons. Their long history and tradition, selectivity, academic excellence, alumni network, and resources and facilities all contribute to their status as some of the most desirable universities in the world.

Furthermore, being accepted into an Ivy means you will be a member of one of the world’s most prestigious universities (Ivy League Colleges). Walking down the same halls that once hosted some of history’s most accomplished individuals makes one feel like a dream come true.

Admission to Ivy League colleges is extremely competitive. Each school receives tens of thousands of applications per year, and these numbers are only continuing to grow. Aside from its selectivity, however, there are several other aspects that set the Ivy League college application process apart.

Discover the Prestigious Institutions That Make the Cut!

Let’s take a look at each Ivy League Colleges one by one, detailing the critical achievements throughout their history and the impact they have had on education in the United States and the world.

Harvard University


  • Founded in 1636, Harvard University stands as the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, boasting a legacy spanning over 380 years and holds prestigious membership in the Ivy League Colleges.
  • Harvard offers a diverse range of undergraduate and graduate programs across ten faculties, encompassing professional fields like law, medicine, and business, alongside liberal arts and social sciences.
  • As a member of the esteemed Ivy League, Harvard upholds a reputation for academic excellence and rigorous standards, attracting students from around the globe.
  • Despite being a private university with a total cost of $75,891 for tuition, room, and board, Harvard is committed to accessibility, with 55% of students receiving some form of need-based financial aid, averaging $15,386 per grant.
  • Harvard's alumni network is unparalleled, with 48 Nobel laureates, 8 U.S. Presidents, 24 other heads of state, and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners among its ranks, alongside 110 Nobel laureates having affiliations with the university.

Yale University


  • Founded in 1701 by Calvinist missionaries with a focus on intercollegiate athletics, Yale University ranks as the third-oldest institute of higher education in the United States and holds prestigious membership in the Ivy League Colleges.
  • Renamed Yale College in honor of philanthropist Elihu Yale, who generously supported the institution as it relocated to New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Yale University comprises fourteen schools offering diverse undergraduate and graduate programs, ranging from law, business, music, to drama, providing a comprehensive educational experience.
  • Despite its prestige, Yale remains relatively expensive, with a total cost of $62,250 for tuition, accommodation, and other expenses. However, the university offers need-based financial aid to ensure inclusivity across socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Yale's alumni list includes 61 Nobel laureates, 5 U.S. Presidents, 5 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and six other heads of state, showcasing the institution's remarkable legacy. Additionally, the University of California stands as another renowned institution in the academic landscape.

Princeton University


  • Established in 1746 as the College of New Jersey, Princeton University holds the prestigious title of being one of the best colleges globally, recently achieving the top position in US university rankings.
  • The institution's journey began in the town of Elizabeth, later moving to Newark before settling in its current location in Princeton, New Jersey, nine years after its founding. It officially adopted the name Princeton University in 1896 and has since been a prominent member of the Ivy League colleges. 
  • With a total cost of $79,900 covering tuition, lodging, and boarding, Princeton University offers substantial financial aid, providing students with an average of $76,650 based on their needs, ensuring accessibility despite its private university status.
  • Princeton's esteemed alumni include 65 Nobel laureates, 2 US Presidents, and 12 US Supreme Court justices, along with 15 Field medalists and 13 Turing Award laureates. Additionally, while not formally part of the faculty, Albert Einstein's frequent visits and lectures establish a strong connection with the university.

University of Pennsylvania


  • Founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin in West Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) is a private research university and claims to be the fourth-oldest institute of higher education in the United States.
  • Since its inception, Penn has been an esteemed member of the Ivy League Colleges, maintaining a position of prestige and academic excellence.
  • Penn boasts 11 schools offering a diverse array of graduate and undergraduate programs, including disciplines such as law, business, medicine, arts, and sciences.
  • Particularly renowned is Penn's Wharton School, famous for its MBA program, standing as a hallmark of academic excellence and innovation in business education.
  • The average cost of attendance at Penn is reported to be $76,000, covering tuition, lodging, and boarding. Like other Ivy League Colleges, Penn offers substantial need-based financial aid, averaging $50,000 per student.
  • While Penn may have produced only one U.S. President, it holds the distinction of having eight signers of the United States Declaration of Independence among its alumni. Furthermore, the university boasts 14 heads of state, 3 United States Supreme Court Justices, and 35 Nobel laureates among its alumni community.

Columbia University


  • Established in 1754 as King's College and affiliated with the Church of England, Columbia University is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest in the United States. It was initially formed in response to the establishment of Princeton in New Jersey, later renamed Columbia College and finally became Columbia University in 1896.
  • Offering a diverse range of undergraduate and graduate degrees, Columbia University was the first in the United States to award the MD degree and holds prestigious membership in the Ivy League Colleges.
  • The university charges approximately $61,671 for admission, covering tuition, boarding, and lodging. Financial aid is accessible to over 52% of first-year students, with an average aid package of $45,000 per student.
  • Columbia University boasts an impressive alumni roster, including 5 Founding Fathers of the United States, 96 Nobel laureates, and 3 Presidents of the United States. Additionally, the university administers the renowned Pulitzer Prize, with 125 winners having ties to Columbia.

Brown University


  • Established in 1764 in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown University ranks as the seventh-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.
  • Brown University made history as the first college in the United States to accept students regardless of their religious affiliation, embodying a commitment to non-sectarian education. It is a distinguished member of the Ivy League.
  • Upholding its tradition of liberalism, Brown University implemented the New Curriculum in 1969, allowing students unprecedented freedom to design their own course of study without mandatory general education requirements.
  • The university comprises the college, offering undergraduate programs, and five graduate schools specializing in fields such as engineering, medicine, and other professional studies.
  • Despite an average cost of $82,670 for an undergraduate degree, Brown University is dedicated to accessibility, providing an average financial aid package of $47,228 to 43% of first-year students based on demonstrated need.
  • Brown University boasts 8 Nobel laureates, a Supreme Court Chief Justice, and 21 Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni, reflecting its esteemed academic legacy and contributions to society.

Dartmouth College



  • Dartmouth College, a private research university and member of the Ivy League, was founded in 1769 with a focus on indoctrinating Native Americans into Christianity and English culture. Over time, it evolved to embrace religious and cultural tolerance and gradually secularized.
  • Dartmouth is renowned for its undergraduate program and prioritizes it over research, setting it apart from other Ivy League institutions. It is highly regarded globally for its undergraduate education.
  • Established in 1769, Dartmouth is the ninth-oldest higher learning institution in the United States and was among the nine colonial colleges founded before the American Revolution.
  • Dartmouth offers a liberal arts-based undergraduate program with instruction in 40 departments and 57 majors spanning arts, humanities, social sciences, and engineering.
  • The average annual cost for attending Dartmouth, including tuition, lodging, boarding, and miscellaneous expenses, is $60,117. Approximately 51% of undergraduates receive need-based financial aid packages averaging $50,000.
  • Dartmouth boasts an impressive alumni roster, including 3 Nobel laureates, 24 US governors, 2 US Supreme Court Justices, a Vice President of the United States, and 13 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Cornell University


  • Founded in 1865 in Ithaca, New York, Cornell University is the only Ivy League institution to be both co-educational and non-sectarian, established after the American Revolutionary War.
  • As one of only three private land grant universities in the United States and the sole such institution in New York, Cornell receives government funding and benefits for its cooperative extension outreach program across the state.
  • Cornell University, a prominent Ivy League member, is also globally renowned, ranking 18th in the Times Higher Education global rankings.
  • The university comprises seven undergraduate colleges and seven graduate divisions, with three colleges receiving state support.
  • With an average attendance cost of $59,282, nearly 50% of Cornell students receive need-based financial aid packages, averaging $40,686.
  • Cornell's academic prowess is reflected in its association with 58 Nobel laureates, 4 Turing Medal winners, and one Fields medalist, boasting an extensive alumni network spanning 116 countries.

Unlocking the Gates: Ivy League Acceptance Rates and Insider Admissions Insights

With acceptance rates consistently below 10% and college applications on the rise, breaking into the Ivy League colleges is a dream for the most ambitious students and professionals who want to pursue a career in the respective streams.

Below are the details of the Ivy League colleges, and their enrollment and acceptance rates are based on the latest admissions statistics.

Name Location Ranking No. of Application (Approx.) Total Accepted
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 4 39,506 5.2%
Yale University New Haven, CT 5 46,905 4.6%
Princeton University Princeton, NJ 7 31,056 6.1%
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 12 56,333 7%
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 13 55,024 8.7%
Brown University Providence, RI 15 32,724 5%
Columbia University New York, NY 18 37,389 3.9%
Dartmouth College Hanover, NH 18 20,034 10.4%

Unlocking the Ivy League: A Comparative Dive into Elite vs. Other Colleges

The Ivy League Colleges aren’t the only prestigious institution of higher learning in the United States. Academically, colleges like Stanford, MIT, or the University of Chicago frequently outperform Ivies, but they aren’t officially Ivy League schools since they aren’t in the same athletic conference.

When comparing Ivy League colleges to non-Ivy League colleges, there are several factors to consider, including reputation, resources, selectivity, academic programs, student experience, and career opportunities. Here's a breakdown of some key differences between the two:

1. Reputation and Prestige:

  • Ivy League colleges, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and others, are renowned worldwide for their academic excellence, long history, and selective admissions processes.
  • Non-Ivy League colleges vary widely in reputation and prestige. Some non-Ivy colleges, such as Stanford, MIT, and Duke, are also highly regarded, often ranking closely with or even above some Ivy League institutions in certain fields.

2. Selectivity:

  • Ivy League colleges are known for their extremely low acceptance rates and highly competitive admissions processes. They typically receive a large number of applications and admit only a small percentage of applicants.
  • Non-Ivy League colleges may also be selective, but their acceptance rates tend to be higher compared to Ivy League institutions. However, top non-Ivy colleges often have competitive admissions standards as well.

3. Academic Programs:

  • Both Ivy League and non-Ivy League colleges offer a wide range of academic programs. However, Ivy League colleges often have strong programs across various disciplines and may have more resources to support research and academic initiatives.
  • Non-Ivy League colleges may excel in specific academic areas or have unique programs that distinguish them from Ivy League institutions.

4. Resources and Endowment:

  • Ivy League colleges typically have substantial endowments and resources, allowing them to invest in state-of-the-art facilities, research opportunities, faculty development, and financial aid programs.
  • Non-Ivy League colleges vary in terms of resources and endowment size. While some non-Ivy colleges have significant financial resources, others may have more limited budgets.

5. Student Experience:

  • Ivy League colleges often offer a traditional collegiate experience characterized by small class sizes, close interactions with faculty, extensive extracurricular opportunities, and a strong sense of community.
  • Non-Ivy League colleges may offer similar experiences, but the size, culture, and campus environment can vary significantly from one institution to another.

6. Networking and Alumni Connections:

  • Ivy League colleges boast extensive alumni networks that can provide valuable connections and opportunities for students and graduates.
  • Non-Ivy League colleges also have alumni networks, though they may not be as extensive as those of Ivy League institutions. However, graduates from top non-Ivy colleges often go on to successful careers and can offer valuable support and networking opportunities.

Ultimately, whether an Ivy League or non-Ivy League college is the right choice depends on individual preferences, academic interests, career goals, and other personal factors. Both types of institutions can provide excellent educational experiences and opportunities for students to succeed in their chosen fields.


What started as a football association has transformed into a term (Ivy League Colleges) that signifies excellence and exclusivity. However, many critics argue that this festers elitism and snobbishness.

Nonetheless, getting admission into one of the Ivy League Colleges is a dream of thousands of college aspirants worldwide.

Why do they call it an Ivy League School?

It is called an Ivy League school because it is made with an alliance between schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn. The school is named Ivy League as in Roman Numerals ‘four’ is called Ivy League, here it represents the alliance of these four schools. In addition, they are known as Ivy due to an inter-collegiate agreement governing football.

What is the number 1 Ivy League?

Currently, Princeton College is the number 1 Ivy League. There are several reasons for which Princeton is ranked number 1 in the National Universities Ranking:

  1. It offers the best academic resources from world’s top libraries.
  2. Several courses are available in different fields of studies like social sciences, engineering, computer and information, management, etc.
  3. Extensive alumni network, which includes past U.S. presidents, Olympic medalists, Supreme Court Justices, etc.
Are Ivy Leagues worth it?

Yes, attending any Ivy League school is certainly worth it. You can get a quality education with scholarships to cover your fees. Moreover, you will get many high-paying jobs to choose from.

Which Ivy League School has the prettiest campus?

As mentioned above Princeton is ranked on the top, its beautiful and amazing campus is one of the reasons. However, some students based on their personal experiences consider Columbia as having one of the most beautiful campuses.

What is the difference between University and Ivy League Schools?

The main difference between Ivy League and University is that an Ivy school is more selective. University can be any b-school/college in different countries and continents. Moreover, it is hard to get into an Ivy school as compared to any university.

Know Your Author
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Abhyank Srinet
Study Abroad Expert
Abhyank Srinet, the founder of, is a globally recognized expert in study abroad and admission consulting.His passion lies in helping students navigate the complex world of admissions and achieve their academic dreams. Having earned a Master's degree in Management from ESCP Europe, Abhyank's expertise in data-driven marketing strategies has driven growth for some of the most competitive industries. As the founder of, he has helped thousands of students get into top business schools with a strong emphasis on research, shortlisting, and applying to schools from a single platform. His dedication to education has also led him to create MentR-Me, a free-to-use social platform that simplifies the study abroad process for students, while providing universities with a powerful recruitment tool. As a leader in the field of admission consulting, he is constantly researching and implementing the latest strategies to ensure that his clients receive the best possible guidance. He leads the Business Development and Digital Marketing side of both companies, and has grown both ventures to 7 figure revenue.His unique insights, experience, and dedication to his clients make him a valuable resource for anyone seeking to advance their education or career.
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