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A Look at the Ivies

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

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

list of ivy league universities intro

The colleges are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University.

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.

Significance of Ivy League Universities

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

Due to their wealthy background and an incredibly close-knit alumni network of highly accomplished individuals from different fields, these universities also claim to have the highest endowments of any educational institution in the world.

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

Ivy League Acceptance Rate and Admissions

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

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

Name Location National University Ranking Total Apps Received Total Enrolled Accept. Rate
Princeton University Princeton, NJ 1 32,836 1,823 5.6%
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 2 40,248 1,970 4.9%
Columbia University New York, NY 3 40,084 2,465 6.1%
Yale University New Haven, CT 35,220 2,304 6.5%
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 8 42,205 3,404 8.1%
Dartmouth College Hanover, NH 13 21,394 1,881 8.8%
Brown University Providence, RI 14  36,794 2,533 6.9%
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 18 51,500 5,514 10.7%

How the Ivy League Compares With Other Colleges

The Ivy League schools 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.

Meanwhile, other schools like Caltech, Northwestern University, and Duke University are just as prestigious as the Ivies.

Apart from that, there are so-called Little Ivies and Public Ivies, including UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan, UCLA, Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Wesleyan University, and Virginia. These universities also offer high-quality education at lower tuition rates.

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List of Ivy League Universities

Let’s take a look at each of the 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

Named after its first benefactor, John Harvard, it is the oldest institution for higher education in the United States. Established in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 140 years before the country’s independence.

Ten faculties offer undergraduate and graduate-level programs in disciplines ranging from professional courses like law, medicine and business to liberal arts and social studies. This is also the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, which brings together stalwarts from the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Harvard University

Being a private university is more expensive than many well-ranked public universities in the United States. Moreover, the total cost for Harvard University without financial aid package is $67,580 for tuition, hostel, and board.

If this amount scares you, worry not because 55% (this could well include you) of Harvard University students receive some need-based financial aid package, with an average grant being roughly $53,000.

The university has produced 48 Nobel laureates, 8 Presidents of the United States, 24 other heads of states and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners. In addition to this, 110 other Nobel laureates have had some affiliation to Harvard University, in various capacities as alumni, current professors, research scholars or visiting or adjunct faculties.

Yale University

Started as an intercollegiate athletics school in 1701 by Calvinist missionaries, it is the third-oldest institute of higher education in the United States.

The name was officially changed to Yale College to honour Welsh merchant and British East India Company governor Elihu Yale, who donated generously to the school as it moved to New Haven, Connecticut.

Fourteen schools offer a host of programs at the undergraduate and graduate level across a broad spectrum from the law, business, music, and drama.

Yale University

Yale University is again reasonably expensive, further costing $67,480 for tuition, accommodation and other expenses. It offers need-based financial aid to applicants to promote inclusiveness across class categories.

Upon admission, you’ll join a list of 61 Nobel laureates, 5 Presidents of the United States, 5 US Supreme Court Justices and six other heads of states whom the university is proud to call its own. The University of California is one of the other famous colleges.

Princeton University

Princeton University achieved the top position in US university rankings. That is to say. It is one of the best colleges globally to study in.

It was founded in 1746 in the town of Elizabeth. and was initially named the College of New Jersey. However, a year later, it moved to Newark and then finally to its current Princeton University, New Jersey, nine years later.

The fourth-oldest institution in the United States for higher education was renamed Princeton University only in 1896.

Princeton University

The school costs around $73,450, inclusive of tuition, lodging and boarding. Students are offered financial aid of $53,100 based on their needs.

Princeton University had produced 65 Nobel laureates, 2 US Presidents, 12 US Supreme Court justices, in addition to 15 Field medalists and 13 Turing Award laureates. Although not a part of the faculty, Albert Einstein has strong ties to the university due to frequent visits and lectures.

Think of that if you’re still having doubts about applying. You’ll be walking the same halls in which arguably the smartest man in history did!

University of Pennsylvania

Founded in West Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin as a private research university in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as Penn) considers itself the fourth-oldest institute of higher education in the United States, claiming that both Princeton and Columbia contests.

The University of Pennsylvania, since its inception, has been one of the most sought-after institutes. It has 11 schools offering a wide range of graduate and undergraduate programs. It includes streams like law, business, medicine, arts and sciences.

University of Pennsylvania

According to the university’s official website, the average cost of attendance is $74,315, covering tuition, lodging, and boarding. Similarly to most Ivy League universities, Penn offers significant need-based financial aid, which came out to be an average of $49,401.

Although Penn has only one US President to show for compared to the other Ivy League Colleges, it does have the unique distinction of having eight signers of the United States Declaration of Independence.

In addition, the university has produced 14 heads of state and 3 United States Supreme Court Justices and 35 Nobel laureates.

Columbia University

For us outsiders who have viewed the US of A only through the lens of movies and popular culture, life in an American city automatically translates to living in New York. Any firm, company or restaurant is said to have made it big in America only when it opens its first office/store in Manhattan.

For all those who have dreamed of living in the Big Apple while also studying at a top-tier school, there’s Columbia University.

Columbia University was established as King’s College in 1754 and was affiliated with the Church of England.

Columbia University

It is the fifth-oldest university for higher education in the United States and the oldest in New York. The royal charter of George II formed the university as a response to the establishment of Princeton in New Jersey. Upon independence, it was renamed Columbia College and was later changed to Columbia University in 1896.

It offers a diverse selection of undergraduate and graduate degrees, and it was the first university in the United States to award the MD degree.

The university charges around $70,800 for admission, which covers tuition, boarding and lodging. Over 52% of first-year students receive financial aid of some sort, with the average aid package being $43,750 per student.

Columbia University alumni include 5 Founding Fathers of the United States, 96 Nobel laureates, and 3 Presidents of the United States. The university also administers the prestigious Pulitzer Prize every year, having produced 125 winners itself.

Brown University

Brown University is the seventh-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It was established in 1764 in Providence, Rhode Island.

It was a non-sectarian college—the first college in the United States to accept students regardless of their religious affiliation.

It continued its tradition of being the torchbearer of liberalism when after a period of considerable student lobbying, it adopted the New Curriculum in 1969, which did away with mandatory general education requirements and gave students the freedom to take up any course for a grade, making them architects of their syllabus.

Brown University

The university comprises the college, offering undergraduate programs, and five graduate schools offering engineering, medicine, and other professional studies.

The average fee for an undergraduate degree from Brown University is $70,226. An average financial aid package consists of $47,228 and is given on a need basis to 43% of first-year students.

There are 8 Nobel laureates from this university. In addition, a Supreme Court Chief Justice and 21 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College is a private research university like the other Ivy League Colleges. Founded in 1769 with an initial objective of indoctrinating Native Americans into Christianity and the English way of life, the university kept pace with changing times of increasing religious and cultural tolerance and gradually secularized. The college is also famous for intercollegiate athletics.

Unlike the other Ivy League universities or universities in America, it focuses on its undergraduate program. It is certainly one of the prestigious colleges in the world for undergraduate education.

Dartmouth College

It is the ninth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and was one of the nine colonial colleges established before the American Revolution. Dartmouth was in relative obscurity until the beginning of the 20th century, when it evolved into a secular institution.

It follows a liberal arts approach in its undergrad program and imparts instruction in 40 different departments offering 57 majors in the arts, humanities, social sciences and engineering.

The average annual cost was $74,254, which includes miscellaneous expenses in addition to tuition, lodging, and boarding. On average, a need-based package of $48,772 is offered to 51% of undergraduates.

The list of illustrious alumni includes 3 Nobel laureates, 24 US governors, 2 US Supreme Court Justices and a Vice President of the United States, in addition to 13 Pulitzer Prize winners. The University of California is one of the other famous colleges.

Cornell University

The only Ivy League college to be both co-educational and non-sectarian since its founding, Cornell University is also the only one among the Ivies to be established after the American Revolutionary War.

Founded in 1865 in Ithaca, New York, it is one of only three private land grant universities in the United States and the only such university in New York.

It means that it receives funding and certain benefits from the government in exchange for running a cooperative extension outreach program across the state. It is an institute of high repute and is ranked 18th in the Times Higher Education global rankings.

Cornell University

The university consists of seven undergraduate colleges and seven graduate divisions, with three of the colleges being state-supported.

It costs $62,794 on average for a student to attend Cornell. At the same time, need-based financial aid packages are dispersed to nearly 50% of the students. The average aid package is coming out to be $40,686.

Cornell has been associated with 58 Nobel laureates, 4 Turing Medal winners and one Fields medallist and boasts of an alumni network spreading out to 116 countries.

Is the Ivy League Still Relevant Today?

While the Ivy League has some of the country’s most elite universities, hundreds of other schools offer robust academic programs, deep traditions, and vast alumni networks. While there are several advantages to attending an Ivy, it might not be the perfect match for every student. With an acceptance rate of less than 10%, many students are considering other universities. There are also several globally recognised universities. An Ivy League degree is far from the only path to professional success.


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

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


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