The Ivy League

The Ivy League is a group of 8 private universities in the Northeast that have a historical affiliation as some of the oldest, most prestigious, and most selective universities in the United States.

Today, there are many prestigious and selective universities in the U.S., but this blog previews these 8 elite universities.

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Size & Location

Harvard, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell are the four largest Ivy League schools at over 20K total students. In contrast, Dartmouth & Princeton have fewer than 8K students, and Yale and Brown are in the middle with close to 10K students each.

At the same time, Harvard in Cambridge, Columbia in Manhattan, and UPenn in downtown Philadelphia are urban campuses, right in the middle of three of the largest & most vibrant cities in the U.S.

In contrast, Cornell & Dartmouth are located in rural areas in upstate New York and New Hampshire.

Princeton is located in a small but affluent suburb in New Jersey, Brown is in Providence, & Yale is in New Haven, small to medium sized cities.

As a potential applicant, make sure to visit schools of various sizes and locations to get a better idea about which environment you would prefer.

Undergraduate vs. Graduate Students on Campus

Some students prefer a more undergraduate-focused campus., while others want the research opportunities that graduate programs provide.

Among the Ivy league, the three smaller campuses (Dartmouth, Princeton, & Brown), along with Cornell are close to 2/3rd undergraduate.

UPenn and Yale are just under half undergraduate, while at Harvard & Columbia just 1/3rd of their students are undergraduates.

Selectivity & Financial Aid

The Ivy League contains some of the most selective (difficult to gain acceptance) universities in the U.S.

Any school with an acceptance rate below 20% can be considered a reach school for every student. You can apply and hope, but no student, not even you, can feel confident of being accepted.

However, it is still worth applying if you believe that an Ivy League school is the right fit.

100% of need met means that each Ivy League school will provide need-based financial aid up to the level that a family needs to attend. If your family has $0 and you are accepted to any of these 8 schools, then you will get a generous financial aid package that will allow you to actually attend!

Applying Early Decision/Action

The Benefits of Applying Early

Unfortunately, it's now become almost necessary to apply early in order to have a realistic chance of admission at the most selective colleges, including the Ivy League.

Each Ivy League college fills close to half of its class from a much smaller early applicant pool, leaving just half the spaces for many thousands of regular decision applicants. My advice to students is to do your research here, visit if you can (see fly-in programs), and pick your top choice college to apply early decision or action. If you don't get in, pick your next top choice to apply for the second round of early decision (often called Early Decision II).

With all due respect to former Ivy League graduates...

Students today have it a whole lot tougher!

Just 11 years ago, the most selective Ivy League colleges had 10% acceptance rates. Today, the least selective ones have 10% acceptance rates.

Acceptance rates have basically halved at each school in just 11 years, all due to the increasing number of applications. As acceptance rates decline, students apply to more and more colleges, leading to lower and lower acceptance rates. Fun times for everyone!

Diversity and Student Body

As reported elsewhere, Hispanic, African American and other minorities are underrepresented in the Ivy League compared to the American population as a whole. However, that's true for all of America's selective universities.

The Ivys show a remarkable similarity in the composition of their student bodies. Each of them has between 13-17% low-income students (defined by Pell-eligibility), between 21-26% racial diversity as defined by under-resourced minority, and between 9-15% international students.

One point that sticks out is are that Darmouth has a top Native American studies program, as well as an fly-in program.

Academic Majors

Location, size, student body, and financial aid are all important characteristics for choosing a school, but for most students, the most important characteristic is the academic program of study, or major.

One thing to note is that having a large program in a particular field of study doesn't necessarily equate to having the best program. However, measuring program quality is very difficult, so measuring number of graduates in a program can provide some idea of the amount of resources available in that field of study.