Anyone who has any familiarity with the American university system is most likely aware of the Ivy League. The Ivy League is the unofficial nickname for the eight colleges and universities in the northeastern part of the United States that make up the Ivy League athletic conference. The schools are some of the oldest in the nation and are considered to be among the most competitive and prestigious institutions of higher learning in the U.S.
What Are the Eight Ivy League Schools?
The 8 Ivy League colleges are a sort of unofficial designation that has become part of the common lexicon. The schools were united because of their participation in the same athletic league, but their association has evolved significantly since then. While the schools of the Ivy League were initially known for their athletic skill, they are now regarded as the top tier for academics. While some of the colleges have particular curricular or departmental strengths in a certain area, almost all of these colleges are considered to provide an exceptionally well-rounded undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences.
All of the 8 Ivy League schools are located in the Northeast. The northernmost of the Ivy League colleges is in New Hampshire, and the southernmost is in Philadelphia. The eight Ivy League colleges are:
- Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire
- Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut
- Columbia University in New York, New York
- Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
- Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey
- University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island
Dartmouth College has the smallest student body of the Ivy League schools, while Cornell has the largest.
Ivy League Rankings
Rankings of the schools in the Ivy League fluctuates, but as of 2019, the unofficial rankings divided the eight Ivy League schools into three tiers.
In the first tier are Princeton University, Harvard University and Yale University. In what is considered to be the second tier of the Ivy League are Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania and Brown University. Dartmouth College and Cornell University make up the third tier of the Ivy League.
What Are the Ivy League Colleges?
More than simply being prestigious or highly regarded academic institutions, the Ivy League refers specifically to the eight schools that make up the Ivy League Athletic Conference. There are a number of other schools and universities that are of equal prestige in the U.S., including Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, MIT and Northwestern University. These institutions are not members of the Ivy League because they are not members of the Ivy League Athletic Conference.
The Ivy League colleges each have graduate and undergraduate departments but are best known for their undergraduate departments. As it is widely believed that getting into an Ivy League school is more difficult as an undergraduate, earning a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree from one of the Ivy League colleges is viewed as a formidable achievement.
What Is the History of the Ivy League?
The oldest on the Ivy League list is Harvard University. Harvard was founded in 1636 and named for the generous benefactor John Harvard. The next college to be founded was Yale University. Yale was formed in 1702 by Elihu Yale, a wealthy benefactor. The University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1742 by Benjamin Franklin.
In 1746, Princeton University was founded, then called the "College of New Jersey." That same year, Brown University was founded in Providence. Columbia University was established in 1754 with money provided by King George II of England. In 1769, Dartmouth College was established in New Hampshire. Cornell University was the last of the Ivy League list to be established, coming into being in 1865.
Where Did the Term "Ivy League" Come From?
Contrary to popular opinion, the term "Ivy League" is not one that was bestowed by the schools themselves. The colleges in the Ivy League were established, in many cases, before the American Revolution. The term "Ivy League" is far newer.
While the coalition of eight schools had united around a common interest in both academics and athletics, the athletic conference's nickname was allegedly coined in the 1950s by a sports reporter who was covering a match between UPenn and Columbia University and referenced the "old Ivy-covered schools," using the term "Ivy League" in the article he wrote.
Despite the fact that the name "Ivy League" was initially intended to be pejorative, it caught on. The name stuck, and now these eight schools are addressed as the eight Ivy League colleges by both the media and the academic institutions themselves.
Is It Hard to Get Into an Ivy League College?
While there is no absolute guarantee of financial, professional or personal success resulting from attending any college or university, it is generally believed that the benefits of attending an Ivy League college are the best benefits possible from an institute of higher education.
The admissions departments of the eight Ivy League colleges are considered to be among the most competitive in the country and thus the world. While the schools are known for giving occasional athletic scholarships to students, it is generally the consensus that all students attending Ivy League colleges have excellent grades and are talented and innovative thinkers.
For these reasons, admission is highly competitive, and only a small fraction of applicants to the eight Ivy League schools are able to gain acceptance. While the tier rankings of the universities refer mostly to the level of competition in the admissions process, it is believed that all Ivy League colleges are extremely competitive, and it is difficult to gain acceptance to them.
What Are the Benefits of Attending an Ivy League School?
It is widely believed that students who matriculate at Ivy League colleges have access to the best possible education. This means access to the best professors and the best academic resources, including libraries, archives, museums, lectures and past scholarship. In addition to these pursuits, the facilities at Ivy League schools are known to be among the finest. The colleges on the Ivy League list boast laboratory equipment, art studios, study spaces, lecture halls and dormitories that are considered to be the very best in the realm of higher education.
In addition to academic resources and instruction from renowned and celebrated professors, the social opportunities at Ivy League schools are also prized. Connections to alumni are just the beginning. Societies like eating clubs and fraternities help to bring students into the fabric of the school's history and connect them with prestigious members of the school community who may be able to act favorably upon the student's professional prospects after graduation.
What Do Employers Think of Ivy League Schools?
Students who matriculate at Ivy League colleges typically do so for the advantages the schools can offer them in terms of their professional success and future opportunities for amassing wealth or pursuing the careers of their choice. Many people regard students who have graduated from Ivy League colleges very highly, even specifically seeking those college names on a resume, believing that a diploma from one of these schools is a sort of shorthand for "smart, competent and capable."
Because employers seek applicants who have graduated from Ivy League schools, students who are hoping to find gainful employment after graduation are very eager to gain admission to any of the schools in the Ivy League conference. This is part of what makes the application process so competitive.
While it is widely regarded as a truth that there are many universities outside of the Ivy League with an excellent reputation, outstanding professors and a less conservative background, there are few schools whose names carry the clout of the Ivy League. Most students agree that a diploma from an Ivy League college is the most desirable, particularly for students hoping to pursue professional careers in business, politics or finance.
Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.