Among the eight northeast colleges which make up the Ivy League, five are known for psychology both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. All the Ivy Leagues of course provide a strong undergraduate degree in psychology, in part due to their massive endowments and the caliber of academics they attract, but some definitely stack higher than others.
Five Ivy League schools appear on the U.S. News and World Report's 2012 rankings of the world's best universities for psychology. (See Reference 1.) #1 Harvard #5 Yale #11 Colombia #14 University of Pennsylvania #39 Cornell University The study uses surveys sent to academics and relies heavily on the number of research citations per faculty member.
The U.S. News and World Reports' 2013 domestic rankings of the top psychology graduate schools relies solely on domestic surveys sent to academics. (See Reference 2.) The results differ primarily in the inclusion of Princeton (and the presence of two ties). #4 Harvard #4 Yale #7 Princeton #12 University of Pennsylvania #14 Columbia #14 Cornell University Brown University and Dartmouth College are absent from either ranking.
Harvard is at the top of both lists for clear reasons. The 30-member psychology faculty at Harvard is comprised of living legends who are lauded with awards and publications. Started in the late 1800s, the psychology department has housed paradigm-shifting scholars such as William James (the founder of psychology), George Miller, and Henry Murray. (See References 3.) Psychology is one of the most popular majors among Harvard undergrads, who graduate with a track into one of the world's finest graduate departments. Some 65 graduate students pursue one of five research programs: Cognition, Brain, & Behavior; Developmental; Clinical Science; Social; and Organizational Behavior.
Yale's psychology department hosts similar luminaries and encourages its undergraduates to pursue novel research projects. (See References 4.) Students can pursue cross disciplinary avenues such as neuroscience and psychology, computer science and psychology, or philosophy and psychology, and must produce significant research papers prior to graduation. Ph.D. students, of which the school enrolls just 15 per year, are pushed to work on cutting edge issues that reach across the sciences and which have relevance for societal problems. Thus students gain a broad knowledge base even reaching into public policy.
Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania
Princeton University's 31-member psychology department faculty largely comes from the Ivy League network and its members regularly win scholarships, lifetime awards, and inductions into prestigious academies and member organizations. (See References 5.) Undergraduates must earn their way into the major after two years of coursework. Graduate students are taught to teach and to research, and may specialize in systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, perception and cognition, personality and social psychology, and physiological psychology.
The University of Pennsylvania's Department of Psychology is the longest running psychology department in the country. (See References 6) Pennsylvania takes the approach that psychology can be applied to almost any discipline and a wide range of careers and encourages psychology majors to do coursework outside the discipline. Undergraduates must declare the major in their sophomore year and the school publishes a journal featuring their research. According to the department's website, their graduate students disproportionately populate the psychological scientist community.