Some of the most well-known and well-funded colleges in the country are actually Ivy League universities. When most of the students I work with start thinking about where they want to apply, more often than not there are a few of Ivies on their dream school list. If you’re one of them and are seriously planning to apply or you’re just curious to see what all the fuss about it, keep reading to learn who the Ivy League universities are and aren’t and how you can get there.

What is the Ivy League?

What do we talk about when we talk about the Ivy League universities? Typically, the term Ivy League is synonymous with extreme selectivity, history, and grueling academics. But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, when the Ivy League first formed, they were kind of obsessed with sports.

That’s right; the Ivy League actually began as an intercollegiate sports conference.

See back when sports, football especially, began to be televised and be really popular for the American public, some universities started actively recruiting athletes solely to boost their school’s reputation and chances of winning. The Ivy League universities were not interested in that. Of course they wanted to win, but they didn’t want to recruit students just to use them for the athletic ability and nothing else.

So when the eight university presidents got together, they made a pact that sport would be part of their students’ education and not eclipse their academic progress. It made sense for these eight schools to band together, because they were some of the oldest, privately funded colleges in the country and they maintained similar ideas about the type of students they wanted to cultivate.

This continues today. Sports are still part of the Ivy League, but even their athletes have to pass their rigorous admissions requirements. Today, most people just associate the Ivy League universities and the group as a whole with academic excellence and some of the biggest names in history.

What Schools are in the Ivy League?

Now that you know the history of the Ivy League and why the schools formed their own sports conference, let’s talk about who is and isn’t in the Ivy League. Because the term is so closely linked with exclusive admissions rates and intense academics, schools like MIT, Stanford, and the University of Chicago are often roped into this category. And while there’s no denying these schools fit that image, they’re actually not Ivy League universities.

Listed below are the eight Ivy League schools:

  •    Brown University
  •    Columbia University
  •    Cornell University
  •    Dartmouth College
  •    Harvard University
  •    Princeton University
  •    University of Pennsylvania
  •    Yale University

The majority of these schools are in the northeastern part of the United States and maintain some of the largest private funds due to how long these universities have been open and because of their alumni. In fact, only Cornell receives some public funding, because they are in partnership with the State University of New York.

Is the Ivy League Really That Hard to Get Into?

This is a question I get asked by a lot of parents and students when we’re discussing college. I’m going to be as upfront and honest with you and I am with them: yes. The Ancient Eight are some of the most competitive and selective schools in the country. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics coming out of the Ivy League universities.

School Location Accepted Applicants Admit Rate Yearly Cost US News Rank
Brown Providence, RI 2,919 9% $62,046 14
Columbia New York City, NY 2,193 6% $71,690 4
Cornell Ithaca, NY 6,277 14% $67,613 out-of-state;

$50,869 NY residents

15
Dartmouth Hanover, NH 2,176 10.5% $69,879 12
Harvard Cambridge, MA 2,037 5.2% $63,025 2
UPenn Philadelphia, PA 3,661 9.4% $69,340 9
Princeton Princeton, NJ 1,894 6.5% $66,645 1
Yale Hartford, CT 1,972 6.3% $63,970 3

What’s incredible about these numbers is that no two high school students have the same story about how they got into the Ivy League. They’re selective, yes, but the students they let in are incredible. Which begs the question, how do you get into one of the Ivy League universities?

Boost Your Chances of Getting into an Ivy League

I cannot promise you that following my advice will get you accepted to all eight or even one of the Ivy League universities. I refuse to make that promise. So many of the Ivy League’s admissions decisions are based on the pool of applicants they receive in that application cycle. What I can tell you is how to improve your odds so that even if you aren’t accepted by the Ancient Eight, you’ll have other competitive schools banging on your door.

Preparing yourself to apply of the Ivy League universities and other competitive colleges is very different from applying to state level universities or less competitive colleges so your path may look different from your friends’.

The Ivy League universities have produced some very incredible alumni, including several presidents and Nobel laureates, so it’s no surprise that you dream about attending them. I know my approach might be a harsh reality check, but I want you to go into this application process with both eyes open so we can properly prepare you. And remember, even if you don’t get accepted, there are tons of colleges out of there who would love to have you.

What do you think of the Ivy League universities? Which one do you want to apply to? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!