Categories: College Admissions

Brandie Erickson


By Brandie Erickson

This year was a record year for many Ivy League colleges, with more students applying to Yale University and Dartmouth College than ever before. The draw of academic excellence, prestigious reputation, robust alumni networks, and diverse activities and opportunities on campus are what draw in so many applicants to these renowned universities.

However, as tuition costs continue to escalate, accepted students into top universities might wonder if the prestige of being an Ivy League graduate is worth the high tuition bill. Here are what students should consider before committing to an Ivy League school.

What Is an Ivy League School?

The Ivy Leagues consist of the following eight institutions: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. Except for Cornell, all of these schools predate the founding of the United States. Harvard, the oldest of these universities, was founded back in 1636. These schools have had centuries to build their reputations as academic powerhouses.

Benefits of Attending an Ivy League School

More Intimate Learning Environment

Ivy Leagues tend to admit a select number of students, with Princeton’s average freshman class size hovering around 1370. They also tend to have favorable student-to-faculty ratios, with Brown sporting an average of 6:1. Having a more intimate educational setting often helps students get more individual attention.

Robust Alumni Network

Famously, the Ivy Leagues have a strong alumni network, which extends far beyond the student’s undergraduate years. For example, Yale University’s Office of Career Strategy helps students find internships by connecting them with alums, employers, and donors. Similar networking opportunities exist across all the Ivy Leagues.

Diverse Resources

One of the most significant benefits of attending an Ivy League university is the large endowment funds, which means the universities have the ability to provide cutting-edge laboratories, extensive libraries, studio space or extracurricular clubs for their students.


Perhaps the most crucial factor for many students and their families as they decide is the earning potential of the graduates from a particular institution. Having the weight of an Ivy League diploma on a resume, as the student applies to their first job, could help them get noticed, especially if they have combined it with other internships and extracurricular activities while they were in undergrad. In the Global University Employability Ranking in 2023-24, Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale University cracked into the top 10 worldwide, and all Ivies except the University of Pennsylvania ranked in the top 100.

Disadvantages of Ivy League Schools

Other Schools Are of Comparable Caliber

While Ivy Leagues are undeniably prestigious, it doesn’t mean that these eight universities are the only places where students have positive outcomes. Other schools like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University, and Rice University are also recognized as being “Best Value Schools” by the U.S. World and News Report. Graduates from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvey Mudd College, Babson College, and Santa Clara University are also ranked in the top ten for mid-career earning averages.

No Merit Scholarships

In the late 1950s, the Ivies collectively agreed not to offer merit-based scholarships. They believe that all their accepted students are worthy of a merit scholarship, so they give it to no student. For middle-class families who make too much money to receive need-based financial aid, they might find it difficult to afford the steep tuition costs.

High Tuition Costs

Coupled with the lack of merit scholarships, the exorbitant costs of Ivy Leagues might be a major turnoff for potential students, depending on the family’s income and whether they qualify for financial aid. For example, Dartmouth costs a total of $91,312 per year after estimated fees, tuition, and other associated costs, whereas similarly ranked University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill costs just $27,036 for in-state students and $60,040 for out-of-state students.

Not All Ivy League Schools Are Equal

It likely goes without saying, but each Ivy League school will have its own individual strengths and weaknesses. While many Ivy Leagues have small class sizes, some of the big Ivy Leagues, like Cornell, might have a higher proportion of classes taught by Teaching Assistants (TAs).

Additionally, major selections will vary from school to school. According to U.S. News & World Report, the business program at UPenn is ranked number one, with only Cornell University breaking into the top ten. Other non-Ivy League schools in the top ten included Indiana University-Bloomington, UT Austin, and University of Michigan.

Students and their families should consider the major selection, individual opportunities, and academic opportunities at each Ivy League before deciding if one is right for them.

For more details, contact Brandie Erickson at [email protected].