What Are Ivy League Universities and Why Must I Care?

If you’ve watched most movies about American college life, a large majority of them take place in a big-name, elite university. Animal House, Legally Blonde, A Beautiful Mind, Good Will Hunting — all showcase the strange parties and characters that exist within the walls of these highly respected institutions.

These prestigious and highly selective universities are often grouped under the term ‘Ivy League’, and their history is quite interesting and important to American higher education. If you are considering applying to a Master’s in the United States, here are some essential things you need to know about these Ivy League Schools.

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Which American schools are Ivy League universities?

Ivy League universities in the U.S. began as a group association of eight highly competitive athletic colleges, namely:

Harvard University (Massachusetts)
Yale University (Connecticut)
Princeton University (New Jersey)
Columbia University (New York)
Brown University (Rhode Island)
Dartmouth College (New Hampshire)
University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania)
Cornell University (New York)

As their athletic teams began to attract more funding and gained popularity, the standards for student performance and admission became increasingly more demanding and rigorous.

As a result, since the 1960s, these Ivy League schools and colleges gained a widespread reputation for producing graduates with high academic performances, social prestige, and promising career futures. Even today, these universities maintain their reputation, and they have a large presence among the top-ranked universities in the U.S.

They are joined in this position by Stanford, M.I.T., and Caltech — schools that are not technically Ivy League schools, but tend to enjoy a similar reputation and social status.

Why should I care about the Ivy League universities?

When you’re beginning your search for undergraduate and graduate degrees, these universities are likely to be the first to attract your attention, for many reasons.

Firstly, they use a lot of resources to attract smart, hard-working, and career-minded students—like you–from all over the world. Secondly, it’s no secret that these schools strongly help students in their professional careers. Looking to several fields, extending from Law and Medicine, to Electrical Engineering and Business, the Ivy League universities truly dominate these categories. Getting a degree from these schools will open a lot of doors for you in the future.

However, these schools also tend to be among the most expensive schools in the U.S., with tuition rates averaging between 55,000 and 60,000 USD per year. Luckily, they also offer great financial aid in the form of scholarships for their best students. You might be one of them!

American universities that are not Ivy League but are still very good

While the following universities are not considered ivy league, they are still good options to consider because of their high international ranking and more affordable tuition fees. Getting accepted to one of them won’t be a walk in the park, but you may still have an easier way of getting in, compared to the more popular and competitive Ivy League Schools. In the end, your education is not a popularity contest and you should get the education that best fits your future goals. We have included the average yearly tuition costs of studying in each of these universities, and their score in World University Rankings by Times Higher Education and U.S. News Rankings for 2021:

University of California, Berkeley – 26,500 USD/year, 7th in THE, 4th in U.S. News
Northwestern University – 37,000 USD/year, 24th in THE, 24th in U.S. News
University of Texas at Austin – 13,000 USD/year, 44th in THE, 38th in U.S. News
University of California, San Diego – 32,000 USD/year, 33rd in THE, 21st in U.S. News
University of California, Santa Barbara – 27,600 USD/year, 68th in THE, 56th in U.S. News
University of Boston – 57,600 USD/year, 176th in THE, 57th in U.S. News

3 things to know before you apply to an Ivy League school

The admission process for these elite schools is highly competitive; you’ll need to achieve standards that are much higher than the ones at any average public university. For instance, the overall admission rates in 2020 were under 10%.
Remember to check the admission requirements carefully, including test scores (SAT, GRE, LSAT, GPA), recommendations, extra-curricular activities, and other academic achievements. They matter!
You should keep in mind, though, that there are thousands of higher education institutions in the U.S., and several of them score high in university rankings while having lower tuition costs. This is why, when searching for universities, you should really seek the perfect fit that suits your personal needs.
If you dream of running a major corporation, holding public office in government, or gaining a strong advantage in research and innovation, the Ivy League is probably the best option.

These schools have historically been a breeding ground for high achievers, with many Nobel Prize winners being former Ivy League graduates. But it is equally OK to attend another school in the USA – public or private. Many other schools are recognised worldwide for their quality education.

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