The Ivy League is a group made up of eight of the most prestigious universities in the United States. The history of these institutions is directly related to the history of the country and several important American personalities have passed through them, including presidents such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy.

What are the Ivy League Colleges?

The 8 institutions that are part of this select group are:

1. Harvard University (Massachusetts)

Harvard presents a set of general education requirements that all college freshmen must complete in addition to the courses in their major. These requirements are designed to expose students to a wider range of subjects and improve their understanding of the “outside world.” On the other hand, the high financial resources of the school allow for a high development of research, even at the undergraduate level.


The university is located in Cambridge, a 20-minute subway ride from downtown Boston; and is surrounded by several other major institutions such as MIT, Boston College, and Boston University. Boston’s proximity to campus also allows Harvard students to take advantage of the resources of a major city while enjoying the comforts of a smaller, quieter urban environment.

The residential college system at Harvard is designed to foster close relationships between students and faculty. There are 12 residences where students are placed in the second year, each with a distinct culture and personality.

2. Princeton University (New Jersey)

Princeton emphasizes undergraduate education as its top priority, offering two degrees: A.B. for Liberal Arts students, and B.S.E. for Engineering and Applied Science students. Both programs feature general education requirements as well as a focus on independent research.

The required courses provide Princeton students with a diverse and well-rounded education in Liberal Arts, a hallmark of the university’s undergraduate experience.

Housing in Princeton ranges from typical dormitory-style arrangements to themed residential colleges with communities centered around a common interest that allow students to live alongside like-minded peers.

Often considered the school that best defines the essence of what it is to be an Ivy Leaguer, Princeton has a large and imposing campus in the city that bears its name.

3. Columbia University (New York)

The undergraduate experience at Columbia is defined by the core curriculum, a set of classes that all students at Columbia College must take. Students in Engineering and Applied Science schools must also take some core subjects, although the requirements are less stringent. This core curriculum features a strong emphasis on reading and writing, especially Classical Literature.

With a history of student activism, Columbia tends to attract students who are passionate about political engagement. Its location in New York City is also a major draw for international students, which is also why the institution has the highest percentage of foreign students among Ivy League universities and one of the highest among all universities in the country. In addition, Columbia also has the distinction of being the most racially diverse Ivy, with 50% of undergraduates identifying as non-white.

4. Yale University (Connecticut)

All undergraduate students attend Yale College, the university’s liberal arts college. Yale is known for having more flexible and slightly less stringent overall education requirements than those of other Ivies, such as Columbia or Princeton.

Writing is an important part of the institution’s undergraduate curriculum, which offers more than a hundred introductory texts from writing courses covering a wide range of topics. No wonder Yale is famous for its English and Creative Arts programs, which consistently rank near or at the top of national and even international rankings.

Just like Harvard, it is also home to a residential college system that makes the undergraduate experience truly unlike any other. The close communities in which Yale students live from sophomore to senior years allow them to make connections with both their peers and faculty; as well as allowing them to share their daily lives in the environment that best fits their personal interests and ambitions.

As one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the country, Yale also boasts a wealth of time-honored organizations and institutions, including several alleged “secret societies.” All of this adds to the remarkable pride that Yale students and alumni have of their university.

Yale resides in the small town of New Haven, less than two hours away from New York City. And while New Haven offers opportunities for social, cultural, and professional activities; It is even inside the campus, famous for its Gothic architecture, that students live their university daily life.

5. University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania)

The University of Pennsylvania has 4 undergraduate schools: Arts and Sciences; Engineering and Applied Sciences; Nursing; and Business. The latter two place the institution in a category apart from the other Ivies, which tend to have a more liberal arts-oriented curriculum. In colleges of Arts and Sciences, the curriculum requires instruction in various disciplines as well as specific skill sets, evidencing the university’s emphasis on practical and applied education in “real-world problems.”

UPenn, as it is affectionately known, is integrated within the city of Philadelphia, one of the largest in the country; And students are encouraged to make the most of what it has to offer in terms of recreational, academic, and extracurricular activities.

6. Brown University (Rhode Island)

Brown University has a reputation for having the least competitive academic environment among Ivy League institutions. This is evidenced by its open curriculum, which does not include any compulsory or core classes and allows students, for the most part, to take whatever subjects they want.

In general, Brown’s academic culture encourages exploration and experimentation and is specifically designed to allow students to branch out into areas outside of their specialties without fear that their GPAs will be impacted by this.

Providence, the city that is home to the institution, is relatively small, so Brown students don’t fully experience the urban lifestyle that students from other universities in the group might enjoy. However, the nearest major city, Boston, is only 1 hour away.

Brown is also famous for being among the most progressive schools in the country. Discourse on issues of gender, sexuality, race, and inequality is prevalent on campus, and the university’s administration prioritizes creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.

7. Dartmouth College (New Hampshire)

Dartmouth is known for its commitment and emphasis on undergraduate education, as evidenced in its decision to refer to itself as Dartmouth College (and not University), despite being home to four graduate schools.

As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth, you can rest assured that you will receive ample attention and resources, without worrying that your needs may be put on the back burner with the needs of graduate students.

Dartmouth also stands out for being the only Ivy that uses the quarterly system as opposed to the semester system. That is, in a typical school year, there are three grade periods as opposed to two.

Dartmouth College is located in Hanover, a city of less than 12,000 people. And as if that weren’t enough, its campus isn’t exactly within the city, which helps create a strong sense of community among the institution’s students. No wonder Dartmouth is the Ivy League university with the largest number of adherents of the famous fraternities and sororities: about 60% of its students are part of one.

8. Cornell University (New York)

Cornell’s college experience is quite peculiar, and this is due in part to its seven undergraduate schools, including those of Agriculture and Engineering, which are highly ranked; and Hotel Management, one of the few university schools in the country dedicated exclusively to this segment.

Cornell’s specialized and often unconventional programs in a variety of fields allow its undergraduates to pursue an academic path “tailor-made” to suit their interests.

Cornell has by far the highest undergraduate enrollment of any Ivy League school, with more than 15,000 full-time students. Its size and unique combination of public and private funding sets Cornell apart from the other Ivies, giving the institution an atmosphere similar to that of a large public university.

The university is located in Ithaca, a city in upstate New York; and its campus offers a stunning natural environment, being among the largest in the Ivy League. Like Dartmouth, Cornell also has a more “rural” university environment, as the campus is in a relatively isolated area of the city.


What do Ivy League colleges have in common?

A common fact among Ivy League universities is the high standard required for both student selection and academic performance. As a result, since the 1960s, these universities have enjoyed a widespread reputation for producing graduates with high academic performance. And, in addition, social prestige and promising futures in their respective careers.

These eight institutions consistently appear on lists of the best American universities, along with Stanford, MIT, and Caltech. However, these three are not technically Ivy League universities. However, they tend to enjoy a similar academic and social reputation and status.

Meet the “new Ivy League” in the U.S.

Ivy League universities use a lot of resources to attract smart, hard-working, career-oriented students, and not just among Americans, as foreigners are very welcome. It is also no secret that they strongly help students in their professional careers, since obtaining a degree from these institutions is almost a guarantee that many doors will be opened at the end of the course.

Another important (and not very cool) commonality is that these same universities tend to be among the most expensive in the U.S. But luckily, they also offer great scholarships for the most outstanding students.

What does Ivy League mean?

To better understand what the term “Ivy League” means, it is essential to go back in time to find out how this group came to be.

The term Ivy League was first coined in 1937 in an article written by sportswriter Caswell Adams, about an American football game played by the Columbia and University of Pennsylvania teams. Legend has it that Adams, a proud graduate of Fordham University, was upset that he was forced to cover the game of those two institutions, and not his alma mater, which at the time, incidentally, was a major force in college football.

Rumor has it that he complained to his boss about having to write about those old “ivy-covered” universities, and in preparing the text, he ended up coining that term. Remembering that ivy in English means ivy, which are those plants that grow on the walls of buildings, quite typical in several buildings of Ivy League universities.

This term, in addition to the academic name, is also used to refer to the sports conference of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which is made up of the eight universities in the group. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale were the first to merge in an agreement defined as early as 1916 known as the “Big Three Agreement.”

But the formal proposal to actually form the concept of the group we know today came only in 1945, and the only universities that have really shown interest in joining the league are those that remain in the group to this day. Colgate University, located in Hamilton, New York, even expressed its willingness to be part of the agreement, but the negotiations did not go forward.

Although the agreement dates back to 1945, many consider 1954 to be the true year of the creation of the Ivy League. It was in that year that the agreement, which until then had covered only American football, was formally reconfigured for athletic recruitment and the academic standards of other sports. Since then, Ivy League schools have been working together as it relates to athletic standards for new student admission.

Dartmouth is a case in point in this whole story. At that time, the institution was going through a dilemma: it was considered too big to be part of sports leagues of smaller institutions (and because of this it ended up joining the Ivy League); but at the same time she came to be seen as an “anomaly” within the group, for having an exclusive commitment to graduation; And also because it is not a university, but a college.

How much does it cost to study in the Ivy League?

As we have already said, Ivy League universities are also known for their high prices. The average tuition and undergraduate fees of the eight institutions in the group was $57,752 in the 2020-2021 academic year. Columbia has the highest values ($61,671) and Princeton, the lowest ($48,502). For graduate programs, the average is around $45,382.

Check out a comparison between the eight institutions below:

Average values in graduation Average values in graduate studies
Harvard $54,002 Price: $50,654
Yale $57,700 $44,500
Princeton Price: $48,502 Price: $56,470
University of Pennsylvania Price: $60,042 Price: $41,760
Columbia Price: $61,671 Price: $51,194
Dartmouth College Price: $60,117 Price: $58,120
Brown Price: $60,696 $60,363
Cornell Price: $59,282 $30,022

But it’s also important to remember that these universities are famous for providing generous scholarships to their students, many of them full-time. The percentage of students who receive some type of financial aid varies by institution, but overall, it is above 50%. Check:

Percentage of students receiving some type of financial aid
Harvard 77%
Yale 60%
Princeton 62%
University of Pennsylvania 58%
Columbia 58%
Dartmouth College 58%
Brown 60%
Cornell 60%

What are the requirements to get into an Ivy League university?

It is common sense to say that getting excellent grades in high school and a good score on standardized tests are the basic requirements for getting into Ivy League schools. But what else do these institutions look for, especially in an international student?

First of all, you should consider that the selection process of these universities is a holistic process, that is, it takes other factors into account in addition to numbers. They want to know if, in addition to being a good student, you are also a person who engages with your community; who strives in extracurricular activities; who has a leadership profile, etc.

What is the SAT score required to get into an Ivy League?

You must show that you are a person with passions and interests that go beyond the classroom, and this can be done in the best possible way through the essays that are required. These essays serve to show what you are different from other applicants and for what reasons you want to study at the university in question.

Exchange University

Want to apply for a spot at one of the Ivy League universities? So you need to start preparing now. Our expert mentoring can help you in this process. Take your profile test right now by clicking here and join our team of mentees!