Sadie Ross

Are Ivy Leagues overrated? Are they too expensive for the benefits they provide? Is there any real reason we think of them as intrinsically better than other colleges? These are questions we could debate in circles. Ivy Leagues are the most prestigious, coveted schools in the country, but how did they get there? 

There are 8 Ivy League schools, all located in the Northeast of the U.S. These schools are Harvard, Yale, Princeton (these are often called, “The Big Three), Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, and UPenn. While most of these schools were founded in the 1600s and 1700s, the only exception being Cornell which was founded last in 1865, the named coalition between these schools didn’t come about until the mid-1900s. 

The roots of the term “Ivy League” are still up for debate but the most common theory is simply that the Ivy covered walls of the old colonial buildings inspired the phrase. The term can be seen being used in 1935 as an informal descriptor of these prestigious schools. Then, in 1954 the term, “Ivy League” became an official college sports league. These 8 schools are all Division 1 and extremely wealthy. As their draw in college sports became stronger, they formed the Ivy League to profit off of sports further. However, the common term Ivy League no longer has a strong sports association, rather it evokes thoughts of the most prestigious and difficult colleges. 

How did these schools get to this point? As stated, all of these colleges have significant historical pull in the U.S. Every Ivy League, save for Cornell, was founded before the formation of the country itself and Harvard was the very first official college in America. At their founding, these colleges were exclusively attended by wealthy, white, male colonists. Early in their existence, these universities stood out for their programs in church and legal studies. These universities now are all known for their stand-out programs in law and medicine. The wealthy colonists who attended these universities were known for going on to great things after graduating and very quickly it became common knowledge that those who attended these colleges would succeed later on. Graduates of the young Ivy Leagues often sent their own children to the schools and, being wealthy, gave great amounts of money to keep the colleges thriving. 

These colleges continued to generate more money than they put into their facilities, professors, and sports. The early nineteen hundreds is when the sports in these universities began to garner serious attention. The more attention that these sports got, the more tickets people would buy for the games. Rivalries started forming between the schools which called for great excitement among fans. And through the popularity of athletics, the League of Ivies was formed. 

How then, has Ivy League come to mean what it does today with little to no connection to sports? Well, these schools have always had a great deal of money and that pushes forth their academic esteem. The academics and athletics of these schools seem to positively affect each other. Their programs have become more and more selective over the years; this only furthers their reputation as highly sought-after universities. Their large endowments, high rates of success post-graduation, and extremely significant presence in top-rated university lists give the term “Ivy League” the weight it now carries. Even though the phrase became official through sports, it is now a sought-after title for completely unrelated purposes. 

Even now, with the wide variety of colleges, there are to choose from, many people feel a pull towards the exclusivity of Ivies. It is important to realize that, despite their high rankings and name association, Ivies are not inherently better than any other university. Choosing a college based on your desires and specificities is ultimately going to be much more beneficial than choosing a college because of its famous name. Ivies can be beautiful with a rich history, but they do not determine any student’s potential.