3 years ago
Admissions Advice

What are the differences between each Ivy League?

What are the differences between each Ivy League? I know they all have their strengths, but can someone give me a detailed explanation which school is best for which, as well as the strengths, weaknesses, and more? They are all starting to blend together for me instead of becoming clearer through my research.


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2 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago[edited]

First, let me say that at all 8 Ivys and another Elite college like UChicago, Stanford, and Duke you can get an excellent education so if you are just talking academics I would say that Ivys and say the next 20 schools are all remarkable places. I studied and visited most of the T50 schools and have come up with these answers for you. It would take 10 pages on each to do a good job so this is like an elevator pitch.

I break the 8 Ivys into 3 drawers like a dresser/bureau. The Top Drawer consists of the hardest to get into and most prestigious. They are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. The Middle Drawer is UPenn and Brown. The Lower Drawer is Dartmouth and Cornell.

The richest Ivys in terms of endowment and resources from high to low are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, UPenn, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown. Harvard has 10 times the endowment of Brown, something most people do not know. Regardless, all of them are need-blind admissions and meet 100% of your financial aid need. (they are all super generous with aid if you need it and no one trades Ivys based on financial aid packages. )

Harvard- public park-like setting in the middle of Cambridge. 365 a year, there are always tourists and voyeurs because it has the most clout. It's the oldest college in America but arguably not the best looking. The campus core is in Cambridge but other departments are across the Charles River. By far it's the hardest school to get into not because of GPA or Stats but because of their own 350-year-old proprietary scorecard admissions system which uses 200 data points. At Harvard, you have to fulfill some foundational courses that you can pick and choose from. Most people living on campus in various houses that have their own library, dining hall gym, and adult faculty on-site as well. Harvard employs more grade inflation than others so it would be very hard to fail there unless you never show up and don't do the work. Most people that get into Harvard have a huge Spike. And since Harvard is famous for its Medical, Architecture, Govt., Business Grad schools, don't expect to major in any of those as an undergrad since it's not available. No Greek Life. APs credits are given if you get 5s on a subset of AP coursework. For Class, there is a shopping period where you can take many classes and then decide what you are going to stick with. The last thing, they are in a consortium with MIT so you can take any MIT undergrad class.

Brown - lovely New England campus with beautiful architecture and large open green quads and spaces on top of a hill overlooking Providence RI. The housing is a mix of dorms and frats/sororities. The big differentiate factor about Brown is that there is no core curriculum whatsoever. You pick whatever you want from day 1. They also have a shopping period. No AP credit whatsoever. They have some unique programs like you can do an undergrad degree in Architecture, or apply to the BS/MD program to be a doctor, or do a dual degree with RISD Rhode Island School of Design in fine arts. The town has great shops and restaurants but it's a hike to downtown Providence. And if you don't like grades, you can opt for Pass-Fail grading virtually any course you take. That's sweet if you don't want to be super stressed out about keeping a high GPA in everything. Greek life is thriving.

Yale- Iconic Architecture was designed similar to the cloistered halls at Oxford or Cambridge in England. Yale is a very flexible school as well with no core curriculum and you can mix and match your majors. You can study Physics and Painting or Film and Math. They don't care. They have a Hogwarts-style housing system where you live with faculty and each dorm has its own dean. The rooms are generous in size and the food is very good at Yale. There are lots of things to do on campus and off. And NYC is 90 minutes away and Boston is 2 hours on Amtrak. Personally, I think the town of New Haven is a bit sketchy. But if you go out in groups you are golden. They don't have grade inflation like Harvard but they offer a lot of tutoring, mentoring, advising, and peer help if you ask for it. It's hard. They also have a shopping period. Greek life is popular and they still have some secret societies like Skull and Bones.

Columbia - Location-wise, many would argue CU is in the best city in America with non-stop things to do just a walk, bike, Uber, subway trip away. Columbia might be the hardest freshman course rigor out of all the IVYs because of their notorious Core. It's basically 30% of your entire coursework and you have to do it regardless of your major. So if you apply to the FU School of Engineering you still have to take classes in things like Ethics, Philosophy, Literature, Art History. Most college freshmen don't want to be told what to do but CU alumni, all say they are better humans for taking the core and while it was killer, it was a great way to learn about their world and interact with students outside of their major. It's the smallest in the acreage of all the Ivys but then again, no one really complains about the density since you have the world's best things within 15-30 minutes from your dorm. CU students are very woke, participate in activism and social justice. CU is the alma mater of Ruth Bader Ginsberg so it makes sense. Her daughter teaches at the law school as well as James Comey, former FBI director. Greek life exists but is minimal.

Princeton- Princeton is a beautiful town and beautiful campus but that being said, it's sort of in the middle of nowhere in NJ. You are 90 minutes to NYC and about the same to Philly. The academics are tops and there are many important Profs and research depts there. If you don't want to go right away you can take a Princeton gap year and they'll send you to another country for 9 months and then you start when you get back. The facilities are first-rate. What I like and don't like about Princeton are the eating clubs. There is no Greek life (but I understand unofficially there is). The eating clubs are like surrogates for Coed Frats/Sororities. I think there are bout 11 of them and they are all beautiful mansions where upper-classmen go to eat their meals and socialize. Most of them are have a complex application so you have to be picked to join. A couple of them are open to everyone. They are expensive adding about $10,000 per year to your cost. And if you are a CISHET preppy person from a high net worth family, you'll fit right in because it's like eating at a private golf club dining room. I think it's much harder for someone from a BIPOC first-gen family on financial aid to find a home in this environment. It is the only Ivy that reminded me of the South where there exist history and evidence of a class system in play.

UPenn - Is the biggest Ivy with Cornell 2nd. With nearly 4000 Freshmen, it's about 2.5 times larger than most other Ivys. It's a really huge campus in Philly. I found it overwhelming. There are blocks and blocks of dorms and libraries and classrooms it's endless. I think it's a good school to go to if you get into Wharton the business school, the Engineering school or the Nursing school, or other professional programs like the Dual Degree international affairs track. I didn't like the vibe. What you notice is how many hype beasts are on campus with their Golden Goose sneakers and Canadian Goose jackets and Yeezys. Greek life is vibrant at UPenn and I think if you don't belong to a frat or Sorority you will not have much of social life. Personally, I wouldn't want to go to that big of a school. One of my dad's friends graduated from Penn and said her 4 years was miserable. There is no support system if you are having a mental breakdown and she found it isolating to be in Philly. She's from NYC so I can understand.

Cornell - This is by far one of the most beautiful campuses in North America but again it's in the middle of nowhere in Ithaca NY, 250 miles from NYC and even more from Boston. I love the campus, the college town on the hill, the bars, and restaurants downtown, the iconic Wegmans grocery store with its own sushi bar. It's the place to go if you want to be an Architect ranked number 1. The Johnson school of business is tops as well. They have a very unique School of Hotel Management there with a working hotel on campus. Also, the Cornell Vet school is one of the best in the country. The winters are brutal and you will not want to walk a mile up the hill from downtown and the quad is wonky, not flat so you are walking sideways at an angle to get across it. If you don't belong to a frat or sorority, you will be lonely since nearly 35% belong to one of 50 houses. This is why it's a safety for many Ivy applicants, it's just brutal in the Wintertime. Plus if you don't have a car, you're stuck there. The Ithaca regional airport flys to NYC airport or Boston but is $$$$ spendy.

Dartmouth - If you ever wanted to go to a New England boarding school this is the place. Originally it was only a men's college and the founding fathers created it to educate indigenous Native Americans in New England. Dartmouth has since evolved into a world-class research university. The Business School and Medical school are tops. Also, they just built a new energy school where you can get a degree in all kinds of energy and environmental science. It's preppy, and there are a lot of recruited athletes that played varsity lacrosse, soccer, track, etc at all the elite boarding schools in the same vicinity like Deerfield, Exeter, Andover. Frat life is a must and I think many people don't understand that you need to join one to survive Dartmouth. Academically it's a fine school but realize that it went coed in 1972 so there probably isn't as much diversity as say Yale or Columbia. Lots of Basic looking students from high net worth families are the norm.

Okay, I'm sorry if I've offended anyone in my take of the 8 Ivys. Good luck.

3 years ago

I would love to but I am not an expert on these schools. I am still in the process of research for myself. But here is a video from a UPenn student talking with other Ivy league students about the differences. It will give you a feel for what the schools are like.


I really hope this helps!

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