Are Ivy League Schools Really Worth It?

Updated on July 19, 2015
S.E. asks from New York, NY
20 answers

Are they really worth the extra time and money required to get accepted and go?

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answers from Appleton on

Most people who attend Ivy League schools go for 2 main reasons 1 to get a good education and 2 to network with socially important people.

You can be just a regular person from a blue collar family and suddenly are networking with the kids of CEO's, politicians, heads of state from other countries.... befriend them and it can come in handy later in life.

On the other hand....get a good education, work hard, get ahead and you could become the person everyone wants to network with. You do not need an Ivy League education to be successful.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I work in a field where education is highly valued. And yes, people from particular schools have their own particular network, and tend to assume that others in that network are better at their jobs than those who are not.

However, I think this is really field dependent, and doesn't include all Ivy League schools. For example, the A-list schools for business, law, and different areas of science are not exactly the same.

FWIW, I personally don't believe that the education is necessarily better in these schools - my experience is that I've seen excellence and creativity (and lack of both) from alumni of all kinds of schools. However, graduates of Ivy schools tend to think highly of other graduates of these same school, and they are often in positions of power, which opens more opportunities for others from those places to get their foot in the door/advance. It's a bit of a never ending cycle that can be hard for others to break into.

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answers from San Francisco on

My husband attended the Ivy that is almost always considered the hardest to get into. I attended state universities. We have exactly the same job. Having said that, the connections he gained at that very expensive, very competitive university did allow him options and opportunities that I simply did not have.

Where all this gets interesting is grad school. I think if you can get into an Ivy for grad school that it is well worth it. You should have a fellowship (teaching or research) once you are in grad school and you will be taught my the best. (Undergrad Ivy students are still likely to be taught by grad students for many classes.)

I run the honors program at our local college. We transfer many students to the best state universities. Then when they finish there, they are able to get into the Ivy League schools for grad programs. It is nearly impossible to transfer into an Ivy league school as an undergrad.

Last thing, I am guessing that you are asking this question for your child? Be sure to consider exactly what your child needs to thrive in college. Many folks apply to the Ivy League for the prestige and access, but they then have a very difficult time because it is not a good fit. Students can and are successful at all kinds of universities. Figure out which school will be the best fit for your child and aim for that place.

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answers from Springfield on

Depends on what you want to do with your degree. For most of us, no. If you are going into certain fields, then it can make a difference. It sure sounds good when you're running for Congress to be able to say you went to Harvard Law!

Some schools are very strong in certain majors. There are a couple of schools in Illinois that are well known for education or engineering. That can be helpful in finding a job. Other than that, getting a degree is what really matters.

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answers from Houston on

For undergrad? No. For grad school? YES!

Its the connections.

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answers from Boston on

I think it's much more important to find a good fit for the individual. A lot of people who know they are going to need an advanced degree decide to go to a state university for 4 years and then go to a more "prestige" university for grad school, rather than be $100K in debt and still have 3-5 more years for a Ph.D.

Others really need to go to a diverse college so they can experiment before choosing a major. So much of education is about being broadly educated and having experience at critical thinking - you can learn that anywhere. A kid who thinks he wants Field X and chooses a university based on that alone can be really screwed if he doesn't excel or enjoy that major - he needs to be able to try a new major within the same school, rather than have no choice except to transfer. My kid was positive he wanted engineering, but we kind of pushed him to go to a university with a good liberal arts program as well as a good engineering and sciences departments, so he had options.

Ivy League Schools and others that are very specialized often put so much emotional and academic pressure on students that many are miserable. Some of that comes from the expectations put on them all through high school (parents, teachers, themselves) to get them accepted at the Ivy Leagues that they are totally lost when they get there. A friend of my son's was always pushed by parents (who also told him he was so much smarter than his teachers), he skipped a grade or too, and he was 16 when he finished high school. He was convinced he should only apply to the Ivies. But it turns out he wasn't mature enough to be viewed as able to withstand the pressure, and he didn't get into any of them. He was devastated because he'd been brought up to believe that all other schools were substandard. He went to a state university with his tail between his legs. Too bad he wasn't allowed to be a normal kid.

Finally, I think there's value to going to schools where not everyone was either the school valedictorian or the grandchild of major donors. Diversity is a good thing.

That said, the most expensive schools really have to give major financial aid, because no one can afford them. So often a private university (Ivy or otherwise) gives more money than state schools. We've had many friends send their kids to expensive schools because their share was actually less than a state university in another state (non-resident tuition) or even the state university in their own state.

I think factors like school size, diversity, setting (urban/rural), "town/gown" relations, available majors, class sizes, uses of Teaching Assistants vs. professors, strength of residential living programs, and many others are worth looking at to find the right match.

And I think kids should have a normal adolescence and not be hell-bent on studying all the time to make it into a specific school. Our neighbor was determined to take all AP courses and get As, and he didn't wind up getting into as "good" a school as my son, because he was socially immature, had no real creative of thinking skills (just regurgitated facts on tests), had few activities, and couldn't really interview well because he wasn't as well developed as a human being. My son didn't have top grades but got into a much better school because he was a leader and more confident.

We also didn't use a college coach, but a lot of people do, to help narrow down the choices.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

A Harvard degree closes no doors to your future. There is no extra time associated with getting accepted. Many of the Ivy League schools now have need blind admissions, meaning if they accept you they will put together a package of aid (and yes that means loans too) that will enable you to attend.

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answers from Washington DC on

I don't think so. I think when it boils down to it, as long as you have the degree in the certain field you are trying to work in you'll be set. Ivy league definitely gets you connections, but is that worth the insane tuition? Not for me...

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answers from Los Angeles on

I don't have an Ivy League education, but there's my take on it:

The actual education at any Ivy League school is likely comparable to that at a top state university or private school (think Stanford, UCLA, Berkeley, Michigan, UVA, etc). All of these schools have top professors and research programs.

What sets the Ivy League apart is the connections and the name. These schools command respect in a way that the others do not. The connections made through the alumni networks are very strong - you will be more likely to get a foot in the door with the connections from these schools. You will probably be more likely to get interviews because seeing Harvard on a resume is more impressive than seeing University of Any State.

I think even within the Ivy League, some schools carry more weight than others.

Part of what makes the Ivy League special is its exclusivity. The entire undergraduate class of any single Ivy League school is smaller than the incoming freshman class at UCLA. It's a totally different world.

So, to answer your question of whether it's worth it, I really think it depends on what you want to do after graduating. Some jobs need the connections; some graduate schools will be more likely to take you if they see the Ivy League degree. For other jobs, it won't make much difference.

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answers from Dallas on

I personally believe that YES they are worth it. However, it depends on the student, the goals and the end results they want to achieve.

When I was in marketing at a major salty snack food company, we paid a nice bonus for Ivy league and great schools.

This in no way means that you cannot get a quality education at your state college. It depends on what YOU put into it.

If you are at a challenging state school and you have a steady 4.0 GPA, you set yourself apart. The GPA only does not set you apart. Companies look for those GPA's but they also look for some experience, what has the student given back to the community, etc. To get in to the Ivy leagues, they look at the total package.

Our daughter is currently looking at grad schools. She is a rising Junior in college, has a 4.0 GPA, currently doing an internship with an entrepreneur ($0.00 pay) but great experience, she is also a part of her current business school ambassador program for new incoming students where she tutors, acts as a mentor, etc.. again ($0.00 pay). Harvard is a great school for MBA but for her specific degrees and focus, Stanford is better. She'll apply to both of course as well as others. SMU here in Dallas is fantastic and well regarded and she could stay in her current living space! I don't think she'll go that route though because she wants to go out explore and she thrives to do the best. We'll soon see!!

My hubby's MBA is from Duke (Fuqua School of Business) which is highly rated.

Again it all depends on what your goals are and how you plan to use the degree and finding the school that best fits your needs. Sometimes the perk is in name only and if you are serious about a serious degree, you don't just go for the name of the school, you go for the best school for YOUR specific goals.

Best wishes!

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answers from Washington DC on

well, only if you're getting into a profession where who you know is more important than what you know.
that's not to say the ivy leagues don't give a terrific eddication. (i'm assuming they do. no clue, really.) but worth what it costs?
not just for the book larnin', in my opinion.
it's a hobnob thing.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

If they're wanting to go to work on wall street or be on the supreme court or run for office on a state or higher level then it won't hurt them to have that ivy league title after their alphabet soup labels with their name.

I think if a person gets accepted to one of the Ivy league schools it's well worth the time to consider it.

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answers from New York on

It is just like any thing else. It depends on how you make it work for you. For some it doesn't make a difference for others it makes the world of a difference.

Going to any higher education school is easy finishing is hard. The key for some is where that degree comes from. In some circles it matters but there are many who transcend the circles.

It is truly a personal thing.

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answers from Tampa on

It depends on how you pay for it in my opinion. If you can get enough financial aid to go, then yes it would be a fabulous opportunity. If the only way that you could go meant that you would be saddled with 100K in school debt, then no, I do not think that it is worth it.

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answers from Beaumont on

I agree with Gidget 100%!

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answers from New York on

I attended an Ivy League school and received an excellent education. I was also able to take part in a wonderful overseas exchange program that really broadened my horizons. Many of the people I met at college are still good friends to this day. When I graduated, I was able to breeze into my first few jobs with that school on my resume. That said, when you compare my career path with my brother, who attended a high-profile, non-Ivy private college, and my sister, who attended a state college, we're pretty much all on the same footing now.

Nowadays, I don't think I would have been accepted by that same school with the kind of grades and SAT scores I had. I'd like my son to go to the same college, but if he would be happier somewhere else, I'm fine with that.

I will say, the school was very generous with financial aid. Affording it was a bit of a stretch, but it didn't break the bank.



answers from Dallas on

Listen to this -

It's how well the college matches you and what you're shooting for.

He wrote a book also.

They have the weight of the name, BUT if you don't milk the experience for everything it's worth, than it's just a name. If you go to a "non-ivy" college that gives you the experience you need and you wring every drop out of it, that's the idea.



answers from Miami on

Lovely advice, Letty.



answers from Las Vegas on

I think it all depends on goals. If you plan to stay in your area and a state education will do, then no. If you plan to make serious change to the world, then why not learn from the best, if you can get in?



answers from Philadelphia on

Depending on what you want to do, a degree from an Ivy League school can be worth it at least for graduate school. I worked for Johnson & Johnson many years ago. Although they paid for my MBA at a small private school they told me if I wanted to be in the marketing department managing a product, I had to work for about 5 years then get my MBA from an Ivy League school. (It wasn't worth it to me)

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