What Are The Ivy League Schools? Should You Apply To One?

25/04/202244 minute read
What Are The Ivy League Schools? Should You Apply To One?

We hear about them often, on television, in film, and even from other students, but how well do you know the Ivy League schools as a Canadian student? Ivy League schools have been around for hundreds of years and are home to some of the most brilliant minds in history. Each school has unique academic offerings and extracurricular opportunities. The Ivies are an educational powerhouse that’s changing the world! This blog will give you an overview of the eight Ivy League Schools to help you identify which one is right for you!

What are the Ivy League schools?

The term “Ivy League” refers to the group of eight elite and prestigious private universities located in the northwest United States. The eight Ivy League schools include:

  1. Brown University
  2. Columbia University
  3. Cornell University
  4. Dartmouth College
  5. Harvard University
  6. University of Pennsylvania
  7. Princeton University
  8. Yale University

Download our free eBook to learn more about the Ivy League Schools!

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Ivy League Schools Overview
IviesFoundedLocationUS News National RankingAcceptance Rate
Brown University1764Providence, RI145.5%
Columbia University1754New York City, NY2*3.7%
Cornell University1865Ithaca, NY178.7%
Dartmouth College1769Hanover, NH136.2%
Harvard University1636Cambridge, MA2*3.2%
University of Pennsylvania1740Philadelphia, PA84.7%
Princeton University1746Princeton, NJ14%
Yale University1701New Haven, CT54.4%

Due to their notoriously low acceptance rates, it’s challenging to get into any Ivies, although some are harder than others. Still, students worldwide dream of studying at one of the Ivy League schools. Some are drawn to the esteemed faculty and diverse communities, while others love the beautiful campuses and the wide range of resources.

Further reading:

Inside The Ivy League Ep. 1: Yale

History of the Ivy League Schools

While the term “Ivy League” wasn’t coined until 1954, when the NCAA Division I athletic conference began, seven of the eight schools existed before George Washington’s presidency. Each school in the Ivy League agreed not to offer athletic scholarships, so students competing in this league would need to be scholars and athletes.

For centuries (before their official “Ivy League” designation), the schools that made up the Ivy League were almost exclusively white, male, and wealthy. While some of the student body is still considered privileged, the schools now enroll a diverse group of students.

“Due to their academics, social prestige, and ultra-selective admissions process, many consider the Ivy League schools “the most sought-after institutions of higher learning in the country and around the world”

- U.S. News & World Report

Does Canada have Ivy League Schools?

Over the years, Canadian universities have stirred up quite a debate on whether or not they are considered ‘Ivy League,’ or in the very least, comparable to American universities. Although Canadian universities do not fall within the list of Ivy League schools by definition, there are a few Canadian universities that demonstrate similar qualities to their American counterparts.

  1. University of Toronto
  2. University of British Columbia
  3. McGill University
  4. McMaster University
  5. University of Alberta

According to U.S. News’ Canadian university rankings, these universities are the top-ranked in the country. Many Canadian and international students interested in studying in Canada have considered these universities ‘Ivy Leagues’ because of their academics and educational programs.

When evaluating what universities should make your shortlist during the application process, consider the academic, resources, and networking opportunities you’d like to experience in university.

Top University Rankings 2021/22
Top UniversitiesUniversity RankingUS News National (2022)US News Global (2021)QS World (2022)
Harvard University12 (tie)13
University of Toronto111726
University of British Columbia223146
Princeton University211112
Columbia University32 (tie)619
McMaster University34133140
McGill University435127
Yale University451117
University of Pennsylvania 581416
University of Alberta55138126
Cornell University6172218
Brown University71410160
Dartmouth College813226203

Ivy League School Profiles

Brown University

Providence, Rhode Island

Brown University

Brown University Overview
US News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentTutionGeneral Acceptance RateCrimson Student Acceptance Rate

Brown traces its origins to 1764 with the granting of the Charter by the Rhode Island General Assembly. It was named Brown in 1804 after the son of the merchant and college co-founder Nicholas Brown Sr.

Brown is a major research and educational university known for its student-centered learning. Students who thrive at Brown navigate their intellectual journeys, have an intense curiosity, and want to make a difference in the world.

Brown is the only major research university in the nation where undergraduates can develop a personalized course of study. Their admission process is holistic and contextual. Self-directed applicants thrive in this environment because they can take advantage of Brown’s signature Open Curriculum and sample a wide range of courses before choosing an academic concentration.

Learn more about Brown University

A Day in the Life: Brown University Student

Our Application Advice

To be a competitive applicant, you should spend your high school years challenging yourself both inside and outside the classroom. Successful applicants need to have a track record of being self-driven. You will stand out if you can prove you’re already responsible for your intellectual and creative development.

“Our strongest applicants have taken full advantage of what is available to them in their own schools, and many motivated students find outside learning opportunities (e.g., local college courses, independent study) to supplement their high school curriculum, especially when they have exhausted available courses.”

- Brown Admissions

Columbia University

New York City, New York

Columbia University

Columbia University Overview
US News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentTutionGeneral Acceptance RateCrimson Student Acceptance Rate

Columbia University was established as King’s College by the royal charter of George II of Great Britain and renamed Columbia College in 1784 following the American Revolutionary War.

Undergraduates at Columbia University start with a common foundation of curriculum that includes literature, philosophy, science, art, history and music, and caps classes. Each class is only 22 students, so students experience close interaction with faculty. STEM programs like engineering and computer science are popular at Columbia.

Located near Manhattan, New York, much of Columbia’s student body is passionate about political involvement, actively taking part in political engagements throughout the city. Considered “the quintessential great urban university,” Columbia is also one of the most diverse Ivy League schools, boasting students from all 50 states and over 100 foreign countries.

Learn more about Columbia University

A Day in the Life: Columbia Political Science Student

Our Application Advice

Columbia takes a holistic approach to its admissions process. They take the time to get to know applicants and select those who they think will take advantage of Columbia’s community and offer a meaningful contribution to the community. Columbia offers generous financial aid programs to qualified students.

“At the core of our wide range of academic inquiry is the commitment to attract and engage the best minds in pursuit of greater human understanding, pioneering new discoveries, and service to society.”

- Columbia Admissions

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Cornell University

Ithaca, New York

Cornell University

Cornell University Overview
US News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentTutionGeneral Acceptance RateCrimson Student Acceptance Rate

Cornell was founded in 1865 by a New York State Senate bill that named the university as the state’s land grant institution. Senator Ezra Cornell offered his Ithaca farm as a site for the university.

Cornell’s mission is to discover, preserve and spread knowledge. They do this by producing unique and creative work and reaching beyond the university and into the world. If you're passionate about finding ways to enhance the lives of those around you and around the world, Cornell might be your school.

They heavily promote outreach and public service in the New York area and beyond. Cornell also boasts world-class interdisciplinary research centers in nanotechnology, biotechnology, supercomputing, and genomics.

Learn more about Cornell University

A Day in the Life: Cornell Student

Our Application Advice

At Cornell, cost shouldn’t hinder success. They offer several financial aid options to students. Their admissions process is highly individualized. This means they evaluate the person as a whole. The student body is a diverse mix of talented, open-minded, and empathetic individuals. Study Cornell’s culture and university philosophy to determine if you’re a good match.

“If you want to be a Cornellian, you want to be challenged. You want to define your own journey. You want to engage with and help others. You want to effect change in the world and in yourself.”

- Cornell Admissions

Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College Overview
US News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentTutionGeneral Acceptance RateCrimson Student Acceptance Rate

Dartmouth is one of the oldest and most respected colleges in the United States. It was founded in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock, a Congregational minister from Connecticut who initially established the college as an institution to educate Native Americans.

Dartmouth's teacher-scholars are leaders in their fields and committed to teaching. Senior professors even teach first-year students. Dartmouth professors rank among the most respected teachers in American higher education. Their highly flexible quarter-system works well for students interested in exploring all the university’s educational offerings.

Learn more about Dartmouth College

A Day in the Life: Dartmouth Student

Our Application Advice

Dartmouth strongly believes in a holistic approach to application review and has been following this practice for over a century. Dartmouth also believes applicants should showcase all elements of their application. If you have a stand-out talent or passion, be sure to intertwine it throughout your application.

“Dartmouth has practiced holistic admissions review for 100 years, and that ancient ideal of the whole person continues to guide our application review during these unprecedented days.”

- Dartmouth Admissions

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard University

Harvard University Overview
US News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentTutionGeneral Acceptance RateCrimson Student Acceptance Rate

Harvard University is the oldest university in the United States. It was founded in 1636 and named after the college’s first benefactors, a young minister named John Harvard. When he died in 1638, he left his library and half his estate to the institution.

With access to world-renowned research opportunities, thought-provoking courses, and faculty mentors, Harvard provides individualized instruction for both those driven towards a passion and those still discovering their path.

Harvard College has a House System that links learning and living and serves as a foundation for the undergraduate experience. Each house holds 350-500 people and has a dining hall, common rooms, and facilities for academic, recreation, and cultural activities.

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania Overview
US News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentTutionGeneral Acceptance RateCrimson Student Acceptance Rate

The University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, one of the United States’ founding fathers, who were eager to create a school to educate future generations.

The university is steeped in American history. Students are encouraged to engage in activities beyond the classroom, exploring the cultural, social, and political life within the city and beyond. Award-winning scholars teach classes and encourage students to pursue their passions, address challenging problems, and become world-changers.

Learn more about University of Pennsylvania

A Day in the Life: University of Pennsylvania Student

Our Application Advice

The University of Pennsylvania wants to learn all about you. They want to know your strengths, challenges, interests, and how you plan on impacting the world. When you give them a complete picture, it helps them determine if the Penn community is a place you can actively contribute and grow.

“Discover a new world or shape one.”

- University of Pennsylvania Admissions

Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University

Princeton University Overview
US News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentTutionGeneral Acceptance RateCrimson Student Acceptance Rate

Founded in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Originally located in Elizabeth, then Newark, the college moved to Princeton in 1756 and was housed in its famous Nassau Hall.

Princeton dedicates itself to undergraduate education. They boast a hefty financial aid program and ensure all accepted students, regardless of financial ability, can attend and graduate with little or no debt.

Princeton seeks out talented individuals with a broad spectrum of cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Collaboration is encouraged, and Princeton expects students to do original, creative research. Princeton believes experiences can be as essential as education. They encourage getting involved outside the classroom, leading lives of service, and pursuing personal interests, activities, and friendships.

Learn more about Princeton

A Day in the Life: Princeton Student

Our Application Advice

Princeton wants to know more than your test scores and grades. They want to hear your story and learn about you. Tell them how you will use the opportunities at Princeton to contribute to their community and how Princeton will help you change the world. Don’t forget to write in a way that reflects your voice.

Check out our complete guide on how to get into Princeton for more!

“Princeton University has a longstanding commitment to service, reflected in Princeton’s informal motto. Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity and exemplified by the extraordinary contributions that Princetonians make to society.”

- Christopher L. Eisgruber, President of Princeton University, Class of 1983

Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Yale University

Yale University Overview
US News National RankingUndergraduate EnrollmentTutionGeneral Acceptance RateCrimson Student Acceptance Rate

Founded in 1701, the university was not named Yale until 1718, when merchant Elihu Yale donated 417 books, cloth goods worth 562 pounds, and a portrait of King George to the New Haven college.

Yale is a research university and liberal arts college that accepts students they believe will make the most of their resources and someone who will contribute most significantly to the Yale community. They look for students who have the desire and ability to stretch their limits.

Learn more about Yale

A Day In The Life: Yale Student

Our Application Advice

Pursue what you love and tell them about that. Be yourself. Ask the teachers who know you best to write you a letter of recommendation. Apply and relax.

Check out our complete guide on how to get into Yale for more!

“I am inclined to believe that the person who gives every ounce to do something superbly has an advantage over the person whose capacities may be great but who seems to have no desire to stretch them to their limit”

- Former President Kingman Brewster on Yale's selection process

Canadian Ivy League Profiles

University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta

University Of Alberta

University of Alberta Admissions Statistics
US News National Ranking 2021Undergraduate Enrollment 2021TuitionGeneral Admissions RateCrimson Student Admissions Rate
5~40,061$24,400 CAD58%N/A

U of A is a top public research institution in Canada with an international recognition on programs like humanities, sciences, business, and engineering. With 5 campuses located in 2 cities, U of A is home to a diverse crowd of students all striving to strengthen their understanding in research and innovation. Admission to U of A begins with a competitive average and an impressive high school course selection that not only meets requirements, but compliments the field of story being pursued.

Key Advice

To be a competitive applicant, you should spend your high school focusing on research-based extracurriculars that highlight your innovation and drive. Admissions officers take notice to students that display passion and determination in their studies.

Learn more about University of Alberta

“You will be inspired, challenged, and filled with such knowledge and purpose that you are bound to achieve great things here.”

- U of A Admissions

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia

University Of British Columbia

UBC Admissions Statistics
US News National Ranking 2021Undergraduate Enrollment 2021TuitionGeneral Admissions RateCrimson Student Admissions Rate
256,789$32,928 CAD57%N/A

University of British Columbia is the oldest university in British Columbia and another top public research institution in Canada with a focus on inspiring students and their ideas. Home to a wide range of courses, students are able to dive deeper into their academic concentration. Their admissions process remains competitive, paying special attention to courses relating to your field of study and any achievements that go beyond academics.

Key Advice

UBC pays a great deal of attention to students that have chosen the right courses in grades 11 and 12. For students looking to impress admissions officers, ensure you are challenging yourself academically with advanced and academic courses. Students applying to UBC will also be expected to submit an comprehensive personal profile highlighting their extracurricular achievements.

Learn more about University of British Columbia

“UBC’s admission process is competitive and comparative. Your application will be evaluated against all of the others we receive for the degree you applied to that year.”

- UBC Admissions

McGill University

Montreal, Quebec

Mcgill University

McGill Admissions Statistics
US News National Ranking 2021Undergraduate Enrollment 2021TuitionGeneral Admissions RateCrimson Student Admissions Rate
3~20,000$34,022 CAD52%N/A

McGill University, located in the heart of the multilingual city of Montreal, offers degrees and diplomas in over 300 fields of study. McGill is home to an internationally diverse student body with its students coming from over 150 countries. McGill is most notable for having the top-ranked medical school in Canada for over 15 years.

Key Advice

For students interested in applying to McGill, whether it be their medical program or not, high academic achievement is a major focal point for admissions officers. McGill admissions is highly holistic and takes many factors into account when deliberating applicants.

For students looking to apply to McGill’s medical school, preparation for the application interviews and supplemental components should begin in advance.

Learn more about McGill University

“All candidates who apply to our programs are assessed based on a standardized, rigorous selection process supported by current best practices and psychometrically valid tools.”

- McGill Admissions

McMaster University

Hamilton, Ontario

Mcmaster University

McMaster Admissions Statistics
US News National Ranking 2021Undergraduate Enrollment 2021TuitionGeneral Admissions RateCrimson Student Admissions Rate
420,181$32,000 - 48,000 CAD44%N/A

McMaster University is internationally known for their academic resources including world-class libraries and facilities. The most notable facilities on campus are the Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Social Sciences, which has been ranked one of the best of its kind in Canada. McMaster is also highly respected for their career opportunities and commitment to employment equity. McMaster remains one of the top employers in the Hamilton-Niagara region of Canada.

Key Advice

McMaster is definitely a university of interest for students interested in pursuing STEM. The percentage of students applying to McMaster with an average GPA of 90% has increased from 13.6% to 46.2% within a 10-year period. For students looking to apply to McMaster, particularly their more competitive programs like Engineering or Computer Science, taking advanced, IB courses are a great way to set yourself apart from other students.

Students should also note that reach program at McMaster has a very strict admissions limit. For this reason, students should start building their application early and apply to their program of choice well before the deadlines.

Learn more about McMaster University

“All programs at McMaster University have enrollment limits. We recommend that applicants complete their application and/or amendments well before the deadlines. ”

- McMaster Admissions

University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario

University Of Toronto

U of T Admissions Statistics
US News National Ranking 2021Undergraduate Enrollment 2021TuitionGeneral Admissions RateCrimson Student Admissions Rate
171,930$26,300 - $56,720 CAD43%N/A

University of Toronto, Canada’s top and largest university with three campuses located in Toronto, Mississauga, and Scarborough. U of T has been internationally recognized for its high level programs in Engineering and Business while also being praised for their abundance of class choices for students. Despite their high admissions rate of 43%, the U of T admissions process remains highly competitive with 27% of the most recent undergraduate enrollment being international students.

Key Advice

The University of Toronto looks for diversity in their students: academically, culturally, and through expression. Student aiming for U of T should demonstrate their uniqueness in their personal statement along with their exceptional grades.

Learn more about the University of Toronto

“The University of Toronto has an academic path for every student. Whether your heart is drawn to the arts, the sciences, or both, we have a program for you.”

- University of Toronto Admissions

What Makes Ivy League Schools Better than Other Universities?

Many people consider Ivy League schools better than other top universities because the Ivy League name is synonymous with prestige and academic excellence. These schools also have highly selective admissions processes, so it’s much harder to gain admission to an Ivy League than another top university.

Many companies and graduate schools favor Ivy League graduates because they know these students were at the top of their class and successfully graduated from one of the most challenging schools in the world.

Further reading: What is the best Ivy League School in 2022?

Do Ivy League Schools Give Scholarships?

The Ivy League schools do not offer scholarships based on merit, talent, or athletic ability. They only provide need-based financial aid and are committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated need of all accepted students. 

Do Ivy League Schools Give Financial Aid?

The Ivy League schools only offer need-based financial aid. All Ivies are need-blind schools, so students’ financial status doesn’t affect their chances of getting into the school. Depending on which Ivy they attend, students can receive financial aid through grants, loans, and work-study. Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard do not offer loans. Instead, they offer need-based grants that students don’t need to repay. Ivy League schools might even cover 100% of the cost depending on demonstrated financial need.

Students must fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and, depending on the school, the CSS (College Scholarship Service) to find out if they are eligible for financial aid.

Should You Apply To Ivy League Schools?

Ivy League schools have a strong reputation for academic excellence and prestige. Graduates tend to land higher-paying jobs than those who graduate from state universities. Forbes reported that Ivy League graduates earned a median salary of over $80,000 compared to $58,000 for graduates of other US universities.

Check out our guide on how to get into an ivy league school to learn more!

But, that doesn’t mean the Ivies are the only reputable institutions or the only path to success. Schools like Caltech, MIT, and Stanford have acceptance rates similar to the Ivies and offer graduates excellent academics and career prospects.

If you have your heart set on the Ivies and your grades and test scores match their requirements, you should apply. Do your research and pick the Ivies that fits your academic and career goals. But, don’t be scared to apply to other top universities, especially if they offer courses and educational programs that fit your goals.

If you’re interested in applying to an Ivy League school, Crimson Education can help. Our college counselors can help you choose classes and extracurriculars that pair well with your future major and answer any questions you have about the Ivy League application process. Schedule a free consultation with an admissions counselor today.

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