Tips for Choosing the Right IVY Colleges to Apply to

Applying to colleges is now possible. It’s highly likely that you have been waiting for this day for years. Thousands of students apply to the best universities every year, so you probably have a list of the institutions on your dream list, but you are aware of the fierce competition. Learn the top tips for choosing the right ivy colleges to apply to.

While being misunderstood for one big, prominent university, Ivy League colleges are not all the same; each has unique cultures, benefits, and disadvantages. Recognizing the differences between them is essential, even if they are all among the greatest in American higher education.

Which Ivy League is the best fit for you? The Ivy League is a well-known collection of prestigious universities. However, not much is known about these universities other than a few common affiliations. Ivies are associated with several stereotypical ideas, such as being situated in the northeast and offering some of the greatest academic opportunities in the world; however, these institutions are more complex than they first appear.

Considering how highly regarded the Ivy League is, it makes sense that so many students aspire to enroll there. Still, one of the most crucial queries a student should have is, “Which Ivy League is best for me?”

Even though the Ivy League schools all have similar characteristics—such as academic excellence, location, and history—they also differ greatly from one another. Understanding the unique characteristics of each student is essential when selecting the appropriate school for them.

If your sole goal is to get into an Ivy League school, you should still take the time to carefully consider each university in order to better tailor your application. Admissions officials at these prestigious universities will instantly recognize the generic submissions.

The Ivy League’s beginnings

Most people’s first impressions of the Ivy League are of its demanding academic requirements, colonial-era buildings, elegant school uniforms, and accomplished alumni. The most widespread—and possibly most accurate—association among these antiquated clichés is that Ivy League colleges offer top-notch academic programs.

Nonetheless, this gives rise to the common misconception that the Ivy League was founded primarily for intellectual purposes, accepting only the greatest universities in terms of academic standing. However, it was not how the Ivy League first came to be. Unbelievably, the Ivy League started out in sports.

The Division I athletic league was established by the NCAA in 1954. Even though their academic accomplishments weren’t undervalued, all eight universities were renowned at the time for their athletic accomplishments. Although several of these universities are still very competitive, their sports have not gained as much notoriety since the Ivy League was founded.

The Ivy League is now closely linked to professional success, competitive admissions, and rigorous academic standards. Each university has justifiably upheld this reputation throughout decades of providing top-notch academic programs. Now let’s get into the top tips for choosing the right ivy colleges to apply to.

Things to think about before making a wise decision:

The thousands of U.S. universities that are accessible to students nowadays may be hard to choose from, and if you don’t have a plan, it might seem overwhelming. But having a strategy in place could help make this difficult decision much easier. 

Since every student has unique requirements and goals, there are several Ivy League schools that may be a better fit. With this in mind, this guide attempts to provide students with a better understanding of each school so they may choose the one that will help them improve both academically and personally.

What is it that I need or want?

You should take into account your desired school type, financial situation, living situation, and academic and extracurricular goals while choosing the appropriate school.

  • Academic Objectives

What is your favorite activity?

Have you selected your major? Do you want to attend a business school, a liberal arts college, or something more technical? Think about your personal style as a student.

Does a school that demands greater self-motivation make you thrive, or do you require more stringent requirements? Which type of work—individual or group—do you like better?

Extracurricular Interests

What level of involvement will you have with the school while you’re not in class? Are you hoping to be part of an athletic team, social club, performance group, or community service project?

Would you prefer an urban, rural, suburban, or small-town setting?


Will you be living on campus or off? Are you a car owner? If not, you will have to ensure that the college you select is located in a city with public transit or in a region that is easily accessible without a car. Which would you rather be in relation to your home?

While private college graduates sometimes earn more, public college tuition is usually less expensive than that of private schools. Attending a more esteemed university may or may not lead to better success in your profession or finances. Will you have to find employment? If so, your options are limited to colleges with on-campus employment or locations with off-campus employment.

  • Examine

Once your needs and interests have been considered, you may begin to determine your top college choices. Using the College Board, Unigo, College Navigator, and official school websites to assess schools is another piece of advice for potential Ivy League students.

Ideally, your list should be reduced to roughly ten institutions. Remember that the only way to truly understand the culture of an institution is to visit the campus. When you have approximately ten schools left on your list, it will be time to apply. Your list will probably get smaller yet during the application process, but don’t give up just yet.

How much opportunity is there?

Ivy League universities are among the biggest beneficiaries of financial endowments, both domestically and internationally. These endowments essentially dictate the degree of investment made in each student.

The Ivies’ vast resource base enables them to provide their student population with financial help, world-class academic programs, excellent research opportunities, and much more.

Ivy League graduates, who typically belong to the richer income categories, make up one of the main sources of capital for these substantial endowments. All the same, the federal government and private sectors annually provide millions of dollars in research support to each of the Ivies. While this is an interesting fact, it’s a helpful one to remember when deciding which Ivy League to attend. It’s one less thing to worry about, knowing that you will have access to a plethora of financial aid, research opportunities, and academic possibilities regardless of the university you select.

Is there a premier Ivy League?

Many recent high school grads wonder, “Which Ivy League is the best?” It is difficult to respond to this question for several reasons. First of all, different people may perceive “best” differently.

Not to be overlooked, but secondarily, every student will have a different ideal school based on their unique set of personal qualities, academic interests, preferences, and long-term objectives.

The assumption that all Ivy League schools are the same is among the most frequent errors made by candidates. Consequently, many students select a university at random and apply without considering whether or not it would be a suitable fit. While these tips for choosing the right ivy colleges to apply to can help you self-reflect, it’s important to understand the different nuances of each Ivy League school.

While those are key factors, it’s important to keep in mind that youngsters who are more than just incredibly intelligent, accomplished, and committed are what Ivy League institutions are looking for. Aside from looking for candidates who may benefit from whatever unique opportunities the institution may offer, admissions personnel at these universities also look for candidates who can positively impact the school community.

Which Ivy League Fits Your Situation Best?

Ivy College #1: University of Brown

Founded in 1764

Place: Rhode Island’s Providence

The capital city of Rhode Island, Providence, is home to Brown University. Due to Providence’s modest size, Brown students do not completely get to experience the metropolitan culture as students at Penn or Columbia might. But Boston, the closest big metropolis, is just an hour’s bus ride away.

It’s well known that Brown offers the least competitive Ivy League curriculum. This is demonstrated by Brown’s open curriculum, which lets students select whatever they want to study the majority of the time and doesn’t feature any core or obligatory classes (except for one required writing class).  By keeping grading optional, Brown grades learners for succeeding and passing in as many programs as they decide to study. Ultimately, the Brown educational environment aims to release students from concerns about how their academic performance may be impacted by their curiosity and understanding of things irrelevant to their areas of specialty.

Brown University is renowned for being among the most progressive colleges in the country. Conversations regarding gender, sexuality, racism, and injustice are common on campuses. The administration of the university is really focused on making the campus a friendly place for all students. Brown’s laid-back atmosphere could be a contributing factor to the university’s consistently high placing in rankings of the happiest colleges. Brown students also receive free admission to Providence’s museums and other cultural institutions. These serves to enhance their educational experience even further.

Ivy College #2: Columbia University

Founded in 1754

Place: New York, New York

No worries, Columbia University’s campus lies right in the middle of the nation’s largest city! Columbia is situated in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights, sandwiched between the Upper West Side and West Harlem. Morningside Heights, called the “college town” of New York City, is home to Barnard College, the Manhattan School of Music, the Jewish and Union Theological Seminaries. Manhattan’s downtown may be accessed with a 20-minute train ride, should you want to explore the city even more.

The Core Curriculum, a series of courses required of all students at Columbia College, defines the undergraduate experience at the liberal arts college. While there are fewer requirements, students in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science must still complete several core courses. Rejecters of Homer, take note: the Core Curriculum places a strong focus on reading and writing, particularly on classical literature!

Columbia tends to draw students who are enthusiastic about political engagement because of its long history of student activism, which dates back to the demonstrations of the 1960s and beyond. As Columbia has one of the largest percentages of international students of any Ivy League school. They are also among the highest of all institutions in the nation. Its location in New York City is also a major lure for these students. Columbia is the most racially diverse Ivy League university, with half of its undergraduates identifying as students of color. Both the diversity of the student body and the energy of New York City contribute to an intellectually challenging undergraduate experience.

Ivy College #3: Cornell University

Establishment: 1865

Place: Ithaca, New York

The little upstate New York city of Ithaca is home to Cornell University. Ithaca, which is renowned for its progressive culture, is also home to Ithaca College. An outdoor enthusiast would be delighted by the upstate of New York’s magnificent splendor. In actuality, there are numerous gorges and waterfalls on the Cornell campus. It is also one of the Ivy League’s largest campuses.

Cornell offers an outstanding undergraduate education through its eight undergraduate schools, which include the esteemed schools of engineering, agriculture, and hotel management. Cornell University gives college students the chance to pursue a customized education due to its focused and frequently unique programs in a range of areas. They take pride in being a leader in the area of education, including 122 minors and 80 majors.

Cornell has by far the largest population of any Ivy League university, with over 15,000 full-time undergraduate students. Cornell is unlike the other Ivies because of its size and unique blend of public and private money. It also feels like a large public university. Like smaller, more urban Ivies, Cornell is well known for its rural location and active Greek community. The natural environment is embraced by Cornell University’s campus life and recreational offerings. Outdoor activities are common among student organizations. Among Cornell students’ favorite activities are athletics, hiking in the surrounding environment, and canoeing in the Finger Lakes.

Ivy College #4: Dartmouth College

Founded: 1769

Location: Hanover, NH

There are just 11,500 people living in the town of Hanover, New Hampshire, where Dartmouth College is situated. A younger, more outdoor-loving student body than at some other Ivies is drawn to Dartmouth because of its suburban setting and gorgeous campus landscaping.

Despite having four graduate schools, Dartmouth is known for its concentration on undergraduate education and dedication to it, as demonstrated by its choice to call itself Dartmouth College. You may be confident that, as an undergraduate at Dartmouth, you will get enough support and resources and that graduate students’ needs will take precedence over yours. One further distinctive feature of Dartmouth is that it is the only Ivy League university to utilize the quarter system rather than the semester system, which has two grading periods in a normal academic year instead of three.

The New Hampshire wilderness that surrounds Dartmouth is a source of pride for the university since it offers a setting for many outdoor student organizations. Moreover, Greek life is more common at Dartmouth than it is at any other Ivy League university, with 60% of the undergraduate population participating. Dartmouth has slightly fewer undergraduate students enrolled than its peer universities. Due to its small size and very distant location, Dartmouth has a very close-knit student body, which encourages a strong feeling of school spirit and alumni commitment.

Ivy College #5: Harvard University 

Founded: 1636

Location: Cambridge, MA

Harvard University, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is 20 minutes from Boston’s downtown via subway. Harvard’s close proximity to other colleges in Cambridge and the surrounding region, including MIT, Wellesley, Boston College, Tufts, and Boston University, gives students access to a wide range of events and opportunities designed specifically for them to network with peers and faculty. Because Boston is so close to campus, Harvard students can benefit from all the amenities of a larger city while still living in a more intimate, less hectic urban environment.

All first-year students at Harvard are required to fulfill a set of general education requirements in addition to their major-specific coursework. Harvard’s general education requirements aim to expand students’ understanding of the world beyond the school’s hallowed halls and expose them to a wider range of subject matter. Because of the school’s abundant resources, undergraduate research and a high degree of academic independence are possible, and Harvard students will undoubtedly take advantage of these chances.

The goal of Harvard’s residential college system is to create close-knit bonds between students and instructors. Students are put in 12 residential houses for their second year, each with its own unique culture and personality. Students live in their houses until they graduate, where they develop personal friendships with other residents and take advantage of all the facilities available. Though fraternities and sororities are not officially recognized by the institution, Greek life is becoming more and more prominent in Harvard’s social scene as a result of the existence of the notorious final clubs.

Ivy College #6: University of Pennsylvania

Founded: 1740

Location: Philadelphia, PA

The University of Pennsylvania, situated in Philadelphia’s University City district, shares with Columbia all the advantages of an urban environment, including cultural events, career and internship opportunities, and job chances. Nevertheless, UPenn maintains a quiet campus with classic quads and dorms despite being in the center of a bustling metropolis. 

Penn offers undergraduate degrees from four different schools: the Wharton School of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Nursing. Differentiating Penn from other Ivies that prioritize a liberal arts curriculum are the School of Nursing and the Wharton School. The College of Arts and Science program focuses an intense focus on a practical, real-world education, demanding teaching in a wide range of disciplines and skill sets.

It is recommended for students to make use of Philadelphia’s resources for extracurricular, academic, and leisure purposes. The main attraction of student life at Penn is its incorporation into the surrounding community. Though it does not control the social scene, Greek life is more prevalent at Penn than at certain other Ivy League universities. The College House system, which offers 12 distinct communities where students can network with like-minded peers as freshmen, upperclassmen, or throughout their time at Penn, is another option for those looking for opportunities to socialize beyond the fraternity and sorority life. Penn boasts over 450 student organizations.

Ivy College #7: Princeton University

Founded: 1746

Location: Princeton, NJ

Princeton University gives its undergraduate students equal consideration, even though it is one of the best research universities in the world. It has, in fact, been the top university in the nation for undergraduate instruction for more than six years.

Since its founding, Princeton is seeking to provide students the best education possible by hiring only the most skilled and committed faculty members. Princeton University offers a great degree in any field you would like to study. It provides 16 more extensive topics of study, 36 majors, and 39 different undergraduate degrees.

Princeton is well known for giving large scholarships to worthy students from different origins so they can become Ivy Leaguers.

Ivy College #8: Yale University

Founded: 1701

Location: New Haven, CT

The average acceptance rate to Harvard University and Yale University, two of the top Ivy League universities, is about 5%. Yale, the third-oldest university in the group, is renowned for its long tradition of academic integrity.  Yale has been connected to intellectual prowess ever since it was founded.

This group of intellectually curious and inclined toward leadership students is recognized by the Ivy League. The caliber of Yale’s graduates demonstrates the university’s commitment to developing leaders who are essential to society.

Yale is a great choice if you’re an enthusiastic student who enjoys an atmosphere of competition and wants to make the most of your Ivy League experience. Attending school with students who share your interests will help you succeed and give you access to all the fantastic opportunities you might want.

After being recognized

With your acceptance letters in hand, there are still a lot of things to think about. Generally speaking, you have three or four weeks to decide. At that point, you should examine every school even more closely. In the event that you must make a difficult choice, the following inquiries may be helpful:

Academic: Which institutions make use of the best instructional methods? Are there assistant professors, full-time professors, or other educators teaching the material? Your main motivation for attending the college is the education you will receive, even though the practical and cultural components of the institution are significant and should be taken into consideration.

Financial Aspects: Which institutions have the best financial aid programs? Consider how much debt you will have after making each decision once you graduate. Which universities let you live anywhere you can afford to live?

Campus Life: If you’re having trouble deciding, a second campus visit can be very helpful. If there is anything you missed on your initial visit, this is an excellent chance to fix it. It’s ultimately up to you to decide where to go to college, even if friends, family, and other people will have opinions. To choose the college that best suits your goals, interests, personality, and financial position, use these Ivy League entrance criteria.

In Summary

Following these tips for choosing the right ivy colleges to apply to will help you to choose the right school that fits you. Now it’s time to sit down and decide for yourself what your looking for and which school would be the right fit.

About IVY'D College Prep

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