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Why Ivy League Schools Aren't Always the Right Choice

Updated on June 16, 2011

Everyone has heard the names: Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Princeton. They have menacing reputations and acceptance statistics that give even the most well-rounded student nightmares. Each graduation churns out pre-law, pre-med honors students who will go on to graduate schools and six-figure salaries. Some doubt shrouds these summa cum-laude Ivy pedigrees, suggesting that the prestige isn’t worth the grief.

Concerns about collegiate stress levels among the Ivies were triggered after six suicides rocked the Cornell student body in the 2009-10 school year, two of which occurred nearly back to back in early March, just before finals. The highly publicized death of a Yale student who took his own life that same week by jumping from the Empire State Building confirmed these fears. Ivy Leaguers, already pushed by their own high standards and a competitive learning environment, are slipping over the edge when finals arrive. They have been conditioned to accept nothing less than perfection. This philosophy is not only unattainable, but also fatal when a student would rather die than fail a test.


That said, it’s true that most Ivy Leaguers aren’t searching for bridges to fling themselves off of. The more common, less extreme cases of stress only agitate the student, lowering the quality of education and transforming classrooms into places of worry, making it difficult to concentrate or retain information. When stress hormones are sustained at high levels for extended periods of time, they can actually damage parts of the brain that are crucial o memory and learning. That infamous education students are supposed to be receiving is lost in a whirlwind of burden and racing thoughts.

Stress aside, the mere price of such an education can be a turn-off with some universities pushing fifty-thousand dollars per semester. Champions for the Ivies might argue that this cost is offset by the connections made and the percentages earned after graduation, but nothing is for certain. A degree from Harvard might look impressive on a job application, but a name doesn’t mean everything. This doesn’t guarantee that a hopeful from a cheaper college like the University of Florida, ranked just as high as the Ivies in some programs, won’t snag the spot instead. For example, not long ago, the game show Jeopardy hosted a college week and invited students from across the nation to compete. Much ado was made about the Yale competitor, whose Ivy education was sure to give her an edge in the “useless and obscure facts” category. Yet, when all was said and done, a student from Michigan University managed to defeat her by 300 points. So much for Ivy League superiority.

Some highly qualified seniors out there are likely suffering from the brand name syndrome, intent upon the Ivy League based solely upon its prominence in the media. They will pay for a name and not an education. Still others might apply in order to prove their own intelligence, basing self-worth on an acceptance letter. Accredited schools such as the University of Virginia, ranked number one in value by the Princeton Review, will be passed over, while Ivy League schools with so-so student reviews will continue to accrue more than 27,000 applications each year. Students must also consider that when compared to state universities, Ivy League graduates rarely receive a decent return on their college investment. The money is not so much wasted as fed into an unhealthy and highly overrated system.

It isn’t wrong or immoral to attend and Ivy League School. In fact, those students who do should be commended for their efforts; Harvard and Yale are not for the faint of heart. It is, however, illogical to earn a degree from such an institution and expect every aspect of life to fall into place afterward. While graduates make it out with a rigorous education and abounding opportunities, they also come away with a skewed sense of perfection, the inability to fail, and often the inability to connect with real life. They enter the work force with years of debt ahead of them. They have prestige, stress disorders, hype, and awful Jeopardy skills.


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    • Lyphen Everyword profile image

      Lyphen Everyword 6 years ago

      That's probably true, Alice, but it seems like college is becoming a requirement if kids want to assimilate into the adult world. It's really not fair to the people who simply weren't made for college.

      And I agree, Pudding. A person's degree is going to be pretty-much the same wherever they go.

    • puddingicecream profile image

      puddingicecream 6 years ago from United States

      It doesn't really matter what college you attend.

    • Alice DeWonder profile image

      Alice DeWonder 6 years ago from 3rd planet from Sun

      Any college is a waste of time and money