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A Ranked List of the Ivy League Schools

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The Ivies, with their multibillion dollar endowments and flora-coated architecture, are revered as the pinnacle of America’s higher learning system. Each year, thousands compete for a spot within the Ivy League, often applying to several, if not all, of the eight schools.


But whether you are considering applying to three, five or all of the Ivies, you likely have a personal hierarchy worked out in your mind. Or maybe you don’t, and that’s why you’re here. Either way, it begs the question: what is the true ranking of the Ivy League schools? Which is the most desirable? The least?


If you’re having trouble deciding which Ivy would be best for you, read on for an insider look at these prestigious schools.


Our Method:


For the following categories, Ivies will be ranked on a scale of one to eight, with a one being the highest score the school can receive.


  1. Location: The Ivy Leagues are sprawled throughout America’s northeast, with locations ranging from windy New Hampshire to temperate Pennsylvania. This category will focus on the general appeal of each school’s location, from crime to weather to nearby amenities.


  1. Overall campus happiness: How happy is each school’s student body? Some Ivy League students are so content that they consistently rank amongst the nation’s happiest schools. For those that don’t, we took a look at more nuanced measures, including each Ivy’s ability to foster a sense of community among students.


  1. Quality of academics: It’s no mystery that the Ivy Leagues are considered the academic elite of the nation, consistently placing in the top 20 on all noted college lists. But how do they rank amongst themselves? Calculating in factors such as class size, student-to-faculty ratio, research opportunities, and overall college resources, we see how the Ivies’ standards of education stack up against one another.


  1. Job prospects: Students have a wide range of reasons for pursuing a college degree, but for most, the goal is to find a good job upon graduating. While all eight Ivies look impressive on a résumé, it’s fair to say some carry more weight than others. We’ve taken  a look at a few key components, such as availability of jobs local to the university, average earning medians, global reputation, and overall ease in finding jobs.


After the schools receive a rank in each of the following categories, the points will be added together. One point will then be added for each rank on the 2019 U.S. News National University ranking (for example, if a school placed third, three points will be added to their score.)


The total score will be subtracted from 100, meaning that schools with higher scores are more desirable based on the above factors.


Our Ranking:


  Location Happiness Academics Job Prospects US News Rank Total Score
Harvard 1 3 1 1 2 92
Yale 6 2 2 (tied) 3 3 (tied) 84
Princeton 4 6 2 (tied) 4 1 83
Columbia 3 5 4 5 3 (tied) 80
UPenn 2 7 5 2 8 76
Brown 5 1 6 7 14 67
Dartmouth 7 4 8 6 12 63
Cornell 8 8 7 8 16 53


1st: Harvard


Location: With its proximity to Boston—often called the largest college town in America—Harvard students never run out of ways to keep busy off-campus. Though the winters are notoriously frigid, convenient location and low crime frequency have snagged Harvard a first place for location.


Campus happiness: Whether as a result of Harvard’s massive endowment or its considerable offering of resources, students report feeling supported by the university in almost all of their endeavors. In conjunction with the residential college system, which fosters a tight-knit community, spirits on Harvard’s campus run high. For this category, Harvard places third.


Quality of academics: It’s no secret that Harvard attracts some of the brightest students in the world. The resources offered are as yet unparalleled, including a faculty which boasts more Nobel Laureates than anywhere else. It’s perhaps then expected that Harvard pulls a first place for the quality of education students receive.


Job prospects: With a prestigious alumni network, global reputation, and high median starting salary of $72,600, Harvard takes first in job prospects. Students find that the brand Harvard has built for itself serves them well just by association.


U.S. News Rank: 2nd place


Total out of 100: 92 points


2nd: Yale


Location: Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale’s neighborhood is known for having an unfortunate crime problem. That said, students who interact with the city say they grow to love it, owing to an abundance of cultural activities. In particular, the city’s collection of libraries, art galleries, and museums provide students with a welcome extension of the intellectual environment Yale is known for. Yale gets sixth for location.


Campus happiness: Yale is one of only two Ivies to appear consistently on lists of the nation’s happiest campuses. The city’s cultural institutions make New Haven an ideal environment for fostering intellectual and social skills. For this reason, Yale grabs second place for campus happiness.


Quality of academics: While Princeton and Yale vary in their educational emphases—Yale offering more of a liberal arts approach—the two schools have long been considered incredibly comparable in the overall quality of education. For this reason, they are tied for second place in this category.


Job prospects:  After Harvard, Yale ranks highest of the Ivies for median salary ten years following graduation, with early pay averaging $68,300. This means earning prospects for Yale graduates is high. In overall job prospects, Yale ranks third on our list.


U.S. News Rank: 3rd place (tied)


Total out of 100: 84 points


3rd: Princeton


Location: Although Princeton, New Jersey is smaller and sleepier than most Ivy locations, the university boasts access to both Philadelphia and New York City by train. In addition, its relatively temperate weather is among the more tolerable of the Ivies’, earning Princeton the fourth place spot.


Campus happiness: Princeton is infamous for its no-nonsense grading style, favoring grade deflation over anything else. Because of the resulting stress around GPA and grades, Princeton scores a place in sixth for overall campus happiness.


Quality of academics: As was previously mentioned, the quality of academics between Yale and Princeton is extremely comparable, from resources offered to general prestige. Because differentiating between the two is arbitrarily difficult, we have given both universities second place for standard of education.


Job prospects: Princeton career prospects are rivaled by few, with an impressive early-career earning average of $72,200. We have ranked it fourth for this category, placing it after Yale due to students’ lower average GPA.


U.S. News Rank: 1st place


Total out of 100: 83 points

4th: Columbia


Location: With a coveted location in New York City, Columbia attracts students from all over the world. Nearly limitless amenities sit just a subway ride away (for those willing to brave the transportation system). This New York Ivy comes in at third place for location.


Campus happiness: New York City is never short on new things to experience, but for some, the chaos of the city can become overwhelming. In addition, some students report feeling limited by the Core Curriculum, which defines a sizable portion of their undergraduate education. For overall campus happiness, Columbia pulls fifth place.


Quality of academics: The Core Curriculum—though considered restrictive by some—is a widely acclaimed backbone to Columbia’s undergraduate experience and is part of what makes the school so unique. Columbia’s location also provides resources and research opportunities that most schools can’t possibly rival, earning Columbia a spot in fourth place for academics.


Job prospects: Columbia graduates rarely find themselves at a loss for career opportunities, especially in the Big Apple. Positions in New York City are competitive, however, and for those staying local, housing rent is a financial strain (even with an average early career pay of $69,200). For that reason, Columbia University takes fifth place in career prospects.


U.S. News Rank: 3rd place (tied)


Total out of 100: 80 points


5th: University of Pennsylvania


Location: With the best weather on the list and strong student engagement with the surrounding city, Philadelphia’s UPenn comes in at second place for location. Despite the occasional instance of crime, Penn students come to view Philadelphia as an extension of their campus, and the city is rich in history and culture.


Campus happiness: Despite Penn’s reputation as the social ivy, students often complain of the extremely competitive—even cutthroat—atmosphere, which at times tends to pit students against one another. For this reason, the University of Pennsylvania ranks seventh for campus happiness.


Quality of academics: Owing to an undergraduate business school that ranks first in the country, Penn is able to offer many resources and opportunities that simply can’t be found elsewhere. In addition, its unique emphasis on interdisciplinary studies and dual degree programs earns Penn fifth for the quality of academics offered to its students.


Job prospects: Though the median salary for Princeton graduates is slightly higher than for Penn alumni (whose average early career pay comes to $70,100)  the University of Pennsylvania earns a bump in ranking—advancing it to second place—for producing the highest number of Forbes billionaires of any school on the list.


U.S. News Rank: 8th place


Total out of 100: 76 points


6th: Brown


Location: Though Providence is at times lacking in activity, Brown’s spot on The Hill is typically bursting with energy. The location boasts an abundance of great food, as well, and for those seeking a livelier scene, Boston is a train ride away. Brown’s location takes fifth place.


Campus happiness: Brown is widely known as the happiest Ivy, perhaps because of students’ freedom to choose courses with almost complete autonomy. Students report feeling less competition amongst themselves and an overall sense of campus community. The university regularly ranks in high standing on lists of the nation’s happiest campuses, earning Brown first place out of the Ivies for student body happiness.


Quality of academics: Though students adore the open curriculum, Brown’s smaller endowment and older facilities prevent it from being able to compete with some of its Ivy peers. As such, it ranks sixth place for academic quality.


Job prospects: Due to a shortage of jobs in Providence, graduates from Brown who opt to stay local report some difficulty in finding employment opportunities. While those who venture further away communicate higher success, contributing to an early pay average of $65,400, this initial difficulty hands Brown seventh place for the category.


U.S. News Rank: 14th place


Total out of 100: 67 points


7th: Dartmouth


Location: Though very safe and by all accounts friendly, Hanover, New Hampshire fails to impress most Ivy hopefuls with its rural location and small-town vibe. Combined with the bitterly long winters, Dartmouth takes seventh for location.


Campus happiness: Because of its rural setting, Dartmouth has a penchant for attracting outdoorsy individuals who cherish Hanover’s abundant natural beauty. Perhaps it is even the relative isolation of the campus that contributes to what is known for being an incredibly tight-knit community. Students also love the emphasis that the university places on their undergraduate experience, earning Dartmouth an overall rank of fourth place in campus happiness.


Quality of academics: With the smallest undergraduate population of any Ivy, Dartmouth provides an intimate learning environment that many students consider ideal. Unfortunately, this also means its resources simply cannot rival those of the larger Ivies, placing it eighth for the quality of the education.


Job prospects: Dartmouth actually ranks third for early career pay, with a median salary of $68,900. We ranked it sixth, however, due to students’ experiences of limited career mobility and salary growth.


U.S. News Rank: 12th place


Total out of 100: 63 points


8th: Cornell


Location: Ithaca, New York is a charming, sheltered college town in upstate New York.. Students complain, however, that other than Ithaca itself, Cornell is virtually in the middle of nowhere. Coinciding with bitterly cold weather, this places Cornell in eighth place amongst Ivy locations.


Campus happiness: Students at Cornell report high levels of depression—as well as recurring feelings of isolation—due to the harsh weather, academic intensity, and campus location. For this reason, we ranked Cornell eighth for campus happiness.


Quality of academics: Though Cornell is known for its rigorous academics, the predominantly large class sizes poses a problem for many students. Students also report feeling that the campus is overpopulated, making access to the school’s resources more scarce than they’d like. Cornell places seventh for academic excellence.


Job prospects: Relative to the other Ivies, Cornell has amassed less global acclaim (though its affiliation with the Ivy League still serves it well). In addition, as the campus is fairly isolated from job opportunities, Cornell graduates have noted some difficulty in finding employment. While the early career median is $68,200, Cornell earns eighth place for job prospects because of these extra challenges.


U.S. News Rank: 16th place


Total out of 100: 53 points


The Takeaway:


There are countless ways to rank the Ivy League schools, and you’ll find people ready to debate their different merits for hours. Regardless of any ranking, the Ivies are some of the most exceptional institutions of higher learning in both the United States and the world. In short, all eight universities are highly appealing for many people.


So, what should you take from this list? First, we hope this ranking gives you some insight into how the Ivies line up in the eyes of employers and graduate schools. More importantly, however, you can use this list as a means of determining your own preferences. That is, find the school that you believe is the best match, and then take a leap of faith and hope they choose you, too!


Curious about your chances of acceptance to the Ivy League? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Short Bio
Rebecca Weinstein is an undergraduate student at Stanford University, where she plans to study English with an emphasis in creative writing. When she is not studying at college, she lives in Morris County, New Jersey with her two dogs and three cats.