When people ask us if it’s really worth it to go to an Ivy League school, it’s admittedly hard to answer. It’s a personal question, and a loaded one at that. Our answer is that it depends.
If you’re asking about the price tag, that’s something only you and your family can decide for yourselves. There is no price difference between an Ivy and a private non-Ivy, and deciding if it’s financially wise for you (or your child) is something you should do before applying. It’s typically very hard to talk yourself out of going to an Ivy League school once you’ve gotten in.
Economics aside, most of the people who have emailed and spoken with us are really asking “is it worth it for me (or my child) to work tirelessly every single day in high school just to get into an Ivy League school?”
We have made our feelings on the quest to attend an Ivy League school incredibly clear. You absolutely do not have to go to an Ivy League school to be successful. That is nonsense, and something the marketing teams at Harvard have convinced us to believe. Since birth, we’re taught that Ivy League is best. But truthfully, most students aren’t cut out to attend. Yes, acceptance rates have plummeted and the schools are undoubtedly good places to get an education. More people are applying than ever before, and the single digit acceptance rates makes these schools seem unreachable and thus alluring. But that doesn’t mean you have to go to an Ivy League school to do well in life, and it certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of other good schools where you can further your education.
We rarely discuss sports on this blog, because you don’t have to play a sport to get into college. But for a moment let’s relate getting into an Ivy League to athleticism. There are people on this earth who are naturally athletic. The kind of people who at age eight were ready to play basketball at a high school level. They just have it. Unfortunately, no matter how hard a non-athletically inclined person trains, they probably won’t ever be as good as the eight year old phenomenon. The non-athletic person can work on agility and do drills until they want to pull their hair out, but probably won’t beat an opponent who picked up a basketball at age four and sank a three point shot.
So, if you’re spending your high school career chained to a library desk just to get straight A’s and you have no time to extracurricular activities or a social life, the Ivy League might not be the place for you. And there is NOTHING wrong with that. You need the grades, the test scores, and the extracurriculars to get into an Ivy. If you’re spending all of your time studying to maintain a 4.0 GPA and can’t make it to your dads birthday dinner, then no, it’s not worth it to strive for an Ivy. Even if you got in, you would struggle once you got there. We hate to see kids wrecked with anxiety and spinning their wheels, just to be declined from their dream school. High school is a time to be enjoyed, and there absolutely is a happy medium to be found.
On the flip side, very few people have been hurt by going to Harvard. It’s never a bad idea, if it’s within reach. If you’re thriving academically, keeping up with your extracurriculars, and got a perfect score on the ACT without batting an eye, then maybe you should consider applying to an Ivy League. But only if you have clearly defined reasons for doing so. There should be programs that you’re really interested in. Or, if you’re indecisive about academics but want to be pushed, the Ivy League is a great place to do that.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which group you fall into. Your worth is not determined by where you go to college. As we always say, you’re better off finding things that you’re genuinely interested in – and it doesn’t matter where you find it.
Contact us here if you want to work with someone and create a target school list.