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A short guide to Ivy League universities

What is Ivy League

We at Cybernews Academy are dedicated to exploring all aspects of higher education. We have chosen to break down one of the world's most prestigious universities besides the fabled Oxford vs. Cambridge rivalry.

We wanted to know what institutions, excluding Oxbridge, are known for producing the academically elite. These colleges are among the most esteemed institutions in the Northeastern United States and the world. Did you guess it? Yes, Ivy League.

Structure of Ivy League

Ivy League is an elite collection of universities in the U.S.A. composed of eight universities. Originally Ivy League was an athletic conference, a body of sports teams playing competitively in a league against opposing teams. Now, each university is best known for its academic prowess. The first Ivy League college was founded in 1636 and still has a rich and diverse history.

Ivies history

The name Ivy League originates from the customary day ceremony “planting the ivy.” This event has been recorded at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), and Princeton. The first time the term Ivy League was used was in The Christian Science Monitor in 1935.

Seven out of eight of the Ivy League universities are colonial colleges– higher education institutions founded before the American Revolution. Cornell is the exception to the rule as it was established immediately after the American Civil War. These seven colleges became the primary institutions for higher learning in British America, Northern, and Middle Colonies. Many of these universities have a rich religious history due to the colleges founding affiliations.

The first college

The first established college was Harvard University (formally known as New College) when the Massachusetts Bay Colony voted to create a university in 1636. This university is known as the first higher educational institution in the U.S. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, seven more colleges came to fruition. At the time, these colleges were named Collegiate School, College of New Jersey, King’s College, College of Philadelphia, College in the English Colony of Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations. These institutions were renamed postbellum.

Ivy League universities

Ivy League is made up of eight universities that offer undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs. All these colleges offer different areas of study—a range of specializations, activities, events, and traditions.

  • Harvard University (Massachusetts)
  • Yale University (Connecticut)
  • Princeton University (New Jersey)
  • Columbia University (New York)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania)
  • Brown University (Rhode Island)
  • Dartmouth College (New Hampshire)
  • Cornell University (New York)

Ivy League university rankings

Ivy League universities are known for their prestige. They are famous institutions worldwide and frequently rank highly in the university rankings. We at Cybernews Academy wanted to know, what university has the best computer science course. So, we looked at QS' subject-specific rankings on Computer Science and Information Systems.

Our journalists scoured the internet for Ivy League universities' world subject rankings for Computer Science and Information Systems (QS has provided this information)

  • Harvard University: #8 in the world
  • Cornel University: #17
  • Columbia University: #23
  • Yale University: #36
  • University of Pennsylvania: #43
  • Brown University: #106
  • Dartmouth College: #301-350

We have also added the overall world rankings provided by QS:

  • Harvard: #4
  • Cornell: #13
  • Columbia: #23
  • Yale: #16
  • University of Pennsylvania: #12
  • Brown: #73
  • Dartmouth College: #237

As you can see, some universities rank higher than others, with Harvard among the top 10 for Computer Science and Information Systems in the world's subject rankings. Cornell is in the top 20, and Columbia, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania are in the top 50 worldwide.

Cybernews Academy Note: You shouldn’t base your university exclusively on rankings. Instead, assess the university holistically and weigh what these universities offer alongside the rankings result.

Computer Science courses at Ivy League universities

Ivy League universities offer various computer science courses covering multiple topics and skill levels. Each university has a unique and extensive list of programs, so we at Cybernews Academy have covered just a few courses that really stuck out.

Harvard has three different courses related to computer science, A.B in computer science, AB-SM in computer science, and the mind brain and behaviour program. The mind brain and behaviour programm is very unique as it offers students the opportunity to address questions of neuroscience and cognition from the perspective of computer science.

Cornell University’s computer science majors provide courses covering algorithms, data structures, logic, programming languages, systems, and theory. Electives include artificial intelligence, computer graphics, computer vision, cryptography, databases, networks, and scientific computing.

Brown University offers computational biology, computer science, and computer science with economics. This allows students to combine common interests within their specialization.

Yale University has an array of computer science degrees, they offer computer science and economics, computer science and mathematics, computer science and psychology, and electrical engineering and computer science.

Princeton University has an extensive list of computer science courses to choose from– some include functional programming, computers in our world, and introduction to programming systems.

Dartmouth College, this university also has a wide variety of computer science courses. These courses include: introduction to programming and computation, augmented and virtual reality design, randomized algorithms, and more.

Columbia University has two computer science courses to choose from, computer science and computer science with mathematics. The computer science module is interesting as it takes an interdisciplinary approach by including an information science major into its program.

University of Pennsylvania offers computer science and computer engineering courses. However, you have the opportunity to take second majors and minors during your degree so you will never be stuck with one specialization.

Unique Ivies

What sets this institution apart from the rest of the colleges in North America? Ivy League universities are known for their academic excellence, glowing academic reputation, and stringent acceptance rates. Is this what makes the colleges so compelling?

The collegiate system

The collegiate system is an organization comprised of several independent colleges that function under a single title. Ivy League consists of eight universities under the title Ivy League. Each college has its traditions and creates an exclusive community of the most esteemed scholars. Russel Group universities are the UK’s equivalent of the Ivy League, as Russell Group universities are a respectable collection of some of the country’s most outstanding universities. Like Ivy League universities, Russell Group is also dedicated to research and has a reputation for academic excellence.

Academic reputation

Most of the Ivies have a stellar and consistent academic reputation. Institutions like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania scored between 100 - 96.4 in the QS world university rankings for academic reputation. However, some universities like Brown and Dartmouth have lower scores for academic reputation. Yet they are still members of this prestigious private group of universities.

Competitive acceptance rates

Ivy League is notorious for its low acceptance rates, making it one of the most competitive institutions in the world. Unsurprisingly, Harvard has the lowest acceptance rate of all the Ivies at 3.4%, and Cornell has the highest at 8.7%. However, these rates are still extremely low, but why? Due to its popularity, Ivy League schools often receive many admissions. However, Harvard and other Ivies are highly selective. Therefore, admissions rates remain low to ensure academic excellence and elite status. Thus keeping the pool of accepted students low.


Historically, Ivy League universities have always been high on the university rankings leaderboard. Harvard, Yale, Penn, and Cornell are among the top 20 universities in the U.S. News and World Report university rankings. These universities are also top 16 in the QS university world rankings. Ivy League colleges have also produced famous alumni from each institution, adding to the university’s prestigious status.

Notable alumni

Many famous alumni in IT and tech have come from Ivy League universities, and even more influential people are affiliated. Names like Bill Gates, Microsoft's founder and former CEO, received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University in 2007. Susan Wojcicki, former CEO of YouTube, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and literature from Harvard University. Andrew Jassy, global IT leader and CEO of Amazon, earnt his master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School. Elon Musk, CEO and founder of Space X, CEO of Tesla, owner, and CTO of X (formally known as Twitter), graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in physics.

Extracurricular clubs

Ivy League universities have a wide range of activities for students, ranging from cultural and identity clubs that celebrate diversity and inclusion to academic clubs that aid your pre-professional life.

Here are some examples we found on the Harvard University website:

  • Academic and Professional Societies
  • Performing Arts and Fine Arts Groups
  • Debate and Model UN
  • Public Service
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Health and Wellness
  • Hobbies and Special Interests
  • Cultural and Racial Initiatives
  • Religious and Spiritual
  • Media and Publications
  • Government and Politics

Other Ivy League universities, like Yale, offer a range of extracurricular activities. Harvard offers similar clubs to other Ivy League universities; however, some differences exist. For example, Yale highlights comedy, A Capella, and athletics as common extracurricular activities. In all universities, you will see various clubs to choose from. If you are interested, visit the universities website to find out more.

Campus community

As Ivy League is a collection of collegiate universities, each has a vibrant campus community and unique traditions. The breathtaking historic architecture featured on campus adds to the elite and exclusive atmosphere.

Students participate in formal and informal traditions throughout the school years. Look at some of Ivy League institutions' weird and wonderful traditions.

Primal Scream: The night before final exams start, students will participate in a campus-wide screaming session called the “primal scream.”

Nude Olympics: Students at Dartmouth College participate in a winter event called the Nude Olympics. Although this activity was banned in 1999, it has remained a tradition off campus.

Tailgating parties: This is an an event where students, alumni, and fans gather to socialize before a big sports game.

Halloween organ concert: At Brown University, students and locals can participate in a midnight concert to celebrate all hallows eve.

Dragon Day: At Cornell University, this tradition takes place every year in March, when students parade around the campus with a giant dragon created by architecture undergrads.

Toast throw: At the University of Pennsylvania, students often throw toast, bread, and other baked goods during the third quarter of the university’s home football games

Newman’s Day: This drinking tradition adopted by Dartmouth College involves students drinking a can of beer every hour for a whole day. Although the institution doesn’t accept this tradition, it has become a part of the culture on campus.

Orgo Night: At Columbia University, there is a tradition where the school’s marching band enters the library late at night, during the week of finals, and performs for the students.

Scholarships and financial aid

There’s a lot of speculation about the affordability and accessibility of Ivy League schools. Although none of these universities offer merit-based scholarships, they provide financial aid programs on a needs basis.

The universities have a robust financial aid system behind them due to the substantial donations or endowments received from private individuals. This allows these universities to offer generous financial aid packages to admitted students. As a result, many students from various economic backgrounds have the opportunity to attend these institutions.

Cybernews Academy Note: All universities offer a variety of different financial aid packages that are not subject specific. If you are planning on taking a Computer Science course then you will be able apply for scholarships and other forms of financial aid.

How much does an Ivy League school cost?

Ivy League universities, alongside other American academic institutions, are known for being notoriously expensive. In recent news, Ivy League universities could push their tuition fees to as much as $90,000. Here are the current prices for undergraduate and graduate tuition in eight of the Ivy League college in the academic year 2022-2023

University University Undergraduate Tuition & FeesGraduate Tuition & Fees
Brown University$65,146$63,866
Columbia University $66,139$54,627
Cornell University$63,200$30,019
Dartmouth College $62,658$61,056
Harvard University $57,261$53,760
Princeton University$57,410$60,410
University of Pennsylvania$63,452$44,162
Yale University $62,250$46,900

Admissions process

Anybody who has heard of Ivy League is aware of its highly competitive admissions rates. Each school receives many applications yearly and will only select a few lucky candidates. Supposedly, Ivy League universities like Harvard are known for rejecting approximately three-quarters of its applications with perfect SAT scores-- demonstrating that academic achievement isn’t the only factor in the application process. Specifically, admissions officers will look for unique and bright characteristics complimenting the rich history and tradition of the Ivies.

What to prepare

The admissions process requires a range of documents and details that outline your academic successes, showcase your extracurricular endeavors, and highlight your personality.

  • Grades
  • Test scores (SAT and/or ACT scores)
  • Personal essays
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Letters of recommendation


Ivy League expects you to have outstanding grades unless you have extenuating circumstances; Ivy League looks for a grade point average (GPA) of 4.0. The average GPA of Ivy League schools is between 3.9 - 4.16. In addition to grades, SAT scores can be submitted alongside your application. Most colleges consider applications with SAT scores between 1500-1530 out of 1600.

Personal essays

A personal essay involves writing a statement that encapsulates your character and may outline why you would make an excellent addition to the university. You could discuss what motivates you and what you are most passionate about. This is the time to showcase your best assets.

Activities at Ivy League universities

At Ivy League schools, there is a strong expectation for you to have participated in specific extracurricular activities. Ivy League isn’t concerned with the volume of activities you’ve been involved with; it’s more the detail and time you’ve put into a particular subject. So, if you are passionate about something specific like Science or Literature, you should participate in valuable extracurricular activities before you apply to an Ivy League university.

Computer Science societies

There are plenty of computer-based societies and clubs to choose from. For example, Harvard has a ‘Harvard Undergraduate Machine Intelligence community, the Harvard Computing Society, Harvard Women in Computing, and many more. Yale has the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA), which allows students to complete projects in aerospace engineering and other facets of computer science. Cornell has a range of interesting clubs like the Sci-Fi Club, the Cornell College Computing Club, and the Engineering Club. Columbia also has a Women in Computing organization, an Applications Development Initiative, and an Engineering Graduate Student Council. The University of Pennsylvania also has a Computer Science Society and a Women in Computing Society. Brown University has a CS for social change group (the first of its kind) and a Women in Computer Science Society. At Dartmouth, they have the Aerospace Engineering Club, Dartmouth Lego League, Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Sigma Xi, their scientific research society.

The Ivies have a rich history that stems back decades, and tradition is interwoven into all aspects of college life. Many famous alumni have been produced from Ivy League schools as these universities carefully hand-pick their students. These eight colleges ask many prospective students but offer more in return if your application is accepted. So, are you up for the challenge?