The Ivy League
is a group of eight old and well-regarded universities in the northeastern United States. Officially, the Ivy League is an athletic conference. Its members have a long history of participation in collegiate sports, and some of America's first sports rivalries were established at these eight schools. The Ivy League was officially established in 1954, although it had existed informally for decades prior.note
Even though the Ivy League is officially a NCAA Division I conference (FCS for football), it operates much closer to a Division III conference as none of the member schools allow athletic scholarships. In football, the league's champion technically receives an automatic invitation to the FCS playoffs; however, the league abstains from the playoffs, citing academic concerns. Also, for basketball, the league does not conduct a conference tournament, instead awarding the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament to the regular season championnote
However, the name has much broader connotations. The Ivy League is associated with academic excellence, with many people in fiction and real life dreaming of gaining admission to an Ivy League school
, as it is seen as a sign that one is truly the best of the best. (Admissions are highly selective, with admission rates being less — usually much
less — than twenty percent.) Indeed, this was the real
reason why the Ivy League was created — they felt that collegiate athletics were growing too dominated by big money and sponsorship deals, and that continuing to compete with other schools would force them to lower their academic standards.
On the flip side, the Ivy League is also associated with social elitism. It is often subjected to a unique form of Strawman U
, one in which most of the students are snobbish, preppy
, old-money WASPs
who are already set for life, and are only going to college to acquire a veneer of respectability (for when they become executives and investment bankers
) and to get into their fathers' "old boys" networks and secret societies. Any student who isn't a member of this elite gets spit on and bossed around by them, partly because of the aforementioned elitism, and partly because most of the people who are academically gifted enough to get into an Ivy League school (without resorting to nepotism
) are nerds who had already been encountering this for twelve years
. Such a school will typically be the setting of a Slobs Versus Snobs
plot. Essentially, it is the American equivalent
Of course, this hasn't been true of the Ivy schools for decades, but because so few people will ever see the inside of them, the stereotypes linger. Nonetheless, it makes for good drama and comedy both.
It's also worth noting that the mystique of the Ivy League holds less sway in parts of the country that aren't the northeast. While people on the East Coast dream of going to Princeton or Harvard, Californians often dream of getting into Stanford or University of California-Berkeley instead, while Southerners have their sights set on Vanderbilt or Rice. Even people in the relatively close Midwest often aim for Northwestern, Washington University in St. Louis, Rose-Hulman, Notre Dame, or the University of Chicago instead.
The renown of the Ivy League is such that the name "Ivy" is also used to describe other colleges with strong academic reputations. "Little Ivies"
may refer to the "Little Three" of Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams, or to a set of small and selective liberal arts colleges (mostly in the NESCAC sporting conference). "Public Ivies"
are public universities
that are said to provide an Ivy League-quality education at an affordable price, while "Southern Ivies"
are exactly what they sound like
— in fact, there was talk in The Sixties
of forming a "Magnolia Conference" of elite Southern universities that wanted to maintain big-ticket sports programs without cutting corners on academics, as they felt that their rivals were doing.
The eight Ivy League colleges, in the order they were founded, along with some totally accurate
stereotypes about each of them that totally weren't written by their rivals' alumni
- Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts: established in 1636 (oldest university in the US). Motto: Veritas ("Truth")
- Stereotype: Hyper-competitive and nerdy, with terrible sports programsnote and a world-renowned law school. You know when someone went to Harvard, because they'll tell you.
- Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut: established in 1701. Motto: האורים והתומים HaUrim v'HaTummim/Lux et veritas ("Light and truth").
- University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: established in 1740. Motto: Leges sine moribus vanae ("Laws without morals are useless").
- Stereotype: Business nerds. Never to be confused with Penn State.
- Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey: established in 1746. Motto: Dei sub numine viget ("Under God's power she flourishes").
- Stereotype: Snobbish and sports-obsessed, with more singing groups than a Bollywood film.
- Columbia University (originally King's College) in New York City, New York: established in 1754. Motto: In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen ("In thy light shall we see the light").
- Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island: established in 1764. Motto: In Deo Speramus ("In God we hope").
- Stereotype: The Butt Monkey of the Ivy League, with an allegedly lax curriculum.note Rival to Columbia for the chief Berserkley of the Ivy League.
- Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire: established in 1769. Motto: Vox clamantis in deserto ("The voice of one crying in the wilderness").
- Cornell University in Ithaca, New York: established in 1865. The only one that gets support from a state government (it's not exactly public, but the State of New York provides some of its budget). Motto: I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.
- Stereotype: The other Butt Monkey of the Ivy League. The fallback school for those who couldn't get into the others.
Princeton, Harvard and Yale have traditionally been ranked as the top three schools in the United States for well over a century, although the precise ordering of the three varies from year to year. They are also considered among the top schools in the world
, as well.
Important note: Neither Princeton nor Brown have law schools, nor does Princeton have a medical school.note
In real life, someone claiming to have gone to "Princeton Law" is lying; in fiction, "Princeton Law" and "Brown Law" are useful ways to establish a prestigious lineage for a lawyer/judge/legal scholar without tying him/her down to a real school, its records, and traditions.
Humorously, American Football
would not exist if not for Harvard and the Ivy League. The game was nearly banned by Harvard's president due to all of the fataltiies, until a Harvard alumnus
stepped in, and mediated a new set of rules with representatives from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton designed to make the game safer. Incidentally, the first game of American football—which resembled a cross of soccer
and rugby more than the modern sport—was a New Jersey
affair played between Princeton and non-Ivy Rutgers in 1869. Rutgers won.
Ivy League in the Media
- Multiple presidents and relatives of presidents have gone to Harvard
- Harvard is the setting for the book and film Love Story. Due to the damage filming caused the campus, Harvard no longer allows filming on its campus.
- Harvard Law School is the setting for the film The Paper Chase.
- The Law School is also the setting of Legally Blonde. Yes.
- Quentin Compson, in William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, attends Harvard.
- The early parts of The Social Network, true to life, were set at Harvard. (Less true to life, these scenes were mostly filmed at Johns Hopkins University or on sets.)
- Buckaroo Banzai got his medical degree from Harvard.
- The title character of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., despite his Steampunk/Western adventures, was a Harvard-educated lawyer.
- Sara Sidle on CSI is a Harvard grad.
- "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (the original story) has the titular character go to Harvard after Yale, his father's alma mater kicks him out over disbelief over his age.
- In the video game Plants vs. Zombies, the upgrade plant Cob Cannon attended Harvard.
- In one episode of Gilligan's Island, after an enraged outburst of gibberish from an apeman, Harvard grad Thurston Howell III comments that the fellow "must be a Yale man!"
- In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, both Nick Carraway and Tom Buchanan are Yale men.
- Flash Gordon is a Yale graduate.
- Classic Dime Novel character Frank Merriwell is a Yale man.
- The later seasons of Gilmore Girls feature Rory applying to and then attending Yale.
- Additionally, Rory's best friend Paris and grandfather Richard both go/went to Yale.
- Jamie (Helen Hunt) in Mad About You is a Yale graduate.
- As is Mr. Burns in The Simpsons.
- Niles on Frasier is an alumnus of Yale, as is David Hyde Pierce, who plays him. As part of the rivalry between him and his brother, Frasier attended Harvard.
- Sideshow Bob of The Simpsons went to Yale.
- Troy the Janitor from Scrubs went to Yale.
- In The Flintstones, Yale's prehistoric counterpart is "Shale University," archrival of "Prinstone University."
University of Pennsylvania
- Brian from Family Guy attended to Brown, but dropped out one class short of graduating. In the episode "Brian Goes Back to College", he returns to complete his education (unsuccessfully).
- The much-loathed Microsoft Office Assistant "Clippy" has a biography that claims he has a degree in art-semiotics from Brown.
- Elliot from Scrubs attended Brown.
- Several characters from 24 attended Brown, including Audrey Raines and Bill Buchanan.
- In The Simpsons, Lisa has an Imagine Spot where, having been caught cheating on a test, Brown remains the only Ivy League university open to her.
- Michael Corleone of The Godfather and its sequels is a Dartmouth graduate.
- "Trapper John" MacIntyre of Mash and Trapper John MD attended Dartmouth.
- Meredith Grey of Grey's Anatomy is a Dartmouth graduate. Shonda Rhimes, the show's creator, is a Dartmouth alumna herself, and David Rosen, a character on her show Scandal, also seems to be a Dartmouth grad—he and Mer have the same t-shirt.
- The fictional version of himself portrayed by Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report attended Dartmouth. (The real Colbert went to Northwestern.)
- Animal House, while set at the fictional Faber College, was largely based on writer Chris Miller's experiences at Dartmouth and its fraternity culture.
- Sideshow Mel of The Simpsons attended Cornell.
- The eponymous Citizen Kane was expelled from Cornell.
- In The Office (US), the terminally preppy Andy constantly brings up the fact that he went to Cornell.
- In The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft, George Gammell Angell is an emeritus professor at Brown.
- Miskatonic University, frequently seen or mentioned in the Cthulhu Mythos, is modeled on Brown University.
- Harvard's Widener Library houses a copy of the Necronomicon.
- In Decades of Darkness, Word of God holds that the alternate Ivy League covers nine schools in New Englandnote instead of eight in the US. Missing from the list are UPenn (Pennsylvania is part of the *US), Princeton (which didn't survive the North American War), and Cornell (which was founded half a century after the Point of Divergence , and so doesn't exist in the DoD 'verse); added to the list are Union College in Schenectady, King's College in Nova Scotia, and the fictional Brunswick College in New Brunswick and Clinton University in Rochester.
- In The Flintstones, both Prinstone and Shale are members of the esteemed "Poison Ivy League."
- In Kevin & Kell the Ivy League was mentioned, and it was once apparently quite literal: they only accepted species that ate ivy until diversity became an issue.
- John Adams was the first Harvard grad to become president.
- Other Harvard alums who became President of the United States: John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, George W. Bush (Harvard MBA), Barack Obama (Harvard Law School) and Presidential Bad Ass Theodore Roosevelt.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson attended Harvard.
- Natalie Portman is a Harvard alum. She parodied this in a famous Saturday Night Live Digital Short.
- Tommy Lee Jones went to Harvard; his roommate was Al Gore.
- Erich Segal, author of Love Story, also went to Harvard at the same time, and admitted years later to modelling its protagonist Oliver on a fusion of the two.
- Author William S. Burroughs, Harvard 1936.
- Civil Rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois was Harvard 1890.
- Horatio Alger, Harvard 1852.
- Al Franken, Harvard 1973.
- Professional wrestler and real-life lawyer David Otunga.
- Former professional wrestler Christopher Nowinski, now an activist on concussions in sports.note
- Current Los Angeles Lakers guard Jeremy Lin.
- Rashida Jones graduated in 1997. She initially intended to be a lawyer, but after the OJ Simpson trial, decided to become an actor.
- Jodie Foster, Yale 1984.
- George H. W. Bush
- Both Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary attended Yale Law School
- George W. Bush attended Yale and was a member of Skull and Bones.
- John Kerry attended Yale and was a member of Skull and Bones. In 2004, he ran against fellow Bonesman George W. Bush for President.
- Legendary OSS/CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton was a Yale man.
- Vincent Price held a degree in art history from Yale (class of 1933).
University of Pennsylvania
- F. Scott Fitzgerald attended Princeton.
- As did Jimmy Stewart, Joshua Logan, Jose Ferrer, Wayne Rogers (Mash), Brooke Shields (Suddenly Susan), David Duchovny, Jeff Bezos, Dean Cain (Lois and Clark), and First Lady Michelle Obama. In fact, the last five were all at Princeton during the same four-year span between 1982 and 1985.
- The Battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777) was an important rebel victory in The American Revolution. Damage from cannon balls can still be seen in Nassau Hall (Princeton's administration building).
- Princeton's Blair Hall and its famous arch appear at the beginning of the Saturday Night Live short film "Prose and Cons" ("Kill my lan'lord, kill my lan'lord") from the 1980-81 season.
- Author/adventurer/lecturer Richard Halliburton was Princeton Class of 1922.
- Bestselling author Jodi Picoult is Princeton '87.
- Playwright and Nobel Laureate Eugene O'Neill, Princeton Class of 1910.
- Musician/playwright Gene Lewin of the band Groovelily attended Princeton.
- Presidents Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, and James Madison went to Princeton. Wilson was also a professor there several times (he's the only President with a Ph.D.), and he served as the President of Princeton from 1902 to 1910, when he used the post to springboard himself to Governor of New Jersey.
- Ralph Nader, Princeton 1955.
- Queen Noor of Jordan, born Lisa Halaby, Princeton 1974.
- Former pro basketball player and former US Senator Bill Bradley is Princeton Class of 1965.
- Syngman Rhee, first president of South Korea, Princeton 1910.
- Nobel laureate John Nash did his graduate work at and continues to do mathematics at Princeton.
- Alexander Hamilton attended Columbia when it was still called King's College.
- Barack Obama, Columbia 1983.note
- Dwight D. Eisenhower served as president of the university before becoming President of the United States.
- OSS founder William Joseph "Wild Bill" Donovan was a Columbia graduate.
- Rider Strong (Shawn Hunter on Boy Meets World) went to Columbia.
- Erica Jong holds an M.A. from Columbia (with a BA from Barnard—which for complicated historical reasons both is and is not a unit of Columbia).
- The personal papers of HP Lovecraft are in the John Hay Library at Brown University.
- S. J. Perelman attended Brown.
- Composer/musician Wendy Carlos, Brown 1962.
- Mary Chapin Carpenter, Brown 1981.
- Actress Laura Linney is Brown 1986.
- Actress Leelee Sobieski attended Brown but never graduated.
- Actress Emma Watson graduated from Brown in 2014, with a degree in English Literature. She took time off here and there for personal and professional reasons.
- John F. Kennedy enrolled at Princeton, but was forced to leave due to illness; despite resuming and completing his education at Harvard, he is still regarded as a member of his original Princeton class by the University and alumni.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt attended both Harvard University and Columbia Law School.
- David Duchovny's B.A. was from Princeton, his M.A. from Yale.
- Jonathan Taylor Thomas, after he quit acting, studied philosophy and history at Harvard, and graduated from Columbia's School of General Studies in 2010.
Harvardiani et Yaliani delenda sunt.