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Ivy League for Everyone

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Despite being considered among the most selective colleges in the United States, with admission rates from 6% to 16%, Ivy League schools show up frequently in fiction. In teen dramas, a main character (or two) will always get accepted into an Ivy League school. Expect this to become a key part of high school senior year stress, whether the character is trying to get into a certain Ivy League school, or deciding between an Ivy League college far away from home and a local college that keeps the show in the same setting.


In a particularly extreme version of this trope, there will be an "Ivy League or nothing!" mentality implying that if a character doesn't get into an Ivy League school, then their only other option is going to community college and learning how to tell when their pimp is cutting their coke with baking soda. If they get in, don't expect the characters to actually discuss their coursework or major, the name is enough to convince the audience that it's prestigious and important and that's all that matters.

In the case that we're past the high school setting, this information will commonly show up in a character's educational background. Usually this will be done as a shorthand to show that a character is either smart, ambitious, or filthy rich. The rule about not discussing coursework also holds at this stage, so expect characters to somehow get stellar grades even when they're never actually seen studying at any point.


This has all been popularized by Author Appeal—quite a few writers went to the Ivy Leagues, and enjoy name-dropping the institution to show off how cool they are. Beyond that, it's just plain convenient - saying that a character came from a university infamous for its selectivity and alumni is a quick way to show the audience they're well-educated.

Depending on the setting this trope can still be plausible, usually if it focuses on people whose career interests directly relate to their alma mater. A show about high-tier law firms, for example, is justified in having an above-average Ivy quotient because Harvard and Yale have high-quality law schools. However, even in the most extreme cases, any given environment will have plenty of people who graduated from other schools for the simple reason of sheer numbers.


The eight Ivy League universities are:

  • Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, founded 1636 and is the oldest college in the US)
  • Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut, founded 1701)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded 1740)
  • Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey, founded 1746)
  • Columbia University (New York City, founded 1754)
  • Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island, founded 1764)
  • Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire, founded 1769)
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, New York, founded 1865)

Don't feel bad if you've only heard of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, since those are referenced in fiction far more than the others. Columbia gets fewer mentions since NYU is the "go-to" institution to name-drop if you want your characters in The Big Applesauce.note  These others are also surrounded by inner city, except Dartmouth, which is in the middle of nowhere, the nearest cities offering much off-campus nightlife note  being two hours' drive in opposite directions. Cornell's in the slightly more urban Ithaca, New York (three times the population of Hanover), and quite a bit closer to significant cities, but isn't really as inner-city as the rest. As for Penn, for some reason Penn's business college The Wharton School is referenced far more than the rest of the university, to the point that many people might not realize that Wharton isn't a standalone school.

Some non-Ivy League schools can fall under this trope as well, due to their elite status, overuse in fiction, and fulfilling a specific niche. Examples include:

  • Stanford Universitynote  is another elite, prestigious school located in Palo Alto, California. Common in works set on the West Coast. UC Berkeley and UCLA (in Los Angeles) are also highly desired schools and as California public universities the tuition is a fraction of the price of private schools for in-state students. On the West Coast, these are the schools that ambitious kids (and their parents) want to get into, along with Caltech for the science-and-engineering-minded.
  • Northwestern University, an elite institution with especially strong journalism and theatre programs, with its main campus located in Evanston, Illinois (immediately to the north of Chicago) and its medical and law schools near the Chicago Loop (local lingo for downtown). It is commonly seen in works centered in the Midwest.
  • MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) or Caltech (California Institute of Technology). Most common with characters whose backgrounds are in math, science, engineering, or programming. UC Berkeley and Stanford are also strong in these areas, given their location near the major technology hubs of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley.
  • The Seven Sisters, a group of prestigious women's colleges.note  Historically, this was the equivalent of the Ivy League for women; in fact, many of them started as "sister schools" to Ivy League colleges back when those schools only admitted men. Nowadays, having a character choose a Seven Sisters school is usually a way to show that she is a Granola Girl and/or Straw Feminist.
  • The Juilliard School, a prestigious arts school in New York City with programs in music, theater and dance. If your Teen Drama includes an amazing classical musician or the star of the school musical, they will always go here, even though the latter is impossible in reality since Juilliard, interestingly enough, does not actually have a musical theater program.
  • The medical school of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, common for elite doctors or medical researchers. While Hopkins is not just a medical school, its association exclusively with medicine in the media means that the name-dropping of Hopkins in any other field would be an aversion of this trope.
  • The film schools of the University of Southern California (USC) and New York University (NYU) are two of the best in the country for budding directors. The American Film Institute (AFI) conservatory is one of the top graduate schools.
  • In shows about wealthy African Americans, someone WILL have attended one of the "Black Ivy League" schools, the most prestigious historically black colleges in the US. The most oft-mentioned are Howard, the coordinate colleges of Morehouse (all-male) and Spelman (all-female), and Tuskegee.
  • Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. for TV lawyers and politicians who don't go to Harvard or Yale.

Why aren't any of these considered "Ivy League" schools, you wonder? There's an urban legend running around about the origin of the term "ivy league", namely that it comes from the roman numerals I V, and the original four were Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and whatever other school the legend-teller can remember. In fact, it merely comes from the fact that old stone buildings tend to get covered in ivy. As for who gets to be a member, the League is actually an athletic conference within the NCAA, and the social connotations developed around this. However, if your teen heroine is talking about getting a gymnastics scholarship to Harvard, it's another case of poor research since the Ivies don't offer athletic scholarships. Not officially, anyway.note 

International equivalents:

  • UK: University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. The London School of Economics is a popular choice for slick ultra-modern business people. If the character must come from Scotland for some reason, the University of St. Andrews is a good choice, as the place was explicitly built on the Oxbridge model. A few British works might bother to remember that the rest of the Russell Group exists, but don't count on it.
  • Italy: The University of Bologna - that is, the first and oldest uni in the Western world (founded in 1088) - followed by the Sapienza University of Rome (1303), the Polytechnic University of Milan (1863), the University of Naples Federico II (1224) and the Polytechnic University of Turin (1859). If you need a good business school, there's the prestigious Bocconi University (1902).
  • France: Les Grandes Écoles, e.g. L'École Polytechnique and La Sorbonne.
  • Germany: Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, or simply Heidelberg University. Founded in 1386, making it the oldest university in Germany and the third university founded in the Holy Roman Empire (after Vienna and Bologna). In addition to many fields of science, it boasts a very prestigious medical school. A character who is a prominent German philosopher, doctor, scientist, politician, or businessperson, especially if they've won a Nobel Prize, is likely to have gone to Heidelberg. Additional schools may include Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Humboldt University of Berlin.
  • Ireland: Trinity College.
  • Canada: Universities in Canada are far less stratified than in other countries, both because of the high government education funding and strict standards making them more homogeneous with each other and because the very great distances between urban centres usually mean a student will choose a university close to home, with few exceptions.note  The "top tier" generally consists of the few universities to predate Confederation in 1867, particularly McGill in Montreal (1821), Queen's in Kingston (1841), and the University of Toronto in Toronto (1828). (Works set in Western Canada will usually sub in the University of British Columbia and, to a lesser extent, the University of Alberta.) However none of these stands out as a singular "Harvard of the North" or "Oxbridge" as in the US or UK. There are also universities which are basically mandatory if a student is studying a particular subject, most famously the University of Waterloo ("Geek Heaven North") for math or computer science, along with the University of Guelph for agriculture or veterinary school. If you're studying law or engineering or medicine, you'll want to go to a school in the aforementioned top tier, which is one of the rare occasions Canadian students will travel just to go to school (U of T and McGill are both in highly-populated metro areas, but the metro area served by Queen's has barely 150,000 people.) Canadian students who can afford the comparatively exorbitant tuition fees and who are willing to do the extra work to get admitted will attend American (or to a lesser extent British) universities as well.
  • Japan: The University Of Tokyo or "Tōdai" for short. Kyoto University is a close second.
  • Hong Kong: Hong Kong is unusual in that it has a number of world class universities that attract a significant number of international students in a single city including: The University of Hong Kong (HKU), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Hong Kong Baptist University (Baptist U), and Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). HKU held the top spot both in Hong Kong and Asia for many years but a lack of innovation and development in the school meant that it dropped significantly in world rankings.
  • Korea: Seoul National University (SNU) is traditionally considered to be every university-bound Korean student's dream. But students and alumni of schools like Yonsei University, Ewha University (for women), and Korea University will also elicit impressed reactions by just saying where they study/studied. SNU, Korea, Yonsei are bound together to form the "SKY " universities, a colloquial term used by parents and students alike, which is considered a model example of a prestigious college. Also, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) are depicted as schools for geniuses in math and science.
  • Taiwan: Tai Da (National Taiwan University)
  • China: The C9 League, especially Peking University and Tsinghua University.
  • Australia: The Group Of Eight (also known as the Sandstone Universities), particularly the University of Sydney (Australia's oldest university), the University of New South Wales, and the University of Melbourne.
  • Sweden: Uppsala and Lund University are generally considered to be the most prestigious, due to being by a large margin the two oldest institutions (founded in 1477 and 1666, respectively) in the country. The Stockholm School of Economics and The Royal Institute of Technology can generally be viewed as the best in their fields.
  • Finland: University of Helsinki and Aalto University are the most prestigious. University of Helsinki, located in Helsini, is the oldest and also largest university in Finland (founded 1640). The Aalto University was formed as merger of Helsinki University of Technology (HUT), Helsinki School of Economics (HSE) and University of Indistrial Arts in Helsinki (UIAH). Its campus is in Otaniemi, Espoo.
  • Poland: Jagiellonian University, also known as the University of Kraków, founded in 1364.
  • Russia: Lomonosov Moscow State University/MSU, Saint Petersburg State University - these two are the closest Russian equivalents of the Ivy League. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology is a rough Russian equivalent of MIT and Caltech, albeit almost exclusively STEM-oriented, the epitome of nerdishness. Moscow State Institute of International Relations is an equivalent of Harvard Kennedy School, it was a college of choice for children of the Soviet elite who wanted, hypocritically, their offspring to be able to find their way around the decaying bourgeois West. Higher School of Economics is an equivalent to LSE, it is a mostly social science college founded after the breakup of the Soviet Union, so it has the fewest Soviet legacies of all.
  • Spain: The University of Valencia, which officially dates its founding to 1499, although a papal bull authorizing it was decreed more than 200 years previous. Slightly younger is the University of Granada, founded in 1531.

Contrast California University.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • From Pani Poni Dash!, Child Prodigy Rebecca Miyamoto graduated from MIT at the age of ten, though in the manga she tells people she went to Columbia, simply because it's easier to pronounce than "Massachusetts." Might be because in the first episode of the anime, Rei (teasingly, it turns out) asked where Becky studied. Becky answered "MIT", whereupon Rei asked what it stood for. Becky continually stumbles over "Massachusetts" and when she finally notices the class's reaction, she notices Rei and the others snickering over her stuttering because it sounds like rapid-fire farts. Cue "Hau-Hau"-ing and Curtain Camouflage, because she's still an 11-year-old.
  • Shirogane from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War mentions during the parent teacher conferences that he was going to attend Stanford. He actually ends up getting accepted a year early, and asks Kaguya to come with him.

    Comic Books 
  • Matt Murdock of Daredevil fame holds a Juris Doctor (doctorate of law) from Columbia.
  • She-Hulk earned both her B.A. and her Juris Doctor from UCLA, the top-ranked public university in the world (according to ARWU, CWUR, U.S. News, and Times Higher Education) and the foremost Public Ivy (neck-in-neck with UC Berkeley). Though some later writer at some point didn't get the memo and said she went to Harvard Law, that seems to have been explained away as a post-J.D. LLM (a specialized master's degree).
  • In Watchmen, Dr. Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan attends Princeton University from 1948 to 1958, graduating with a Ph.D. in atomic physics.
  • A version of this is in the comic Gold Digger: At one point, a discussion is made on how just about everyone in the area is a doctor, with multiple degrees, ridiculous accomplishments, etc. Ace, the Ace Pilot, is a bit annoyed.
  • Flash Gordon is identified in the first issue as a "Yale graduate and world renowned polo player"
  • Played with in a Dilbert strip where the PHB hires a career criminal purely because he went to Yale. When Dilbert asks the man about it, he replies "I yust got out last veek."
  • Professor Charles Xavier of X-Men fame has a master's degree in biophysics from Oxford University, a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University, and another doctorate in medicine from University College London.
  • Doctor Strange got his M.D. from Columbia.
  • Fantastic Four: exaggerated with Reed Richards, who went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Columbia University, and Empire State University (fictional equivalent of New York University). He had several hard science graduate degrees by the time he was twenty.
  • Batman went to an Ivy League school, fitting his old money WASP backstory, but which one (and what his degree was in) varies by the story and adaptation. One March 1974 issue suggests he earned an LL.B from Yale University. The Dark Knight Trilogy has him dropping out of Princeton University short of graduation. So on and so forth.

    Films — Animated 
  • Parodied in The LEGO Batman Movie, where Barbara Gordon "was top of her class at Harvard for Police." No, that's not comparing her training to Harvard, that's literally the name of the school. It says so on her shirt.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 21, MIT senior math major Ben Campbell is accepted into Harvard Medical School but cannot afford the $300,000 cost. Even though he has a high 44 MCAT score and a 4.0 GPA, Ben faces heavy competition for the prestigious Robinson Scholarship, which would give him a full ride through medical school. He uses the story of the film to impress Harvard officers and to stand out from the other well-qualified applicants. The film is based on the MIT Blackjack Team, who were from MIT and Harvard.
  • Averted in Accepted, where it's a plot point that one of the main characters emphatically did not get into Yale. She expected to be a shoo-in and hadn't applied anywhere else. However, another student from the same high school as the protagonists did get into Princeton.
  • Indiana Jones has an undergraduate degree in linguistics and a {=Ph D=} in archaeology from the University of Chicago. He teaches at Yale.
  • In Across the Universe, Jude befriends Max Carrigan, a rebellious student at Princeton. Max and his friends' upper class and wealthy families pay for their schooling while they spend their time drinking, smoking marijuana, and pulling pranks. Max's attendance at Princeton allows him to avoid the draft of The Vietnam War. When he drops out though...
  • Patrick Bateman of American Psycho went to Harvard University and Harvard Business School. It's also mentioned that Paul Owen went to Yale.
  • Linda and Andrew are Brown alumni in the movie Anger Management. Jack Nicholson's character Dr. Buddy Rydell went to Columbia University.
  • Natalie Ann August, played by Natalie Portman in Anywhere But Here applies and is accepted by Brown, despite the dismay of her mother, played by Susan Sarandon, over the distance.
  • In Armageddon, Rockhound, the team's Insufferable Genius, mentions that he has a double-docterate from MIT and also taught at Princeton for two and a half years.
  • The psychiatrist of Jack Nicholson's Melvin Udall mentions her son was accepted into Brown in As Good as It Gets.
  • In Batman Begins, Alfred casually asks Bruce Wayne if he plans to return to Princeton after the trial of his parents' murderer. Bruce tells him that he won't, adding that "I like it fine. They just don't feel the same way." He drops out and goes to China instead.
  • In the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading, Osborne Cox, played by John Malkovich, is a CIA analyst and Princeton class of 1973 graduate. In a scene at a fictional Princeton Club, he leads a fast-tempo rendition of Princeton's anthem, Old Nassau.
  • In Can't Hardly Wait, Preston plans to attend Dartmouth, William will be attending Harvard and though it's not Ivy League, NYU is still pretty prestigious, and Denise manages to get in with no extracurricular activities at all.
  • In the movie A Cinderella Story, a major part of the storyline revolves around Sam and Austin's goal of getting into Princeton and studying writing. Of course, they get in.
  • In Citizen Kane, the eponymous character is said to have attended and been thrown out of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Cornell.
  • At the end of Coming Soon, Tricia Vessey's character, Nell Kellner, gets accepted to Brown University when she reveals that her father had donated a large sum of money to the school.
  • In Dead Poets Society, Mr. Nolan mentions that 75% of the previous year's graduates went to The Ivy Leagues. Pitts says he might go to Yale (but he might not). And Neil's father intends him to go to Harvard.
  • Dirty Dancing : Mr. Kellerman, when he's giving the "show the daughters a good time" speech to the wait staff, says he recruited them all from Harvard and Yale. Robbie the Jerkass waiter goes to Yale Medical School. Neil (Mr. Kellerman's grandson) goes to Cornell School of Restaurant Management. Baby will be attending Mount Holyoke. And when she gives Jake her speech at the end, she says that he thinks saving the world means marrying someone from Harvard.
  • The Education of Charlie Banks takes place at Brown University.
  • Averted in Election. In just about any other movie, a character as intelligent and ambitious as Tracy Flick would be trying to get into an Ivy League school, but her goal is Georgetown because of its very strong political science program and access to government internships. It also subverts the usual standards of this trope in that when Tracy actually gets to Georgetown, she discovers that far from being an intellectual utopia, she still doesn't have much in common with her less ambitious classmates. Fortunately, the academic programs are still every bit as strong as she thought.
  • Tom Cruise's character Mitch McDeere in The Firm is a recent Harvard Law graduate hired by Memphis law firm that represents organized crime.
  • The three original Ghostbusters are faculty at Columbia University, until their unorthodox research focus and lack of results leads to them being let go. Ray even notes their reputation will preclude them from getting grants at MIT or Stanford.
  • In The Girl Next Door, Eli Brooks is mentioned as having been accepted to Princeton.
  • In The Godfather, main character Michael Corleone, wishing to avoid the family business, attends Dartmouth College. He later re-enrolls at Dartmouth after fighting in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, where he meets his future wife, Kay Adams.
  • In Hamlet 2, the main character, a drama teacher, assumes a Latino student is a gangster. In actuality, the student had gained early admission to Brown.
  • Alan Jensen, played by Adrian Grenier, is the point guard of the Harvard basketball team in Harvard Man.
  • High School Musical: Gabriella goes to Stanford, Troy to Berkley and Taylor to Yale. Gabriella is a Teen Genius, while Troy and Taylor are less talented. Two characters go to Juilliard on a musical theater scholarship, despite the fact that Juilliard has no musical theater programs, but one goes for dance and the other goes for music. Kelsi, one of the scholarship recipients, goes there for composition, despite the fact that in Real Life, Juilliard's composition program is focused on classical music, not musicals.
  • In the stoner film How High, two underachieving pot smokers, Silas (Method Man) and Jamal (Redman), use a magic weed to get perfect scores on their THC exams (Testing for Higher Credentials, as opposed to SAT) and to receive admission into Harvard University.
  • In Independence Day, David Levinson is berated by his father, and later his ex-wife, for having spent eight years at MIT and deciding to work as a cable repairman.
  • Meg Ryan's character, Catherine Boyd, is a mathematics doctoral candidate at Princeton University in the Romantic Comedy I.Q.
  • In Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the titular character is shown attending the London School of Economics when the September 11 attacks occur.
  • The eponymous character of the film Kissing Jessica Stein graduated from Brown.
  • In The Last of the Mohicans, Hawkeye says he attended Reverend Wheelock's school. This is presumably Dartmouth College, originally founded as a school to train Native Americans as missionaries.
  • In Leatherheads, Carter Rutherford, played by John Krasinski, is a star Princeton quarterback.
  • The entire story of Legally Blonde is about a blonde's quest to get into and be successful at Harvard Law School. With a 4.00 GPA, a 179 LSAT,note  and being the president of a sorority, however, Elle's admission to Harvard Law School was one of the most accurate parts of the movie.
    Warner: You got into Harvard Law?
    Elle: What, like it's hard?
  • The 1970 film Love Story, written by Harvard alumnus Erich Segal, is a romantic drama about a rich Harvard pre-law, hockey player, played by Ryan O'Neal,note  and a brilliant Radcliffe musicology scholarship student, played by Ali MacGraw. Segal also taught Greek and Latin literature at Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
  • In Mars Attacks!, President James Dale, played by Jack Nicholson, is an alumnus of Princeton University.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe, the universe where not a single non-Ivy-equivalent exists:
    • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Gabe Jones mentions taking three semesters of German at Howard University.
    • In Iron Man, Tony Stark asks Christine Everhart, a Vanity Fair columnist who questions him about his weapons industry and accuses his company of killing people, if she attended Berkeley. She tells him she actually attended Brown.
    • In The Incredible Hulk, Bruce and Betty are mentioned to have met each other at Harvard University. Bruce also claims to (somehow) have 7 PhDs. Apparently including, at the very least, radiobiology, astrophysics, and computer science...note 
    • In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark and Rhodey are both seen wearing the "Brass Rat", the class ring given to MIT grads; which would mean both of them attended. It's mentioned that Tony Stark graduated from MIT summa cum laude at the age of 17. Though MIT doesn't give class rankings or cum laude awards. In Captain America: Civil War, Stark is seen giving a speech and starting a scholarship at his alma mater. A Freeze-Frame Bonus shot of his S.H.I.E.L.D dossier shows that he started attending in 1984 and graduated with a B.S. in Engineering in 1987. Yes, he got into MIT at age 14.
    • In Black Panther (2018), Ross mentions that Erike Stevens/"Killmonger" graduated from the highly prestigious United States Naval Academy at Annapolis at the age of 19 (even though that's impossible), before going to graduate school at MIT, though we don't know his major. This one's particularly egregious because, while his career and skills can be said to be pretty consistent with those of an Annapolis graduate (military tactics, foreign languages, psychology, and basic military engineering being part of the general curriculum for all majors), he never displays any skills or traits that would suggesting he holds a master's degree or a doctorate in any sort of theoretical or applied science (quite the opposite, he makes rookie mistakes like calling a directed energy explosive launcher "a sonic cannon"), as would be suggested from MIT grad school. This part of the character is limited to a single line in an Info Dump.
    • Daredevil (2015): Matt/Daredevil attended Columbia Law School, one of the top law schools in the USA. So did Foggy.
    • Bill Foster, the main antagonist of Ant-Man and the Wasp, is a professor at UC Berkeley.
  • In Mean Girls, Aaron Samuels is pretty bad at calculus and seems like a kind jock, but otherwise shows no above-average skills or any particular studiousness. He's a swimmer, which is not a sport which generates much revenue for colleges and therefore provides little advantage when seeking admission. He gets admitted to the very prestigious Northwestern University after his senior year, despite being from the town where its campus is located. For those not in the know, admission to a highly-ranked college is usually toughest for nearby students since a disproportionate number of them prefer it, either due to exposure at a young age, a desire to stay near family, or the appeal of going to college with their friends. However, the university usually admits very few locals in order to recruit a geographically diverse student body. This usually leads to extremely qualified students getting passed over, rather than a case like Aaron's.
  • The main characters of My Best Friend's Wedding, played by Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney, became friends and made their marriage pact when they were students at Brown.
  • In My Cousin Vinny, Judge Haller's diploma from Harvard Law School is prominently displayed in his chambers when interviewing Vinny, who's licensed in New York, to determine if he's qualified to take on this case in Alabama. This contrasts with Vinny's degree from some tiny school that sounds a bit fly-by-night.
  • Norah tells Nick in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist that she was accepted into Brown University.
  • The three main leads of Ninja Cheerleaders, Courtney, April and Monica gets accepted to Brown and attends the school at the end of the movie.
  • Actively defied in Not Another Teen Movie when Jake asks his dad to stop pushing him to go to Princeton. It's at a point where his dad has various Princeton artifacts such as banners and pillows all over his room and even pasted Jake's head over his own Princeton grad photo.
  • In Orange County, the main character fights like hell to go to Stanford, but ultimately decides to stay near his home and go to the local state college, which he considers a big step down. This, naturally, ignores the fact that Los Angeles is home to several world-class universities of its own, including USC and UCLA.
  • Jane Weston, played by Amy Smart, gets accepted to Brown University and attends the school at the end of Outside Providence.
  • The 1973 film version of The Paper Chase is an extremely faithful adaptation of the novel, telling the story of Hart's first year at Harvard Law School, and his experiences with Professor Charles Kingsfield, the brilliant, demanding contracts instructor whom he both idolizes and finds incredibly intimidating.
  • In The Peacemaker, Col. Devoe and his commandos are interrogating a bomb-maker who is currently hanging off a bridge.
    Devoe: Do you speaking English?
    Bomb-maker: I went to Harvard! Gooooooo Crimson!
  • In Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Princess Mia is referred to as a graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
  • Brittany Snow's character, Donna Keppel, protagonist of the 2008 remake of Prom Night, was accepted to Brown, but has doubts about leaving her boyfriend behind.
  • Happens at the end of Risky Business. In this case, though, not because the main character Joel Goodson is smart but because the Princeton admissions officer finds the ability to throw massive pimp parties to be a trait worthy of Princeton.
  • Played with in The Shawshank Redemption: When helping one of the guards set up a trust fund, Andy Dufresne asks the guard if he wants his kids to go to Harvard or Yale. The guard recognizes it as a good-natured joke, and bonds with the inmate.
  • In She's All That, Zach has been accepted to Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard.
  • The 1986 comedy Soul Man is about a man who undergoes racial transformation with pills so that he can qualify for an African-American-only scholarship at Harvard Law School.
  • In Spanglish, Cristina Moreno applies to Princeton University in the beginning of the film, telling the story of her childhood in her college essay.
  • During a brief exchange in Sphere, it's revealed that three of the main characters received their doctorates at M.I.T., and at early ages to boot.
  • Peter Parker is a student at Columbia University in Spider-Man 2.
  • Starship Troopers:
    • Johnny Rico is told by his father that he's going to go to Harvard. Since Johnny is repeatedly shown to be a dim bulb, it would appear that the trope name has come true. Possibly Justified in that Johnny's family is wealthy and presumably could buy him in, and that in the fascist Federation, liberal arts degrees from Harvard wouldn't carry the same status.
    • Another one of the recruits mentions he got into Harvard and joined the Mobile Infantry so he can afford it.
  • In Stay Alive, the lead female character, Abigail, tells her friends that she got into Princeton, but later admits that she lied.
  • Main character John resorts to crime in order to pay for his niece's Harvard education in Stealing Harvard. John made a videotape many years ago, on which he promised to pay for Noreen's college tuition if she worked hard and was accepted into a university.
  • Nora Clark in Step Up has been accepted to Brown University, but wants to pursue her passion for dancing instead.
  • Ana, Maggie Gyllenhaal's "anarchist baker" character in Stranger Than Fiction discovered her baking talent while a student at Harvard Law School.
  • Lucy Whitman, the brains of the operation in teen comedy/heist film Sugar & Spice aspires of going to Harvard.
  • Evan and Fogell of Superbad are about to start college at Dartmouth College.
  • In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Dickie Greenleaf, played by Jude Law, is a graduate of Princeton. Title character Tom Ripley pretends he is a Princeton alumnus.
  • In There's Something About Mary, Cameron Diaz's Mary attended Princeton University. Her ex-boyfriend "Woogie" also received a scholarship from Princeton.
  • The title character of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) attended Dartmouth.
  • In Timecop, Big Bad U.S. Senator McComb describes himself as an "ambitious, Harvard-educated visionary who deserves to be the most powerful man in the world."
  • * Bill Wentz, U.S. Navy radioman in the film U-571, studied German at Brown.
  • In UHF, Pamela Finklestein tells somebody on the phone that she thinks Stanley Spawdoski, the dim-witted janitor, went to Harvard.
  • In the film version of Up in the Air, Natalie is a Cornell graduate.
  • Jonathan "Mox" Moxon, played by James Van Der Beek, the main character of Varsity Blues, receives acceptance to Brown. His coach blackmails him to play football by threatening to ruin his transcript.
  • Nick Mercer, the male escort hired by Kat Ellis to be her date to her sister's wedding in The Wedding Date, graduated from Brown with a degree in Comparative Literature.
  • In Where the Boys Are, Merritt's love interest Ryder Smith is a student at Brown University. Melanie is also involved with a boy from Yale.
  • The protagonist of With Honors, Montgomery 'Monty' Kessler, as played by Brendan Fraser, is a smart but cynical young man who got into Harvard without any money ties. He is set to graduate as a government student with honors if he can put the finishing touches on his senior thesis.
  • Referenced in Heathers: Veronica says she's going to have to send her SAT scores to San Quentin, instead of Stanford.

  • Subverted in Catalyst, in which the protagonist has her sights set on MIT. She thinks she falls under this trope, but doesn't get in.
  • The main character of American Psycho, Patrick Bateman, tells the detective Donald Kimball that he attended Harvard University and Harvard Business School.
  • In An American Wife, a Roman à Clef about President George W. Bush and Laura Bush by Curtis Sittenfeld, main character Charlie Blackwell is a Princeton alumnus. One section of the book describes the couple attending a Princeton reunion in great detail.
  • Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake frequently feature Indians (specifically Bengali-Americans) going to prestigious universities such as Columbia, Oxford, Yale, and Stanford.
  • Likely because he himself attended the school, several of Erich Segal's novels are set there—The Class is about the Harvard Class of 1958, and particularly refers to five fictional members of this class: Andrew Eliot, Jason Gilbert, George Keller, Theodore Lambros, and Daniel Rossi, Doctors is about Barney Livingston and Laura Castellano of the Harvard medical class of 1962, and of course, Oliver and Jenny of Love Story meet in the Harvard library.
  • Dan Brown's lead character Robert Langdon in Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol is a professor of Religious Iconology and Symbology at Harvard University. He also graduated from Princeton University, where he played water polo.
  • The main character in the novel version of The Devil Wears Prada, Andrea Sachs, is a recent graduate from Brown University.
  • Marina Thwaite, Danielle Minkoff and Julian Clarke, characters from Claire Messud's 2006 novel The Emperor's Children, were all friends at Brown University.
  • Nathaniel Auerbach Clay, the protagonist of Geoffrey Wolff's coming-of-age story The Final Club, is a fictional member of the Princeton Class of 1960. Wolff was an actual member of this class, and he wrote The Final Club as homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby.
  • In Good in Bed, protagonist Cannie Shapiro is a Princeton alumna.
  • Serena's older brother, Eric van der Woodsen, attends Brown University in Gossip Girl.
  • In the novel In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner, protagonist Rose Feller is a Princeton graduate. Her younger sister Maggie camps out in a Princeton library. Jennifer Weiner is an alumna of Princeton's Class of 1991.
  • Subverted by Edwin O'Connor's novel The Last Hurrah, in which the Harvard-educated characters are clearly singled out as exceptions to the general rule. Given that the story is set among Irish-Americans in the 1950s, this is Truth in Television- until at least the early '70s, most Irish-American Catholics in the Northeast were expected to go to schools like Boston College or Holy Cross; those few who went to Harvard or Yale instead were ambitious, upwardly-mobile types who wanted to "make it" as "Americans". One famous example is typical.
  • In the Left Behind series, Cameron "Buck" Williams graduated from Princeton. Chloe was attending Stanford.
  • By the end of The Mother-Daughter Book Club series, the girls have just graduated high school and will soon be going to college. Several years earlier, Emma's brother Darcy was accepted into Dartmouth along with several other selective universities, though justified because he has been mentioned to have been an exceptional student. Meanwhile, Cassidy's sister Courtney attends UCLA and Becca's brother Stewart was rejected from his dream school, Stanford, but did get into some other smaller-scale but still-respectable schools. As for the girls themselves, Emma, Cassidy, and Becca are all anticipating beginning several decent but not incredible colleges, while Jess has been accepted into the highly-competitive Juilliard School and Megan will be attending Parsons School of Design, well-known as one of the most prestigious design schools in the world. Justified in Jess's case, since from eighth grade on she was one of the top pupils of an elite private school for gifted students.
  • In the science-fiction novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper, Calvin Morrison was a theology student at Princeton before dropping out to join the U.S. Army and fight in the Korean War.
    • Not strictly an example, as the Princeton Theological Seminary is a separate institution unaffiliated with Princeton University.
  • In the second half of Stephen Fry's Making History, Michael Young attends Princeton.
  • Written by John Jay Osborn Jr., a 1970 graduate of Harvard Law School, The Paper Chase is about Hart and his first year as a law student at Harvard.
  • Former CIA-agent Wyman Ford, a fictional character in many of Douglas Preston's novels, is a Harvard alumnus.
  • The author of the 1994 autobiography Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel, graduated from Harvard and Yale Law School.
  • Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist is partly set at Princeton. Changez and Erica are fictional members of the Princeton Class of 2001. Hamid was an actual member of the Princeton Class of 1993.
  • The Rule of Four is set on the Princeton University and the neighboring Princeton Theological Seminary. The protagonists are Princeton students.
  • The Second Happiest Day by John Phillips depicts Harvard University during World War II.
  • This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald's literary debut, is a loosely autobiographical story of his time as a student at Princeton. Protagonist Amory Blaine attends Princeton.
    • For an inverse example, most of the rich characters in The Great Gatsby are described with Ivy-league degrees (Tom played football for Yale, for example), but they are not respectable in the least.
  • In the third The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book, when the Four-Girl Ensemble have their last summer together before college, it's noted that although Bridget is the "sloppiest student" of the four, she got into Brown. The other three end up going to the Rhode Island School of Design, NYU's film school, and Williams College, not actually Ivy League but all comparably prestigious.
  • Quentin in William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury attends Harvard. We see him as a freshman at the college in the second part of the novel.
  • The character Robert Cohn attended Princeton in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.
  • In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Dickie Greenleaf, played by Jude Law, is a graduate of Princeton. Title character Tom Ripley pretends he is a Princeton alumnus.
  • In Twilight, Bella Swan and Edward Cullen plan to go to Dartmouth as an excuse for Bella to leave her father. It is heavily implied that the Cullens bribed the school to procure her admission.
  • Rae Spellman of Spellman Files has had issues with her grades, paying attention, doing her homework, being too obsessed with her social life or detective work or well, pretty much anything during the entire series, and she's not into school extracurricular activities. How on earth did she get into Yale, even after she told them of her new police record?
  • The narrator of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat’s Cradle is a Cornell alumnus, and another major character flunked out of the university.
  • Talked about in the Private novel series by Kate Brian. Justified because the titular private school is an elite boarding school for the richest of the rich.
  • Scott, the protagonist of The Chronoliths, and his wife Janice met while attending to Cornell, and Ray, another character comes from MIT.
    • Justified in the case of Ray because he works in a government funded project, so probably they would just want to get their money's worth.
  • In The Areas of My Expertise, John Hodgman devotes several passages and a whole chapter to Yale's "true" history and plans for One World Government. (Hodgman and occasional sidekick Jonathan Coulton are Yale alumni.)
  • Unlike the later movie mentioned above, the original novel of Legally Blonde has Elle attending Stanford University.
  • In ''The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks', Frankie aspires to attend Ivy League. Her sister goes to Berkeley and her boyfriend and his friends are going to Harvard next year. Justified, as it takes place on an elite school and Frankie and most of her classmates are legacies.
  • Zimmerman's Algorithm has the rogue scientist, Julia Zimmerman, enter an argument with her parents about which university to go to. The parents want her to go to Harvard, but the Child Prodigy is more interested in computer science.
  • In Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, one of the protagonist's lovers thinks his C-average from Harvard is vastly superior to her Phi Beta Kappa from another school. (Jong herself attended Barnard and Columbia.)
  • Somewhat realistically portrayed in The Princess Diaries where most of the characters end up going to Ivy League (most go to Columbia). Justified in that they go to an elite private school and most of the kids are wealthy and legacies. Despite this, a great number don't get into their first choice schools. The only character to get accepted to all of them is Mia but it's made clear that she was only accepted because she's a Princess. This disappoints Mia and, in the end, she ends up attending Sarah Lawrence.
    • Lana's parents tell Lana that they won't pay for her college unless she gets into an Ivy League. Luckily, she gets into Penn.
  • The majority of Danielle Steel characters attend or are alumni of Ivy League schools, their equivalents, or schools that are excellent in their own right.
  • In Spellsinger, Jon-Tom is a law student at UCLA despite showing little evidence of being anything more than a pot-smoking wannabe rock star. Flores is also a student there, but she actually comes across as someone with legitimate accademic skill.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 2 Broke Girls' Caroline Channing went to Wharton Business School (University of Pennsylvania).
  • The Princeton episode of 8 Simple Rules embodied this trope. Bridget was the brainless one on the show ("Ivory League"), but to her family, all that stood between her and a full-ride athletic scholarship to Princeton was her being ineligible to play in the tennis match the scout was attending (the actual D grade itself that made her ineligible didn't concern them). The worst part was that her sister, a good student, was interested in Ivy League schools, yet never noticed that Bridget couldn't "just swing her tennis racket" and get into Princeton, since Princeton (and Ivy League schools in general) do not offer "athletic scholarships" and admittance solely on athletic ability.note 
  • 24:
    • Bill Buchanan obtained his English degree from Brown University.
    • President Charles Logan graduated from Princeton University.
    • Audrey Raines, Jack Bauer's lover and Inter-Agency Liaison in the U.S. Department of Defense, has a degree in public policy from Brown.
    • Bauer himself has a B.S. from Berkeley and an M.S. from UCLA.
  • 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy attended Princeton University as an undergraduate. This is once used for comedic effect when Jack tells Kenneth he doesn't have bedbugs because he went to Princeton.
    • Also, Twofer attended Harvard. (As did many a television comedy writer in Real Life.)
  • Spoofed in a quiz on The Andy Milonakis Show. Before one commercial break, Andy says "Believe it or not, Andy has a diploma at Harvard Law. Find out the answer when we return!" But after the commercial break, "if you guessed that Andy has a diploma from Harvard Law, you are wrong.
  • The title character of Ally McBeal attended Harvard Law School.
  • General Michael Holden and Claudia Joy of Army Wives met while they were students at Harvard.
  • The title character of Becker likes to boast that he got his degree from Harvard - which actually means that somewhere, sometime, something went horribly wrong for him.
  • In The Beverly Hillbillies, Mrs. Drysdale's son Sonny mentions attending Princeton and Harvard and Yale. Pennants of the schools hang on his wall.
  • On Blackish, Bow attended Brown University and Dre went to Howard University. Zoey subverts this and ends up going to a fictional California University. Junior plays it straight at first and gets into Howard, however he decides to take a gap year before going.
  • Blue Bloods' Jamie Reagan graduated from Harvard Law School, then decided to turn cop after his brother Joe was killed in the line of duty. Deconstructed in one episode, where he moonlights as a house painter because he's having trouble keeping up his student loan payments on a beat cop's salary. His sister Erin attended Columbia University and her daughter Nicky has followed suit.
  • In Bones, Dr. Saroyan gets her adopted daughter into Columbia behind her back when said daughter decides to follow her boyfriend to a tiny college in Maine.
  • On Boy Meets World, a major plot line in the show's fifth season is that Topanga is accepted to Yale, which would inevitably separate her from her One True Love Cory, who was only accepted to the fictional Pennbrook in their native Philadelphia. They discuss the possibility of a Long-Distance Relationship but Topanga decides not to go to Yale after all and instead proposes marriage to Cory, with the two of them attending Pennbrook together starting in the sixth season.
    • We later learn that Rachel made the exact same decision Topanga did - turning down Yale to attend Pennbrook with her boyfriend - which backfired on her when he dumped her and dropped out to move to Corpus Christi, Texas. (Both of them turn out okay, though - Topanga moves to New York City to accept an internship with a prestigious law firm and Rachel joins the Peace Corps after she graduates.)
  • Breaking Bad revealed that Walter White and his friend and former business partner Elliot Schwartz were Caltech students.
  • Justified in Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Willow's acceptance into Harvard, Yale, Oxford, etc., as she is consistently portrayed as intelligent. In the end, she remains in town and settles for UC Sunnydale to help Buffy in her fight against evil.
    • Subverted when Willow is wooed by Wesleyan University. While a great school, it's not an Ivy — it's merely Joss Whedon's alma mater.
    • Cordelia gets accepted into several of the schools on this list, despite being the Alpha Bitch and The Cheerleader, because she does well on standardized testing. She tells Wesley in Angel that she was in the top 10% of her class. Cordelia is also reasonably intelligent despite being forthright and taking care to hide her studious side.
    • Buffy herself got into Northwestern, every bit as prestigious as many of the schools here.
      • Which is probably the most ridiculous part since Buffy was characterized as cutting a lot of class in high school and doing poorly as a result.
  • In Charles in Charge, the main character gets accepted as a graduate student to Princeton.
  • Charmed subverts the trope when Phoebe is attending college in seasons 2 and 3 (and later goes back in season 7). The name of her college is not mentioned. The show being set in San Francisco, the only time Berkeley is actually mentioned is when Phoebe's asking for fake directions. Given that she's implied to be a bit of a delinquent when she was a teenager, Phoebe would probably need a bit of magic to get into an Ivy League school.
  • Chuck was thrown out of Stanford for cheating not really, and he got his degree eventually. Vivian Macarthur Volkoff was groomed to take over her father's villainous organisation after studying at the London School of Economics.
  • Dartmouth College is the alma mater of the fictional host of The Colbert Report; the real Colbert graduated from Northwestern University.
  • In Commander in Chief, former Communications Directors and current Press Secretary Kelly Ludlow, played by Ever Carradine, graduated from Princeton.
    • In one episode, a family uncovered a film (e.g., undeniable proof) of the Speaker of the House ranting against minorities. They offer it to President Allen in exchange for an acceptance to Brown University for one of their children (it is implied the child was not able to attend an Ivy League school without it). President Allen is able to secure an acceptance for them, then destroys the film, realizing that, while it would have been a major chip to hold over the SotH, he did not espouse these ideals and was only making a (badly influenced) political speech for a specific audience.
  • In Community, Jeff Winger goes to Greendale Community College after the State Bar found out that his bachelor's degree from Columbia was actually from Colombia.
  • On The Cosby Show, eldest daughter Sondra Huxtable attended Princeton, and she met her future husband Elvin Tibideaux there. Brother Theo attends NYU (not Ivy, but a well-known and excellent school in its own right). Cliff and Clair themselves are alums of the (fictional) historically black college Hillman College, based largely on the Real Life Howard University (the "Harvard" of historically black colleges). Their daughter Denise briefly attends the school (which becomes the initial premise of the Spin-Off A Different World), but dropped out as a result of Real Life Writes the Plot (actress Lisa Bonet became pregnant).
  • Criminal Minds: Special Agent Emily Prentiss went to Brown, as is revealed in her first episode. Justified in-universe as she's not only extremely intelligent (speaking several languages) but the daughter of a US Ambassador.
    • Spencer Reid is said to have multiple degrees, bachelors and doctorates, from MIT, Caltech AND Yale. Garcia went to Caltech, and fans happily debate whether they would have attended at the same time.
  • Daredevil (2015): Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson and Marci Stahl all attended Columbia Law School. Matt and Foggy bow out of well-paying jobs at Landman & Zack to start their own firm in Hell's Kitchen. Marci stays at L&Z until most of the firm's partners are implicated in Wilson Fisk's criminal activities, and subsequently she moves over to Hogarth Chao & Benowitz, where Foggy joins her at the end of season 2.
  • Sam Arsenault, guest villain on Damages, sings Danny Boy at a cocktail party and tells the guests he sang it with the Jabberwocks when he was an undergraduate student at Brown. The actor, James Naughton, was a member of the Jabberwocks and graduated from Brown in 1967 in Real Life.
  • Later seasons of Degrassi have turned into this, despite most Canadian students preferring Canadian universities if only because of lower tuition costs or not having to take the SATs to get acceptance to Canadian universities. Danny goes to Cornell (despite the fact that he didn't actually start doing well in school until Grade 12). Holly J. attends Yale. Clare is applying to Columbia.
    • While not Ivy League, a number of characters have been accepted to prestigious American schools. Later seasons have included Alli getting early acceptance to MIT, Jane and Katie both attending Stanford (despite Katie royally screwing up her senior year by leaving to attend rehab midway through it), and Eli headed for NYU.
    • Paige, Liberty, and Damian get accepted to fictional Banting, "the Harvard of the North". Justified with the latter two, as they tied for valedictorian and were student body presidents of their respective schools.
  • In the season 4 finale of Desperate Housewives, Susan's daughter Julie Mayer is accepted to Princeton and prepares to leave home.
    • Bree's daughter Danielle ends up at Columbia even though the show stressed her stupidity for years.
  • On Doogie Howser, M.D., main character Douglas Howser, boy genius, graduated from Princeton at the young age of 10.
  • On Eureka, Zoe goes off to Harvard at the end of the third season.
    • Nearly every character aside from Sheriff Carter and Jo have a degree from the Ivy League or Oxbridge, but this is actually Justified given the premise.
  • In Even Stevens, Louis and Ren's mother, Eileen Stevens, is an alumna of Brown University.
  • In Everwood, Amy Abbott is accepted to Princeton. She chooses to defer her first semester at Princeton so that she can take care of her mother while she recovers from her cancer.
  • In Family Matters, Laura Winslow is accepted to Harvard but ends up attending the cheaper local college Illinois Occidental University (IOU).
  • In Family Ties, Alex P. Keaton spends the first two seasons preparing to attend Princeton. While visiting for an on-campus interview, his sister Mallory has an emotional crisis. Ultimately, Alex chooses to tend to her rather than complete his interview, thus destroying his chance of attending Princeton.
    • To compensate, the show created a fictitious university that looked suspiciously like Stanford in Ohio, complete with a tree mascot!
  • Dr. Frasier Crane of Frasier and Cheers earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College. He also graduated from Harvard Medical School, where he obtained both his M.D. and Ph.D. in psychiatry. It's stated on the show that he also attended Oxford.
    • And Niles went to Yale and Cambridge.
  • In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Carlton Banks' dream school is Princeton University and he eventually attends the university at the end of the series. His father, Phillip, attended Princeton on scholarship, and went to Harvard Law School afterwards.
    • There's at least one Mention of Carlton wishing to attend Yale. Princeton only becomes his goal/dream after Philip informs him that's where he's going.
    • Also, it's worth mentioning that unlike most fictional characters, Carlton's aspirations aren't unrealistic. Between him being a legacy child (it's easier for children of alumni to get in, and Phil is a Princeton grad), his family being wealthy and well-connected, both in their community and in academia (Phil is a high-powered attorney and, later, judge, Vivian is a professor), and Carlton being shown to obsessively maintain a 4.0 GPA, his prospects for admittance are very good.
    • In one episode, Uncle Phil mentions that in addition to Princeton, he received scholarships to two other Ivies: Yale and Wharton (the latter a part of the University of Pennsylvania).
  • Friday Night Lights subverts this. Getting a scholarship for any college is what most of the players aspire for in order to get ahead in life. Schools from all over the country will offer players a spot on their team and Ivy League schools don't offer sports scholarships. Julie and Landry, both portrayed as hard working students and smart, don't go to Ivy League schools (Julie attends the fictional Burleson College while Landry attends Rice University).
  • Garth Marenghis Darkplace: one of the earliest signs of Critical Research Failure in the Show Within a Show of the same name is Liz Asher claimed to have gone to 'Harvard College, Yale'. Which is two separate locations. And it's unlikely (though not technically impossible) that the British Liz would have gone to America for higher learning. But considering Know-Nothing Know-It-All Garth Marenghi wrote/directed/starred in the script, he probably threw that in to make Liz sound qualified and smart. Not that Garth's ego and misogyny would let him write Liz using those smarts and overshadowing Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D..
  • Thurston Howell III of Gilligan's Island is a stereotypical WASP and a graduate of Harvard University.
  • Gilmore Girls justifies and realistically portrays this trope. Through the first half of the series, Rory's ultimate goal is to get into Harvard and a major plot point is her move to the more academically challenging Chilton in order to improve her grades and participating in numerous extracurriculars to put on the her CV. When she gets into all of her schools, including Harvard and Yale. (Yale is especially believable as her grandfather Richard has a legacy there.) She chooses Yale in order to stay closer to home. note  The equally high-achieving, Paris Geller is even more justified with the hyper-intensity she puts into her studies and extracurriculars, and also gets into Yale, but gets rejected from her life-long goal of Harvard, showing how competitive Ivy League application really is. Paris later gets accepted to Harvard in Season 7.
    • The less believable part of Rory's acceptance is while she's shown becoming Valedictorian / school vice-president / writer on the school paper / 4.0 GPA student, you have to ask how she has time to do it all, with all the scenes Rory spends inanely wasting time with her mother, in the diner, with boys, her grandparents, reading constantly and being a part of many quaint and massively time-consuming town events. With all that going on it's unlikely she would have gotten enough done to get in to an Ivy League school, much less three at once.
  • Kurt and Rachel on Glee focus all of their energies in the third season on getting accepted at the fictional New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts ("NYADA"). They originally wanted to go to Julliard before being told it doesn't have a musical theater program. This storyline is related to the scrapped idea of creating a Spin-Off where they pursue their dreams in New York (which sort of happens later in season 5, despite not being a Spin-Off).
    • Glee had a variant on this with the storyline about about the Ohio State recruiter, Cooter Menkins, coming to McKinley to check out the members of the football team, and he was only interested in Shane. Finn acted like losing this shot meant he'd lost all chance of a football scholarship. The idea that he might get a football scholarship to a less competitive program, or going to college on financial aid, is never entertained.
    • A more direct example is Quinn. After realizing she might have a life after high school after all, she reveals that she plans on applying to Yale and was later accepted, without even considering any colleges in Ohio such as Case Western Reserve University if she wants something prestigious, where she could theoretically maintain a relationship with her daughter.
    • Not to mention that none of the main characters go to college in state and aside from Ohio State, not one in-state school is mentioned as an option despite the fact that Ohio has one of the highest number of colleges in the US. In fairness, many of the kids moved to New York and LA to pursue performing careers, but there's no reason why, say, Finn can't go to the open-admission University of Dayton on financial aid.
    • Lauren Zizes, after being Put on a Bus for all of the third season, returns for a single episode in the fourth, at the end of which she reveals that she's applying for a wrestling scholarship at Harvard. This is despite the fact that Ivy League schools rarely provide athletic scholarships. The show isn't even trying to be realistic anymore.
    • Tina gets accepted to Brown University after being waitlisted.
  • Gossip Girl is a case where the trope is justified, as the characters go to the sorts of elite New York private schools which are known to be Ivy feeders:
    • Blair Waldorf considers the holy trinity among Ivy Leagues Schools to be Harvard, Princeton and Yale. She later refers to Princeton as a "trade school."
    • Nate, Serena and Blair all get into Yale University. Despite not wanting to attend Yale and also being a lackluster student, Nate gets accepted due to his grandfather's influence. Serena gets accepted for her socialite status. Yale later gets revokes Blair's acceptance for her manipulation of a teacher.
    • Nate Archibald goes to Columbia. His father, Howie Archibald, is an alumnus of Dartmouth.
    • Serena gets accepted to Brown University, but defers her enrollment.
    • Serena's mother attended Brown University. Her father went to Columbia University.
    • Both Serena and Blair later attend Columbia University in Season 4.
  • Meredith Grey is frequently seen in t-shirts of her alma mater, Dartmouth College, in Grey's Anatomy. Shonda Rhimes, creator of the show, is a Dartmouth alumna, and often references the college in her scripts.
    • And then there's Christina who graduated top of her class at Stanford.
    • However this trope is also subverted. Derek Shepard, one of the most renowned neurosurgeons, is frequently shown wearing Bowdoin College shirts/sweatshirts. While Bowdoin is still an elite, private school, it is not nearly as widely known as the schools in this trope.
      • Not really a subversion; Addison and Derek met while they were both students at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
      • Yes really, since the trope usually refers to undergraduate attendance.
  • Carol Seaver of Growing Pains attends Columbia.
  • Notably averted on House - although the hospital the show is set in is the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, and exterior shots are actually of the Frist Campus Center, there is no attempt to connect the setting to Princeton University, which doesn't have a med school.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall Eriksen is a Law student at Columbia.
    • Before the start of the series, Ted, Marshall, and Lily all met at Wesleyan University, a highly prestigious New England school, during their first week at college.
    • Ted also becomes a professor of architecture at the end of season four. An especially egregious example, as the show depicts becoming a Columbia professor as a fallback for someone who can't manage to hold a job as an architect or get a building built, whereas in Real Life, you can't get a professorship at an Ivy League until you're already prominent in your field. Ted finally becomes slightly more prominent though with the GNB Building (he's even on the cover of New York Magazine because of it).
    • When Robin is attending court-mandated therapy, she reads her therapist's degrees off the wall and finds herself impressed by his having attended several prestigious universities, including Harvard.
    • Fairly late in the series, Barney claims to have gone to MIT. In the ninth and final season, he gets extremely drunk and starts compulsively telling the truth. Robin and Ted use the opportunity to ask him if he really went to MIT, which it turns out he did— "MIT" being an acronym for "Magicians Institute of Teaneck". He also got a perfect score on all the ACTs (Advanced Card Tricks).
  • Dennis and Dee of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia both attended University of Pennsylvania, despite the fact that they are complete idiots. However, they were wealthy and were possibly legacies. Dennis graduated. Dee did not.
    • The lawyer who serves as a recurring antagonist is a Harvard graduate.
  • Though none of the main characters in JAG have law degrees from the Ivy League (Harm went to Georgetown, Mac went to Duke, and Bud went to George Mason), two recurring characters did: Caitlin Pike went to Harvard and Congresswoman Bobbi Latham graduated first in her class at Yale. It is never stated throughout the series from where Meg, AJ and Sturgis got their degrees.
  • The title character of Judging Amy is a graduate of Harvard Law School.
  • On The Killing, Councilman Richmond mentions that he met his late wife his sophomore year at Dartmouth.
  • Sean Alvarez, an honest stock broker and murder victim on an episode of Law & Order went to Brown.
  • Dr. Jack Shephard of Lost is an alumnus of Columbia.
  • Hit Korean romantic drama Love Story in Harvard is about two South Korean first-year Harvard Law School students and their romantic pursuit of a Korean student in her third year at Harvard Medical School.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Had Cottonmouth not been pressured into being part of Momma Mabel's criminal enterprise, he probably would have ended up in the Julliard School, as he was a pretty talented musician.
  • Bette Porter of The L Word got her degree in Art History at Yale. She also was a graduate student there. Her Ivy League education is supposed to showcase her intelligence, drive, and affluent background.
  • Upperclass WASP-y Pete Campbell of Mad Men went to Dartmouth College.
    • The episode "My Old Kentucky Home," reveals that Paul Kinsey graduated from Princeton in 1955 and sang in the acapella group, the Princeton Tigertones.
    • Ken Cosgrove attended Columbia University.
  • Zigzagged in MacGyver (2016). Mac attended MIT for a while, but he never graduated - after a time, he got tired of looking at high level theoretical problems and wanted to do something practical with his life, so he dropped out of college, enlisted in the Army, and became an EOD tech. In season three he ends up receiving an honorary degree from a far less prestigious college in California after shutting down a terrorist recruitment ring on campus.
  • Major Charles Emerson Winchester III of Mash graduated from Harvard College in 1939, where he lettered in Crew and Polo. He also received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1943.
    • In one episode, a visitor to the Swamp asks Charles if he went to Yale. He immediately snaps, "HARVARD!" before regaining his composure and reiterating, "...Harvard."
    • Trapper John McIntyre is a Dartmouth alum, at least in the original novel and film.
  • Ben Matlock, lead character of Matlock, worked for nine years before attending Harvard Law School, and therefore was significantly older than his law school classmates. He graduated from Harvard Law in 1967.
  • Modern Family has Alex Dunphy applying to every prestigious, impossible-to-get-into school you could think of including Harvard, MIT, Caltech and Princeton. Subverted though in a season 6 episode when she learns she got rejected from Harvard.
  • Tim McGee of NCIS was an MIT grad - and was the school team's beaver mascot in his senior year.
  • In Nip/Tuck, Julia McNamara's mother, Dr. Erica Noughton, graduated from Columbia with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
    • Sean also got accepted into Harvard Medical School, but the admission was rescinded when it was revealed that he failed a class because of cheating caused by Christian.
  • On NUMB3RS, mathematical genius Charlie Eppes attended Princeton at age 13 for his undergraduate studies. He graduated when he was 16.
    • Larry Fleinhardt also went to Princeton and graduated when he was 19.
  • Summer Roberts from The O.C. gets into Brown, despite not being characterized as a nerd.
    • Seth Cohen, The Smart Guy, however, doesn't get in, even though Brown was his dream school. He does get into RISD though (which itself carries Ivy League-level prestige for arts students), so the couple gets to stay close to each other.
    • Taylor Townsend attends the Sorbonne in Paris before her divorce.
  • In The Office Andy Bernard constantly mentions his education at Cornell University and his participation in the (fictional) acapella group, Here Comes Treble.
    • In the episode "Job Fair", Jim brings Andy along golfing with a potential client because the client is an alumnus of Dartmouth.
    • In a deleted scene Andy claims to have "sang" his way into the school after he was wait-listed, and in another deleted scene it is mentioned that his father donated a building which is presumably how Andy even got onto the wait-list in the first place.
    • Dwight considers attending Cornell because of its agricultural program (and probably to take away Andy's main advantage over him) and gains an interview. It is notable that because of lower competition and state funding, Cornell's College of Agricultural and Life Science which Dwight presumably applied to, while selective, is significantly easier to get into then the other colleges at Cornell and has the reputation as a "backdoor" into the school, particularly if you grew up on a farm.
    • Its a subversion of how the trope is normally played as Andy seems to be the only character with an Ivy League background yet is one of the show's ditzier characters. But then, the show likes idiots with hidden depths of competence.
  • In Oz, Tobias Beecher attended Harvard Law.
  • Besides the original novel and subsequent film, The Paper Chase was also made into a television series. The show is about first-year Harvard Law student Hart and his experiences with the intimidating yet brilliant contracts Professor Charles Kingsfield.
  • In Party of Five Sarah Reeves is accepted to Brown, though she chooses not to go. As the show takes place in San Francisco, Berkeley is mentioned quite a bit - though none of the main cast actually attend there. A one-episode character is in town because she's considering attending Berkeley but we never see her again. Subverted elsewhere when it's time for Claudia to look at colleges — we're never actually told the names of the ones she looks at. She does go to a tour of Yale - but being a Child Prodigy with the violin, it's possible she'd have a chance of getting in.
  • Harold Finch of Person of Interest attended MIT under a false identity - not that "Harold Finch" is his real name either. One of his former classmates there ended up creating Samaritan, The Machine's Evil Counterpart.
  • Averted in Pretty Little Liars, as neither Spencer nor Aria get into the ivy leagues they applied for, U Penn and Brown. However, played straight once again with Spencer, and Mona, Paige and Kate, as Spencer gets into Georgetown after a lot of uncertainty over where she would go, and Mona gets early admission for Harvard, Yale, Brown and Dartmouth, Paige goes to Stanford on a swimming scholarship, while Kate is mentioned to also get into Dartmouth.
  • In Privileged, Joanna Garcia's character is a Yale alum, and has been hired to get her employer's two daughters into Duke.
  • In the Irish drama Raw Rebecca is a student at Trinity College, to emphasise how posh she is. And in season 3 when Maeve decides to take a course, she enrolls at Trinity as well.
  • Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell goes to Columbia. As she's a frequent Straight A Student and takes part in many teams and societies, it's pretty justified. Though she does have a meltdown when she only scores a 1205 on her SAT.
    • Zack Morris gets accepted into Yale, despite poor grades or a lack of academic interest, all because he scored high on the SAT. Of course in the spin-off Zack, Slater, Screech and eventually Kelly end up attending California University.
  • Elliot Reid in Scrubs revealed that she was in a sorority at Brown University in the episode "My Turf War".
  • Matt Camden and Sarah Glass, from 7th Heaven attend Columbia Medical together.
  • Miranda Hobbes of Sex and the City got her law degree from Harvard. In one episode, she hides her educated background and pretends to be a flight attendant in order to get a date during a speed dating session because men are threatened by smart women.
  • Two characters - Thomas and Pandora - get to Harvard at the end of series 4 of Skins, under highly implausible circumstances. Admittedly this trope crosses over with Small Reference Pools to rightpondians.
  • Tony Soprano's daughter, Meadow, is an undergraduate student at Columbia in The Sopranos.
    • Interestingly, she wanted to go to Stanford until Tony intervened.
  • Dan Rydell in Sports Night is a Dartmouth alumnus, a subject that is mentioned several times.
  • Averted by Star Trek: The Original Series. Main character and resident Grumpy Bear Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy got his doctorate at Ole Miss. Jim Kirk went to Iowa State if memory serves.
  • On Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, another show written by Aaron Sorkin, Jordan (the new, unusually young head of the network) is a graduate of Yale Law School. In order to make it plausible that her character had time to go to law school and become a network head by her early-to-mid 30s, it was revealed that she was hired as the head of a major record label immediately upon graduating Yale Law — even though there was nothing in her resume that would qualify her for such a position. She wasn't the only character with a Yale degree, either. We were supposed to believe that Simon, one of the sketch comedy actors, attended Yale Drama School.
  • This trope is part of the premise of Suits. The show takes place in a law firm that only hires graduates of Harvard Law. In the first season, much of the drama is focused on Mike Ross, a college dropout brilliant enough to pretend he has the necessary Harvard diploma.
  • On Supernatural, Sam Winchester was attending Stanford University on a full scholarship before the demon Azazel interfered. Ash was kicked out of MIT for fighting (the specifics are not revealed), and he uses his knowledge of computers to run simulations and help hunters find patterns in the monsters' victimology.
  • The Punisher (2017): The file that David Lieberman pulls up on William J. "Bill" Rawlins III says that Rawlins went to Yale.
  • Too Old To Die Young: Janey gets accepted to Harvard along with a number of other unnamed but presumably similarly prestigious universities. While she's fairly mature, strong-willed and well-spoken for her age, Janey never really comes across as very intellectual or knowledgeable. Ultimately her millionaire father convinces her to work with him instead of attend college.
  • In Ugly Betty, Betty's boss, Mode Editor-in-Chief Daniel Meade, is an alumnus of Harvard, even though he is not particularly intelligent.
    • Averted with Betty herself, who attended Queens College in Flushing, Queens.
  • In Weeds, Silas Botwin, the son of the main character, dates Megan, who is accepted to Princeton.
  • In The West Wing, Abbey Bartlet, wife of President Josiah Bartlet and First Lady of the United States, received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School. (Bartlet himself chose Notre Dame over any Ivy League school, because until he met Abbey, he'd been thinking about becoming a priest, and his loyalty to the school comes up repeatedly. He also went to the London School of Economics, which plays into his background as a Nobel Prize-winning economist.)
    • Sam (see below for his educational bonafides) reacts angrily when Ainsley (who is largely playing devil's advocate for an anti-Ivy League position advocated by many Republicans) refers to Bartlet's Ivy League education. First, Notre Dame isn't in the Ivy League and second, why shouldn't we encourage kids to strive for an education at America's best universities? Ainsley agrees, as Sam knows she would.
    • Amy Gardner, women's rights activist and later the First Lady Abbey Bartlet's Chief of Staff, tells Abbey that she got her smart mouth at "Brown, and then Yale Law School."
    • Cliff Calley, Senate Majority Counsel, is an alumnus of Brown and Harvard.
    • Deputy White House Communications Director Sam Seaborn graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University. He makes repeated references to his alma mater, especially in the earlier seasons, indicating a certain pride in his attendance there. "Princeton" is his Secret Service code name, and he mentions being the recording secretary of the Princeton Gilbert and Sullivan Society. His law degree is from Duke, and in one episode he recruits a Duke Law classmate to run in a Congressional election.
    • Ainsley Hayes went to Harvard. And Smith College, a bastion of liberal feminism, which comes up when she goes back to debate there regarding women's rights.
    • Josh Lyman went to Harvard and Yale, and he wants you to know that. His boasting on this before filling in for CJ during a daily press briefing counts as Pride Before a Fall.
    • Characters who didn't go to Ivy League schools went to similarly prestigious ones like Berkeley, Georgetown and Stanford. The exceptions are Toby, who went to City College of New York, and the too-clever Donna, who dropped out of the University of Wisconsin, but is surprisingly able to keep up with the intelligentsia around her, issue for issue, as if she's one of them. In reality, she's just an under-educated secretary. The case with Toby is an interesting one as Toby is generally portrayed as the smartest of the senior staff and the only one intellectually on par with Bartlet himself. Toby's less-than-prestigious university is likely a result of his far less privileged background than most of his colleagues.
  • In What I Like About You Valerie Tyler attended Columbia. Holly applies to Columbia as well.
    • Henry Gibson, Holly's boyfriend, attended Princeton.
  • In Will & Grace, Will Truman and Grace Adler met they were students at Columbia University.
  • Jaye Tyler, main character of Wonderfalls, is a recent Brown University graduate with a philosophy degree and holds a dead-end job as a sales clerk at a Niagara Falls gift shop.
  • Special Agent Pete Lattimer from Warehouse 13 regularly wears his Dartmouth football shirt indicating he may be an alumnus.
  • FBI Special Agent Monica Reyes in The X-Files studied folklore and mythology at Brown University.
  • Castle:
    • Detective Beckett is a Stanford alum, but turned cop after graduating as a pre-law major. Her parents were both lawyers, which probably helped with the money issue.
    • Double Subverted with Alexis. She initially applies for early admission to Stanford, trying to follow her then-boyfriend there, but is rejected. She applies again the next semester and is accepted. But by that point she's broken up with the aforementioned boyfriend and ends up attending Columbia beginning in season 5. Justified here since Castle made millions writing mystery novels, though Alexis is an ambitious straight-A student who would almost certainly qualify for a full ride scholarship if they couldn't afford the tuition.
  • In the finale of The Suite Life on Deck, Cody, The Smart Guy, does not get into Yale, however, his equally smart girlfriend, Bailey, gets in.
  • Andre Lyon from Empire attended the University of Pennsylvania, one of the less-mentioned Ivies, but appropriate since the Lyons are from Philadelphia.
  • The Big Bang Theory has the premise of all the main characters (sans Penny) who are accomplished academic geniuses and from high end schools. Leonard went to Princeton, Howard went to MIT, and Raj went to Oxford.
  • In Veep, President Selina Meyer attended Smith College.
  • In Luke Cage, Mariah mentions at a high-class dinner that she attended Howard University, where she met her late husband.
  • In You, Guinevere Beck, the girl who becomes the lead character's main obsession, graduated from Brown, where she also first met her trust-fund baby friends, including her best friend, Peach.
  • On Life with Derek, both Casey and Derek are admitted to the prestigious Queen's University upon graduating high school. This isn't a stretch for Casey, who is class valedictorian, but it's very surprising that a slacker like Derek would gain admission. (Life with Derek is set in London, Ontario - a four-hour drive from the Queen's University campus in Kingston - and London is home to the University of Western Ontario, a notorious "party school" which is much more the kind of place Derek would actually want to attend.)


  • Played with in David Ives's Sure Thing, a one-act premised on two people being able to change aspects of each other by ringing a bell. Upon hearing that the male lead went to a less than prestigious college, she rings the bell until he says he went to Harvard.
  • RENT: The ambitious, straitlaced girlfriend of Maureen, Joanne, is a public interest lawyer who received her degree from Harvard Law School. The stage show elaborates a little more on where Joanne falls in this trope as her parents have a lot of connections — her mom is about to become a diplomat and they are hanging out with a Senator over the holidays. It's mentioned in "Tango: Maureen" that she went to Miss Porter's, a very selective all-girl boarding school in New England.
  • In the musical South Pacific, Lieutenant Joe Cable attended Princeton.
  • In the Heights: Nina attends Stanford.
  • In 1776, John Adams went to Harvard. Slightly played with as Adams stating this during a congressional debate only evokes derisitory laughter and results in his opponent Thomas Jefferson dryly countering that he attended William & Mary - at which the other delegates applaud. As a result, this exchange is rather popular amongst William and Mary students.
  • The male MC in Djanet Sears' Harlem Duet is a professor at Columbia University, derisively nicknamed "Harlumbia" for reasons explored in the play.

    Video Games 
  • Half-Life, where all the named scientists we know of came from Ivy League schools. Justified in that a place like Black Mesa would be on the lookout for people with such outstanding qualifications.
    • Gordon Freeman earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from MIT before he turned 27!
    • Eli Vance has a doctorate from Harvard, as he proudly displays with his Harvard t-shirt.
    • Issac Kleiner worked as one of Freeman's professors at MIT, and worked in the same department at Black Mesa, so he presumably received his doctorate in physics there.
    • Gina Cross from Decay has a Ph.D in electrical engineering from Caltech. She's 25, according to the manual.
  • In Plants vs. Zombies, the upgrade plant Cob Cannon attended Harvard.

    Web Comics 
  • Emily in Misfile has two years of her life wiped out by the eponymous filing error, including an acceptance to Harvard. She struggles to do it all over again, taking tests she's already passed, touring campuses she's already seen, and having her Education Mama hound her for two more years.

    Web Original 
  • The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: Present-day Canadian Mr Rochester doesn't have many friends, but Harvard graduates are prevalent in his social circle — himself, his long time aquaintance Blance Ingram and their friend Warren Danton all went to Harvard and have a degree in Business.

    Western Animation 
  • Brian Griffin of Family Guy dropped out of Brown one class short of graduating. He re-enrolls in the episode Brian Goes Back to College and fails.
  • Mission Hill — Kevin aspires to attend into Yale. He spends an entire episode trying to "crack" the supposed secret code in the SAT's believing that only a perfect score can get him into Yale, with help from a reclusive computer expert who was trying to get into Princeton. In an unfinished episode, he fakes a terminal illness to gain admittance.
  • Quite a few characters in The Simpsons have gone to Ivy League. This is doubtlessly inspired by how many of the writers are Harvard graduates, specifically writers for the Harvard Lampoon:
    • Mr. Burns is a Yale alum, as part of his general "old money" characterization.
    • Sideshow Bob is also an alumnus of Yale, and is dismissive of his brother Cecil's history at Princeton ("clown college" as far as he's concerned).
    • Snake/Jailbird attended Princeton, but took a year off, presumably never to return.
    • Lisa fervently hopes to go to an Ivy League School when she reaches college age, and not just any Ivy League school, either. She has a mini-freakout at the thought that she might have to settle for Brown. Of course, there's nothing wrong with Brown — after all, bus driver and drug enthusiast Otto nearly got tenure there.
    • Speaking of Otto, throwaway gag in "Team Homer" has him playing a "prize-crane" arcade machine, with one of the prizes inside being a Harvard diploma. (This was partially a joke on how Mike Scully, the episode's writer, was one of the few writers on staff who didn't go to Harvard.)
    • In an episode where the whole family is arrested, Lisa worries that she'll never get into an Ivy League college now. Cue Bart mockingly singing "You're going to Staaanford! You're going to Staaanford!"
      "I've had JUST ABOUT ENOUGH of your Vassar-bashing, young lady!"
    • Sideshow Mel is an alumnus of Cornell.
    • Lionel Hutz claims to have graduated from Princeton. As you might expect, Princeton has never had a law school.
    • Barney Gumble was Harvard bound until Homer introduced him to beer the night before he took his SATs.
    • Lindsay Naegle has an MBA from the Wharton School, Penn's business college.
    • Mrs. Krabappel has a masters from Bryn Mawr.
    • Prof. Frink attended Cornell, which he deems the worst Ivy League university. He got in for not exposing the admission test's flaws.
  • Brown University is referenced on Futurama by the same-named institution in the ruins of Old New York, where sewer mutants learn how to maintain the pipes for surface dwellers.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle one ups the Ivies by introducing the ultra-prestigious Double Dome University, where having degrees from Harvard, Columbia and Caltech is just good enough to make janitor.
  • Daria:
    • Deconstructed. Daria applies to Bromwell, implied to be an alternate version of Yale, but doesn't get in despite her excellent grades; her boyfriend does, in large part because he has a family legacy. She goes through a version of the "Ivy League or nothing" version of this trope herself before her mother helps her realize that her second choice college is also a very fine school.
    • Also Played With regarding Jodie—she does get accepted into Crestmore (possibly a Harvard analogue, since it's alumni are "literally running this country") but would rather go to Turner, a historically black college that her father and grandmother both graduated from. Her parents eventually allow this, though she says she may still transfer to Crestmore after a year or two.
  • The Flintstones shows Bedrock is home of "Prinstone University," a prehistoric version of Princeton; its archrival in the "Poison Ivy League" is "Shale" (Yale's Stone Age counterpart). Fred is briefly enrolled at Prinstone in one episode (where he mainly plays for its football team). The 90s TV-movie "Hollyrock-A-Bye Baby" has Wilma's mother hope one day her great-grandchildren get to attend Prinstone.
  • Mayor McDaniels of South Park graduated from Princeton University.
  • In Gargoyles, "Dominique Destin" is quite impressed that the woman applying for a job as her assistant graduated from the Sorbonne. Of course, since this woman is actually one of the new Hunters and Dominique is the gargoyle Demona, it's possible that this was a lie just so that she could get the job and investigate her new boss's identity.

    Real Life 
  • If you happen to be an East Coast-dwelling American of the right age and background, you likely know someone who wants to be or has been accepted into an Ivy League school. Many high school (or even middle school) students bust their ass to try and get accepted with varying results. There are articles about this phenomenon.
  • 31% of American Presidents attended Ivy League schools, and as you go further down the Federal hierarchy the numbers actually increase slightly. Although this is justified in that people who tend to become Presidents also tend to have Important Connections. Ditto for corporate executives, especially in companies based on the East Coast.
    • This probably peaked in 2004, when opposing candidates John Kerry and George W. Bush were not only both Yale alums, they were both members of the same exclusive secret society while there: The Skull and Bones. In response to comments that the campaign looked like a class war, one reporter quipped: "Yeah, Yale Class of '66 vs. Class of '68."
  • They were only for rich people who went to the right feeder schools and now almost anyone has the opportunity (as long as they are smart enough and special enough to stand out from all the other smart people applying for the same spot). Fortunately, you no longer have to be rich, thanks to financial aid — as long as you don't mind a mountain of student loan debt after graduation. Princeton eliminated student loans in 2001 and now does all its financial aid through repayment-free grants. Harvard gives out large amounts of need-based aid; if you are poor enough it covers tuition completely. Combined with grants and scholarships many can go there without paying a dime. Brown has also eliminated loans for students living below a surprisingly high annual income, and eliminated tuition entirely for annual family incomes of below $60,000. It's worth noting that many selective schools such as the Ivies are desperate to increase their diversity—whether racial, geographical, or financial.
  • If we're counting law schools, the US Supreme Court's made up entirely of Harvard and Yale alums, with the half-exception of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She started law school at Harvard, but transferred to Columbia when her husband took a job in New York City. Both of Obama's nominees — Sotomayor and Kagan — got their bachelors' at Princeton. Obama himself went to Harvard Law School and was the first black President of the Harvard Law Review. And the latter part of his undergraduate career was spent at Columbia - however, for the first couple of years he studied at Occidental College which... is not an Ivy League school. Trump's first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, also got his bachelor's at Columbia and JD at Harvard—though unlike Obama, he did all of his undergrad work at Columbia. Trump's second nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, earned both his bachelor's and JD at Yale.
  • Justice Thomas has a strained relationship with Yale Law School, his alma mater.note  In 2013, he cracked a joke at their expense during oral arguments. It was the first thing he said in oral arguments for seven years.
  • Quite a few show business persons have gone to Ivy League schools.
    • Screenwriter Erich Segal to Harvard. As noted above, he later admitted to having modeled the male lead in the novel Love Story (and its film adaptation) on his Harvard contemporaries Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones.
    • Jodie Foster to Yale
    • Brooke Shields to Princeton
    • Emma Watson and her armed bodyguard (disguised in cap and gown) graduated from Brown in 2014.
    • Henry Winkler holds an MFA (Drama) from Yale.
    • Natalie Portman was attending Harvard during most of the filming for the Star Wars prequels, under her real name. She actually advised Aaron Sorkin about Harvard social life when he was writing The Social Network and the movie has a shout out to her attending.
    • Lisa Kudrow attended Vassar.
  • Masi Oka graduated Brown in '97.
  • Some East Coast prep schools ship their graduates to Ivies en masse. Likewise, there are cram schools in Asia (especially China and Korea) that try to get their pupils into the Ivies as much as they can.
  • Ivy Leaguers are not represented very frequently in professional sportsnote  Despite this, the late-2000's Buffalo Bills had a General Manager from Harvard, a head coach from Yale and a backup quarterback from Harvard.note  (Incidentally, then-backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick later became a starter.)
    • Jeremy Lin, who made a brief sensation when he was signed by the New York Knicks in 2011, was a Harvard graduate.
    • Jason Garrett, the current head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, is a former Princeton Tigers QB who also played at Columbia.
    • This is why it was such a big deal in the media when Cornell's basketball team actually advanced into the NCAA Basketball Tournament (aka March Madness) Sweet Sixteen in 2010.
  • Although lately, schools like Harvard and Yale have begun to use this exact trope and a recruiting pitch to bring talented basketball players (within reason, players still have to qualify academically) to their teams and have experienced post-season success.
  • Stanford has also used this to build a once-moribund football program into a national power in its own right, and under current coach David Shaw, the Cardinal are noted for playing a very physical style of play. Stanford has a team of Genius Bruisers. First overall 2012 draft pick and retired Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is an alumnus.

Alternative Title(s): Every Engineer Is From MIT


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