Going to an Ivy League College

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Did your Ivy League education open doors for you?

Feb 2016

My daughter (HS junior) and I met with the her school counselor (college and career services) yesterday. The counselor is very experienced and has been on the job for three decades.

To my surprise, she suggested my daughter apply to any Ivy school she fancies as her grades,11 AP's, ACT scores (35), potential National Merit Finalist status, National and International awards, leadership (founded an organization which has had a very positive impact on our community and will continue after she leaves) etc makes her a competitive applicant.

Until now, my daughter (who plans to study Computer Science) has been dreaming of UCB. UCSD is her second choice. Harvey Mudd, Stanford,University of Washington in Seattle,University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign),Santa Clara University and Carnegie Mellon are some of the other schools on her list. She didn't seem very interested in the Ivy League schools.This is my quandry....should I let my happy and contented kid continue on her current chosen path or should I encourage her to apply to the ivy's and see what happens?

She is only 16 years old,so I feel she should get some guidance from us. Does an ivy league education open doors, and if so, for how long? Is the ivy advantage just for your first and second job or does it last for ever?

Thanks in advance. Chris

If your daughter is planning on studying computer science, the schools already on her list are all excellent in that area. Be warned though that Stanford is the most selective college in the country now, around 5%, and many Ivies are less selective. They are especially selective about students interested in computer science as the percentage of applicants who express interest in that major is huge, as one might expect. If your daughter really wants to go there, I suggest developing an interest in Italian literature. She can switch majors later.

I went to an Ivy League school and I do think that credential got me noticed and opened doors to graduate school and employment. My son is now at Princeton majoring in computer science and the companies are very interested in recruiting these kids. Although many brilliant, capable students don't apply to or don't get in to Ivy League schools, employers know that those who do are willing to play the game and work hard. But all of the schools on your daughter's list are also highly respected and the market is desperate for good CS majors.

One thing I would say about Princeton and Cornell versus a more technical school like Harvey Mudd is that you have access to world-class courses in almost every area--history, classics, etc., to balance out your CS courses. Most of your fellow students are intellectually curious and motivated, which is not true of our society in general, imo. And the Ivies do try to build community more than larger state schools.

On the downside, students are in a competitive environment. If you want A's, you do have to work hard. So if a relaxed atmosphere is a priority, you won't find it there. My son is often stressed at Princeton, but for the first time in his life he feels he's working at his optimum level. So it can be a positive.

Your daughter can always apply and decide if she gets in and visits the campuses if the fit is right. Ivy League Mom

I'm an Ivy-educated, middle-aged professional. Rather than answering your question about whether my Ivy degree opened doors for me throughout my career (how would I know whether I was hired at any point because of my degree or because of my other qualifications?) I'd like to simply encourage you to encourage your daughter to look at Ivies and apply to any and all great schools for which she might be a match. What's the harm in including Ivies in her list of schools, *IF* the specific school(s) to which she might apply have a great CS program, *IF* she likes the size of the school and the quality of campus life, *IF* the tuition is within your means and/or you qualify for aid? I mean, if she's competitive as an applicant and finds, after investigating a little bit, that she likes the specific schools, why wouldn't you encourage her to include them in her application list? Brown ''88

Hello, Please don't buy in to the ivy league hype. The most important thing in college is being where you feel you belong, having lots of internships, and, if possible, going to school near where you want to eventually live and work. I believe the success of Ivy League graduates is linked to the contacts that their parents have and/or the ability of their parents to support them after they graduate. Friends of my son have wealthy parents and are able to live in Manhattan and do ''internships'' after college and that leads to the paid dream job. My son and most of his schoolmates went to the most competitive Ivy League colleges. Most of them gave up their extracurricular activities because the level was too high. Many gave up on academic interests because the competition was too stiff. In short, as recently seen in the news, the Ivy League takes away students' dreams. Kids who wanted to be doctors were more likely to become doctors going to less competitive, more supportive schools. Academic advising and career counseling were non-existent at my son's school (admit rate for freshman was 7%). Avoid the Ivy League, because if your child is accepted, it is nearly impossible to say ''no'' -- they all offer lots of financial aid. They want diverse students to make their student body look diverse; the colleges are really geared to the students of extremely successful parents or the incredibly extraordinary students. Bear in mind, these extraordinary students come from all over the world so the competition is much higher than ever before. Unless the Ivy League is something your child has always dreamed of (as it was for my son); don't even think about it. P.S. I think you should ignore any input from people who graduated more than five years ago. The Ivy League has changed a great deal. My brother graduated from Yale in '67 and it was a completely different story back then. Been there

First, a little about me so that you can tell where I am coming from. I am an Ivy League grad, graduate of a swanky law school and the former hiring partner at a large national law firm. I'm also the parent of a high school junior. Here's my advice -- your daughter needs to go to a school that is a good fit for her. That may be an Ivy League school or it may not be. She needs to go where she feels comfortable and where she thinks she will have the type of social and education experience that suits her.

At the undergraduate level, a swanky degree may open a few doors in a few industries for a short period of time. If she is dead set on spending her life on Wall Street, an Ivy degree may get her in the door, but it will not keep her there and it will not do much past her first or second job. I will say that the same is NOT necessarily true for graduate school. For example, at the law firm where I was the hiring partner, there were some pretty stringent limits on who could get in the door for an interview. If you went to Harvard Law, you had a much better chance of getting an interview than if you went to USF Law. Again, however, after a relatively short period of time, the brand name for laterals became less significant (although it did not go away entirely.) As for getting into grad school, I went to my swanky law school with a lot of students who had done well at non-Ivies. Was the percentage of former Ivy students higher? Maybe a little, but that may have been a function of self-selection more than bonus points given by the admissions office.

That being said, I loved, loved, loved my undergraduate years. I can't overstate the importance of getting your child to visit the campus if possible. She will be able to figure out if the school is a good fit for her.

A couple of other things to keep in mind -- 1) many of the Ivies have the ability to be extremely generous with financial aid. Depending on your financial circumstances, Ivies or similar can be MORE affordable than other private and public colleges. 2) I have done some alumni interviewing for my Ivy alma mater. Literally every kid I've interviewed this year was brilliant, personable, took multiple AP's and was interested in computer science. On their own, they were amazing kids -- who wouldn't want them? Each of them is brilliant and deserving. But in the aggregate, they were somewhat fungible. I now have a much better understanding of why amazing kids get rejected. How many AP-taking students from Northern California who are interested in computer science or robotics does a school need? At this point, I'm longing to talk to someone who has a passion for philosophy or sculpture or the clarinet or training guide dogs. Anything other than computer science or robotics.

But back to the subject matter at hand. Your child should go where she wants (assuming you can swing it financially). Do not get sucked into the race to the Ivies or similar even though the pressure to fall into that trap is overwhelming. The ''prestige'' of an undergraduate Ivy degree should not be a factor if your kid finds the right fit elsewhere. Ivy Alum

As a college counselor, I can tell you that your daughter has a lot of amazing schools on her list. This is her life, not yours and not some school counselor's. She needs to do what makes her happy. Remember that elite schools are expensive! She probably won't be too thrilled if she's stuck with a huge school loan at the end, and she wouldn't be too happy if going to college put her parents in the poor house either. This article and video should make you feel better about her choices: http://engineered.typepad.com/thoughts_on_business_engi/2013/10/malcolm-gladwell-on-.html Lisa

I don't know a lot about the ivies, but I do know about Computer Science, which you said your daughter wants to study.  My husband and I both have graduate degrees in CS from UC Berkeley, which is very prestigious for in this field and has definitely opened doors for us.  Cal is usually in the top 3 schools for Computer Science, along with MIT and Stanford.  I would say MIT and Stanford are slightly more prestigious for computer science than Cal, but at all three of these schools your daughter would have the chance to work with and be taught by some of the top scientists and innovators in the field.  MIT has enormously cool stuff going on right now, and that would be my first choice if I had a child interested in CS with the grades your daughter has. Stanford has the advantage of being in Silicon Valley, so there's lots of energy between the school and the industry. In my experience, the faculty at these three schools all know each other, move around among the 3 schools (my Cal advisor went on to teach at MIT), they recruit each others' students, and they collaborate on research together. The other schools you mentioned are good too, but they are not in that golden circle at the top. For example, Harvard has a respected computer science department, and of course doors will open just based on the cache of the name, but a CS degree from Harvard is not at the level of Cal, Stanford, and MIT.  Best of luck!

I would have to say yes, absolutely, my Ivy League network has given me lifelong relationships with people who are successful and given me access I probably wouldn't have had otherwise.

On the other hand, the schools you mentioned -- Cal especially -- carry as much weight as my particular Ivy, in my opinion. It's so hard to get in these days, you do get the same elite cohort. Also, for a computer science major, well, you might be better off at Cal or Caltech, neither of which is an Ivy.

I'd say raise the possibility for sure. It just means additional applications and you can visit campus and talk to alums. I think you're going to get a lot of people saying Ivies don't matter and there are lots of other schools, but I really did feel like I was shoulder to shoulder with people so smart that I had no choice but to perform my best -- and I also had a lot of fun.

The short and simple answer to your question is yes, absolutely. My undergrad was from one Ivy League school, and my doctorate was from another. When I look around at commencement time, I see that many, if not most, of my colleagues at Cal also attended Ivy League institutions. I know for a fact that I got into my Ivy League grad school because of the department where I got my undergrad degree. And my first job I snagged in part because the person in charge of hiring me was impressed by the Ivy League pedigree. But for me, far and away the most important aspect of having attended an elite school was the amazing group of people I got to know. People who now run important publishing companies or have significant positions in the government or who are world-famous authors, etc etc. It is just the case that a bunch of bright, ambitious, well-connected people end up in these institutions and go on to be movers and shakers in various arenas. And those who did not turn out to be movers and shakers were still hella interesting to know. They came from all over the world, too.

Having said that, let me give the longer, more complicated answer. People are bound to write on this forum that there have been studies done that show that there are no monetary advantages, no material advantages, to attending an Ivy League school. There is no need to strive for the Ivy League in order to be successful and happy in life. I concur. And moreover, now that I am in a non-Ivy League environment, I can say that intellectually, the Ivy League is more conservative and less exciting than a place like Cal. When I said that doors opened for me, I didn't say that they should have. People are more impressed by the Ivy League brand than they should be. A fantastic education can be had in many different environments, from the community college to the small four-year college to the big state school to the Ivy League.

I came originally from a rural, working class Midwestern environment, so just being at East Coast schools in the Ivy League was a very important part of my education and growing up. The schools are wealthy: I got a full ride, which was vital. And I learned all about class structures and prep schools and other things that had not been part of my growing up. I am glad that I went to school back East so that I could observe all of that. In my experience, Californian kids (despite California's undeniable wealth of diversity) are often sheltered an a little narrow in their perception of national culture. But the East Coast elite is definitely not for everybody. I think that you could expose your daughter a bit to the schools and their cultures to see how she responds. Take her out there and let her look around (in the winter, preferably, so she can see what she would be getting into). But then let her decide. For some kids, a small college environment works best. And for others, being closer to home is important. Talk all of it through with her, and stress that she is lucky to have choices. And if she wants to explore Barnard for her undergrad career, feel free to contact me via the moderator. Barnard woman

I went to Yale and yes it definitely made a difference - people still comment when they hear I went there. For what it is worth, I think UC Berkeley and Stanford have similar cache, but Harvard and Yale are still considered by many to be the best and most academically elite universities the US. I now serve on an admissions committee for a graduate program and it is clear that Yale and Harvard, and some degree the other Ivy League students garner more respect. It is certainly worth applying and a visit if you can swing it financially. I certainly was not their stereotypical student, but I found Yale to be a very exciting place to be at the time (and I am a native Californian). unlikely Yalie

I would phrase the question differently: Where can my daughter get the best education and have the best college experience? It's more than opening doors, although the Ivies are noted for the strength of their alumni networks, so I'm not putting that down. I'm just asking you to expand your search criteria beyond post-college jobs.

For computer science, it's hard to do better than some of the schools already on her list. Cal, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon are tops. Princeton, Cornell, and Harvard are on pretty much the same level.

You need to visit, because the Ivies are not the same, and different schools will appeal to different kids. Mine was not interested in Brown or Princeton or Penn. Got into Dartmouth and Harvard and chose the former, so ''prestige'' and all that BS was not at the top of the list.

I don't think that Dartmouth is particularly strong or renowned in computer science, but it offers a lot in other areas (see first paragraph). Its commitment to undergraduate education, the close contacts with professors, and the foreign study opportunities are second to none, and the ''D plan'' offers a lot of flexibility that gets Dartmouth students internships that students at other schools can't fit into the schedule.

Go check them out, and best of luck. You can't really go wrong with what the counselor is telling you. Be aware that UC admissions are unlike any others. It's kind of like playing the lottery. Has very little to do with ''merit'' as far as I can tell. AboutTheSame

Yale, Cornell, Harvard, Columbia. Yes,in many ways. At some of these schools the most important networking was indeed from and with peers. But these are among the best centers of higher education on this planet. For a motivated student, the opportunities to establish lifelong mentorship relationships are absolutely critical and the value is ongoing. They also attract some very smart students and faculty. Please do not be fooled by undergraduate admission statistics. Stanford may accept only a tiny percentage of those who apply, but the percentage who are admitted who have first-degree relatives who are alumni or whose parents are rich or famous or powerful is much much higher. For the Ivy League schools this is just as true. The schools will deny it but it is absolutely fact. That just makes it even harder to get in if you do not have this kind of connection.

The University of California schools on the other hand are much more egalitarian. Your child will more likely interface with a wider variety of students here then is possible in the Ivy League. I did not benefit from the many undergraduates I meant who were rich or from alumni dynasties. Take a look at the biography of many California faculty and you will see that they have been educated in the Ivy League. For graduate school I think the mentor ship is absolutely crucial and it doesn't matter where you are. For an undergraduate, stay here in California and don't spend all the money to get an ephemeral benefit. Well educated in Berkeley

I had to think about this for a couple of weeks before answering. I'm Barnard/Cornell.

Looking back at my life at 50, the most inspired teaching I experienced was at my local public elementary and high schools in suburban New York. Middle school was a good experience, but for different reasons. Those teachers don't really come to mind.

The above colleges were good experiences, and I can recall certain professors that inspired my thinking and my outlook on what could be possible for me and for the world, but not every class was great. I can count handfuls of required classes that were just snorefests.

I think what made the Ivy experience great was the collective expectation that we were going to achieve. It created a lot of unhappiness for some people, and there was a lot of competitiveness. That never bothered me. I never thought it was important to get it all right. For me, it was more about excellence rather than perfection. I look at my life now and I'm not ashamed of having a really high standard or being outspoken or asking questions or just figuring stuff out. It built my confidence.

I think the above can happen anywhere. I think it is more about finding a good match. But apply to the Ivies. You might end up with a great problem. Good Luck!

Husband and I are MIT/Ivy and being of color our college degrees ABSOLUTELY made a difference. Quite frankly, the elite grad schools differentiate in terms of where applicants of color went to college and of course so do ''top'' firms. And all of these years later, it is amazing to me the ''look'' we get when the topic of college comes up. It is a calling card of achievement that even UC does not provide (Stanford does). Only type of college close to this network are the ''elite'' historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) which have their own network and are well regarded in the South (but not as much in the West). Will say that my Ivy education/experience was OUTSTANDING even accounting for the challenges of being of color at a prestigious college (many assumptions made...!). Emphasis on small classes (6-15 students were common in my liberal arts major) and a liberal arts degree meant excellence in analytical thought and writing regardless of your major. As a former teaching assistant at UCB, I absolutely believe that my Ivy education was superior than UC due to class size, emphasis on writing, and relationships with professors (though UCB does have students at least as smart as Ivy - there is just not the emphasis on undergraduate education to the degree that there is in most of the Ivies). anonymous

I went to UCLA undergrad and Dartmouth for Med School. So glad I did it in that order.

The education was excellent at both places but, after UCLA, I felt a bit like a pampered poodle at Dartmouth. BUT, I did develop closer relationships with my faculty (ie dinner at profs houses, etc). Not sure if that was because I was a member of a class of only 80 students or not, but I really valued those relationships. I think the Dartmouth name opened more doors for me for interviews, etc, but once I was in the door, I had to be the real deal or else it didn't matter.

I don't know if this is helpful, but I wouldn't take a second mortgage for an Ivy league education (especially undergrad), but if you are lucky enough to land there, enjoy! Happy with both

Son wants ivy league - can that work?

June 2009

Our son, entering 10th grade, wants an ivy league (or M.I.T) education. I have no idea how hard it is to get into one of these schools or how hard it is once you get there. I would love any suggestions about how to figure out if our kid would get in and do well at a school like this. I would also love to know of resources for the ''inside scoop'' on colleges. Thanks anon

It is great that your son is motivated to aim high in his college choices. I have two sons who have gone from Berkeley High to Ivy League schools. I think that an important message from you is that if your son works hard on all the college entrance components (challenging classes, grades, test scores, extracurriculars, community service, etc) he will have a good chance of going to a great school he will really enjoy. However, I would try to defuse the expectation that the school has to be an Ivy. The admissions process is quirky, and lots of great kids don't get accepted every year. He should cast a wide net in looking at schools, and keep an open mind. He needs to work hard at all of those components for every school, whether an Ivy or not.

There are lots of great books out there for both of you to read about getting into college. Sit at the bookstore and browse before you buy, or check them out of the library. Again, cast a wide net to gain lots of information. A great book about the college admissions process is ''The Gatekeepers'' by Steinberg.

A timeline plan for both of you to follow is critical. A private college counselor can help a lot, but they can be quite expensive. There is a good book ''25 Months Until College'' by Judy McNeely that provides a step-by-step timeline. Good luck! Julie

Is Ivy League worth it? or UCs?

March 2009

My high school senior has applied to a few Ivy League universities for next fall and I'm trying to figure out how to make an acceptance decision, assuming (fearing?)that he may be accepted at an Ivy school. He has been accepted at 3 of the 5 UCs he applied to and hasn't heard from the remaining 2 UCs yet, so he's got choices. Is Ivy League worth the extra money? Will a UC serve him just as well as an Ivy League education? He is a very academically-oriented student, he works hard and does very well in school. Like most college freshman, he really doesn't know what he wants to study other than he would like a strong science/math program. His other interest is music, he has no interest in organized sports.

We will not qualify for any need-based financial aid (have been to a financial aid counselor). We would have to go into debt to pay for an Ivy League school and I'm concerned about our ability to pay off that debt given the economy and the precarious state of our employment. Right now our only debt is a very small mortgage. And there is a sibling headed for college in a few years. So, what would you do? Was you or your kid's Ivy league education something that you could not have gotten at a UC? Did your student go to UC and had a great experience? in either case, in what way? Given that grad school seems to be a requirement these days, does one or the other make a difference? If you are also in this situation how are you deciding? I graduated from Berkeley, but that was long ago and much has changed. thanks so much UC or Ivy?

I get asked this question a lot by my students at UC Berkeley. I have found a lot more geographical diversity at the Ivies. It's nice to meet students from all over the world. At the UC schools, most of your classmates will be from homes a few hours from your own. On the other hand, there's a lot more socioeconomic diversity at the UC schools. Though all the Ivy colleges try to even the playing field, most of the students there come from families that I don't think would be considered middle-class even if they identify themselves that way.

The academics are a push, especially as an undergraduate. The faculties are just as good, the facilities are just as good, the available courses are just as diverse. There may be a bit more negotiability for custom majors or individualized programs at the private schools. For undergraduates intending on foreign study as a graduate student, I suspect an Ivy degree has better recognizability. But not in the USA--the UC diploma is just as good. Not being burdened by debt as an undergraduate, however, will provide a lot more options for graduate study.

That's my opinion, of course. I talk with a lot of UC students applying to graduate school. But I have personally seen a lot of Ivy: Cornell, Harvard, Columbia, Yale. Wolffe

I attended both UCSB and Harvard, granted in the late '70's to mid 80's. UCSB was big (14,000 undergrads at the time). I was in a sorority which I detested, but at least I was able to make some friends in a smaller group. I also had many other interests which helped making friends. I felt like hardly anyone was working seriously (which helped me to be ''the top of the class'' since I knew I needed top grades and recommendations for grad school). Had I been unmotivated, I could have just drifted along like many students. I did have some very good teachers. I had to be very pro-active to get into the classes I wanted. Some classes were monstrous in size (Intro. to Cultural Anthro. had 900 students in the lecture). Harvard had wonderful traditions, a chance to experience East Coast life with its somewhat difference cultures, weather, etc. The students were bright and wonderful to interact with. There were always long interesting conversations after dinner. I wished I had applied to Harvard as an undergrad. I didn't have money for college and didn't realize that they admitted ''need blind.'' Even if you don't qualify for total financial aid, they will do what they can to put together loans, workstudy, etc. to help the student be able to go. I have interviewed for Harvard in the Bay Area since 1990. If you want to talk further or email, please contact me at my email. kathryn

I got my B.A. from Princeton in 1977, and my PhD. from Berkeley in 1992. Questions of cost aside, I would recommend Princeton (and here I can't speak for the other Ivies) for the following reason: Princeton has a long and proud tradition of encouraging their world-class scholars to work directly and closely with undergraduates; this is not just P.R., but, in my experience, was one of the best things about my education there. As a Classics major, after a few large lecture courses as a freshman and sophomore, the largest class I had in my final two years consisted of about 10 students. This was an amazing and wonderfully enriching experience, and has left a deep impression on everything I have done in my life since. That said, one downside of the Princeton experience (at least for me) was the preppiness and snobbism which in my day was still a part of the Princeton tradition. However, it is entirely possible that this aspect of Princeton may have changed in the more than 30 years since I have been on campus. For the above reason (its wonderful academic environment), I think a school like Princeton might offer a very valuable alternative for your son to going to a UC School, where, in my experience, some students can seem lost in its big, impersonal environment.

Another reason to recommend an Ivy League school is the provinciality issue. I don't mean to sound snobbish about this, but I have found that many students in California seem to have a somewhat limited world view. I think this (beyond the quality of the education itself) is perhaps the best reason to send your son to college out-of-state. Ten or twenty years down the road, he might be very grateful for your having had the initiative to have sent him away from home to experience a wider (and very different) world.

Regarding the last point: New York City is only a 40-minute bus or train ride from downtown Princeton: many undergraduates take full advantage of its cultural resources for personal enrichment. Please feel free to contact me if you would like any further information about Princeton or the Ivy League. Jim

I am an advocate of people leaving their home state to go to college. I teach at Cal, and by far most of the kids I teach come from California. They are wonderful, marvelous, smart, and I love teaching them. But -- here's an irony in a community where diversity is so strongly supported -- there is very little diversity in terms of how they were prepared for university. They have read the same lists of books, have all had California history (and are pretty weak on other American history), have similar cultural expectations, etc. It is part of an education to move outside one's comfort zone and experience other cultures, which include other parts of this country. Though I went to undergrad and grad at two different Ivy League schools, I don't think that these schools are ''worth it'' per se -- any good out-of-state school would fit the bill, like Oberlin or Grinnell or U of Chicago or U of Michigan, etc. Still, the experience of meeting the other students at the out-of-state schools would be very valuable. At the same time I recognize the financial burden of sending a child to the Ivy League. I would suggest to your child that if he wants to go to an Ivy school, he will have to help with the expenses. If he doesn't qualify for a scholarship, he should work part-time and take out some loans to help you pay for his costs. If he goes to grad school for a Ph.D., most programs will support him. If he decides to go to a professional school, he will be able to pay back loans himself, for the most part. It is undergrad that is tougher in some ways, and I would put some of the responsibility on his shoulders. I worked throughout school, though I did qualify for needs-based aid. supporter of distant learning

Don't assume if you don't qualify for financial aid in the UC system, that you won't qualify for FA at the Ivy's. I have a daughter at UC Davis, we couldn't qualify for FA. My freshman son, at Brown, was offered $7K initially but it was raised to $12K after we spoke to the FA office directly. Having two kids in college helped and privates seem much more willing to listen to your individual situation. Also, they seem very responsive to changes in your financial situation. For example, when the economic meltdown occurred last October, they announced that they would accept mid-year FASFA forms. If your son gets into a private school, they will work with you to keep him there. Good luck to your son. college mom

We're not in the same position (my son did not want to apply to either UCs or Ivy League colleges) but I have found the website collegeconfidential.com to be invaluable in sorting through options. Generally the threads on that website discourage excessive debt for a college education. Good luck to your son in making his decision. Anon

I got my BA in English at UCSB and attended Stanford as a graduate student. I had a great experience academically and socially at both places, although I remember saying at the time that I felt that the English classes I had at Stanford were of the same quality as the ones I had at UCSB (engaging, provocative, challenging). And in fact, I never had an upper division class at UCSB with more than 30 people in it, although I did have a traditional lecture class in an American Lit. class at Stanford (a few hundred people,w/ a grad student-led discussion section etc...) Of course I had the big lectures for some of my general ed. courses at UCSB ( geology, physiology, history, psychology, econ), but I think this is standard at any college that has more than a couple of thousand students.

Now, this was back in the 80s, so I can't speak to the cuts the UCs have experienced since then ( or are experiencing now). And yes, I'll admit that OTHER people seem to care that I went to Stanford... although in general, names seem to matter more for grad. schools than undergrads anyway.

Where I went to school doesn't make one bit of difference in my job, however. They only care about my performance, and I suspect this is true most places. - still a public school girl at heart, I guess

My siblings and I did this experiment--for undergraduate, two went to UC and four went private--Harvard, MIT, Swarthmore, Oberlin. All went to graduate/professional schools--two Harvard, three UC, one Penn; subsequent lives, careers, social activities don't seem related or constrained by undergraduate option. Of course this was a long time ago--my son is now at Penn and my niece is at UCB--major difference apparent to me is ridiculous amount of money Penn undergraduates appear to have for disposable income; the diversity at an Ivy mentioned by a previous responder is there--including a lot of international students--but most of them are from very privileged families.

Of course, the most important issue is knowing your individual child, and what environment is likely to be best for them. And also considering realistically the appalling cost/debt burden private college today represents. I would say my family of origin, which valued education, but was not at all wealthy, did just fine at UC. not-sure-it's-worth-it tuition payer

Is Ivy League worth it?

I meant to respond earlier and no longer have the original message but--I have one daughter who went to a UC and one who recently graduated from an Ivy. They have very different temperaments, educational interests, social needs, etc. The one who went to the Ivy (Brown) had to contribute to cover some of the costs (loans), we had to take a loan out on our house, and she didn't come home for Thanksgiving/Spring breaks (some). That said, this is the school she really wanted and she thrived there; academically, socially, etc. The classes were exciting--she was exposed to so much. There was a real love of learning. Her experiences were very rich, made terrific friends, knew her professors well and had many opportunities to do research, volunteer, and receive guidance from her advisors. She developed many leadership skills. She worked minimally on/off campus. Paying her loans back and some of her financial restrictions were a bit tough for her (some of her friends didn't have to think twice about spending $) but she would do it over again in a flash. I am happy we were able to give her this even tho it was financially hard for us also.

My daughter who went to a UC was happy she graduated without debt(we were able to cover her costs). She didn't necessarily chose the right UC for her--it was too large, too academic, not located in an area conducive to doing internships/volunteering, but that said, she feels she got a good education, made good friends, had good opportunities. She had to find her own way more, only got to know one or two professors. She pretty much knew what she wanted to study so she wasn't lost in terms of what to major in. She is now in grad school and working, paying her own way.

In our case, the Ivy was well worth it for one daughter; the UC was fine for the other. If we couldn't swing it I think the Ivy daughter would have also done well at a UC but she definately had an experience that couldn't be replicated. I wouldn't have done it if the financial repercussions were too great for us and I hate the idea of debt for her. Good luck--not an easy decision.

Following up a bit on my previous comments about Princeton, I would just like to add that, when I was there, there were ways around the preppiness which was part of the Princeton WASP experience. I joined a kind of ''counter-fraternity'' right around the corner from all the other eating clubs on Prospect Street. This place was full of all the students who didn't fit into the eating club scene: artists, musicians, counter-culture types, serious scholars, just outright misfits, etc. So there was definitely a way to mitigate the prevailing preppiness of the place, and now Princeton has a residential college system, which may have also have made a significant difference in the campus atmosphere.

I would also like to add that any small, high-quality liberal arts school would serve the same purpose of enriched education I mentioned before: places like Oberlin, Amherst, Williams, Bryn Mawr, Reed, etc. I seriously considered going to Amherst instead of Princeton for just this reason (an enriched small-class environment), but am glad I ended up choosing Princeton, since it was a little bigger, and perhaps slightly more diverse, than Amherst might have been.

Finally, I would not necessarily go by what a college counselor says about the lack of financial assistance. It is my impression that in recent years, top quality private colleges have been making a lot of efforts to make their schools more accessible to middle-class parents who are not super wealthy. I would recommend contacting the school directly, and seeing if you could negotiate something with them, or at least get more information on possible financial assistance. If your son is as talented and smart as you say he is, then you actually have bargaining power, since top Ivy League schools are always competing with each other for the best students. Good luck with your college search! Jim

Ask me in four years if it was worth it. What I can say right now is that two Ivies understood the realities of California living expenses and offered very reasonable financial assistance despite our having an AGI that would look astronomical to someone in, say, Missouri.

A Yale diploma was certainly worth it to me. I'm not sure I actually learned more but it has always been a ticket to ride for me job wise and socially. When I've applied for jobs the ivy league credential impressed people. They never needed to ask for a transcript. As for cost it is a sliding scale starting at free for low income folks. Ivy

Two things to consider:
1. Private universities with big endowments can often offer students much better financial help than public universities. In the past year there have been articles about how Harvard and some other ivies can actually afford to let all students attend tuition-free and in fact it is more economical for them to do so.
2. A degree from an Ivy League school can give you an advantage in getting your foot in the door at the start of your career. Once your career is going, job experience and performance become more important. So there does seem to be a benefit for at least the first few years. On the other hand, a degree from Berkeley or UCLA is pretty darn attractive to future emplyers too!