The Ivy League isn’t for everyone

Angela Canales, Entertainment Editor

From the beginning of one’s educational journey, one starts to wonder what happens after senior year. I sometimes dreamed of becoming an Ivy League scholar, something not out of the ordinary for a 10-year-old honor roll student. This dream seems far less ordinary, however, for a 4.6 GPA high school student who also serves as the president of five clubs. 

Eight elite colleges make up the Ivy League: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University. Anyone who knows anything about institutions of higher education knows that these universities only admit students considered the “best of the best.” It seems like an intellectual paradise at first sight, where geniuses and brilliant minds cooperate to brighten the future; however, this may come at a hefty price for future students. 

According to the Harvard Crimson in 2012 Harvard University students reported suicide rates twice the national average, at 12.12 percent per 100,000 students. In 2012, 35 percent of Princeton University students revealed they developed a mental illness shortly after arriving on campus. All this to say, an elite education can lead to one feeling extremely overwhelmed; the pressures of having to live up to the high “Ivy League” standard every day can place a huge burden on students’ mental health. 

A significant portion of students who get accepted to Ivy League schools grew up with a mindset that they need to remain at the top of their class: during their high school careers they constantly earned rewards for their achievements, were praised by teachers and were encouraged to do even better. This praise serves as a source of validation, and this validation can find itself challenged at elite universities. Students become convinced that they either need to become the best at everything or lack self-worth. Everyone else around them reached for the stars in terms of grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and internships, so what can they do to become the best now? This can lead to a feeling of inadequacy and worthlessness in students even though they try to reach their fullest potential. 

The difficulty of Ivy League coursework can also negatively impact students’ mental health. Since the Ivies need to live up to their rigorous and challenging standards, students need to live up to excel in those classes. Non-Ivy League universities may also offer similar courses with less pressure on perfection and more on what feels right for you. 

“As a symptom of our larger culture, this dysfunctional level of stress exemplifies our destructive tendency to value productivity over health. But it’s also exacerbated by the traditional narrative that equates graduation from a top-tier university with success, and, by proxy, well-being,” Harvard Alumni Eileen Torrez said.

An Ivy League degree looks amazing on paper: you can establish connections with successful people and potential employers, conduct research with top-notch professors, and most of all receive scores of praise for all your hard work and achievements. Essentially, these students search and strive for the largest degree of success. But if the pressures of living up to the university’s high expectations and expectations from everyone else places such a huge burden on mental health, happiness with one’s self can seem a lifetime away. 

Schools outside of the Ivy League deserve just as much credit. Instead of focusing on the prestige and name of a college, one could focus on what type of campus and student environment could help them grow as a student and a person. Moreover, one could consider which school comes off as the best fit for their intended major. Attending an Ivy League university just to feed into a superiority complex remains the opposite of what higher education should do. Before committing to an Ivy, make sure you know it well.