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IVY League Motivation

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Last week my family and I took a much-needed vacation to one of the favorite places from my youth…Walloon Lake, Michigan.

One of my favorite parts of the vacation was Teresa and I talked about things other than real estate. We had our grandkids with us, and started talking about giving them the best possible education, which led us to the subject of Ivy League colleges.

Neither one of us knew much about the subject except that Ivy League schools are among the best. So I did a little research. My findings were fascinating so I decided to share them with you.. 

How many schools are in the Ivy League?

There are eight – Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, and University of Pennsylvania.

Is it an “athletic conference”?

Yes, but typically the term Ivy League goes beyond the sports context, referring to the eight schools as the group of colleges known for rigorous selectivity in admissions, academic excellence, and social elitism.

Where did the name Ivy League come from?

“Planting the ivy” was a customary ceremony at these colleges in the 1800s. Graduating seniors started the custom of planting ivy at university buildings in the spring. In 1873 that practice was formally designated as “Ivy Day.” The term Ivy League can be traced back to as early as 1933. However, the name only became official after the formation of the athletic conference in 1954. 

The Ivy League fallacy…

There is a false etymology floating around out there that attributes the name to the Roman numeral IV, purporting that it was a sports league originally with only four schools, hence the “I V League”. These claims have since been widely discredited.

Is there another name for the Ivy League?

Yes, these prestigious universities are also referred to as the “Ancient Eight” because they’ve been around so long. 

The last school to join the Ivy League?

All of the “Ivies” except for one were founded during the Colonial period (1600s–1763). Seven out of the eight Ivy League schools are referred to as “Colonial colleges” founded prior to the American Revolution. Cornell is the only exception, founded immediately after the Civil War. The years in which the schools were established: Harvard (1636), Yale (1701), Pennsylvania (1740), Princeton (1746), Columbia (1754), Brown (1764), Dartmouth (1769), and Cornell (1865).

How hard is it to get in?

As you might guess, Ivy League schools are extremely selective. All eight schools report acceptance rates below 10% of applicants, and for the class of 2025, six schools had acceptance rates below 6%. This is even more impressive when you figure that most applicants are highly qualified with superb high school credentials. 

The Ivy Council?

The student council from each member school meets every spring and fall to collaborate. The school presidents commonly lead the discussion to vet ideas for initiatives that would benefit all eight universities. One of the most popular programs, the IvyPlus Exchange Scholar Program, allows students to cross-register at other Ivy schools and also a few other elite universities like Stanford, MIT, and Berkeley.

How many U.S. Presidents graduated? 

16 out of the 45 United States Presidents have graduated from an Ivy League university. John Adams was the first, graduating from Harvard in 1755. 


The Ivies have some of the largest financial endowments in the world. Harvard’s is $53.2 billion, the largest of any institution. 

My recent Ivy League motivation:

While we were at Walloon Lake I jumped into 54° lake water and did something I hadn’t done in many years… water skied. My family seemed impressed that I got up on the first try. If they had been shivering in that frigid water like me, they’d understand that I was propelled by Ivy League motivation.