What Makes a College Ivy League?

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Historically, the term Ivy League referred to an athletic conference of eight schools in the Northeastern United States: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. It was first used by Stanley Woodward, a New York Herald Tribune sports writer, in writing about these schools. The term now refers to schools of excellence in academic and achievement as well as other factors.

1 Founding of Ivy League Schools

The Ivy League schools' reputations, in part, are based on the longevity of these schools. The Ivy League schools are some of the oldest higher education institutions founded in the United States: Brown University in 1764, Columbia in 1754, Cornell in 1865, Dartmouth in 1769, Harvard in 1636, Princeton in 1746, University of Pennsylvania in 1740 and Yale in 1701.

2 Ivy League Athletic Conference

Although the term Ivy League was first used in sports news reporting in the 1930s, it wasn't until 1945 that the Ivy League schools got together to formulate athletic policies related to player eligibility, budgets and play season length. The athletic league was formed to create well-rounded students by promoting academic and athletic excellence. Ivy League athletes have always been held to the same athletic standards as their non-athletic peers and do not receive athletic scholarships. The Ivy League school athletic teams gain their reputations from playing in Division I sports conferences.

3 Admissions

Ivy League school reputations are also based on the exclusivity of their admissions policies. The percentage of applicants accepted at the Ivy League schools for Fall 2009 were as follows: Brown--11 percent, Columbia--11 percent, Cornell--21 percent, Dartmouth--13 percent, Harvard--8 percent, UPenn--17 percent, Princeton--10 percent and Yale 9 percent.

4 Majors

Excellent educational opportunities abound at the Ivy League schools, especially in the Humanities and Sciences. Popular majors at the Ivy Leagues include the Social and Physical Sciences, Biology, Psychology, Engineering, Business and Marketing, Politics, Agriculture, History and Integrated Studies. These majors can lead Ivy Leaguers on to careers with higher than average salaries.

5 Ivy League Salaries

Students also apply to Ivy League school in high numbers because of the high earning potential of these schools' graduates. The website, Payscale.com, listed the Ivy League graduate salary earning potential as follows for starting median salary: Dartmouth at almost $60,000, Harvard at $60,000, Princeton at over $60,000, Yale at about $58,000, UPenn at $60,000, Brown at about $57,000, and Cornell and Columbia at just under $60,000. Keep in mind that these were graduate starting salaries during an economic recession.

Mary McNally has been writing and editing for over 13 years, including publications at Cornell University Press, Larson Publications and College Athletic Magazines. McNally also wrote and edited career and computer materials for Stanford University and Ithaca College. She holds a master's degree in career development from John F. Kennedy University and a bachelor's degree from Cornell University in counseling.