Are Ivy League schools worth the stress?

Sofia Bae, Opinions Associate

Best four years of your life? Psych! That optimistic platitude largely depends on you, the individual, and what college/university you end up attending. Of course, that reassurance had to have come from somewhere, and maybe for a majority of people, it is true. But let’s get real; we attend Princeton Day School, and chances are that most of us are thinking about the Ivies. But according to statistics and surveys, Ivy League schools consistently place in the top 20 most stressful schools, making the four years spent there a little less than the “best four years of your life.”

What is the Ivy League? It is a group of eight elite schools: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, and the University of Pennsylvania, which are considered the “best” higher education schools and thus, the most sought-after. No one really knows how they came to be called the “Ivy League.” Some believe Ivy is a misnomer and that the original name was IV League because it was originally only four schools (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth). Another idea is that the League was named after the ivy that grew on the walls of the institutions, since most of the schools were built in the colonial period. But whatever their origin, Ivy League schools, rumors say, are the best place to send your kids.

But is that really true? The pressure is intense. In a college full of accomplished people, standing out is a task that will dictate your decisions and consume a majority of your time. Students at Ivies may feel compelled to take more classes, apply for more internships, and be active in more clubs than if they went to another school. To do well in the classes they are taking, students pull all-nighters, sleep in libraries, and forgo meals and basic hygiene.

Such high pressure breeds competition. At PDS, if you ask someone in your class for help, even if you do not know them very well, chances are they will be more than happy to walk you through a concept, explain a problem, or even prepare for a test with you. Particularly for classes with a curve, students at Ivy Leagues may become reluctant to share studying habits and ways of understanding the contention in order to gain a leg-up against their peers.

Furthermore, students not doing as well in an Ivy League school experience something called “relative deprivation.” Relative deprivation means forming impressions of oneself and one’s accomplishments locally, not globally. Instead of looking at the big picture, students measures their self-worth based on comparisons with those directly around them. As a result, Ivy League students averaging Bs in a class will think poorly of themselves, stupid or unaccomplished, when in almost any other scenario, they would be at the top of their class.

I am not saying it is not worth going to an Ivy League. Going to one of these schools does offer certain advantages, such as connections and a strong reputation, characteristics that other schools simply do not. Like any adverse experience, if you survive, you will be that much better for it. But, in my opinion, just surviving, rather than thriving, is not ideal.

Ultimately, remember this, college can be the best four years of your life. There are at least 4,726 higher education institutions in the United States alone, and if you are willing to look, one of these will offer the perfect balance of work and fun for what you want and need. But if you are looking for this balanced ratio, an Ivy League school is not the way to go.