Ivy League schools are known for being prestigious, selective, and extremely secretive. While not everyone will make it into an "elite" college, that doesn't mean that everyone should miss out on the drama that lurks behind those ivy-covered walls.
Recently, we asked Ivy League alums to share some secrets and things people might not know about attending these schools. Here are just a few examples:
1."I got my social work degree from one, and literally no one cares about it. All they care about is whether I got my Masters or my license, and that's it, which is fine! But if I had known, I would've gone to a MUCH cheaper school and gotten the same outcome."
2."At my college, legacy students DEFINITELY get treated better, at least in terms of housing. Freshman housing mostly didn't have AC and was all pretty old. But you know damn well those legacy students all happened to be 'randomly' put in the shiny new building with climate control and all the best furnishings."
—Anonymous, 22, NY
3."I went to one in the 2000s. Because on-campus social life was somewhat non-existent, the Undergraduate Council created a position called the Fun Czar where the person tried to encourage more partying on campus. You could apply for a grant for up to a few hundred dollars that can go towards your party, as long as your party was open to the entire campus (you could claim it will, but they didn't really follow up on if you did publicize it as such). A friend of mine got one such grant for her 21st birthday party and used the money to purchase alcohol for it."
4."The cheating is so rampant. Students would form “study groups” in which they would just divide up problem sets that would take me a whole week to complete on my own. They all knew someone who had already taken the class and would give them the solutions to exams because professors (at least in the Econ department) would use the same exams each semester, or just slightly alter them. I didn’t realize this was happening until the end of my sophomore year, and I thought I was just stupid. Also, exams were intentionally written to cover more material than what was taught, and everything was graded on a curve, so the cheaters got all the available A’s."
—Anonymous, 29, NJ
5."The absolute stupidest, gobsmackingly, life-threateningly stupid individuals I have met in my life, I've met at my undergrad and grad Ivies."
6."Mine had a ton of weird traditions involving nudity that most students participate in. One was swimming naked across a river into a neighboring state, then running back across the bridge while still naked. I’d say ~90% of students do this. Another one was a challenge to have sex in different places around campus including the quad, the famous steps, the stacks in the library, the president’s house lawn, the 50-yard line of the football field, etc."
7."All of the different 'colleges' (ie. Law, Education, Literature, Medical) are funded separately. This means you might jump into a grad program and realize that despite having the best grad program in the country (aka education), they definitely do NOT have the same resources as the donations given to the Law and Medical colleges."
—Anonymous, 28, New York
8."My school really likes to use the 'it's historical' excuse to justify all the statues of and buildings named after racist and/or slaveholding founders. I can't believe the difference between acknowledging and worshipping these figures still isn't clear to some people. When I got to campus, I was just astounded by how frequently I saw signs of its racist foundation!"
—Anonymous, 20, California,
9."Class segregation is so prevalent — starting from the top. The wealthy, well-connected, and famous students all only stick to each other. In my school, there is a friend group at my school that consists of the child of a billionaire media mogul, the child of a major Hollywood executive, the child of a billionaire heiress, and the child of a former major political player. They party and go on lavish vacations together all through just meeting at this school."
10."They party HARD. Heavy drinking, hard drugs, all of it. They'll party on any night of the week, they pretty much have no boundaries."
—Anonymous, 18, California
11."I felt that the institution only cared about money and not its students. It’s not an ideal place if you have to work and go to school at the same time because most of your classmates are paying their tuition in cash and the school doesn’t have strong support systems for non-wealthy students. I was often overlooked for scholarships because I had to work multiple jobs to be able to afford to be there. Students who could already afford tuition because they had rich parents were given assistantships because they had the time to network with professors and didn’t have to work multiple jobs to survive, they had the luxury to focus solely on grades and I didn’t. It was a terrible experience and I hated it. These spaces are great if you’re rich, privileged, and white. It’s horrible for everyone else. The school pretends to be diverse and inclusive to bring up its numbers — but it’s all PR because they only cater to whoever can pay cash. It’s a total racket."
—Anonymous, 25, New York City
12."I graduated from an Ivy — and I kid you not, there is an absolute certainty that your admission was a mistake and that everyone else around you is so brilliant, and you pale in comparison. I mean, whether or not it's true depends on the person because perception shapes reality, but morally, most know that each person has value and is special and so on. It's just REALLY hard to remember that, especially during the grind, even with a support system around you to provide a lifeline in the dark times. The ubiquitous imposter syndrome should give everyone something to relate to, but pride and/or the fear of vulnerability prevents that connection. More often than not, only a student's inner circle will ever hear that confession."
13."Pretty much everyone I knew (myself included) struggled with a bout of depression at some point. The Ivies put a lot of pressure on you to have a life plan and know what you're doing the moment you start, which is a ridiculous thing to expect out of 18-year-olds. And despite all their resources, the schools don't offer a lot of support in helping you figure out what you want to do with your life. The staff often had an attitude of: 'You got into this school, you should already know how to do this. You should be able to handle this environment.' People had a really hard time asking for help because it made them feel like they didn't belong."
—Anonymous, 30, New Jersey
14."I went to an Ivy. It was an amazing school and I learned so many cool things, but I never retained any of the information and burned out real quick. As in, first-year-quick. Stuck it out for four years, didn't actually learn anything for my degree, somehow graduated anyway, and now I work in a totally different job than the fancy school name got me. So I guess my secret is that it's true: The name of the school on your degree is a game-changer. Actually attending the school though, it's pretty similar to other schools, just way harder and much more imposter syndrome. To be honest, I wish I just went to a different prestigious school that wasn't an Ivy so I could've breathed at ANY point during those four years."
15."Sure, people are intelligent, but everyone has their own kind of intelligence and outside that area, they can be very...not smart. I knew a guy who could not understand the difference between a dress and a skirt no matter how many times it was explained to him."
—Anonymous, 27, NJ
16."Sometimes, as much of the talk is about grabbing a snack at Wawa or groceries at Trader Joe’s than about having a class with a celebrity/actor/politician’s kid. Honestly, it takes friends at other schools asking you before it dawns on you who your classmates are to the rest of the world, as most of them are phenomenally curious and passionate and smart and funny and kind people on their own."
—Anonymous, 39, Pennsylvania
17."There are a lot of traditions that involve being naked for shits and giggles."
—Anonymous, 28, London
18."The amount of hard drugs that students do is wild. Also, while some people are super smart and motivated, so many are just not as smart as you’d expect them to be and legitimately don’t do work for their classes."
—Anonymous, 21, NYC
19."This is more sad than wild, but I was at one from 2016-2021. The number of students struggling with food insecurity was both sickening and sad. This led to lots of stealing from other students in desperation. They were finally starting to really do work on food pantries/donating dining hall swipes before COVID, but I think that died with the pandemic. But for every spoiled rich kid, there were multiple kids struggling to get food. Not to mention the rampant mental health struggles of a large portion of the students. As grateful as I am for the doors it opened (and the amazing friends I made), it's really important to realize these places are still deeply flawed and filled with young adults really struggling at times."
20."My brother went to one. He told me there was something called 'The Gentleman's C' which meant that basically as long as you showed up to class, you were guaranteed nothing lower than a C."
21."People traded Adderall like no one's business. I thought we all got there from hard work but the number of times I saw pill popping for studying, reading, going to class, and not even just taking tests was wild."
—Anonymous, 28, Virginia
22."People have this idea that all Ivy League students are rich snobs, but that’s really not the case! I went to one worried that I might not fit in with my middle-class background, and was surprised to discover that most of my roommates and new friends came from similar situations. Most of us received at least partial scholarships or were working part-time student jobs, and we were really just interested in learning all we could from some of the best professors in the country."
23."There are truly two types of people at an Ivy: People who deserve to be there, and people who can afford to be there."
—Anonymous, 26, California
24."This is probably true of all colleges/universities, Ivy or not, but the punishment for committing rape/sexual assault is less than cheating/plagiarism. Also, the investigation is run through the school itself, not through actual law enforcement. Rape culture, indeed."
—Anonymous, 38, NYC
25."It's actually pretty normal. That is, everyone still partied a lot, showed up to class in sweatpants, had terrible hookups, procrastinated everything until the day it was due, etc. One stranger thing at my University, though, was the 'naked parties' that were held. They were entirely nonsexual gatherings in campus buildings where everyone would just be naked and hang out together. You had to be invited by a previous attendee, and a list would be sent out to avoid inviting anyone that would make another attendee uncomfortable. The location of the parties wasn't shared publicly — rather, you were told to meet at a gathering point and were escorted from there by one of the official naked party hosts. Altogether, they were pretty chill."
—Anonymous, 28, Montana
26."It’s disgusting how some people view the other schools we play against. Watching people jingle their keys at football games — while playing Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, etc — to say 'You’ll be driving our cars/be our valets/chauffeurs' is absolutely vile and disgusting. I’m so embarrassed when I’m sitting in the student section and I see my peers doing this."
—Anonymous, 22, Illinois
27."You can almost always tell who the legacy students are because they're deeply incompetent. I was a grad student at an Ivy League and had to supervise undergraduate group projects for multiple classes. I somehow always had one legacy student in the group, and they never did their work or did such bad work we couldn't use it. It was infuriating."
—Anonymous, 27, California