The Toxicity Surrounding Ivy League School Culture

An explanation behind the false portrayal of Ivy League schools and why students should think twice before setting their minds on them.

Posted by Elle Kaveh on April 5, 2021

Ivy League schools are advertised as schools where only the “best” students are selected and given (false) promises of immediate success after graduation. This indirectly portrays the long-standing, untrue idea that every other school is seen as lesser than or doesn’t have as much value. Messages from media to stressful and toxic cultures at highschools tell students, implicity and sometimes even explicitly, that Ivy league institutions are what they all should be striving for.

Only recently has this toxic and false standard been called out. Although a competitive environment can be healthy and push students to reach their full potential, it can also be detrimental to a teenager's mental health or sense of self worth. Students are told they need to play a varsity sport, an instrument, do countless hours of volunteer work, learn multiple languages, partake in hobbies that show their “personality” to admission officers, and keep a high GPA in the 4 years they are in high school. A culmination of top universities and college’s unrealistic expectations and highschoolers desperately trying to balance extracurriculars and mental health, bring much more harm than help. Colleges, especially Ivy leagues, are not one size fits all, and kids might be hurting themselves for a future that may not even be fit for them.

In order to get into these top institutions, a student’s academic worth is judged by numbers. Standardized testing scores (which have been proven to be an ineffective measure of a student’s intelligence and are classist/racist) and GPA are undoubtedly one of the, if not the most, important factor in determining a students admission into their college. With schools fixating on these scores, students must often drop other activities that they enjoyed doing in order to make time to get the proper scores and prove themselves to these colleges. Without hobbies that help students relieve stress and bring joy, students begin to base their entire self worth on grades and their dedication to these schools.

Given the high demand from top institutions, students try to fit their molds as much as possible, causing them to lose valuable time from their high school experience that would otherwise positively impact their futures and give them tools for success. During these important years, it is vital for students to find what they are truly passionate about and help them grow. Trial and error helps students find their passions and help them see how they want to spend their lives. Colleges themselves even acknowledge the importance of this, given that they ask students various things such as hobbies and stories from their personal lives in order to get to know who they are and what interests them; however, most of these stories that students' pour out are not even read because most top schools do not even look at your essays if they fall beneath the cut-off for GPA and standardized testing scores. Instead of using time in high school to open themselves up to the world around them and find the life they want to live, students have grown accustomed to using all their time as teenagers to do and become what they think certain top colleges want them to be.

Although students attempt to be the ideal scholar, it is shown every admissions year that there is no such thing as the perfect student. There are many cases each year where students who are seemingly “underqualified” for a certain institution are accepted, and even more instances where those who meet and even exceed the average scores needed for the school are rejected.

Despite how they have been portrayed, Ivy League schools are not for everyone. Colleges are more than just their names and acceptance rate, they are the place students will spend numerous years of their lives to get an education towards a certain goal. The campus should reflect each student’s unique needs and personality, in order for them to thrive and achieve their intentions in the long run.