Bleeding (Big) Red Blood: The Ivy League Obsession in a Top High School

Sam is a 15-year-old from Montgomery, NJ. She enjoys playing tennis, writing and Community Service. Her favorite subject in

school is History.

I would love to attend Cornell University. I guess you could call me ambitious. When people ask me where I’m considering a college, I’m sometimes afraid to say it. However, at my high school, we all know how prevalent the obsession is.

What is the Ivy League?

Believe it or not, quite a few students at my high school (even smart kids) don’t know what the Ivy League is, or what schools are members. Here’s the skinny for those out there who aren’t so sure what the Ivies are, as well as their hype:

The Ivy League is a group of eight schools in the Northeastern United States. With the exception of Cornell, all of the Ivies were established in colonial (i.e. pre-American Revolution) times. They garner the reputation of stellar academics, both undergraduate and graduate. These schools (and their locations) include:

  • Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
  • Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)
  • Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut)
  • Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island)
  • Columbia University (New York, New York)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)
  • Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire)

The Standard

While my high school is a public school, it has a very high reputation in our state. According to New Jersey Magazine, in its 100 Top Public Schools 2010 Edition, my high school was ranked 10th. Out of an entire state. Yeah, safe to say that my fellow students and I are pretty up there in quality. Other public school ranking sites also agree that the school has a competitive streak. Being that the school is ten minutes away from Princeton University (one of the Ivies), perhaps there’s some motivation to do well?

Naturally, over the years, there had been (and still ongoing) an influx of all kinds of families in my town. Many of them are Asian American families who moved simply for my school’s reputation. Due to these influxes of hard-working students with passionate parents destined to get their child into a top college, a somewhat stereotypical “standard” for getting into a top college seems to have developed throughout all grades. Some of these “standard” traits include:

  • (Usually but not always) Asian American
  • Gets straight A’s in all Honors/Advanced Placement classes
  • Participates in many extracurricular activities, holding titles in each (i.e. Class of 2012 President, Treasurer of Student Council, etc.)
  • Plays a sport (usually something less popular than football, basketball, or cheerleading) or an instrument (usually comes with a ranking or chair)
  • Gets along well with teachers as well as students

Everyone in my school seems to be on the edge of their seats when it comes to these students, wondering if, as expected, they will go to their top college. Unfortunately, in recent years, these students seem to be less in demand, as many of them end up in a solid safety school (we’ll get to one of them later).

Crimson > Scarlet

A popular safety school here in New Jersey, like any other state, is the flagship state school. In this case, it’s Rutgers University, thirty minutes away from where I live. Unlike Princeton, Rutgers is in the Big East Conference, a conference that is more athletically-oriented (Go Scarlet Knights!), while still maintaining a solid academic structure. In addition, Rutgers is ranked fairly well against other top schools in US News and World Report (the final say in all things college rankings).

However, many students in my high school look down on Rutgers, seeing the university as a last resort (mainly because of its high acceptance rate for in-state applicants, like any other state school). Ironically, many of those students end up attending either Rutgers itself, or a lower-quality school. Long story short, don’t be so quick to judge your state school: it can have pretty good programs and give you more opportunities than you think.

The Perfect Fit…Or Not

Of course, those who are serious about getting into the Ivies are aware of the idea that there’s an eighty to ninety-three percent chance of failure. However, if you do get rejected, (I can’t stress this enough) don’t worry about it. Actually, let me rephrase that: don’t fixate on it. Yes, rejection sucks. Yet, after experiencing a similar admittance process (for private school), rejection can definitely put things into perspective and can help you figure out how to move on quickly and narrow down your choices for colleges. It may turn out that a college that wasn’t your top choice may end up being a better college for you than the one you were obsessing to get into, so keep an open mind with your remaining school choices.

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2 Responses to “Bleeding (Big) Red Blood: The Ivy League Obsession in a Top High School”

  1. Christine
    October 3, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    My 14 year old daughter is a freshman at our public high school. We live in a great town with great schools, but she is obsessed with getting into Ivy League…4 years from now.

    We happen to live very close to Choate Rosemary Hall, which is an excellent private prep school. So, she wants to transfer next year to Choate or maybe even boarding school. It’s all she’s thinking of right now.

    This is my favorite site on the topic of raising and understanding teens.
    Thanks for all your words of teenage wisdom!

  2. Susan Harris
    October 7, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Hello! I am a family teacher at a residential treatment facility for teens in Boys Town, NE. I’m also a grad student studying journalism at the University of Nebraska. I am working on a paper about online blogs right now and I am very impressed by Radical Parenting. I was hoping a few of you out there might be able to answer a couple questions for me that I could use in my paper. Any takers? You can leave a comment or email back if you have any thoughts. THANKS!

    – How did you find Radical Parenting and what attracted you to this blog?
    – Do you find the advice on this site more useful than other sites? Why do you think that is?
    – How willing would you be to follow advice on this site?
    – Finally, how often and how many blogs do you read online?


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