Stand, old ivy
March 28, 2017 1:34 PM   Subscribe

What are the stereotypes of Ivy league students and graduates?

Yours or common knowledge.
posted by the man of twists and turns to Education (41 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wealthy, preppy, entitled, white? Do you mean stereotypes of the individual schools or just Ivy League in general?
posted by armadillo1224 at 1:39 PM on March 28


Individual specific schools.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:43 PM on March 28


Penn: the working ivy
Cornell: An agricultural state school
Dartmouth: ...that's an ivy?

How do you know someone went to Harvard? They tell you.
posted by wooh at 1:49 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


Have you heard the one about the Harvard professor who really liked praying?

He just found it so nice to finally talk to an equal.
posted by firechicago at 1:57 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


I don't know if this is a stereotype per se, but there's a saying at Cornell that goes, "Cornell may be the easiest Ivy to get into, but it's the hardest to get out of".

This is referring to the highest acceptance rate of all of the Ivy universities and the "supposed" grade inflation that goes on at some of the other Ivies like Harvard and Yale for example. Don't know if the grade inflation is true, but I will say that Cornell was very academically rigorous IME and a bitch to graduate from. YMMV.
posted by strelitzia at 1:58 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Dartmouth: fratty, preppy, outdoorsy, drinks a lot of beer
Cornell: ...that's an Ivy?
Brown: Hippies
Princeton: old-money wealthy, snooty, does a lot of coke
Harvard and Yale: You know they are smart because they tell you a lot

(these date from the mid-80s; I have no idea how different they are now)
posted by rtha at 2:00 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Obviously, Harvard grads are arrogant twits:
A Harvard man and a Yale man go into a washroom and use the urinals. After they are done, the Harvard man stopped to wash his hands, while the Yale man headed for the door.

The Harvard man looked at the Yale man disapprovingly. "At Harvard, we take care to wash our hands after using the lavatory."

"Well," the Yale man replied, "at Yale, we know not to piss on our hands."
Dartmouth: conservative frat boys
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:01 PM on March 28


Harvard students will tell you they go to Harvard before they tell you their name. Yale students, asked directly where they go to college, look away and mumble "New Haven?"
posted by Mchelly at 2:01 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


Harvard grads: name drop school constantly, probably not any better educated than honors students at Public State U.

Generally Ivy grads like to pretend Ivy league means good academics but it's really just a sports league for schools that aren't that good at sports, at least not in the past hundred years or so.

In my professional circles (mostly PhD scientists, mostly not from Ivy schools) we look at people who go on and on about their Ivy alma mater sort of like you might think of your cousin Larry who always talks about his high school football career.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:01 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]


In my professional circles (mostly PhD scientists, mostly not from Ivy schools) we look at people who go on and on about their Ivy alma mater sort of like you might think of your cousin Larry who always talks about his high school football career.

Which is why, despite the stereotype, I think that Harvard and other Ivy grads are less likely than alumni of other schools to mention where they went.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:07 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


Ezra Cornell said, "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study!"

His critics said, "But Ezra, if you do that, people will come swarming from all over! How will you prevent the campus from over-crowding?"

And Ezra Cornell said, "Ah, just wait till you see where I'm gonna put it!"
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:27 PM on March 28 [22 favorites]


A couple of scattershot impressions.

Harvard. There are a lot of students at Harvard who structured their whole HS career to the single end of getting into Harvard. This goal-oriented personality is a contributor to so many Harvard grads becoming high achievers later on.

Brown. Students who didn't get into Harvard or Yale may well end up at Brown. For a time, the Brown admissions office was open to somewhat riskier admissions, mainly ones based on, say, artistic accomplishment or other individualistic activity. Also, perhaps behavior problems. Not sure that this is still true. Probably not.

Dartmouth is notable for a strong fraternity system. It's also in small town in the middle of nowhere, comparatively speaking. I think it's stronger in sports, but get reading on that from someone who knows more.

Columbia: very weak on sports. Obviously more attractive to an urban student.

Princeton is very individualistic. They have "eating clubs". The Princeton alumni are the most ardent in promotion of their alma mater of any of their peers.

In comparing to the well-known English schools, Princeton is Cambridge, Yale is Oxford, Harvard is Eton recapitulated at the University level.

The Ivies are not all the same size. Cornell is huge, and has an Ag school, Hotel school, Aerodynamics school, etc. You can look up the numbers, but it's not like that everywhere else, if anywhere.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:31 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Cornell: ...that's an Ivy?

See also: Columbia
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:33 PM on March 28


The difference between Yale, Harvard and Princeton, as explained by Alvin Kernan in his autobiography, In Plato's Cave:
At Yale it is OK to come from Princeton -- it doesn't really matter that much, it's considered a natural step up -- but you are likely to run into problems if you come from Harvard, and vice versa. At Princeton it is all right to come from Harvard, and vice versa, but not from Yale.

There are many ways of describing the differences among the Ivy Big Three, but no one did it better than Bart Giamatti, soon to become the president of Yale, who told the following cautionary tale. If things went badly at Harvard, a national committee would be impaneled to discuss why Harvard was not first and how much money needed to be spent to make it first. At Yale, the faculty would meet, the professors would blame themselves, confess their failings, and vow to work harder. At Princeton, two men would go for a long walk after lunch.
posted by verstegan at 2:37 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


"Patrick Bateman: He was into that whole Yale thing.
Donald Kimball: Yale thing?
Patrick Bateman: Yeah, Yale thing.
Donald Kimball: What whole Yale thing?
Patrick Bateman: Well, for one thing, I think he was probably a closet homosexual who did a lot of cocaine. That whole Yale thing."

(American Psycho, obviously)
posted by praemunire at 2:41 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Classic:

Harvard: "Did you do anything this weekend?"
"Nope. Have some fries."
Yale: "I got mugged on the way to class today."
"Have some fries."
Brown: "I got a nose ring this weekend, Professor Smith."
"Cool! Me too! Have some fries."
Cornell: "I killed my lab partner this weekend."
"Bummer. Have some fries."
Princeton: "My father took away my Porsche this weekend."
"Poor dear. Have some escargot."
Columbia: "I wish that I could be eating these fries at a better school."
"Me too. Let's go get shot."
Penn: "I wish that I could be eating these fries at a better school."
"Me too. Let's transfer to Columbia."
Dartmouth: "Oh man, I got so trashed this weekend. It was f**kin awesome."
"Have some beer."
posted by gemutlichkeit at 2:51 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


Stereotype: Brown is for people who don't want to choose majors
posted by bq at 2:51 PM on March 28


Princeton and Dartmouth - most conservative of the bunch. Princeton is WASP-y, preppy, exclusive (eating clubs), throws lawn parties, Ralph Lauren and Lilly Pulitzer dress code, lots of people go into I-banking. Competitive and stressful because there's grade deflation and a policy of separating students into quintiles and due to tradition, final exams are held after winter break.

Dartmouth - located in the middle of nowhere, New Hampshire, there isn't much to do other than partake in the many frats and sororities and drink-- Keggy the Keg is the unofficial mascot. The school is so small that it is the only Ivy to have a trimester schedule and during one of those trimesters, they basically make the majority of the third-year class study abroad or off-campus in some capacity. Conservative. Lots of people go into I-banking.

Brown - artsy, smoke lots of pot, grade inflation (or sterotype is that there are no grades), open curriculum (stereotype is that there are no requirements), throws Sex Power God each spring, believes that gender is a spectrum, not a binary, drops words like "hegemony" and "post-modernism," lots of people go into Teach for America, poorest Ivy, Yale rejects.

Cornell - "easiest" Ivy to get into and subsequently has a substantial inferiority complex, the Engineering school likes to hate on the Arts and Sciences ("Arts and Crafts") who likes to hate on ILR and the Agriculture school, suicide school (had to put up railings by the gorges), state school/barely an Ivy.

Penn - super Jewish, favors legacy students, very pre-professional, Wharton kids will become mega-rich but are also jerks.

Columbia - don't spend much time on campus, lots of Barnard hate, wear black, have a core curriculum, several "back doors" into Columbia with the engineering programs, lack school spirit, tend to go work on Wall Street after graduation.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 2:58 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


How do you know someone went to Harvard? They tell you.

Alternately there is a WASP-y tendency to say "I went to college in the Boston area/Connecticut" as a way to not say Harvard r Yale. People who went to BU just say "BU" when you ask them where they went to college.

Hand Wavey Overgeneralizations follow:

Dartmouth has a jock problem, a diversity problem and an alcohol problem.
Harvard kids are grinds. Harvard is pretty social justice oriented.
Cornell has a suicide problem.
Brown has hippies and arty types
Princeton suuuper WASP-y, less modest.
Yale has a lot of legacy kids and a sexual harassment problem.
posted by jessamyn at 3:07 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


> The school is so small that it is the only Ivy to have a trimester schedule and during one of those trimesters, they basically make the majority of the third-year class study abroad or off-campus in some capacity.

They did this so that they could begin admitting women without reducing the number of men on campus.
posted by rtha at 3:15 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Harvard and Yale people both think you really care which other Ivy they hate the most (Is it Brown, or each other? I cannot remember and refuse to care.) but boy do they think you are interested. The other Ivies have other faults, many of them worse, but I have never found that they share this particular delusion to quite the same extent.

this probably has its origins in the athletic league history of the schools' grouping. people of all backgrounds and interests may think you should care about their rivalries and obsessions, but only sports fans and H&Y Ivy Leaguers seem to sincerely believe that you already do.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:23 PM on March 28


How do you know someone went to Harvard? They tell you.

Actually, in my experience, it's the opposite (as jessamyn notes). What I hear most commonly is "I went to school in Cambridge" meaning, I went to Harvard, although Harvard is not the only school in Cambridge, MA.

I find this even more annoying than just saying the school you went to outright.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:23 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


I was the 'town' part of town and gown for Penn for awhile -- I mean, I still live in Philly, but I used to live virtually on-campus.

About the only things I remember are that 'Whartonites are all unbearable assholes' was common knowledge, and that the joke was that Princeton students would take the train into Philly on Friday nights so they could cry, being in the presence of a real Ivy. Also that Penn is slowly taking over/gentrifying the entirety of West Philly. (This last one is only half true. Drexel's doing the same thing.)
posted by kalimac at 3:37 PM on March 28


I feel as if for some reason, Harvard and Yale have the most reputation for having a lot of legacy students who are clueless, born on third base and think they hit a double sort of thing. Princeton and Dartmouth may have just as many legacies per capita-- and Princeton has a really upper class vibe-- but it seems to be a bigger stereotype with regard to Harvard and Yale. Harvard more than Yale, even though in many ways Harvard long had a reputation for being more democratic and for giving more financial aid. Alongside that, Harvard also used to have, maybe still has, a reputation for having two Harvards, one of which is very insular, composed of legacies and people from the upper classes.
posted by BibiRose at 3:38 PM on March 28


The “Princeton Rub” exists. I’m unsure where it fits into these stereotypes, beyond the general “closeted WASP” section. (NSFW text.)
posted by Going To Maine at 4:02 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


One other cultural note: For a long time Princeton was the school attended by the sons of the Southern aristocracy, partly because of a lack of prestigious schools in the South, partly because of the prevalence of dangerously radical ideas like "maybe slavery is a bad thing" at schools like Yale and Harvard, and partly because Princeton's New Light Presbyterianism accorded better with Southern ideas of religion than Harvard's Puritanism or William and Mary's Anglicanism.

This tradition has given a certain Southern good ol' boy twist to the flavor of WASPiness found at Princeton. It's been described as "the northern-most outpost of Southern culture."
posted by firechicago at 4:29 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


What I hear most commonly is "I went to school in Cambridge" meaning, I went to Harvard, although Harvard is not the only school in Cambridge, MA.

Yup, all the time. Once, I asked someone why they said that, and they told me they said "in Cambridge" because they didn't want to "brag" about going to Harvard and appear snobbish. Me: Oh! I assumed you were being vague because you wanted people to think you were smart enough to get into MIT.
posted by pangolin party at 4:48 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


To be fair, when you tell someone you went to an Ivy, a whole lot of people will make obnoxious comments like "ooooh looks like we have a smarty pants here" and it certainly makes one not want to mention it in small talk situations or wonder if by mentioning it you really *are* bragging even if you aren't intending to. The comments are really, really annoying and quite common. Signed, someone who went to Cornell (which as I've learned in this thread isn't even really an Ivy, so it's gotta be worse for Harvard and Yale grads.)

At hockey games, Cornell fans would taunt Dartmouth fans with chants of "safety school." I heard the same "Cornell is easy to get into but hard to get out of" cliche as strelitzia and can confirm my classes were very hard and my GPA some semesters was not great. I heard the suicide thing was a myth (it's just that suicides there tended to be more dramatic what with the gorges and all) but it's definitely a pervasive perception. We Cornellians definitely have a chip on our shoulder about our reputation.
posted by misskaz at 5:06 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Lisa Birnbach (better known for her Official Preppie Handbook) wrote a satirical college guide in the mid-'80s that can provide you with all the college stereotypes you could ever want, including plenty of Ivy League stuff. (Come to think of it the Preppie book covers that too and is probably easier to find in print.)
posted by Wretch729 at 5:10 PM on March 28


The taunt against Penn is usually "safety school!" when they play other Ivies.
posted by TwoStride at 5:17 PM on March 28


30 Rock does a lot of Harvard stereotypes via Twofer, here's one of my favorites.
posted by telegraph at 5:53 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Fratty Dartmouth is probably the biggest Ivy cliche you'll come across, with good reason. They're also known for outdoor pursuits like hiking and skiing, and a lot of insufferable conservative pundits (Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter) went there in the 80s. There was a fun Mindy Project episode about a Dartmouth alumni club event.

Brown has the semiotics thing, which ties in with the hippie shit that everyone else has mentioned.

Princeton and investment banking. In my experience, Princetonians are pretty socially awkward, although I think I may just know some weird Princetonians. One once tried to tell me that Purdue had the hottest girls in the Big Ten.

A lot of people somehow confuse Penn and Penn State. People from Penn HATE that. People from PSU don't know what Penn is.

A lot of Yale stereotypes center on Skull and Bones. The "I went to school in Connecticut" thing is totally real. I honestly believe people are trying to be modest when they say that, and they honestly aren't aware that it comes off as douchey. A lot of Yalies seem to end up in politics.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:08 PM on March 28


There was a fun Mindy Project episode about a Dartmouth alumni club event.

It should be noted that Mindy Kaling herself went to Dartmouth, which might explain the choice of targets.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:11 PM on March 28


Yale = Politics, humanities in general, arts but not as hippie as Brown. Lots of jokes about New Haven being dangerous. (Probably it is by towns-with-Ivy-League-schools standards; it's a laughable idea by real world standards. Probably used to be more true 30 years ago.) Yale has a world-renowed drama program.
Harvard = Business/economics
Brown = hippies, weed. Also some of the best technical programs of the Ivies (known for its CS and premed programs)
Dartmouth = the party school of the Ivy league
posted by phoenixy at 7:17 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Another Harvard one: All the students end up being consultants. (This may be true for other Ivy League schools as well.) Even Harvard students make fun of this stereotype. Although maybe this isn't really a stereotype, because it's definitely a documented thing.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:20 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


For all Ivies in general, I don't generally hear alums talk about their academic careers much. In my experience, people who went to small East Coast liberal arts schools like Williams tend to talk about classes they took or favorite professors. I don't remember hearing that from Ivy Leaguers, regardless of school.

I also thought I read that raccoon coats were making a comeback a few years ago.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:27 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as a Harvard grad, I say that I went to school "in Boston," so as not to trigger all sorts of weirdnesses. I miss living in Boston where saying, "I went to Harvard" (only when asked directly!) would result in a fairly dismissive eyebrow-raise. It often shuts down conversations in non-Ivy-League-heavy parts of the country, and I try to avoid mentioning it.
posted by lazuli at 8:56 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


Fratty Dartmouth is probably the biggest Ivy cliche you'll come across, with good reason. They're also known for outdoor pursuits like hiking and skiing, and a lot of insufferable conservative pundits (Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter) went there in the 80s.

Ann Coulter went to Cornell & Tucker Carlson went to Trinity College in CT - the worst Dartmouth pundit that comes to mind is Laura Ingraham.

FWIW I don't think the clichés of Brown being for artsy trust fund kids and Princeton being for preppy tools etc hold up any more (if they ever did). All of these schools are getting more diverse & competitive plus the student bodies are getting less insular with cell phones/Internet.
posted by crone islander at 11:46 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


The Ivy Leaguers I've met actually do seem to CARE where somebody went to school, which strikes me as hilarious. However, they are all of an older generation and may not represent today.

Harvard people also seem to care very much about "legacy" -- as in, "I went to Harvard, so did my father and so did his father."
posted by JanetLand at 8:54 AM on March 29


Blatant stereotyping follows:

Dartmouth, Cornell, and Penn are the frattiest and hardest-partying, especially Dartmouth. Dartmouth and Cornell are a bit more outdoorsy. Brown is more artsy bohemian/faux-hemian; Columbia is more hipster-y.

Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are full of strivers, gunners, and paleolithically-old money. Socially, Harvard is a no-fun zone (no "landed" [lol] frats or sororities, final clubs cater to a tiny minority of students, not much of a party scene beyond that). Out of the three, Yale is the gayest and Princeton is the most closeted, with Harvard right down the middle. Princeton is the most politically conservative, the most socially conformist, and the preppiest; along the lines of what firechicago wrote, I've heard it referred to as the "Southern Ivy." The vast majority of HYP graduates go on to consulting, finance, med school, or law school in about that order. All three schools absolutely reek of class anxiety.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:29 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Btw here is a recent example of how Harvard is hilariously square. There was this task force that suggested that Harvard create new social alternatives to the super-elitist and creepy final club scene. So far so good, right? Their suggestion was to form "'inter-House dining societies' of around 40 students who would have weekly meals in the dining halls, and ... 'eat in elegant attire, read Chaucer out loud' and ultimately identify themselves with 'a loose theme that is social, inclusive, and consistent with College values and mission.'"

I mean, it's not like you expect an administration to be like, let's make sure more students have a place to do their rich friends' coke and stand around scoffing at one another, but still, lmao.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:03 PM on March 31


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