10 min

How to Get an (Almost) Free Education at the Ivy League Universities

The Ivy League is a conference of the eight oldest American universities. That includes Harvard, Columbia, and Yale.

A prestigious and good quality education in the United States is expensive. Still, do not despair, if you were not born into a family of millionaires. In this article, we’ll talk about how you can study at the Ivy League universities for their undergraduate and graduate programs almost for free.

What Is The Ivy League?

The Ivy League is an association of eight oldest American universities. They are all located in the seven northeastern states of the country. The Ivy League is comprised of the following prestigious private universities:

The oldest Ivy League university, Harvard, was founded back in 1636. All the others, except for Cornell, opened their doors before the US Declaration of Independence in 1776. The youngest, Cornell, has been welcoming students since 1865.

Officially, these eight prestigious American universities became the Ivy League in 1954, thus forming a collegiate athletic conference. The inspiration to name themselves The Ivy League came from all the ivy, which densely twines all over the walls of these ancient educational institutions to this day.

Why Go There?

According to QS Ranking for 2022, almost all Ivy League schools were in the top 100 best universities in the world: Harvard - 5th, University of Pennsylvania - 10th, Yale -14th, Columbia -19th, Princeton - 20th, Cornell - 21st, Brown - 60th. Dartmouth College was the only one left behind and placed 191st.

Getting into such prestigious schools is very difficult, which is to be expected: The Ivy League average acceptance rate is 7.75%. The toughest selection process is conducted by Harvard - it accepts only 5% of the applicants per year. The most “liberal” is Cornell: they take 11% of the applicants. An Ivy League student  SAT average is 1506 (with the highest possible score being 1600).

And now for the best part: the average salary for an Ivy League graduate ten years after graduation is $ 115, 938 per year before taxes. Harvard students earn the most on average - $ 139,100 per year. Graduates of Pennsylvania ($ 131, 600), Yale ($ 124, 400) and Columbia ($ 115, 600) are not too far behind.

Shortly before the pandemic, graduates of the University of Pennsylvania received 30.6% more job offers than the average Ivy League alumni. Yale was the second: employers wanted to get its yesterday’s students in 30.4% of cases more often than graduates of other universities of the famous eight.

How much does an Ivy League education cost?

In short, it’s expensive. As in most American universities, the total cost of an Ivy League education is comprised of a tuition fee and other expenditures such as housing, food, health insurance and books.

In the 2020/2021 academic year, the Ivy League tuition fees alone averaged $ 56, 746 per year. Harvard offers the cheapest package - $ 49, 653, while the most expensive is Columbia - $ 61, 671 per year. On average, living expenses while on campus will be about extra $ 22,000 per year.

Can You Get a Free Education?

 It is possible, but there are nuances. Scholarships can be merit-based (they are awarded for talents and academic excellence) and need-based (when you satisfy all the requirements of the university, but objectively do not have the money to pay the tuition on your own).

Ivy League universities do not offer merit-based scholarships - this includes athletic scholarships too. But they do offer financial aid to worthy students that can cover up to 100% of your education and living expenses in the United States.

In other words, it is not enough to be a talented student with outstanding academic and social achievements to get the money to study in Ivy League schools. You need to convince the university that you are a perfect but poor candidate who needs financial support to get somewhere in life.

The amount of the scholarship is determined by your economic situation and can range from a few thousand dollars to a full-ride scholarship. The Ivy League universities have huge funds to support whoever they want to be their students.

For example, at Harvard international students receive financial aid in the same amount as Americans. About 70% of university students receive financial assistance in one form or another, and more than half get need-based scholarships and pay an average of $ 12, 000 per year. Depending on their financial situation, a student can receive even a full scholarship.

The same goes for Princeton: on average, students who receive financial support pay $ 11, 990 per year for tuition and living expenses. In some cases, the scholarship covers all costs.

At Dartmouth College the amount of the scholarship depends on the income of the student’s family and can be from $ 1, 000 to $ 50, 000. At Yale the amount of a need-based scholarship can reach $ 70, 000 per year, the average amount of aid is $ 50, 000. The same conditions apply to Columbia.

Every Ivy League university also has a list of third-party scholarship programs from foundations and organizations. These can be scholarships for students from certain countries, minorities, or gender-based. You can compete if you meet the requirements. Here you will find a list of such scholarships for Harvard, here - for Columbia, here - for Dartmouth College.

What You Need to Know Before Applying

 Getting full-ride scholarships and studying at Ivy League universities completely free is difficult, but not impossible. However, covering the costs of education and living in part is more than doable. Let’s figure out what you need to pay attention to before applying.

First, in Ivy League universities, the conditions for getting scholarships for foreigners are the same as for citizens and residents of America. This means that you are participating in the competition for a scholarship on an equal basis with the locals and there’s no bias or special favors for collecting the necessary documents.

Second, first step - the university decides, based on your file, whether to enroll you as a student. This process is need-blind, that is, at the first stage, the admissions committee does not have any information about your financial situation. This dispels the popular myth that only children of wealthy parents are accepted into prestigious schools.

Third, be sure to check the requirements on the website of a particular university in the Financial Aid section. Usually, when applying to a university, you should mention that you will be requesting financial support. But each school has its own subtleties regarding deadlines and application procedures, so first of all, check the websites of these universities.

Fourth, universities decide on the amount of scholarships based on the “financial profile” of the candidate and his family. In the US, there is a special indicator for this - CSS Profile. It is a kind of a calculator that takes into account all the information about a student’s income, real estate and other assets. Most Ivy League universities are guided by its results

As we’ve said before, the application procedure for internationals is the same as for Americans. This means that you will have to gather a lot of documents and certificates about your financial situation. This is a complex and painstaking process; therefore, we advise that you find out the information about specific documents and forms by writing to the university.

Fifth, to get a 100% need-based scholarship at most Ivy League universities, your total income must be below $ 60,000- $ 65,000 per year. This amount is indicated on the Yale, Princeton and Colombia websites.

Sixth, the Ivy League universities provide financial aid as a grant, not a loan. This means that the money you receive does not have to be returned later. However, in some schools, such as Yale, some of the financial aid is student share.

 This is a fixed amount that students will be paying to the university from the money earned during the semester or the summer break. The ratio of grant and student share in the financial aid package depends on the economic situation of the student.