Why are Harvard, Yale, and Princeton considered best?





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Discus: Ivy League Schools: Harvard University: 2004 Archive: Why are Harvard, Yale, and Princeton considered best?
By Macbeth04 (Macbeth04) on Monday, March 08, 2004 - 11:29 am: Edit

Aren't a lot of other schools just as good? Why does everyone make these three out to be the best? Is it because they are old? I like a lot of other schools that I think might have better academics and atmosphere. Am I missing something?

By Stanfordrulez (Stanfordrulez) on Monday, March 08, 2004 - 11:33 am: Edit

They have amazing professors. Amazing students. And have amazing campuses. Plus the alumni network is phenomenal. And yeah-- the name counts too.
You missed Stanford btw :)

By Bunmushroom (Bunmushroom) on Monday, March 08, 2004 - 04:12 pm: Edit

Most consider Stanford equal or better in some things. Same goes for mit but thats more specialized so its not always included.

By Deferreddude (Deferreddude) on Monday, March 08, 2004 - 05:05 pm: Edit

You forgot MIT and Caltech!

By Bunmushroom (Bunmushroom) on Monday, March 08, 2004 - 09:35 pm: Edit

mit and cal tech are sometimes not included becasue they are so specialized, unlike hyps which are generally good at everything.

By Rorygilmore08 (Rorygilmore08) on Monday, March 08, 2004 - 09:51 pm: Edit

Forget about which other schools should be included, Macbeth04 was just asking why these are considered the "Big Three."

By Bunmushroom (Bunmushroom) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 01:46 am: Edit

Besides Harvard, I dono if the others should make up the "big 3", as there are other schools that are better and more famous in many people's eyes(Stanford, mit).

By Ly_Yng (Ly_Yng) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 02:01 am: Edit

It's really such a silly argument. In the long run, the student makes his career more than his school. Finding a school should be about finding your own personal best fit. If you're choosing a school based on its position on a list, there is a problem there.

But more importantly, who likes pizza?

By Foreignboy (Foreignboy) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 08:33 am: Edit

I like pizza.

By Chasgoose (Chasgoose) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 08:49 am: Edit

MIT and Caltech will never be considered in the top 3 because they are way too limited. HYPS all offer broad liberal arts educations that MIT and Caltech couldn't even come close to approximating.

By Rorygilmore08 (Rorygilmore08) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 01:18 pm: Edit

You're still missing the point. The thread is not supposed to be "Which should be the Big 3, but why ARE HYP now the Big 3"

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 02:27 pm: Edit

I hate to break it to you, but there is no "big three."

By Rorygilmore08 (Rorygilmore08) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 04:26 pm: Edit

Hate to break it to YOU, but "Big Three" is a term lots of people use, at least around here, to refer to HYP. I'm not saying Stanford or MIT aren't as good, it's just a term that is used. Check out these links, just ctrl+f for the term "Big Three"

http://etc.princeton.edu/CampusWWW/Companion/bicycle_racing.html (halfway down the page)

http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=11588 (bottom)

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2003/11/peck.htm
There are many more websites with the term, these are just what I found first with my amazing google skills :-P

By Entropicgirl (Entropicgirl) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 07:58 pm: Edit

I like "real" pizza, but not mass-produced greasy pizza.

By Otterpop (Otterpop) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 09:38 pm: Edit

I like pizza, too.

By Rorygilmore08 (Rorygilmore08) on Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - 09:39 pm: Edit

Who doesn't?

By Spacechic20 (Spacechic20) on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - 01:50 am: Edit

A better title for this thread: Why the hype about HYP? haha. sorry. it's 2 am.

By Idler (Idler) on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - 10:48 am: Edit

Rorygilmore: great googling, and a good article to read, thanks. But I stand by my point, it's an obsolete term. These 3 articles support that.

By Stanfordrulez (Stanfordrulez) on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - 11:32 am: Edit

*grumbles*
notices how two of those links point to HYP websites....
wonders if they're full of it [you know what i'm saying]

By Deferreddude (Deferreddude) on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - 03:23 pm: Edit

HYPSM <------That is the term most commonly used now. Stanford and MIT are up there with Harvard and the rest. Get with the times.

By Rorygilmore08 (Rorygilmore08) on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - 08:15 pm: Edit

Did I say that HYP are the best schools? I just said that they are called the "big three" and for people that don't know a lot about colleges these three names carry the most weight. If you're from CA, Stanford is probably most prestigious, but on the east coast, for people that know little about the top schools, HYP are considered "the best."

Oh no! I see people are annoyed already. Stanford and MIT have as much prestige! "Get with the times!" I'm not arguing that they are great schools. In certain respects they are better than HYP. I'm just saying, that at least IN THE PAST, those three schools (HYP) were grouped together as the best institutions in America. NOW Stanford and MIT are considered up there with them. Whatever, I don't CARE. I was just trying to show that HYP are often called the "Big Three." I agree, the term is relatively obsolete now.

I think the question is, why do these FIVE (ok ok) HYPSM, have so much prestige? The thing with prestige is that it helps you attract better students and be more selective, thereby raising prestige. How did these schools get to where they are now? Why, now, are they considered superior? There are small colleges where people can get a great education as well. So why does the prestige go to HYPSM?

By Osoritnim2 (Osoritnim2) on Thursday, March 11, 2004 - 06:25 pm: Edit

Yale is hard to get into, but I think its location is horrible. New Haven is serious ghetto....

By Rorygilmore08 (Rorygilmore08) on Thursday, March 11, 2004 - 06:41 pm: Edit

New Haven really isn't so bad. Some areas are quite nice. As you move away from the residential colleges there are certain spots that should be avoided, but it has really improved over the past few years. There are lots of places to go and activities to take part in. Even though Harvard is prettier, some might prefer New Haven to Princeton simply because there is less to do in Princeton. Besides, location is only one of many factors that come into play when judging schools.

By Sakky (Sakky) on Thursday, March 11, 2004 - 10:30 pm: Edit

Allright, rorygilmore08, I'll take you questions at face-value.

The reason why the big5 are so 'big' has to do with a combination of money, good leadership, good brand-management, culture, vision, and plain old fashioned luck. Age does have something to do with it, but not as much as people would think. Stanford, for example, is quite young.

The big3 have been around since colonial days and for centuries were known as the gateways to the corridors to Yankee WASP power. The purpose of HYP in those days wasn't so much to educate people as it was to serve, much like Ox-bridge in the Old Country, as basically a social finishing school for gentlemen (HYP didn't become fully coed until the 60's and 70's). Why those 3 rose above all the other contenders like W&M is their effectiveness of ingratiating themselves into the halls of power of the country, and the insularity they promulgated. To this day, HYP graduates are overrepresented on Wall Street, in the ranks of politicos in WashingtonDC, and basically anywhere where real power in the US lies.

Also the big3 had a string of smart and visionary leaders who saw how things were changing and adapted accordingly. Serious students of history will know that the US was not always a superpower and was not always considered the top destination for the world's scholars like it is today. The US system of higher education was not considered to be particularly strong until after WW2. The German states and, later, unified Germany were widely acknowledged to have the best educational system in the world in the 1800's and early 1900's, and part of that had to do with the innovative new "German" university system - a system that emphasized large-scale scholarly research conducted by professors. Prior to the rise of the German-system, HYP taught classes in basic lecture form, and professors did very little research of their own. HYP successfully adapted to the German system by adding large-scale research facilities and promoting research within its professorial ranks.

The far more interesting question is how do you explain the rise of Stanford and MIT. HYP are old and therefore have the benefit of inertia derived from initial advantages because they've always had alumni in top positions who help promulgate their names. But what about Stanford and MIT? These schools are quite young, as far as schools go (Stanford was born in 1891, MIT was born in 1865) and so do not have much age-advantage to enjoy. Moreover, these schools did were not born strong and prestigious - they took decades to hit their stride. Stanford and MIT made their appearance on the national stage only starting maybe in the 1940's and 50's, and only in the 60's and onwards were they considered major world players.

So how did they do it? Many theories abound. But it is widely understood that the rise of MIT is linked in lockstep with the rise of the US military-industrial establishment during and after WW2, and in particular, with the great expansion of Federal spending on science during the Cold War. Stellar MIT leadership secured a great bulk of those research funds, thereby allowing MIT to build top-quality facilities and making MIT the research-center of choice for all aspiring scientists and engineers. MIT became a shining star of research into electronics, radio waves, aerodynamics, rockets, and basically anything having to do with Cold War military technology. And since military spending was, at that time, the impetus behind most American technology spending, MIT took the pole position in the US tech-education field, a position which it has maintained ever since. MIT successfully diversified away from its strong reliance on defense expenditures during the twilight of the Cold War and has put itself in the forefront of the dynamic tech fields of today - infotech and biotech.

The rise of Stanford is inextricably linked to the rise of Silicon Valley in a tech/business symbiotic relationship. I think it's safe to say that if there was no Silicon Valley, Stanford would still be a regional school of minimal prestige. On the other hand, if there was no Stanford, there would probably be no Silicon Valley. You really cannot talk about the rise of one without talking about the rise of the other.

Stanford also was able to grab some of Federal research Cold War spending (but not as much as MIT grabbed). However, the key to Stanford's rise was the blending of tech-research and the business community that was promoted by various Stanford Presidents, most notably Wallace Sterling. Stanford administrators brainstormed the innovative idea of leasing campus space to promising tech companies, and encouraging collaboration among Stanford faculty/students and those companies. That was the beginning of Silicon Valley as we know it today. The auxiliary functions of venture-capital and intellectual property law naturally followed. To this day, if you like the Silicon Valley startup-company tech-oriented lifestyle and you want to know where you should study so that you can gain entree into that lifestyle, you should think very very seriously about going to Stanford. I believe that if there is one school in the world that enjoys a unique geographic specialization, it's Stanford. I know of no other school that is as deeply wedded to such a specialized area in the world business community as Stanford is wedded to Silicon Valley.

Anyway, to summarize, the rise of the big5 has to do to a combination of money, leadership, culture, vision, marketing and luck. It's not dissimilar to why certain companies are bigger than others. Why is Coca-Cola bigger and more famous than RC-Cola? Why is Walmart more successful than Kmart? Same reasons.

By Brownalum (Brownalum) on Friday, March 19, 2004 - 04:23 am: Edit

Rorygilmore, New Haven is by FAR the best college town in the country. More than fifty new businesses have opened within a few blocks of Yale just in the past year, and there are many times more bars, nightclubs, theaters and restaurants within two blocks of Yale than within two blocks of every single other Ivy League school, COMBINED.

Why are HYP considered the best? BECAUSE they are among the most selective:

Applications this year, per available spot in the CLASS OF 2008:


Yale 15.4

Columbia College 14.3

Harvard 11.9

Dartmouth 11.5

Princeton 11.3

Brown 10.1

UPenn 7.40

Cornell University 6.09


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