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Are American Universities worth it?

The ROI of an American college education

A degree from one of the prestigious universities in USA,  is highly coveted by students across the world in general and by students from countries like India and China in particular.

Admission to an Ivy League or any of the other top rung colleges in USA is a culmination of years of effort and huge investments of money for many Indian families.

With such massive amounts of time and money at stake, one begs to ask the question of whether the benefits of an American education justify the costs involved, especially taking into account not only, the more obvious costs of time and money delineated above, but also the hidden cost of staying away from family? The answer would be a resounding Yes! Let’s take a look at some of the reasons for the same

Low acceptance to Applicant ratio: As mentioned above, a degree from a top rung American University is highly coveted, which means that these universities receive a huge number of applications each year. Out of the vast number of applicants only a select few are admitted, after a stringent vetting process involving, SAT scores, Transcripts of previous school attended, essay and personal interviews.

Ivy League Admissions Statistics – Class of 2018

Ivy League Colleges Overall Accept. Rate Regular Decision   Accept. Rate Regular Decision Apps Accepted Regular Decision Apps Received Early Decision / Action Accept. Rate % of Class Filled by Early Apps Early Decision / Action Apps Rcvd Early Decision / Action Apps Accepted  Expected Number of Students to Enroll Total Apps Received Total Apps Accepted
Brown 8.6% 7.4% 2,036 27,344 18.9% 37.4% 3,088 583 1,560 30,432 2,619
Columbia 7.0% 5.5% 1,641 29,654 19.7% 46.8% 3,298 650 1,390 32,952 2,291
Cornell 14.0% 12.3% 4,689 38,266 27.7% 41.5% 4,775 1,325 3,190 43,041 6,014
Dartmouth 11.5% 9.9% 1,751 17,618 27.9% 42.3% 1,678 469 1,110 19,296 2,220
Harvard 5.9% 3.5% 1,031 29,603 21.1% n/a* 4,692 992 1,660 34,295 2,023
Penn 9.9% 7.3% 2,252 30,719 25.2% 53.7% 5,149 1,299 2,420 35,868 3,551
Princeton 7.3 % 5.4 % 1,225 22,787 18.5% n/a* 3,854 714 1,308 26,641 1,939
Yale 6.3% 4.6% 1,200 26,182 15.5% n/a* 4,750 735 1,360 30,932 1,935

* n/a = not applicable since an Early Action Policy was in place or later eliminated, or an Early Decision Policy was eliminated.


As the table above shows, overall acceptance rates were lower than 10 percent for any of the Ivy League colleges. The low acceptance rate, would ipso facto propel a student gaining admittance to these institutions into an elite club of highly capable students. A degree from Harvard or Yale would definitely carry a lot of weight on one’s resume and could also serve as a validation of one’s self and ideas

Access to the best faculty: Very often teaching positions in the top colleges in America are viewed as prestigious assignments. The faculty of these colleges, consists of the best academicians in their respective field. Many Ivy League colleges hire Nobel Prize winners as their faculty.  Also, many leaders of Industry and stalwarts from various fields like Science, Politics and literature are invited as guest lecturers to these universities, providing their students with access to the very best brains and latest cutting edge ideas from around the world.

Low teacher to student ratio: Low acceptance rates translate into an extremely low teacher to student ratio, which means that not only does the student have access to the best faculty in the world, but also can interact with them in a more intimate learning environment. The intimate learning environment is one of the key benefits of an Ivy League education, as students are able to ask questions and participate more actively in class, as compared to schools where the number of students per class is much higher

Cultural Diversity: As students from all over the world apply to, and study in these universities, one would automatically gain exposure to various cultures from different parts of the world, thereby helping in rounding one’s personality. Also, having the best and brightest as one’s co students opens up a world of opportunities right on campus itself. Google’s founders Larry page and Sergei Brin, started the company out of a research project, while pursuing their PhD at Stanford University.

Alumni networks: Most Ivy League colleges, have a strong alumni network and old boys clubs that provides support, advice and access to the best jobs, which are normally not available to outsiders. Stanford University, one of the Ivy League colleges, ranks second in the highest number of CEOs, belonging to the prestigious Fortune 500 rank. Its Alumni include, Theodore A Mathas of New York Life Insurance, and Miles D White of Abbot Industries. Princeton University boasts of Jeffrey Bezos of Amazon amongst its alumni network[1]

The Greek life: Most colleges in USA have various sororities and fraternities that combine individual interests with a sense of community, Fraternities and sororities foster bonds that last a lifetime and open doors to yet more opportunities. Apart from the Greek letter system, various clubs also exist, where one can co mingle with like-minded students

Easy access to financial aid: Although Ivy League colleges are given a bad rep for being overpriced, any worthy and deserving student, is provided access to a plethora of financing options ranging from scholarships to soft student loans. Many Ivy League colleges have a policy of never turning back a student on basis of his ability to pay.

Given the above reasons, it isn’t hard to see, why a degree from a prestigious American college is in high demand and why it makes perfect sense in the long term.



Categories: Education, US


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