Life Among The Ivies: What A Pittsburgh Author Learned From Each Ivy League School

May 3, 2016

It’s no secret that Ivy League colleges are some of the most selective higher education establishments in the U.S. Although a small selection of the population will receive degrees from an Ivy, author Sean-Michael Green had the rare opportunity to spend a whole year exploring each and every one to research his book, The Things I Learned in College: My Year in the Ivy League. Green spent 30 days at all eight Ivies in an attempt to uncover the truth behind myths and misconceptions regarding these establishments.

Even students within the Ivy League believe mythologies about the other schools. Princeton, for example, was perceived by many of Green’s interviewees from the other seven schools to be full of arrogant, privileged and preppy students, as well as the strange belief that all men at Princeton were short.

“What I heard from other students was the [Princeton’s students] were so straight-laced and preppy that if you were to wear jeans to class, you’d be labeled as the alternative guy on campus,” Green explains.

What Green discovered was that all of those mythologies about Princeton were untrue.  The only place that retained some of its mythological stature was Brown, which Green affectionately describes as “weird.”

“They’re looking for something a little bit different than the others.”

Green says the school tends to accept a certain type of student that other Ivies may overlook.

While there is a perceived hierarchy among Ivy League students, Green testified that all students he spoke with shared a common thread.

“These were all very bright, very ambitious, well-rounded kids I was talking to,” Green says.  

Green went to classes, social events and even housed with students to uncover the ins and outs of attending each school. At Dartmouth he spent 30 days living in a run-down college rental with some members of the rugby team.

“It’s the sort of house you would expect a bunch of male college juniors to live in,” Green says, adding that even junior men of Ivy stature are not above less than pristine living quarters.

As he is quick to point out, The Things I Learned In College: My Year in the Ivy League is less of an ethnographic or anthropological study than it is a book of Green’s own observations about the Ivy League experience from more personal perspectives in hopes of informing those curious about life in the most selective colleges.

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