Selective Universities Admissions Series: 3 Not Just Ivy League Part 1


In the last installments, I forgot to mention another category of private research university: the second tier schools. Most of them offer great opportunities, boast fine faculty, and confer the additional advantage of being considerably less sought after, meaning that they’re much easier to get into than their higher profile siblings. So, in that spirit, here’s a question for you trivia buffs. Can you name a highly respected private research university in upstate New York that is NOT an Ivy League school. That’s right, Cornell University, being an Ivy, doesn’t count. Maybe Syracuse University? Hmmm, I’m afraid you are confusing visibility in Division I basketball and football with academic excellence.

Give up? How about the University of Rochester, in Rochester, NY? Rochester (the university) is widely respected throughout the academic world, even though it isn’t too well known outside it. Although it doesn’t field big time sports to draw attention to itself (it plays in Division III, same as Williams and Cornell College in Iowa), Rochester is one of a group of academically superb universities that are less widely known and much less heavily sought after than their higher profile Ivy-plus brethren. Thirty years ago, Rochester was described to me as an institution famous for having its faculty raided by Ivy-plus institutions -- what does that say about the quality of its faculty?

Other lesser known institutions include Brandeis, Case-Western, Emory, the University of Southern California, Boston College and Boston University. A little secret: there are lots of people who’ve done extremely well in life without an Ivy League degree. To cite examples in academe: Hugo Sonnenschein, president emeritus of the University of Chicago, completed his undergraduate work at Rochester and took his PhD from Purdue. Martha Roth, Dean of the U of C’s (graduate) Humanities Division, went to Case Western for her AB, thence to Penn for her PhD. Richard Thaler, a leading Chicago behavioral economist on the Nobel short list, attended Case Western and took his PhD from Rochester. Not from Harvard, Stanford or anyplace similar. Believe me, there are many like them out there, not only in academe, but in all walks of life. Some of these second tier schools boast hefty endowments and offer robust financial aid awards. Others, less robust. But they’re far easier to get into. More food for thought.

And more about this option next week.