June 8, 2017

Do Ivy League Schools Offer Athletic Scholarships?

Do Ivy league schools offer athletic scholarships?  The answer is no they don’t, but if you are an athlete looking to attend an Ivy league school  don’t give up on playing your favorite sport in college just yet.  College athletic recruitment is alive and well in these schools.

As with division 3 schools,  there are no Ivy league football scholarships, but there are many, many opportunities for ivy league football and ivy league basketball athletes today that were not available until recently.  If you have the brains to attend an Ivy league school, why would you settle for something like junior college football scholarships?

Many believe the ivy schools don’t rank when it comes to athletics. However, recent stats show the Ivy league has produced 108 first team-all-Americans and won numerous individual national championships.  So, while a college football scholarship may not be available, it is still possible for you to participate in a prestigious football program.

Why?  New policies at the Ivy league schools have substantially enhanced financial aid for all admitted students making it easier to recruit elite athletes and making it possible to get top athletes without actually offering college football scholarship for example.

How can they recruit athletes when they can’t offer college athletic scholarships?  We can look to their enormous endowment funds for the answer.  Today’s college football prospects can have it all, the get the best education in the land and they get to play football for a top-rated football program.

Endowment-rich members like Yale, Harvard and Princeton have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in additional need-based aid.   Most of the Ivy league universities have made it possible to essentially eliminate student loans for all students by doubling the size of grants meant for middle-income families.

In the past, top athletes would have opted for something other than an Ivy league school for no other reason than their yearly school bill would have amounted to $20,000 to $30,000 a year versus a non-ivy league school that provided a full scholarship with no out-of-pocket expense..

ivy league schoolsAndy Noel, athletic director for Cornell said: “Eighty percent of our best recruits in the current freshman class would not have come here 10 years ago because we couldn’t match other schools’ offers. The impact has been enormous. And will continue to be.”

Again, do Ivy league schools give athletic scholarships?  No, never athletic scholarships, but the other types of financial aid now being offered more than make up for the lack of athletic scholarships.

Does this mean that any recruit regardless of his or her academic record can play sports for the  Ivy league?  Absolutely not,  an Ivy league sports recruit must have the same stellar academic credentials as any other non athletic student to compete with the highly competitive admissions process at each Ivy league  institution.  If you do not have the academic credentials, you may have to settle for football junior colleges.

Coaches do provide a list to the admissions officials indicating potential athletes.   But, across the ivy league, it is estimated 13 percent of each university’s incoming class is composed of athletes chosen from the list provided by the various coaches.

About 25 years ago, the Ivy league created a measurement called the Academic Index (AI), which gives all prospective high school recruits a number, roughly from 170 to 240.  This index while not secret is highly protected and summarizes their high school grade-point averages, scores on standardized tests like the SAT, and factors in other elements not so widely known.

The index number of every admitted recruit is shared among the member institutions to guarantee that no vastly under-qualified recruit has been admitted at a rival institution and to allow member universities to compare class-wide index averages for athletes against similar averages for the overall student body.

How the AI is calculated is something that is not made public.  Some people think if they get a certain A.I., they will automatically get into an Ivy League school, and that’s not the case, because so many factors come into that decision”.

One interesting note is in the sports of baseball, soccer, wrestling or lacrosse , where most athletic scholarships from non Ivy league schools are split into partial scholarships,  an ivy league school can beat the offer by offering a full financial package which makes it the least expensive school to attend in the end.

Most ivy league institutions have some very attractive financial packages.  For instance, if a family is earning less than $65,000 annually, they are asked to make no financial contribution to their children’s education.  Families making $65,000 to $180,000 might be expected to pay 10% to 18% of their annual income on a sliding scale.

“When I was a senior in high school, I had about 20 basketball scholarship offers from all over,” said Shonn Miller, now a star 6-foot-7 freshman at Cornell. But when they said I could come to Cornell for $2,000 a year, it made my decision pretty easy. I mean, are you kidding me?”

Can you blame the elite athletes for navigating to one of the Ivy league institutions?  By going with one of the big eight Ivy league universities, they get prestige, education, and athletics all in one beautiful package.

Chistian Webster, the second-leading scorer on Harvard’s basketball team last season, decided to attend Harvard even though the cost to attend was still $20,000 per year.

“It’s a sacrifice, but it’s doable,” said Webster, a junior who was Maryland’s high school player of the year in 2009 and had about 25 full athletic scholarship offers.  “It’s not free, but it’s also not the full price of $50,000 or more.  To me, it was a 40-year life decision, not a four-year decision.”

A college degree from an ivy league school is considered by many to be the best college education you can get. The ivy league schools are among the most expensive to attend and the most challenging to be admitted. Schools that are part of the elite 8 are: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale.

Although the Ivy League colleges share certain policies, high academic standards, historic pedigrees, and compete in the same athletic conference, they differ from each other in many significant respects. They differ in their academic focus, the size of their undergraduate enrollment, the size of the overall campus, the feel and the location of the campus.

Characteristics of Ivy League schools, which include relatively small undergraduate populations, large endowments, prestigious academic reputations, and consistent ranking among the top 15 U.S. universities.

Though there are many athletic program similarities to NCAA Division I schools, there are also many differences besides the fact that the Ivy league schools do not offer athletic scholarships. The Ivy league also restricts activities like off-season practices, discourages weekday games and prohibits postseason play in football.  Academics are still the first priority at these eight prestigious universities.



  1. Jim C says:

    A major point you left out is that non-athletes have the same opportunities at scholarships. Put another way, you get in academically first. If you want to play a sport, good for you. If you do, still good for you. At many schools, if a student has an athletic scholarship then leaves the team, that student loses the scholarship. Not so at the Ivies. The scholarship comes without strings.

    Jim C
    Penn ’67

  2. GRA says:

    This is a somewhat poor researched and thought out article.

    >>Today’s college football prospects can have it all, the get the best education in the land and they get to play football for a top-rated football program.

    It’s a common belief that an Ivy League education is considered “the best,” but, those in the know and those aware, know that it isn’t necessarily true.

    Harvard is known to give out easy A’s, and Yale and Princeton are becoming known for their grade inflation. Liberal arts colleges solely focus on their undergraduates (partially because professors aren’t facing a “publish or die” standard). State universities, especially those with a strong engineering programs, outdo a vast majority of the Ivies in that department. Only Cornell, and maybe Princeton, is known for engineering amongst the Ivies. Even then where would you go if you want to major in engineering: Illinois vs Cornell? Tough decision, but Illinois doesn’t automatically lose.

    Playing off the Illinois v Cornell scenario, if you want to major in aeronautical engineering and received an athletic scholarship from the former university, playing for ex-Bears coach Lovie Smith, which one would you choose? Tough decision. Same goes for basketball, volleyball, swimming etc.

    In other cases, there are numerous players, that I know of, who were recruited to play for the Ivy League, but turned each offer down to become a walk-on for DI programs. One went to Notre Dame and the other to Illinois.

    On the academic side, the Ivies are pretty much overrated for undergraduate quality. You attend the Ivies for the brand, the social capital and the alumni network. It’s been my experience that a good education, even a great one, can be found in DI non Ivy League schools.

    As for the “top-rated football program” — that’s blatantly false if you compare it to other DI programs in the Big Ten, SEC, MAC and Big 12. If you want to play for the best Ivy League football program you’d have a more sound case.

    Also, Stanford, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Duke, Berkeley and Notre Dame are known for their academics, all ranked in the top 25, who offer athletic scholarships. That’s six institutions – off the top of my head – that can compete for academically solid athletes that, no doubt, are being looked at by Ivy League coaches.

    If anything, Northwestern probably is the stiffest competition that the Ivy League has in competing for student-athletes. But if you want to play in the Big Ten the Ivy League loses out.

    If you’re being recruited by Notre Dame for football a Yale offer loses its luster real fast. If you’re a swimmer with Olympic potential Stanford or Northwestern is your choice, not Dartmouth or Harvard.

    >> If you do not have the academic credentials, you may have to settle for football junior colleges . . . . If you do not have the academic credentials, you may have to settle for football junior colleges.

    You frame a false dilemma. As the athletes you’ve noted, they had full-athletic scholarships from other non Ivy League schools. Unless you do not qualify academically for any DI programs, I don’t see junior college as the only option if one isn’t offered a spot on an Ivy League team.

    And to completely blunt, the majority of athletes in football, basketball and volleyball that are on Ivy League teams aren’t high DI prospects to begin with. At best of them are mid-major prospects, at the most. The non-MVP’s, their athletic skill is most suited for DII, with some competing against low-DI talent. Sure, every once in a blue moon a Jeremy Lin comes along but he’s an exception.

    Conclusion: An offer to play for an Ivy League isn’t gold unless you truly want an Ivy League degree. As I mentioned, there are at least six institutions that have great academics while offering full-athletic scholarships. Ivy League may be DI, but it’s the bottom feeder of DI conferences. If you want degree prestige then the Ivy League is your bet. Other than that things even out and it’s not a black & white scenario.

  3. GRA says:

    @ Jim C: >> At many schools, if a student has an athletic scholarship then leaves the team, that student loses the scholarship. Not so at the Ivies. The scholarship comes without strings.

    You can say that for all the programs that don’t offer athletic scholarships, save for the Ivy League, are DIII conferences.

    For DI programs that offer athletic scholarships, if students no longer wants to play for the team they can transfer to other DI programs that have openings. Usually the coaching staff at the previous university helps the athlete in securing a spot on another team. This is a common occurrence in basketball.

    If the student no longer wants to play the sport, then yes, he loses his scholarship that pays for tuition. Fortunately that’s a rare case and many that leave the team leave to play at other DI programs that offer full-athletic scholarships.

    As I painted in a previous post, an Ivy League offer to play isn’t the perfect package as it’s made out to be. It’s not a hidden gem. There’s an article, I believe written in the UPenn student newspaper, noting that being an Ivy League athlete isn’t easy mainly because full-athletic scholarships aren’t offered – which means facilities aren’t the best – and the lack of student enthusiasm makes it hard to even care. You’re basically doing a full-time job on top of academics without being compensated (in this case athletic scholarships, student enthusiasm, and better facilities).

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