Ivy League Depression (5 cold facts)

Today’s blog post focuses on the Ivy League depression rates. We begin with a brief overview of the Ivy League Colleges. We then take into consideration the other side of the Ivy League schools, reviewing the statistics of the mental health issues faced by the students of these schools. This will then be followed by understanding the reasons for the Ivy Leagues becoming the hotspot for mental health issues.

Ivy League Depression:

William Deresiewicz identifies the students of the Ivy League Colleges as the ‘excellent sheep’. The ‘excellent sheep’ are those students who have been successful in getting into elite colleges as they have fulfilled all the requirements. However, he also suggested that it does not prove their ability or intelligence as they just do the work that they have been asked to complete in a particular way, without really understanding the reasons for doing it in a specific manner. 

This ‘hoop jumping’ mindset, as he terms it, is closely linked with these students’ mental health.

It is seen that these students are made to believe that they have to be perfect and they have to do everything perfectly, but they are never taught to question themselves as to why they are doing it. This has significantly increased the levels of depression and anxiety in the Ivy League students.

Ivy League Schools:

The Ivy League Schools are considered to be the most prestigious colleges in the United States. Located in the Northeastern part of the country, there are a total of eight schools that are considered Ivy League. These schools include, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, Colombia Universities and the University of Pennsylvania. 

The Ivy League came into existence in 1954, when the NCAA athletic conference for Division I was formed. The phrase now is no longer limited to athletics, but is associated with the eight most prestigious educational institutions in the US. Since the 1960s the Ivy Leagues have gained a reputation of producing graduates with excellent academic performance, social prestige and a promising career in future.  

  • There are an abundance of resources that attract smart, hard working and career oriented students from all across the world.
  • These schools provide a great upliftment to a student’s career. 
  • Although expensive, these schools offer a wide range of scholarships to their students. 

Each Ivy League school has its own legacy and a unique set of accomplishments, making them one of the most sought after schools in the world.

Are the Ivy League Schools really what they look like?

Not quite. Despite the fact that the Ivy League schools are the most sought after educational institutions, it has been reported time and again, that the schedules and the pressure put by these institutions on the students has been taking a toll on their mental health. 

Students report having jam-pack working days, hectic schedules, leaving them no time of their own. These schools are a breeding ground of intense competition and puts tremendous pressure on the students to excel at everything, including academics, sports, extracurricular activities, social life, physical fitness and career. 

Several students have reported of feeling hopeless, worthless, overwhelmed and on the verge of a breakdown. This only means that the pressure put by the schools have fostered anxiety and depression in the students.  

This is the case with most college students in the USA, however, the intensity of these issues gets amplified because of the prestige attached to being in an Ivy League school.

Studies have suggested that the rates of attempted suicide in Havard College is twice the national percentage that is 12.12 per 100,000 students.This is primarily due to the faults in Harward’s health system and the high pressure culture prevalent in the college.further it has also been seen that 35% of Princeton students have reported to have developed mental health issues after entering the campus.further, it was also reported in 2017 that 5 students from the Colombia University died from suicide from the start of the year. 

Further, University of Pennsylvania, has been given a D+ grade ranking for its mental health, while Yale and Dartmouth Universities received an F grade ranking in the survey which was conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation. 

The American College Health Association’s survey in 2017 showed that about 40% of the college students felt depressed to an extent that they could not get themselves to class,spend time with their friends and could not perform even the basic functions of day-to-day living.With respect to the University of Pennsylvania, it has been seen that students are often forced to take leaves due to the mental health issues caused because of the intense pressure on them. 

Additionally, the practice of granting leaves to the students on the grounds of mental health has also come under the scrutiny of the Ruderman Family Foundation as discriminatory. 

  • They noted that four out of the eight Ivy League schools force students to take leaves of absence on the grounds of ‘community disruption’. These leaves are considered to be discriminatory in nature. 
  • Secondly, four out of eight schools prohibit the students from entering the campus while they are on leave. This often leads to isolation and ostracism.
  • Thirdly, most of the Ivy League schools do not mention the entitlement to the  accommodations that are mentioned under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
  •  Lastly, five out of eight of these schools offer only a fixed number of days as a leave. It does not take into consideration that the span of recovery and management of a particular mental health issue may vary from person to person. 

Why have the Ivy League schools become the hotspot for depression and other mental health issues?

It is often said that the elite schools often manufacture young people who are smart and talented, but at the same time are also anxious, depressed, timid, lost and with little or no curiosity and a limited sense of purpose. These people are often seen as heading in the same direction as everyone else and may be great at what they are doing, but may not have an idea of what is being done actually. 

Here are a few reasons why the Ivy League Schools have become a hotspot:

  • The pressure of being perfect and being the best at everything:

There have been several student accounts that have been suggestive of the fact that there is a constant pressure to be perfect and to be the best at everything, right from academics to socialization. They have to prove themselves to be the best at whatever they undertake, even if it is being well read or having networked enough with people. The pressure of being good at everything and being at par with others, often is the first step where curiosity, imagination, creativity and inquisitiveness take a back seat.

  • The extreme admission process:

The Ivy League schools have a gruelling admission process which creates an image that nothing but the best shall be admitted in the school. This creates an illusion for the students that nothing but success is important. The thought of not being successful itself is extremely terrifying and often disorients them. Failing at something not only becomes a circumstantial situation, but often turns into an existential situation for them.

This results in them going to extreme lengths to avoid making any errors, putting them at an increased risk of anxiety, depression and panic attacks. 

  • ‘Return on investment phenomena’:

This mentality is often seen in parents and the students who are in the Ivy League schools. Because of the high fees, quality of education and the type of exposure that is available, parents and students often think that they have to reap the returns of whatever they have invested in the school which can be in the form of a good job, high salary, higher standard of living and status in the society. 

This thinking often leads them to push themselves to be on the top of their league. 

  • Approach of the Ivy Leagues:

The leagues often boast of teaching their students how to think. However this thinking is limited to technical and  business oriented thought processes and leaves very little room for self-development. This then leads to discrepancies in one’s sense of self-image, self-worth, sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem.

  • A different measure of success:

The amount of classes taken, the kind of electives chosen, the summer internships applied for and the clubs joined are taken as a measure of success instead of taking into consideration, the kind of knowledge received, the different things learnt, the new experiences that have been seen. Such a narrow measure of success only does to push the individual to exceed their capacity and not gain any valuable output.

  • Parental expectations:

Parents often want to see their child be the best and get the best of the education, even if it means that the parents have to resort to extreme methods of parenting. Parental expectations are often internalised by the students and realise that the only way to win the parents approval and appreciation is by getting good grades and being the best at what they do. This may create a great discrepancy with respect to what they want to do and what their parents want them to undertake. 

All these factors lead the students to experience a constant state of depression as it creates an all-or-nothing mentality. It also creates a sense of utter worthlessness and a question on the existence if the student does not fit the ‘ideal’ Ivy League standards. To infer, this would only mean that when it is said that the colleges and educational institutions should contribute to the society, the Ivy Leagues may be contributing values of self-aggrandisement, success as defined only through the conventional standards that is; wealth and status, no commitment to real education and learning and no scope for creativity and curiosity.

If you’ve enjoyed the Ivy League Depressed mentioned above, I would recommend you to take a look at Stanford professor suicide and David Freese Depression too.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is the Ivy League so great?

Ivy Leagues started with schools of athletic excellence, but over the span of time have come to become the most prestigious academic institutions in the country. The schools take pride in their highly selective admission process and wide career opportunities.

Which Ivy League school is the hardest?

Harvard is the hardest Ivy League school with the acceptance rate of 4.9%, while Brown has the acceptance rate of 6.9% and Dartmouth of 8.8%

Are the Ivy Leagues overrated?

Just being in an Ivy League school makes the person one of the smartest in the nation, but being at the bottom of their class in the school can be stressful. The discrepancy and comparison can be stressful making the schools overrated.

What is the easiest Ivy League college to get into?

According to these numbers, Cornell, Dartmouth and Penn are by far the easiest Ivy Leagues to get into.

How stressful is Princeton?

Princeton ranks No. 6 in the United States for universities with the highest stress rates. There are other factors such as loneliness or depression that affect stress levels but academics continue to be a  major perpetrator of stress.


Today’s blog post focused on the Ivy League depression rates. We began with a brief overview of the Ivy League Colleges. We then took into consideration the other side of the Ivy League schools, reviewing the statistics of the mental health issues faced by the students of these schools. This was then followed by understanding the reasons for the Ivy Leagues becoming the hotspot for mental health issues.


A History of the Ivy League




New Study Reveals Ivy League Schools Fail Students with Mental Illness







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