The Hidden Ivies

The most common misconceptions I come across when discussing US colleges with British families is that the Ivy League are the superior academic colleges.  The truth is the 'Ivy League' is merely a historic sporting fixture, an athletic conference comprising of eight colleges that played athletic fixtures amongst themselves.  Yes, all eight members of the Ivy League are academically rigorous and feature highly in US rankings but this is not the full picture.  Rankings can be flawed or manipulated and they vary from website to website.  My advice is to stay away from using such rankings as a criteria for your shortlist, instead consider your strengths, passions and how you might enjoy the overall ethos of a college.  

From a student-athlete point of view, the Ivy League colleges do NOT offer athletic scholarship, rather they provide financial aid to athletes only on the basis of financial need as determined by each institution's Financial Aid Office. This can be an intrusive and stressful process for parents, the financial aid forms are time consuming and it can take several weeks to get finalised figures.

But there is good news!  An opportunity exists where an athlete can receive an education rivalling their Ivy counterparts AND can still be awarded athletic scholarship.  Coined the 'Hidden Ivies', a group of 63 colleges exist across NCAA D1, D2 and D3 that emulate the Ivies. They stretch the length of the US rather than being confined to the North East like the original Ivy Leagues, giving an athlete a better chance of finding the right fit.

Having played in the US myself and with my experience of placing athletes for years, I can say that the most important part of going to the US is finding the right 'FIT'.  Why narrow your search to the northeast when the truth is you'd be happier and thrive at a college in California or Texas?  Lets not forget the hyper-selective nature of the Ivy League (Harvard admit rate is around 5%), so are you ready to compete in the classroom with the smartest brains in the world?  Can you manage the work load and compete as a collegiate athlete?  

My biggest advice for prospective student-athletes is to cast your net wide and be brave in embracing the college names you aren't as familiar with.  Go and visit them, speak to alumni, read the reviews and you might just find your perfect home for the next 4 years.  


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