Almost Ivy: Examining Tulane’s reputation as a backup for Ivy League schools

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Ashley Chen | Contributing Artist

After a 30-hour flight and two days of jet lag recovery, current sophomore Xin Dong listened to jazz music in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Dong said, as she observed the French Quarter, she immediately loved the culture of the city. Though she had never been to New Orleans before moving to Tulane, Dong said she was excited to spend time in her new environment.

Originally from Beijing, Dong chose to travel across the world for college. As a nationally-ranked university, Tulane attracts a wide range of students from around the globe.

Some students say they view Tulane as a backup to the Ivy League schools, which begs the question: How do students like Dong decide to spend four years in a city 7,300 miles from home in order to attend Tulane, while others see Tulane as the Ivies’ less-academic counterpart?

“I chose Tulane for few reasons,” sophomore Serin Park said. “First, I was rejected from my top two choices, which were University of Chicago and Wellesley College. Second, I wanted to be out of the Catholic school ‘bubble.’”

The Ivy League is a collegiate athletic conference in the Northeast comprised of Brown, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale and Columbia Universities and the University of Pennsylvania as Ivy League schools. The connotation of the Ivy League, however, extends well beyond sports.

“Of all institutions of higher learning, these elite schools are considered to be the most outstanding and the most sought-after in terms of acceptance and graduation,” according to an article on Best College Reviews.

For Park and other students, however, Tulane represents more than a safety school. Both the Ivy League schools and Tulane attract students from every states. Additionally, about 11 percent of Tulane students are international, while most Ivy League schools boast a percentage of roughly double that. Yale, for example, admits classes of roughly 20 percent international students.

Many students argue that a college education is what you make of it, regardless of statistics. Sophomore Josh Ballagh was deciding between Tulane, Princeton and Dartmouth when he came to this realization.

“Each school’s campus felt really enchanting in its own sort of way,” Ballagh said. “I think I could’ve been very happy on any of them.”

Nevertheless, his choice in coming to Tulane relied pragmatically on one factor: money.

“What’s more exciting? A letter from Tulane stating that I’d been given the Dean’s Honor Scholarship or a letter from Dartmouth saying that I’d been accepted but would receive $0 in aid of any kind?” Ballagh said. “The first option, definitely. That’s why I’m here.”

Tulane’s generosity in merit scholarships routinely attracts students who might otherwise attend Ivy League schools.

Despite merit aid playing a large role in Ballagh’s decision to attend Tulane, he added that he has never had a moment of self-doubt regarding his decision to attend school here.

“I definitely kept that Dartmouth acceptance letter, don’t get me wrong,” Ballagh said. “It sits right next to my DHS letter on my desk at home, as a sort of reminder that I did indeed make the right decision coming to Tulane.”

Junior Pritika Sharma said Tulane’s academic culture is healthier than many Ivy League schools.

“Tulane is academically very challenging and is a fantastic school, but does not have the kind of toxic atmosphere of competition that exists in many Ivy Leagues,” Sharma said. “I like that about Tulane, and that is why feel it does not really fall into that category.”

Kila Moore contributed to the reporting of this article.