Why Elite Universities Aren't Worth The Hype

The more you research about these universities, the more you may wonder if they’re actually worth the hype.

College students exhausted sleeping on desk, walking to class Jacob Lund, Lolostock | Canva

By Candice Zhang

Many people may decide to go to university right now, not only for their studies or credentials but also for their experience. But whether you’re a twelfth grader eyeing a Bachelor’s degree or a mature student looking to return to school, you may be wondering: Should I go to one of the well-known universities?

You may decide to go to a world-class university. After all, it’s great to have the fancy school’s name on a diploma. And it perhaps feels like a badge of honor and an accomplishment.


But the more you research about these universities, the more you may wonder if they’re actually worth the hype.

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Many of these prestigious universities struggle to provide students with adequate mental health support. That’s mainly because their culture is focused on the most well-rounded students. This creates pressure for students to perform to the best of their abilities by juggling extracurriculars, academics, and work.

According to research, Ivy League students are three times more anxious and depressed than the average college student. Plus, when students seek help, they notice that their institutions lack such services.


This isn’t only the case of Ivy League schools, but other well-known institutions across the country and globally.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an institution consistently ranked in the top 10 amongst worldwide rankings, is known for its stressful culture. Students often said they would have to study 60-70 hours a week. Surveys showed that 30% of undergraduate students would play the “I’m so hosed” game every week.

The culture of stress has caused many students to experience social anxiety. Although the Mental Health department continues to liaise with the faculty and the students, it continues to give students a lot of work.

This is often the case with other schools outside the United States.


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For example, many students in prestigious Canadian universities also report difficulty accessing mental health care on campus.

Students at the University of Toronto (UofT), which consistently ranks as one of the best public universities in Canada, struggle with accessing mental health services on campus. Although mental health services are more common now, students have observed that the school tends to focus on helplines, peer support, and online services instead of in-person support services.

However, other than providing the proper support services, top schools face intersectional diversity issues.


Many students come from families with wealthy backgrounds. In 2018, Richard Kahlenberg, an educational policy expert, discovered that 71% of Black, Hispanic, and Native American students at Harvard are amongst the top socioeconomic fifth of their respective racial groups nationally. The percentage is said to be higher for Asian students.

But, despite increasing enrollment amongst students from various cultures, students of color continue to experience on-campus microaggressions in these schools.

For example, 54% of Black respondents stated they have experienced racism at UofT. And on Ivy League campuses, public safety officers continue to racially profile students of color.

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This may be due to the structural racism amongst many global institutions. According to the London School of Economics, elite universities have historically restricted access for many low-income students and those of ethnic minorities. Many of these universities continue to be governed by a board of CEOs and venture capitalists of one specific ethnicity.

This affects policy-making and decisions, which seem to cater only to one group of people. The admissions system continues to be based on privilege amongst elite universities. When Princeton admitted to institutional racism, the statement was met with a strong reaction from the public and federal government.

So, we should ask ourselves if attending these elite institutions based on their prestige is worth it.


With the income gap, many students from lower-income families face difficulty adjusting to these environments. After all, academia is an institution, and an institution is not without flaws. But with the already ongoing academic stress, students need a comfortable space where their voices continue to be heard, supported, and represented.

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Candice Zhang is a writer who focuses on relationships, health and wellness, and current events. Her work has been featured in Unwritten, Her Campus, The Strand, and others.