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Savannah Lee Smith and Jordan Alexander on Gossip Girl
Savannah Lee Smith and Jordan Alexander on Gossip Girl
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Style > Fashion

Exploring the Ivy League Aesthetic: Sorority Rush and Socioeconomic Inequality in Elite Institutions

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Brown chapter.

If you’re on TikTok or know any girl in a sorority, you’ve likely heard of “RushTok.” Potential new members share their “get ready with me” videos and journeys as they take on the often formidable sorority rush process to gain a coveted spot in their school’s top houses, while girls already in a house film trending dances and dress in themes to advertise their sorority. 

One theme that many — especially the SEC schools — embraced was an “Ivy League” theme, which saw girls dressing in preppy sweaters, polo shirts, tennis skirts, and jewelry, embracing the so-called aesthetic of these institutions. 

As a student at Brown University, I found myself laughing at these takes on the Ivy League with my friends. Walking to classes I see so many students dressed in all aesthetics and embracing their individuality proudly. I love going to a school that celebrates diverse interests and forms of expression. These girls’ take on what an Ivy League aesthetic was looked like they were dressing for a tennis-themed event or a work social. But at the same time, I found it both fascinating and very telling on the public perception of an Ivy League student is — rich, preppy, and privileged. Unfortunately, these assumptions are not based in fiction.

Ivy League institutions do favor the affluent, and far beyond the typical legacy spot-buying lore. Despite need-blind applications and sometimes generous financial aid at these schools, the student body skews heavily towards the rich. An Opportunity Insights study that assessed the Ivy League and Ivy-equivalent schools (Stanford, MIT, Duke, University of Chicago) found that children from families in the top 1% financially are more than twice as likely to attend these institutions — an advantage not found in the top public schools in the nation. A 2017 study focusing specifically on Brown found the median family income was $204,200, with 70% of students falling into the top 20% of earners. In short, these institutions, be it intentional or not, favor the wealthy population. 

This light-hearted theme in sorority rush across schools highlights a larger issue of financial inequality among these elite institutions. Ivy Leagues need to do better at increasing accessibility for those of all socioeconomic backgrounds, and ensure all students have a fair chance at acceptance. 

Elle Horst

Brown '26

Elle Horst is a freshman at Brown University from Northern California. She plans on concentrating in International Public Affairs with a Policy and Governance focus. As an avid journalist in high school, Elle is thrilled to join Her Campus as a staff writer. In her free time, she enjoys drinking good coffee, hanging out with friends, going to the beach, and binging TV shows.