The case for HYPSMC

I think there is a very good case to finally induct Columbia University into the HYPSM category.

Firstly, I don’t think there’s any problem with adding any more colleges to the label, because it’s never been some static thing. Some 20 years ago it was only HYP, and then it was HYPS, and then it was HYPSM. Whether the acronym means the top 3 or 5 or 6 or 7 most prestigious/highly ranked institution seems completely arbitrary, so I see no reason to exclude Columbia on that front.

Secondly, I’ve heard a good number of people say that Columbia isn’t in HYPSM, and shouldn’t be in HYPSM, because the acronym isn’t for the most highly ranked colleges, but the most prestigious and well-recognized colleges. I think that’s bogus. Columbia has just as much, or maybe even more name recognition than, say, Princeton, the smallest of the Ivies, and I can guarantee you most kids on the east coast don’t learn about Stanford until they start applying to colleges. And even if it isn’t as prestigious and recognized, if we understand that it deserves to be elevated to HYPSM status, we shouldn’t just descriptivistically wait around until it becomes more recognized. College reputations are not formed naturally, but come from an entire industry of college admissions consulting, college ranking, and college media, and the general discourse that people specifically interested in colleges and applying to colleges (like us good folks on College Confidential) create. Columbia becoming a household name begins with us first recognizing it as deserving of being one.

Rankings-wise, I think that Columbia is indisputably an academic peer of all five of these schools. It has ranked third in the US News rankings for the past couple years, and was even ranked above Yale, MIT, and Stanford last year. In the US News Global rankings, it placed 6th last year (and has been steadily improving over the past decade), the only other Ivy placing in the top 10 being Harvard (MIT and Stanford placed 2nd and 3rd, respectively). Its STEM programs are recognized by most rankings to be better than Harvard’s, Princeton’s, and especially Yale’s, and its humanities/social science programs are pretty much of the exact same quality. Its medical is ranked 4th (above Yale and Stanford), its law school is ranked fourth (MIT and Princeton don’t have law schools), and its business school is ranked 7th (above Yale).

As for prestige, I think Columbia definitely has the prestige. Its notable alumni over its 266-year history include 5 Founding Fathers, 3 US Presidents, at least 125 Pulitzer Prize winners, countless foreign heads of state, some of the most influential artists and writers in the 20th century (Ginsberg, Asimov, Sinclair, Salinger, etc.), the second highest number of billionaires after Harvard, and some of the most important physicists and economists to graduate from an American university. It has the second highest number of billionaire graduates, after Harvard. On top of that, Columbia administers a crap-ton of prestigious awards (including the Pulitzer and Booker prizes) and undoubtably holds a central position in American academia.

So why isn’t Columbia already included? For a number of reasons: its (comparative) willingness to accept Jewish applicants in the early 20th century, the 1968 protests, the rise in crime rates in 70s-80s NYC, its high percentage of international applicants, its comparative economic and racial diversity, etc. all have made the university and continue to make the university seem less-than compared to its more WASPY Ivy neighbors. But crime in NYC has been decreasing steadily since the 90s, and its location in the largest city in America has turned into a massive up-side. The 1968 protests are no longer a blemish on Columbia’s record, but have become ingrained in our national memory and become just another incident in the university’s long history. Its diversity should be celebrated, and should make it seem even more an attractive than, say, Yale, by a surprisingly (and troublingly) large margin the least diverse Ivy.

The university has been steadily improving (though it’s always been recognized as a T10 for most of its history), along with other colleges in large cities like UChicago and NYU, and now boasts a 3.66% acceptance rate, the third lowest in the nation and only surpassed by Harvard and Stanford’s. I’ve seen people explain this away by saying that more unqualified people apply to Columbia because of its location in NYC, which deflates its acceptance rate, but I can guarantee that more people make throwaway applications to Harvard purely for its name recognition. Anyways, the quality of the student bodies are pretty much indistinguishable across all 6 universities.

So what’s the point of all this? I recognize that all this quibbling over milligrams of prestige and who-should-be-allowed-into-the-club-and-who-shouldn’t business is, really, quite dumb. If it were up to me, the entire idea of “HYPSM” should be completely abolished, and the entire college industry should be vigorously detoxified. But that probably isn’t going to happen soon, and ignoring it is probably not going to do anything anyways, because there will always be people who care too much to quibble and argue over niceties or whatever. So while we’re forced to play this game, I can only ask, “Why not?”

I will only be using HYPSMC (or CHYMPS, if that’s what you prefer) from now on. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

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This is why there’s no reason to add Columbia. Why stop there? Soon we’ll just be reciting a university alphabet lol.


I don’t think anyone actually uses this acronym except for people on here and Reddit. I have never heard anyone use it in real life


It depends on what metric you rank colleges. For example, if you are ranking by endowment per student, which is a key driver for most other rankings including USNWR and perhaps the ranking that has been most consistently correlated with the acronym, then the order would be:

1 . Princeton – $2.8M
2. Yale – $1.9M
3. Stanford – $1.6M
4. Harvard – $1.6M
5. MIT – $1.5M

49. Columbia – $0.4M

However, perhaps the most important reason is that HYPSMC is already used… typically in a reference to C for Caltech, although the C in HYPSMC could also be a reference to Chicago or Columbia. It’s completely arbitrary. You can type "HYPSMC "in forum posts if you like, but don’t assume everyone reading the posts will know you mean C for Columbia.


This question is teed up for so many jokes, I have to fight the urge.


HYPSM = the schools with the largest endowments.

Which private university has the 6th largest endowment ?

Plus, as noted above, an added “C” to “HYPSM” would just confuse the populace about whether the “C” represents Chicago, CalTech, or Columbia. Not worth the headache. Better to just add “P” for Penn, “D” for Duke, or “N” for Northwestern. Let’s face it, until Columbia changes its name, it’s not a real candidate for inclusion.

P.S. Plus, shouldn’t we reserve the next spot for a school that begins with a vowel ?


I listed endowment per student earlier, which would have Caltech in 6th among non-LACs (Pomona edges out Caltech slightly). If you instead go by endowment total, then Penn is 6th, as listed below.

  1. Harvard
  2. Yale
  3. Stanford
  4. Princeton
  5. MIT
  6. Penn
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Well, based on endowment per student, we have:

  1. Princeton: $2,884,893

  2. Soka: $2,773,194

  3. Yale: $1,917,890

  4. Stanford: $1,635,849

  5. Harvard: $1,613,756

  6. MIT: $1,454,418

  7. Pomona: $1,368,571

So if endowment per student is the major criterion, Soka should be included.

By size of endowment, U Michigan has more than Columbia, and may surpass UPenn in the near future.

So happy to know that this sort of Ivy-envy derp isn’t limited to Barnard applicants.

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Wouldn’t it be considered Intra-Ivy-envy?


I disagree with the premise that HYPSM has represented a compelling, or even an actual, acronym. This isn’t because I’ve not previously bothered to commit these symbols, in this order, to memory (though I have managed to infer the schools symbolized). Instead, it’s because the string does not form a recognizable word, nor, even on its own terms, can it be said to be pronounceable. If anyone wants to add or subtract letters to this string, I’d say go ahead, you could hardly worsen it.


Any endowment argument is moot. First of all, it’s not like universities release significant amounts of their endowment for use each year. They might just use the minimum percentage required to maintain their status as a nonprofit organization for tax exemption. Endowments are complex and most of it is restricted, meaning that universities can’t choose what they’re going to use it for and when. For example, a business school graduate of Stanford may donate $100 million, but request that the fund should only be used to hire new faculty for the business school in the next decade.

In other words the endowment size isn’t even a good measure of the amount of resources that a school directly allocates for their current undergraduate and graduate schools. A school like Harvard, which has many graduate schools that offer almost zero financial aid, is going to have a larger revenue from tuition, than say Princeton. Even if they don’t release as much from their endowment, Harvard could spend more just by the revenue it gets from graduate school tuition.

If someone wants to go through the arduous (and ridiculous) task of looking at not only a school’s endowment release, but also its revenue from tuition, allocations of endowment money (what types of restrictions are placed for what amount), and detailed expenses, to truly asses the resources for each division in a given school, you can go ahead. But until then, don’t use endowment as an argument.

Oy. :man_facepalming:


The point of bringing up endowment per student was tp show that Columbia is not “indisputably” ranked similar to HYPSM. Instead it depends on what metric you are ranking the colleges. And HYPSMC (C typically refers to Caltech) are the top 6 non-LACs when ranked by endowment per student, so endowment per student is a metric that correlates very well with the HYPSMC acronym.

Yes ranking colleges by endowment per student has little meaning and does not indicate one college must be better choice than the other. However, is there any other referenced ranking for which the same statement could not be made? For example, USNWR’s also has the top 6 as HYPSMC, but C = Chicago and Columbia, rather than Caltech. Is USNWR’s ranking the correct way to group HYPSMC, and the traditional definition of C = Caltech is wrong? Or is USNWR’s ranking just as arbitrary and unmeaningful as endowment per student?

Acronym usage on the forum is not an official rule. If you’d like to say HYPC to mean 4 of the 8 of the Ivies or HYPSMC to mean HYPSM + Chicago, anyone is free to do so. If enough people do so, maybe it will catch on. However, C is probably going to stand for Confusion given the number of highly selective private colleges that start with that letter. A forum member can guess what 5 colleges HYPSM represent, but it’s far less obvious that C stands for Columbia or Chicago; which largely defeats the purpose of using an acronym instead of typing the name out.

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I am not sure whether it would make more sense to just retire the abbreviation.

For undergrad there are hundreds of excellent colleges and universities. I think that students focus far too much on the highest ranked universities.

For graduate school the list of the top schools is going to depend upon your major. As one example I have a daughter starting a DVM program in September. The top five universities in the US for DVM programs (#1 through #5 in the country for veterinary medicine) have overall USNWR rankings of #39, #18, #153, #80, and #53. The top schools for what was my major (Math) would be completely different schools. Nothing is in the top 5 for both majors and whether anything is in the top 10 for both will depend upon which ranking you look at (Cornell and Wisconsin probably being the closest).

However, I do agree that Columbia is a very good university. If we did add a C some might take it to mean Caltech, and some might feel it is ambiguous regarding whether it stands for Caltech, Chicago, Columbia, or something else (perhaps Cornell?). Perhaps the ambiguity might be a good thing.


this is … beyond cringe


I’m not sure if Columbia is in the same league of prestige at HYPSM (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and Michigan).


Did you ever see Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan”? This thread reminds me of the PREP vs UHB discussion (Urban Haute Bourgeoisie)… :joy:

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Here’s my take on this: By all means the ‘C’ should be included but only if the ‘M’ is dropped. Then an ‘O’ needs to be added for my favorite (SUNY Oneonta). A slight tweak of the new acronym would now give you the true meaning of what all this prestige talk is about: PSYCHO. Hitchcock would agree.


Lol! Love it!

I propose limiting the acronym to just the letters HYPE. The E is for Emory. If one wants to take it further, one could add a D for Duke. HYPED. If one wanted to include some fine LACs and other fine universities not commonly given their own special acronym, one could preface HYPE with Tulane, Wash U, Oberlin, Michigan, Union College, Columbia, and Hamilton. Thus, TWO MUCH HYPE.

Any others?