Home > The Ivies

The Ivies
Author: Alexa Donne



             For my mom. Love you best, always.



   Everyone knows the Ivies: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, UPenn, Princeton, Yale. This consortium of eight schools is considered the most elite in the United States and, in some cases, the world. The only reason it’s called the Ivy League is because, eighty years ago, some journalist coined the phrase to refer to an athletic conference. That’s it. All of this because of football. There is a far more complex and nuanced history of the Ivy League, but it’s not one that matters. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is.

   Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. Avery Montfort is the mastermind, the mafia don, the sun to her clique of rotating planets.

   She found us, decided we were worthy of her company, and assigned us our own Ivy League school to compete for. Avery is Harvard, I’m Penn, Emma Russo is Brown, Sierra Watson is Yale, and Margot Kim is Princeton. Yes, there are only five of us and eight Ivy League schools, but have you ever tried to have a friend group with that many people? Untenable. Five is pretty messy as it is. Also, Avery isn’t fond of Dartmouth.

   Our fellow students don’t know the calculated way in which we targeted them and took many of them down, though there are definitely rumors. They know us as the Ivies. They point to us at meals, in the halls, whispering and guessing. But every Ivy mission is planned to have total deniability. It’s easy to write off ruthless teenage behavior because hyperelite schools like Claflin are built on ultracompetitive cutthroatedness. There were ruthless students before us—they just weren’t as well organized.

       Avery makes up the rules and controls the List. We’ve cataloged our competition, our marks, our fellow students whose success we need to disrupt in order to improve our own chances of securing those coveted entrance spots at each university. There are two per school, maybe three—never four.

   We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, summer internships, academic competitions, and musical auditions. We improve our own odds by slightly decreasing the fortunes of others.

   Because hyperelite, competitive college admissions is some serious fucking shit.

   I learned that the hard way.



   Today, half the seniors at Claflin Academy will die.

   On the inside, that is.

   A hundred kids will obsessively refresh their emails and portals so a dancing bulldog, or a tiger, or whatever mascot represents all their hopes and dreams for the future can tell them:

Welcome to Harvard, class of 2025!



We regret to inform you that we must crush all your hopes and dreams….


   Or at least that’s what we interpret. It’s early decision day, and hearts are going to break.

   Then heads will roll.

   College admissions is always a heady mix of longing, desperation, and rage. Claflin kids are quick to the rage part. How dare they reject me?! Don’t they know who I am?!

   Me? I am nobody. My mother isn’t a senator; my dad isn’t a high-priced corporate lawyer. No one in my family has won a Pulitzer or an Oscar. And I’m certainly no prodigious math or music scholar. Nice SAT word, though, right?

       I had to take the test three times, but I finally cracked 1400. I lied about my score, of course, pretending my first try had netted a comfortable 1520, and the other two times were to get a perfect score. The Ivies think I landed a 1550 and called it a day—more than good enough for Penn. My real score is my secret shame.

   But at least I know I’m not the only kid at Claflin lying about their application. You can’t doctor test scores—colleges get them directly from the testing companies. But everything else?

   My peers lie about the stuff that colleges don’t bother to check. Like the clubs they founded and are president of, awards and honors won, that sort of thing. Last year a Claflin senior, Chelsea Cunningham, copied another girl’s résumé down to the letter. She got away with it because the student she copied was accepted to Dartmouth early decision. So when Chelsea’s app showed up, Princeton didn’t have two applications from two different girls both claiming to be the president of Model UN, and a summer intern for the Boston Globe newspaper, and the recipient of a Scholastic Gold Key Award for Novel Writing. Sloppiness gives colleges a reason to make phone calls to high school counselors. It’s how you get caught.

   Or, you know, committing a federal crime. When celebrities and CEOs got caught in that huge college admissions scandal a couple years back, I laughed. The prevailing view at Claflin was restrained relief that none of the academy’s parents were indicted. Students here had long ago learned far more subtle, and legal, ways to cheat. Really, money is the ultimate cheat—rich kids get all sorts of advantages in the admissions process, no lawbreaking required. Anyway, Chelsea got into Princeton on her fake credentials, and the world keeps turning. She’s lucky she wasn’t in our graduating class. The Ivies would have turned Chelsea’s ass in and gotten her expelled for good measure. Karma is a bitch.

       I guess I’m a bitch, too. It’s an unfortunate side effect of being an Ivy.

   But the Ivies get results. I look across the table at Margot surreptitiously scrolling through the Princeton clubs and organizations page on her phone. She got in three days ago, early action. The elites start sending their ED—early decision—results the second week of December. It’s like blackjack: What day will the decisions for your dream school land? The vast majority drop on December 15, though, so Claflin calls it ED day.

   “Because no one eats all day,” Avery jokes almost every time someone says it. And today, the words ED day are slipping past our lips a lot as we all count down the seconds and minutes to 5:00 p.m. ET, when most schools will pull the trigger. Then tonight we’ll let loose at Claflin’s infamous ED day party. Accepted or rejected, every senior gets drunk off their face.

   “ED day is so much worse than I thought it would be.” Emma Russo, aka Brown University, shoves her iPhone into her bag so she can’t look anymore. I give her a minute before she pulls it out again.

   On cue, Avery makes her tasteless eating disorder joke. Normally, I let her barbs slide, because calling her out isn’t worth it. She always turns it back around on me, like a jellyfish: you step on her and she stings. Today, though, I’m practically vibrating from nerves and could use a diversion.

   “I fucking hate that joke,” I snap, stabbing my fork into a piece of grilled chicken before deliberately chewing and swallowing it. I wait for Avery’s eyes to flash cold as she delivers an oblique threat, but instead she throws back her head, blond curls swinging in a perfect arc over her shoulder, and laughs.

       “I guess it is getting a bit old,” she concedes.

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