The Ivies - 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