Harvard vs. Oxford: Which College to Choose?

June 18, 2024
5 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 6/18/24

The University of Oxford and Harvard University are always on the list of the best universities in the world. This read will uncover the crucial attributes to consider when comparing the top two universities, Harvard and the University of Oxford.

Choosing between Harvard vs Oxford can take time and effort. These universities epitomize academic excellence with top-notch curricula, state-of-the-art research facilities, and faculties comprised of esteemed experts across various disciplines. 

You also can’t talk about these universities without alums mentioned, such as Barack Obama from Harvard University and David Cameron from Oxford. These universities both share similarities and several differences. Read along as we compare Harvard with Oxford.

Harvard vs. Oxford: Overview

As we compare Harvard vs Oxford, here is a table with an overview of information about the universities.

Statistics Harvard Oxford
Location Massachusetts, United States Oxford, United Kingdom
US News Ranking #3 #5
Undergraduate Enrollment 1,966 3,271
No. of International students 302 551
Student-to-faculty ratio 7:1 11:1
No. of Applicants(Freshmen) 56,937 23,819
Acceptance Rate 3.5% 17%
Mid-50% SAT/ACT Scores of admitted students SAT: 1,520-1,580
ACT: 34-36
SAT: 1,440-1,480
ACT: 34-38
Average Tuition (Undergraduate Studies) $54,269 £9,250($11,880)

Harvard vs. Oxford: Admissions Requirements

Havard and Oxford have specific admission requirements that you must meet before they can consider your application. What part of the admission requirements separates Harvard and the University of Oxford?

Harvard Admission Requirements

Harvard University’s first admission requirement for undergraduate school is to log onto the application portal via Common Application or Coalition Application. Then, you are required to pay an application fee of $85, which is necessary for some administrative application processing. 

Submit your filled-out Common App or Coalition App form and wait for Harvard to send a PIN to your Applicant Portal. You need the following reports for the application.

  • School report 
  • Midyear school report 
  • Final school report
  • Teacher report
  • High school transcript
  • SAT or ACT (optional for 2022-2028 applicants, but recommended)
  • English Proficiency Test

Harvard’s admissions officers require midyear and final school year reports to review your performance in high school. The English proficiency test is crucial to international students. 

For consideration, you need a minimum IELTS score of 7.5, a minimum TOEFL score of 109, and a minimum PTE score of 7.5. If you need clarification about the documentation, ensure to send Harvard an email. Confirm that you have the necessary documentation and transcripts.

GPA and Completed Courses

Harvard currently has no official GPA requirement. The school says that all students have different academic paths. However, a GPA close to 4.0 will give you a spot at being selected. Harvard also believes that the strongest applicants will have the following secondary background.

  • Four years of mathematics
  • Four years of English with a vital writing component
  • Four years of science, including biology, physics, and chemistry.
  • Three years of history, including European and U.S. history
  • Four years of the same foreign language

Do not worry if your school does not offer some of these subjects. You can also take similar courses at your local community college or university to make up for this required coursework.

Essay And Short Answers

During your application, you will answer some essay and short answer questions. While writing each answer, stay calm and write about things you care about and things about Harvard University. 

The Essay topics come in these forms:

  • Some students have a meaningful background, identity, interest, or talent that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Reflect on when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • The lessons we take from obstacles can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Harvard requires that you submit one compulsory and two optional supplemental essays. You may need to fill out a form for additional personal information, which is also optional. The admission officers will certainly use whatever information you supply. 

Letter of Recommendation

Harvard University seeks at least two letters of recommendation from prospects. They suggest that your letters come from an academic source. You can ask your closest and most impactful teachers, ensuring that they prepare a strong recommendation. 

Additional Application Items

After preparing these requirements, take note of the application deadlines. The general deadline for Restrictive Early Action is November 1st, and January 1st for regular decisions. 

After submitting your application, an interviewer will likely reach out to you. Interview processes are known to be more informal at Harvard interviews. 

It comes in the form of coffee or lunch with a former alumnus, where you have conversations surrounding your passions and current events. Follow these Havard pros and cons carefully, and you will have a higher chance of studying at Havard.

Oxford Admission Requirements

Oxford University admissions requirements are tailored to accept students with high academic standing. Unlike Harvard, universities in the UK employ a centralized system called UCAS, Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. 

This system allows students to apply for up to five courses at five separate universities, sending the same information. 

Since the applications are not tailored to each university, the admission committee evaluates the application holistically before making a decision. The committee considers the following points.

  • Strong academic background 
  • Exceptional leadership qualities
  • Class contribution based on professional experience or skills
  • Extracurricular involvement 
  • Strong professional background

Excellence in A-level exams and their UK equivalents will set you forward. International students should compile their IELTS, TOEFL, or PTE documents and send them before the deadline. 

Oxford has some subject-specific entrance tests. One is the BMAT for Medicine applicants or the ELAT for English applicants. Bear in mind that applying to Oxford costs $97.

Unlike at Harvard University, you may not be required to submit your school or teachers' reports. However, you will fill in the details under the Education section of the UCAS. If you are accepted, you will submit transcripts, reports, certificates, and other requirements.

GPA and Completed Courses

The University of Oxford does not have a clearly stated GPA requirement for admission. This is because the grading systems vary according to different countries. 

Oxford considers your academic performance, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and personal statements when making admission decisions.

Personal Insight Questions

Oxford set up interview sessions with potential applicants. These sessions are geared towards academic performance instead of the chilled Harvard interview. Some of the questions you should prepare for include:

  • Why did you choose this course?
  • What do you expect out of studying this course?
  • How do you balance your studies and your extracurricular activities?
  • What part of the subject of your choice do you find challenging or intriguing?
  • What can historians not discover about the past?
  • How do you relate this world event to the subject of your choice?
  • Talk to us about a mentor, teacher, or role model who has influenced how you approach life.
  • What are your interests in economics?
  • What are your expectations from this course?
  • Do you think this compound would dissolve more in water or alcohol?
  • Discuss a piece of content or a project you are proud of.
  • How hot does the air have to be in a hot air balloon if you want to use it to lift a hippo?

Letter of Recommendations

The University of Oxford will ask for at least two letters of recommendation. Again, we recommend getting your recommendation letters from academic or professional sources. Ensure that your choice will highlight your eligibility for Oxford.

Additional Application Items

The UCAS application platform requires each application to write a supplemental essay. Since UCAS is not dedicated to Oxford University, avoid tailoring your answer toward Oxford. Ensure to stick to the word limit when providing your UCAS supplemental essay.

Also, take note of the two UCAS deadlines. If you intend to study medicine, dentistry, or veterinary science, the deadline for application is usually in October. Other courses are open to application till January. 

After the application, the admissions officers will review your application and call the top applicants to interview. The interview will feature some of the personal insight questions listed above. After going through these steps, wait for your acceptance letter.

Harvard or Oxford? Factors to Consider

After examining each University's admission requirements, what are the other factors to consider? Take a look at the difference between Oxford's pros and cons as well as Harvard’s. 


Top-quality education is the most vital point for both Harvard and Oxford. They offer different courses. Harvard has over 50 fields of undergraduate study, while Oxford University offers 48 colleges for various areas of specialization. 

Some notable differences would be Oxford's Arts and Humanities field, which ranks #1, while Harvard comes behind. Also, Harvard’s Economics and Business Department ranks #5 while Oxford is at #10. And in medicine, Harvard takes the #1 spot while Oxford lingers at #8. 

Consider the acceptance rates. Oxford has an acceptance rate of 17%, while Harvard has a rate of 3.5%. Oxford is better as it provides opportunities for more students than Harvard, accepting 17% of applicants compared to Harvard’s 4.5%.

Class Profile 

The most recent class profile from Oxford shows 23,819 undergraduate applicants. On the other hand, Harvard recorded a total of 56,937 applicants. This information may imply that more students prefer to study at Harvard. 

Oxford University has a higher acceptance rate, which equals a higher admitted student of 16,865. Among the 16,865, Oxford records 46% of international students. Harvard admits 1,966 undergraduates, with 15.4% being international students.


Oxford is better than Harvard in terms of cost. An undergraduate program at Oxford costs around £9,250 (approximately $11,000) for local students. 

Harvard has a standard tuition of $51,000 to $55,000 per annum, which is way higher than Oxford's tuition. Hence, undergraduates find Oxford more affordable than Harvard.

Financial Aid

In the Harvard vs Oxford discourse, both universities offer application fee waivers to eligible candidates. Oxford has a variety of scholarships and bursary options to support residents and international students with their tuition fees. 

The Reach Oxford University Scholarship is one of many financial aid programs for students at Oxford. This scholarship is for students from low-income countries who cannot study for a degree in their own countries for lack of educational facilities or political or financial reasons. 

Financial aid is available to both US and international students at Harvard. Residents are eligible for a confident Federal Pell Grant. Other financial aid could be a combination of scholarship funds, student employment, loans, and any potential outside awards.

Sports and Extracurriculars

Harvard and Oxford excel in their extracurricular activities. There are several clubs to join during academic sessions. These activities provide a break from academic pursuits while fostering personal growth, leadership skills, and a sense of community. 

This robust athletic culture, from golf to soccer, will help build a physical fitness culture. Extracurricular activities may include charity work, cultural exhibitions, and social events amongst students within the school and from all over the world. 

Choosing Between Harvard and Oxford: How to Decide

So far, you have seen the Harvard pros and cons as well as the Oxford pros and cons to help you decide between Harvard vs Oxford. You have evaluated the academic prowess, faculty expertise, resources, costs, alums, and references. Carefully consider all these factors before making a choice. 

FAQs: Harvard Vs. Oxford

If you have other reservations about Harvard University and Oxford, these answers should clear your doubts. 

1. Is It Harder to Get Into Harvard or Oxford?

It is harder to get into Harvard because they have an acceptance rate of 3.5% compared to Oxford's 17%. Although these rates fluctuate annually, both universities attract top academic talent worldwide.

2. Is Harvard Considered a Better School than Oxford?

U.S. News ranks Harvard third in National Universities and first in Global Universities. In contrast, Oxford is ranked first in Best Global Universities in Europe and fifth in Best Global Universities by U.S. News and World Report.

Harvard and Oxford are both globally renowned for their academic excellence, distinguished faculty, and contributions to research and scholarship in their respective fields. Ultimately, the better choice may vary depending on the context and criteria used for evaluation.

3. Which University Is More Prestigious, Harvard or Oxford?

The prestige of Harvard or Oxford depends on various factors and can vary based on regional or disciplinary considerations. Oxford University is considered third, while Harvard University ranks fourth according to QS World Ranking. Each has its own rich history and tradition of academic excellence. 

While Harvard may hold greater prominence in some regions or disciplines, Oxford's centuries-old legacy and distinctive collegiate system contribute to its prestige. 

Final Thoughts

No doubt, comparing Harvard vs Oxford gives an insight into why these universities remain the best in the world. They are of utmost relevance both within and outside their states. 

If you are preparing to write an application to any of these two amiable institutions, check out some resources that'll boost your chances in your application and during your interview.

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