Harvard vs. Yale: Which Is Better?

Two students sitting looking at a textbook
Updated:
October 23, 2023
8 min read
Contents

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 8/3/23

Harvard and Yale are two Ivy League giants, both known for their academic excellence, rich history, and vibrant student life. So, how do you choose between the two? Read on to find out!

A split-decision and a missing key - these two things contributed to the sinking of the Titanic, causing one of the worst and most sensationalized shipwrecks in history. The binoculars needed to watch out for large obstacles, such as an iceberg, were locked away in a locker that only David Blair had.

In a last-minute decision, David Blair was replaced with another ship officer, Charles Lightroller. In the haste of this split-decision, David forgot to hand the keys over to Charles. These locked binoculars have often been cited as one of the major contributors to the Titanic disaster, since no one was able to see the iceberg until it was too late. 

Considering the effects split-decisions can make, it’s crucial you do not make any hasty decisions when it comes to your education. Picking between Harvard vs. Yale can be difficult, but carefully considering these options can prevent disaster (or at least regret and the arduous process of transferring colleges)! 

This guide will go over the factors you should consider as you determine which of these schools is better for you.

Harvard vs. Yale: An Overview

Before getting into the specifics, here are some general stats and feats about both schools:

School Rankings Acceptance Rate SAT/ACT Scores GPA Tuition
Harvard College 3 3.41% 1510/34 3.9 $54,269
Yale University 3 4.35% 1450-1580/33-35 4.14 $64,700

Based on these numbers, choosing which school to attend may still seem impossible! After all, these schools are ranked the same, have almost identical admission expectations, and are both pricey to attend! So, let’s consider some other factors!

Harvard vs. Yale Factors to Consider

A woman thinking

Yale vs. Harvard, which is better? Well, the answer ultimately depends on your personal preferences. To make the most well-informed decisions, consider these factors:

Location

Both Harvard and Yale are located in the Northeastern region. However, Harvard is situated in Cambridge, Massachusetts which is a large city just miles away from Boston. Cambridge is known to be a vibrant and bustling city with high energy and lots to do! 

This close proximity to Boston also gives students access to a dynamic and diverse economy, providing them with unparalleled opportunities in a variety of industries. On the other hand, Yale is located in New Haven, Connecticut, a smaller city that is around two hours away from Boston. 

New Haven is considered to be a historic city best known for its museums, architecture, and food. Students interested in living in a smaller, tight-knit community while still having access to large city opportunities can get the best of both worlds at Yale!

Rankings

In terms of rankings, both schools are the third best in the nation, so there’s no comparison to be made here. You can expect to receive the same quality of education and academic experience at both schools!

Admissions Statistics

Both Harvard and Yale are highly selective Ivy League universities with low acceptance rates. In fact, there is only a hairline difference in their acceptance rates, with Yale being slightly less competitive. Both schools set high academic expectations on their students and prefer to admit students with 4.0 GPAs

Overall, both schools are equally challenging to get into, and students must strive to present themselves as strong candidates by achieving high grades, test scores, pursuing diverse extracurriculars, and demonstrating a strong fit with the university’s values to stand a chance of admission!

Tuition and Expenses

Harvard and Yale are expensive universities to attend. As such esteemed schools with extensive resources and facilities to support students, their tuition costs are some of the most expensive in the nation. 

Both schools have almost identical costs of attendance. While Yale’s cost of attendance of a first-year student is $83,880 a year, and Harvard’s is $79,450, these estimates only include the cost of tuition, room, and board. 

They do not consider the costs of transportation, textbooks and equipment, and other personal costs, which can spike the total costs to around $90,000-$100,000. Past your first year, Yale may be the cheaper option for you, depending on where you choose to live.

The average cost of off-campus housing at Harvard is $1,787 a month, which is expected of such a large city. On the other hand, Yale’s off-campus housing for one person is estimated to be around $1,100 a month. 

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Considering both schools are expensive, in the Harvard vs. Yale debate, it’s crucial to explore each school's financial aid options. By reviewing how extensive these school’s financial aid packages are, you can decide which university will fit into your budget better. 

Beginning with Harvard, this university pledges to meet all of their students’ demonstrated financial need to ensure they are not kept from receiving the highest quality of education. To throw some numbers at you, more than 22% of Harvard families pay nothing for their education and 55% of students receive Harvard scholarship aid.

Harvard students that qualify for aid can receive it in the form of scholarships or grants from Harvard, and/or external organizations. Their most common scholarship is the Faculty of Arts and Scholarship Program, which awards more than 2,000 students individual endowments and gift funds. Your scholarship amount will depend on:

  • Your parent contribution
  • Student employment and outside awards received
  • Your remaining need (which will be covered)

Yale similarly offers all students financial aid based on their demonstrated need. The main type of gift aid they give students is scholarships and grants. Here are the exact types of aid they offer:

  • The Yale Scholarship: a grant provided to Yale students based solely on financial need
  • Merit-based Scholarship: based on criteria directly related to a student’s performance in academics, sports, music, or another field of interest
  • Entitlement Grants: based on criteria such as federal need, city or state of residence, or affiliation with an employer

As you can see, both schools offer extensive financial aid to ensure students can afford their education and enter their futures with as little debt as possible!

Academics

As top-ranking schools, Yale and Harvard offer robust academic programs to their students in diverse subjects. As two large research institutions, students not only have access to world-class facilities and faculty, but are also given the opportunity to participate in a range of research projects.

One main difference between these schools is that Yale is a liberal arts school, whereas Harvard is not. While Harvard has a liberal arts and science college, it has other colleges as well that do not focus on liberal arts education. 

Yale is also best known for the humanities, social sciences, and law, while Harvard is known for business, economics, and STEM

Additionally, while Yale offers over 85 undergraduate majors for students to choose from, Harvard only offers around 50. Despite this numerical difference, both schools offer several interdisciplinary programs and concentration programs for students to pursue all of their academic interests!

Extracurriculars

Yale offers hundreds of clubs and groups to its students, including those that focus on academics, the arts, politics, service, and culture. To be exact, it has around 100 athletic teams, around 60 cultural organizations, and more than 50 performance groups. 

Some of the most popular extracurriculars at Yale include its Debate Association, Entrepreneurial Society, Symphony Orchestra, and College Democrats. 

Harvard boasts of having over 450 student-run organizations, meaning it offers a more diverse selection to its students than Yale. Although, if you’re interested in sports, Harvard only has around 40 athletic teams, as compared to Yale’s 100.

Harvard is well-known for its leadership programs that allow students to engage in service to society with numerous nonprofit organizations.

Demographics

Harvard and Yale are committed to admitting diverse students that can contribute different perspectives and skills to their community. Yale has an undergraduate student body of 6,536 students and Harvard has an undergraduate body of 7,153

Both schools have almost equal percentages of male and female students and around 50% of students that are non-white. In a recent admission cycle, 10% of Yale’s undergraduate class was international students, and 15% made up Harvard’s entering class.

Yale vs. Harvard: Which One Is Right for You?

Three students sitting on the grass smiling

Now that you know more about Harvard and Yale, you should be able to come to a decision faster. 

To summarize, Harvard is better for students that are interested in living in a big city near Boston, to have as much opportunity as possible. Also, Harvard offers more diverse extracurriculars and may be more suited for international students, as its student body is made up of more international students. 

On the other hand, students that enjoy the small-city feel will fit in better at Yale. Yale students can also expect to spend less on housing, have more program options, and more athletic opportunities. If you’re hoping to join a liberal arts college, applying to get into Yale is likely also the better option for you.

FAQs: Yale vs. Harvard

In this guide, we’ve gone over some key factors to consider as you choose between Harvard vs. Yale. For any remaining questions about these schools, read on to find your answers.

1. Is Yale University Better Than Harvard?

Whether Yale University is better than Harvard University is subjective and depends on individual preferences, goals, and needs. Both universities are highly respected and are ranked among the top universities in the world, and both offer exceptional educational resources. 

Yale offers students a more tight-knit community, cheaper off-campus housing, more diverse program offerings, and athletic teams. It is also a large liberal arts university whereas Harvard only offers liberal arts education in one of their colleges.

2. Is Harvard or Yale Harder to Get Into?

Both Harvard and Yale are highly selective universities, and getting accepted into either institution is a great accomplishment. 

However, in recent years, Harvard has had a slightly lower acceptance rate than Yale, making it statistically more difficult to get into. However, considering this difference is less than 1%, it should not be a major deciding factor for you.

3. Is Harvard More Prestigious Than Yale?

Both Harvard and Yale are considered to be equally prestigious. Both rank third in the nation and have reputations of excellence.

4. Are Students Happier at Yale or Harvard?

Considering happiness is subjective and depends entirely on each individual students’ personal preferences, it’s difficult to definitively say which school has happier students. What is certain, however, is both schools do their best to ensure their students feel fulfilled.

Both Harvard and Yale have vibrant student communities with a wide range of extracurricular activities and opportunities for engagement. These schools are committed to providing a supportive and enriching environment for their students, with resources such as career services, academic advising, and mental health support. 

5. How Do Yale and Harvard Compare Academically?

Both universities are highly regarded for their academic excellence, and each has unique strengths in different fields. Yale is known for its excellence in the humanities, social sciences, and law, while Harvard is known for its strength in business, economics, and STEM fields. 

Additionally, Yale offers around 85 undergraduate programs whereas Harvard offers 50. 

Final Thoughts

Choosing the college you attend will have life-long implications. It will not only influence the connections you make, but your career trajectory and future. Avoid making any hasty decisions when choosing between Harvard vs. Yale! 

Weigh out both options, consider your own goals and needs, and pick the school that can offer you the best university experience!

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