MIT vs. Harvard: Which College to Choose?

MIT or Harvard?
May 6, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/6/24

If you’re deciding to go to MIT or Harvard, this article will help you to make an informed decision on what school is the best choice for you.

In the realm of elite education, two names stand tall: MIT and Harvard. These legendary institutions have become synonymous with excellence, innovation, and prestige, attracting the brightest minds from around the world. But for aspiring students faced with the big decision of choosing between these two powerhouses, the question remains: which one reigns supreme?

Picture yourself at a crossroads, with two paths stretching out before you. On one side lies the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a bastion of scientific and technological prowess, where the boundaries of human knowledge are pushed to their limits. On the other, Harvard University stands with its rich history, diverse academic offerings, and a legacy of producing world leaders and visionaries.

In this epic showdown, we'll dive deep into the heart of the MIT vs. Harvard debate, exploring the strengths, cultures, and opportunities that define these schools. By the end, you’ll have a good understanding of whether MIT or Harvard is better for you. Whether you're a budding engineer, a curious scholar, or a future entrepreneur, this comprehensive guide will arm you with the insights you need to make an informed decision.

Let the ultimate showdown begin!

MIT vs. Harvard: Overview

Choosing between MIT and Harvard is a daunting task for any prospective student. These two elite institutions are renowned for their academic excellence, groundbreaking research, and illustrious alumni. To help you navigate this complex decision, we've created a comprehensive overview that highlights the key differences and similarities between these educational powerhouses.

MIT Harvard
Location Cambridge, MA Cambridge, MA
US News Ranking #2 #3
Undergraduate Enrollment 4,657 1,966
No. of International Students 3,478 302
Student-to-Faculty Ratio 3:1 7:1
No. of Applicants (Freshmen) 26,914 56,937
Acceptance Rate 4.52% 3.59%
Mid-50% SAT/ACT Scores of admitted students 1535 / 35 1494 / 34
Average Tuition (Undergraduate Studies $61,990 $56,550

Aspiring scholars, parents, and curious minds can use this table as a valuable resource to make informed decisions about whether MIT or Harvard aligns more closely with their academic and personal goals. 

MIT vs. Harvard: Admissions Requirements

When starting your journey to higher education, one of the first things to consider is the admission requirements of the colleges you’re interested in. 

MIT and Harvard, both renowned for their academic excellence, each have their own distinct set of prerequisites and criteria for selecting their future scholars. 

In this section, we dive into the specific admission requirements for MIT and Harvard. We’ll explore standardized tests, high school performance, extracurricular achievements, and other important factors that play a role in the journey of aspiring students. 

Acceptance Rate for Harvard and MIT

According to the acceptance rate, it’s harder to get into Harvard than at MIT. The acceptance rate at Harvard is 3.59%, whereas MIT’s acceptance rate is 4.52%. These numbers reflect just how competitive it is to get into these schools. With such low acceptance rates, they admit only a tiny fraction of applicants. 

Harvard, with its storied history and global reputation, has historically maintained an acceptance rate hovering around 5%, making it one of the most competitive universities in the world. 

MIT, renowned for its focus on science, engineering, and technology, is similarly selective, typically admitting around 6-7% of applicants.

The MIT vs Harvard acceptance rate is notoriously low, underscoring the fierce competition for admission. To have a shot at getting in, you'll need exceptional academic achievements and a standout application.

MIT Admission Requirements

Admission to MIT is a goal coveted by aspiring scientists, engineers, and scholars worldwide. To gain entry into this bastion of technological advancement, you’ll need to tackle a set of admission requirements. These requirements are designed to spot the brightest minds and most promising talents. 

GPA and Completed Courses

In terms of GPA and completed courses, prospective students of MIT are expected to have an exceptionally strong academic record. A high school transcript that includes a challenging and rigorous course load, particularly in advanced mathematics and science, is a big advantage.

While there is no specific GPA requirement, the majority of admitted students have near-perfect or perfect GPAs. However, keep in mind that MIT is looking for students who have not only excelled academically but have also demonstrated a genuine passion for their chosen field of study. 

Essay And Short Answers

MIT's admission requirements extend beyond academic achievements and test scores; they also include a holistic assessment of an applicant's character, experiences, and aspirations. The essay and short answers provide valuable insight into the personal and intellectual dimensions of prospective students. 

MIT opts to split its admission essay into several smaller essays that offer a more thorough look at potential applicants and their experiences. These written components offer an opportunity to express your passion for science, engineering, or other fields of interest and to explain how you plan to contribute to the MIT community.

Letter of Recommendations

Typically, MIT requires two letters of recommendation from teachers who have instructed the student in an academic subject. MIT recognizes the value of letters of recommendation as a critical component of the admission process, offering a glimpse into an applicant's character, achievements, and potential contributions to the MIT community. 

Additional Application Items

Beyond the core application materials, MIT offers you the opportunity to provide additional application items such as an interview that can further improve your candidacy. One element is the Maker Portfolio, which allows students to showcase their creativity and innovation by submitting a portfolio of their own technical or creative projects. 

This offers a platform for students to demonstrate their hands-on skills, problem-solving abilities, and passion for making a tangible impact. MIT also provides space for you to submit an Optional Artistic Portfolio if you have a talent and passion for the arts. 

Furthermore, you can include a Supplementary Recommendation, a letter of support from an individual who can offer unique insights into their character or background. 

Harvard Admission Requirements

Gaining admission to Harvard University, an institution globally renowned for its tradition of academic excellence and innovation, is a goal that captures the aspirations of students worldwide. Harvard's admission requirements stand as a reflection of its commitment to nurturing the world's brightest minds and future leaders. 

In this section, we will break down the admission criteria set by Harvard. By understanding these requirements, you can better position yourself to join the ranks of scholars who have thrived in the dynamic and intellectually vibrant atmosphere of Harvard University.

GPA and Completed Courses

Harvard University, known for its thorough admissions process, places considerable importance on academic achievement. As a result,  your high school GPA and completed courses hold weight. 

While there is no strict GPA requirement, admitted students typically have exceptionally strong academic records, often boasting near-perfect or perfect GPAs. 

Harvard is looking for applicants who have not only excelled academically but have also pursued a challenging and rigorous high school curriculum, including honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.

Personal Insight Questions

Harvard's admission requirements extend beyond traditional metrics and delve into personal insight and character assessment. The admissions committee invites applicants to respond to a set of personal insight questions, often called the Harvard Supplement, which allows you to express your individuality, values, and unique perspectives. 

These questions provide an opportunity for applicants to share their life experiences, challenges, aspirations, and how they see themselves contributing to the Harvard community. 

Letter of Recommendations

Harvard University places great emphasis on the value of recommendation letters as part of its comprehensive admission requirements. Applicants are typically required to submit two letters of recommendation, often from teachers who have instructed them in core academic subjects. 

Harvard encourages applicants to submit an additional letter from a counselor or other individuals who can provide a broader perspective on the applicant's character, leadership potential, and extracurricular involvement

These recommendations, while highlighting the academic strengths of applicants, also aim to provide a more holistic understanding of your character, values, and potential contributions to the Harvard community, reinforcing the university's commitment to nurturing not only bright minds but also well-rounded individuals.

Additional Application Items

Harvard University offers you the opportunity to submit additional application items that can further demonstrate your unique qualities and experiences. Among these additional materials, if you have exceptional artistic talents, Harvard welcomes the submission of an art portfolio, allowing you to share your creativity in various artistic disciplines. 

The institution also provides an optional interview, which offers the opportunity to engage in a one-on-one conversation with an alumni interviewer or a member of the admissions team. 

Moreover, Harvard encourages the submission of supplementary materials, such as research papers, additional letters of recommendation, or other forms of creative expression that may not fit into the traditional application format. 

MIT or Harvard? Factors to Consider

When faced with the choice between two academic giants like MIT and Harvard, prospective students find themselves standing at a crossroads. Both MIT and Harvard have rich histories, diverse cultures, and exceptional resources, making them significant in your college education.


The academic environments at Harvard and MIT are quite different, and your decision between the two often comes down to your academic interests and goals.

Harvard, with its rich tradition in liberal arts and a broad spectrum of fields, offers a well-rounded education that fosters critical thinking, interdisciplinary learning, and a holistic approach to knowledge. 

It's an ideal choice for those who are looking for a liberal arts education, aspire to study a diverse range of subjects, and value the vibrant academic and social opportunities of a larger university. 

On the other hand, MIT is renowned for its unparalleled strength in STEM fields. It is a magnet for individuals deeply passionate about innovation, research, and the application of cutting-edge technologies. 

Class Profile 

The class profile of a university can significantly impact one's decision to attend Harvard or MIT. 

Harvard, as one of the world's most diverse and inclusive institutions, prides itself on its global representation and the broad array of talents and perspectives its students bring to campus. 

When you look at a geographical breakdown of Harvard’s 2027 class, only 15.9% of the class is from the New England area, with 15.4% coming from International areas. Of accepted students, 16% are enrolled in Humanities, 28.2% in Social Sciences, and 17.4% in Biological Sciences. 

In contrast, MIT is celebrated for its focus on science, engineering, and technology, attracting students with a strong inclination toward innovation and quantitative disciplines. In the upcoming 2027 class, 90% are from within the United States, with 10% representing 59 other countries. 


The cost of attending Harvard or MIT is a major factor that can significantly influence an individual's decision. Both institutions are prestigious but come with different financial considerations. 

The current cost of tuition at Harvard is $56,550, not including any other fees such as housing and activities. Harvard gives an estimated cost of $82,866 to attend for one year, depending on your circumstances. 

On the other hand, MIT has a slightly higher tuition at $61,990. When you take into account all other expenses, it is estimated that one year at MIT would cost around $85,960.

Financial Aid

The availability of Harvard vs MIT financial aid plays a significant role in the decision to attend either Harvard or MIT. Both institutions are committed to making education accessible and affordable to students from diverse backgrounds. 

Harvard, known for its generous financial aid program, often meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need for admitted students, making it an attractive option for those seeking a world-class education without incurring overwhelming debt. 

Similarly, MIT also boasts a strong commitment to financial aid, ensuring that students with demonstrated needs can pursue their studies without an overwhelming financial burden.

Sports and Extracurriculars

Sports and extracurricular activities can significantly influence the decision to attend either Harvard or MIT. 

Harvard, with its large and diverse student body, offers a broad array of sports, clubs, and organizations that cater to a wide range of interests. The Crimson's strong athletic tradition and extensive extracurricular opportunities are a major draw for those seeking a robust social and recreational life outside the classroom. 

In contrast, MIT, while also providing a variety of extracurricular options, has a unique focus on academic and technical clubs and research opportunities. As such, individuals who are passionate about STEM and innovation may find MIT more appealing. 

Choosing Between MIT and Harvard: How to Decide

Deciding between MIT and Harvard is a big choice that requires careful consideration of various factors. To make an informed decision, make sure to take a close look at your academic and career aspirations. 

MIT's renowned strength in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) makes it an ideal choice for those passionate about innovation and research in these fields, while Harvard's broader liberal arts focus offers a more interdisciplinary education.

Consider the campus culture and environment, as the two institutions have distinct atmospheres, with MIT known for its technology-driven ethos and Harvard celebrated for its diverse and well-rounded student body. 

Additionally, the financial aspect plays a crucial role; evaluating scholarships, grants, and aid packages can help determine the affordability of each institution. 

The availability of sports, extracurriculars, and the unique class profile should align with your personal interests and goals. Ultimately, the decision to attend MIT or Harvard should reflect your academic passions, career aspirations, and the type of college experience you wish to embrace as you embark on your higher education journey.

FAQs: MIT Vs. Harvard

If you’re still wondering who wins the battle of Harvard vs. MIT, we’ve got everything you need to know covered in our FAQ section.

1. Which Institution is More Prestigious, MIT or Harvard?

Both MIT and Harvard are widely recognized as among the most prestigious institutions in the world, but they excel in different academic domains.

MIT is celebrated for its unparalleled contributions to science, technology, and innovation, making it highly prestigious in those fields.

Harvard, on the other hand, boasts a long history and a wide range of academic strengths, making it prestigious in a broader spectrum of disciplines.

2. Is it Harder to Get Into Harvard or MIT?

According to the acceptance rate, Harvard is harder to get into. Both Harvard and MIT are highly selective universities.

3. Is MIT an Ivy League School?

No, MIT is not an Ivy League school. The Ivy League is a group of eight private institutions in the northeastern United States, which includes Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. 

Final Thoughts

In the ongoing debate of MIT vs Harvard, we find two exceptional institutions, each with their own distinct appeal and academic strengths. 

MIT, renowned for its innovation, cutting-edge research, and STEM dominance, is the leading school for those in pursuit of a career in science and technology. Harvard, with its rich history, interdisciplinary approach, and diverse community, beckons students seeking a well-rounded education in a wide array of disciplines. 

Whether you yearn for the technological frontier of MIT or the wide-reaching horizons of Harvard, one thing is certain: both institutions offer unparalleled opportunities for intellectual growth and personal development, guiding students toward a future defined by excellence and ambition.

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