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Dartmouth vs. Harvard: Which College is Right for You?

Among the first 10 institutions of higher learning in the United States, Harvard University and Dartmouth College remain two of the most prestigious research universities in the country. Drawing students from around the world, these members of the highly reputed Ivy League are extremely selective, with outstanding students and top-notch academic programs.


If you’re deciding between Harvard vs. Dartmouth, but aren’t sure which college is best for you, we’ll break down the differences in this post.


Learn more about Dartmouth and Harvard and see your chances of being accepted.


Harvard vs. Dartmouth: A Quick Overview


Harvard Dartmouth
Location Cambridge, MA Hanover, NH
Campus Type Urban Rural
Undergraduate Enrollment 6,788 4,417
Acceptance Rate 5% 7.9%
U.S. News Ranking 2 12
Middle 50% SAT 1460-1580 1440-1560
Middle 50% ACT 33-35 32-35
Sticker Price $78,200 $76,623
Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need? Need-blind
No-loanMeets 100% of demonstrated need

No-loan for families with income < $100k

Meets 100% of demonstrated need


Dartmouth vs. Harvard: A Closer Look


Location and Weather


Both Dartmouth and Harvard are located in New England, although the surrounding areas have vastly different feels. Dartmouth is in rural Hanover, where you’ll experience true nature via hiking trails, lakes, and gardens. Harvard, on the other hand, is located in vibrant Cambridge, just outside of Boston. Cambridge is a city in its own right, with plenty to see and do. Boston is only a short train ride away though, and you’ll have the city’s countless restaurants, museums, and events at your feet.


In either case, you’re sure to experience bitterly cold, snowy winters. Dartmouth’s winters are generally colder and more brutal, however, being further North (though this weather does make for great skiing). In both locations, spring, summer, and fall provide more moderate temperatures, including sweltering hot days in July and August. 




Dartmouth is a bit smaller than Harvard, with 4,417 undergraduates. Roughly 62% of classes have fewer than 20 students, and there is a student to faculty ratio of 7:1.


Harvard, meanwhile, has close to 7,000 students, with a student to faculty ratio of 6:1. About 72% of classes have fewer than 20 students. 




One of the most notable features of life at Dartmouth is the D-Plan, consisting of four 10-week terms per academic year. For the most part, students are able to choose their 12 total terms of enrollment, which gives them the opportunity to pursue internships, work, study abroad, and more experiences outside of school, in some cases with funding from Dartmouth itself. 


Dartmouth students can choose from more than 60 majors. They’re also able to design their own majors. There are some general education requirements, including a first-year writing component, physical education, and Distributive and World Culture.


Harvard offers 50 fields of study, along a special concentration in which you create your own degree plan to address a challenging academic goal. There are certain general education requirements across areas including:


  •  Aesthetics and Culture
  • Ethics and Civics
  • Histories, Societies, Individuals
  • Science and Technology in Society


The university emphasizes a broad liberal arts and sciences education. Undergraduates may also take classes in one of Harvard’s graduate schools, or at one of the many nearby academic institutions.

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Almost all of Harvard’s undergraduate student body lives on campus. First-year students are housed in shared suites near Harvard Yards, while second-year students end up in one of 12 houses. These houses become not only places to live, but also communities for students to build friendships and support systems. 


A majority of Dartmouth students also live on campus in different types of housing, including residence halls, affinity houses, or Greek life houses. Similar to Harvard’s housing, first-year students live among their freshman peers in clusters or on specific floors, while upperclassmen can explore mutual interests and connect with people with similar interests in a variety of communities. 


Financial aid


Both Dartmouth and Harvard have high costs of tuition — more than $70,000 per year each. However, at each school, more than half of all students receive financial aid. The universities are committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need and are need-blind. Harvard is no-loan for all students, while Dartmouth is no-loan for students with family incomes under $100k.


Like other members of the Ivy League, neither Harvard nor Dartmouth offers merit scholarships. However, students may apply for and receive scholarships from other organizations and apply them to their education.


Sports and Extracurriculars


The Harvard Crimson and Dartmouth Big Green are members of the Ivy League and NCAA Division I. Harvard has 43 teams, and Dartmouth has 35. 


Many students are involved in Greek life at Dartmouth (about 60%), but there are plenty of other extracurricular opportunities, both in terms of outdoor and indoor activities. One notable club is the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC), the oldest outing club in the United States. Study abroad is also a notable facet of the Dartmouth experience, with more than half of students taking advantage of the 40+ programs around the world.


Harvard doesn’t officially recognize Greek life, though there are fraternities and sororities operating “unofficially” off-campus. There are 450 student organizations covering nearly any interest you can think of, from gender and sexuality to media to music. Roughly 60% of Harvard students study abroad in countries around the world.


Culture and Diversity


In the Dartmouth Class of 2023, almost half of admitted students were people of color from the United States. About 16% were first-generation, and 12% were from countries outside of the U.S. Dartmouth also has a number of initiatives for LGBTQ+ students, including internships, resources, and student advising. Students may also opt into gender-inclusive housing.


Harvard’s demographic makeup is as follows:


African American 14.3%
Asian American 25.3%
Hispanic or Latino 12.2%
Native American 1.8%
Native Hawaiian 0.6%


Harvard also demonstrates a dedication to gender and sexuality inclusiveness. The school has a prominent LGBTQ+ community, and there’s even an Office of BLGTQ Student Life. Within the office are student tutors and proctors, who are assigned to dorms and act as a resource for students wanting counseling on LGBTQ identity and issues. Like Dartmouth, Harvard also offers gender inclusive housing.


How to Decide Between Harvard vs. Dartmouth


Harvard and Dartmouth both provide an excellent education and plenty of opportunities for students and alumni alike. You’re bound to be well-prepared for your chosen career no matter which path you choose.


That said, there are some distinctions that might make one school more appealing than the other for certain students. The location is one important factor. If you prefer a tight-knit community and an outdoorsy campus with a “middle-of-nowhere” feel, Dartmouth is your choice. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an urban setting in a bustling area, you’ll love Harvard’s Cambridge.


Harvard will also provide you with a more traditional collegiate experience, while Dartmouth has some aspects that make it a little more off-the-beaten path, such as the D-Plan.


Harvard is also a larger school, with 10 graduate schools within the institution. While Dartmouth is, in fact, a university, the curriculum and overall tenor of the institution is one of a smaller liberal arts school.


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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.