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

Two of the most prestigious and selective universities in the world, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are academic peers and neighbors. Each year, these top-tier schools draw tens of thousands of applicants, each hoping to attend the Cambridge institutions.


If you’re deciding between Harvard and MIT, you have a difficult choice to make. In this post, we’ll be going over these schools’ similarities and differences, to help you figure out which school is best for you.


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


Harvard vs. MIT: A Quick Overview

  Harvard MIT
Location Cambridge, MA Cambridge, MA
Campus Type Urban Urban
Undergraduate Enrollment 6,788 4,600
Acceptance Rate 5% 7.3%
U.S. News Ranking 2 4
Middle 50% SAT 1460-1580 1520-1580
Middle 50% ACT 33-35 35-36
Sticker Price $78,200 $73,160
Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need? Need-blind


Meets 100% of demonstrated need


No-loan for families with income < $90,000

Meets 100% of demonstrated need


MIT vs. Harvard: A Closer Look


Location and Weather 


Harvard and MIT are both located in Cambridge, just outside of Boston. Don’t miss the many historic sites, restaurants, shops, and museums, many of which are in Harvard Square, the city center. You can also hop on the T and get to Boston in under 20 minutes. 


Be prepared for cold, snowy, windy winters — Cambridge is by the water. The summer is quite pleasant, and you can enjoy boat rides, waterfront dining, and jogging by Charles River. 


MIT is slightly closer to downtown Boston, and also has a better view of the city skyline. Its campus tends to feel more urban and integrated with the city, while Havard’s campus feels more suburban and self-contained.




MIT has a student body of just 4,600 students, while Harvard has close to 7,000. While MIT’s student to faculty ratio is smaller than Harvard’s (MIT’s is 3:1 to Harvard’s 6:1), the percentage of classes with fewer than 20 students is comparable — 71.3% at MIT and 72% at Harvard.




Both MIT and Harvard are widely known for their stellar academic programs. Harvard offers 50 fields of study. You can also create your own degree plan that addresses a specific, challenging academic goal. Students must meet requirements in areas such as Aesthetics and Culture; Ethics and Civics; Histories, Societies, Individuals; and Science and Technology in Society.


All MIT students apply to the school undeclared. The institution is divided into five schools:


  • School of Architecture and Planning
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
  • MIT Sloan School of Management
  • School of Science


The institution is famous for its STEM programs, but there are plenty of other majors, such as Theater Arts, Music, Political Science, Women and Gender Studies, and Writing. Students may declare a major from any school as rising sophomores. In some cases, they may also design their own major. All students must fulfill certain requirements, including science core courses; subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences; communication-intensive courses; and physical education.


MIT and Harvard both allow cross-registration with each other, along with several other colleges and universities in the Boston area.




More than 97% of Harvard undergraduates live on campus. As freshmen, students are placed in shared suites near Harvard Yards. When they become second-year students, they reside in one of 12 houses that serve as communities as well as dormitories, allowing students to form friendships.


Meanwhile, about 73% of MIT undergraduates live on campus, while others live in MIT-approved fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. Faculty families live and serve as heads of house in each residence, serving as support systems and facilitators. Meanwhile, residential student governments are responsible for organizing social, athletic, and intellectual programs. 

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Financial aid


At first glance, MIT and Harvard are expensive, with sticker prices above $70,000 per year. But bear in mind that a majority of students receive some type of financial aid at each school. While neither school awards merit scholarships — scholarships are need-based only — both MIT and Harvard meet 100% of demonstrated need and are need-blind


One difference is that Harvard is no-loan, while MIT is no-loan for families with incomes below $90,000 per year. Harvard also states that families earning between $65,000 to $150,000 can expect to pay only 0-10% of their income. Overall, you can expect Harvard financial aid to be more generous.


Sports and Extracurriculars


The Harvard Crimson’s 43 teams play in the Ivy League and NCAA Division I, while the MIT Engineers’ 33 teams play in the NCAA Division III. 


MIT has 31 Greek organizations. Harvard, meanwhile, doesn’t officially recognize Greek life, but some fraternities and sororities exist “unofficially” off-campus. Additionally, each school has approximately 450 student organizations. MIT is home to groups like the Solar Electric Vehicle Team, Student Art Association, Outing Club, and much more. Harvard’s activities span gender and sexuality to music to politics.


Many Harvard students elect to study abroad in countries around the world. At MIT, students may also participate in exchange programs with students overseas.


Culture and Diversity


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%


MIT’s undergraduate makeup from the 2019–2020 academic year was 51% US minority groups. Ten percent of undergraduates come from countries or territories outside of the US.


Both schools offer resources and programs for their LGBTQ+ students. For example, the Office of BLGTQ Student Life at Harvard has student tutors and proctors who offer counseling on LGBTQ+ identity and issues. MIT, likewise, offers LBGTQ+ Services with support, programming, and more. Both institutions have gender-inclusive housing. 


How to Decide Between Harvard vs. MIT


MIT and Harvard have many similarities: they’re both extremely selective and have a number of top-tier programs. They’re also next-door neighbors, both located in Cambridge.


The main difference is their foci. While MIT has programs in a wide variety of disciplines, STEM programs, particularly those in technology and engineering, are the main draw for most students. Meanwhile, students attend Harvard to study subjects across the gamut. Harvard is also a bit larger than MIT, with 2,000+ additional undergraduate students. 


If athletics are a draw for you, Harvard is probably the better choice. The Crimson play in the Ivy League and NCAA Division I, while the Engineers at MIT participate in Division III. 


Remember that whichever school you attend, you can take courses at the other, along with several other schools in the area. 


MIT and Harvard are two of the most selective institutions in the country. Want to know your chances of admission? CollegeVine’s chancing engine will estimate your real odds and give you guidance on how to improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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.