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

Situated on opposite coasts of the United States, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University are two of the most renowned and selective institutions of higher learning in the world. Landing a highly coveted place in the student body at either of these universities is not an easy feat.

 

If you’re deciding between these two colleges, you’re facing a tough choice. In this post, we’ll go over the similarities and differences between MIT vs. Stanford to help you make the best decision for you.

 

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

 

Stanford vs. MIT: A Quick Overview

  Stanford MIT
Location Stanford, CA Cambridge, MA
Campus Type Suburban Urban
Undergraduate Enrollment 6,994 4,600
Acceptance Rate 4% 7.3%
U.S. News Ranking 6 4
Middle 50% SAT 1440-1550 1520-1580
Middle 50% ACT 32-35 35-36
Sticker Price $74,723 $73,160
Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need? Need-blind

No loan

Meets 100% need

Need-blind

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

Meets 100% need

 

MIT vs. Stanford: A Closer Look

 

Location and Weather 

 

MIT shares a city with another household-name school — Harvard University. While these two universities are central to Cambridge’s goings-on, there’s plenty to do beyond the schools, with tourable historic sites, museums, shops, restaurants, and much more. You can also take an ultra-quick trip to Boston, which is right next door to Cambridge.

 

New England is famous for very cold winters, so be sure to pack your parkas. The summers can get hot, though, and you’ll be able to take boat rides or walk by Charles River.

 

On the other side of the country, Stanford sits right outside of Palo Alto and is just a short train ride away from San Francisco. Many students appreciate outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking. You can also take a tour of Silicon Valley, seeing tech giants like Google and Facebook, as well as enjoy the many restaurants, green markets, and more.

 

In contrast to Cambridge, Palo Alto’s weather is temperate. You’ll rarely see highs below the upper 50s or above the low 80s.

 

Size

 

Stanford is a bit larger than MIT, with an undergraduate student body of nearly 7,000 students to MIT’s 4,600. Class sizes are somewhat smaller at MIT, too: MIT’s student to faculty ratio is 3:1. Almost three-quarters (71.3%) of classes have 20 students or fewer, while Stanford’s student to faculty ratio is 5:1, and 69% of classes have 20 students or fewer.

 

Academics

 

Stanford offers three undergraduate degrees, including Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Sciences, and Bachelor of Arts and Sciences, across three of Stanford’s seven schools: Humanities and Sciences; Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; and Engineering. Given its Silicon Valley connection, it’s no surprise that tech majors, such as engineering and computer science, are popular. The university also offers majors in many other disciplines, including the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

 

Stanford prioritizes research and collaboration, offering numerous opportunities. First- and second-year students can also participate in Introductory Seminars. All students must fulfill general education requirements in areas such as Thinking Matters, Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing, Writing and Rhetoric, and Language.

 

MIT has 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

 

As implied by its name, MIT’s technology programs are a standout. However, the university does offer courses beyond tech and even STEM, such as Writing, Political Science, and Music. Keep in mind that all students apply to the university undeclared. General requirements include science core courses; subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences; communication-intensive courses; and physical education.

 

MIT students may also cross-register at nearby institutions, including Harvard.

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Housing 

 

A majority — 73% — of MIT undergraduates live on campus. Other students may choose to live in fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. For students who do live on campus, residences are overseen by faculty families who are heads of house and offer support and guidance to students. Each residence also has residential student governments, who organize programs for students.

 

At Stanford, housing is guaranteed for full-time undergraduate students, who may live in residence halls, apartments, suites, or small-group houses. Freshmen and new transfers must live on campus in residences. About 97% of undergraduates live on campus in total and can take advantage of activities like faculty dinners, day trips, celebrations, and additional events sponsored by housing.

 

Financial aid

 

MIT and Stanford have comparable sticker prices in the low-mid $70,000 per year range. While neither institution offers merit-based scholarships, they are both committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need and are need-blind.

 

Stanford, however, doesn’t offer loans as part of its financial aid packages, and only grants gift aid and work study. MIT is no-loan only for families making less than $90,000 per year. So overall, you can expect Stanford financial aid to be more generous.

 

Sports and Extracurriculars

 

The Stanford Cardinals play in the NCAA Division I and boast 123 championships, the largest number in the league. Nearly a third of students choose to participate in Greek life. However, whether or not you’re an athlete or want to join a fraternity or sorority, there’s plenty to do outside the classroom. More than 650 student organizations across areas like community service, ballet, politics, and writing are recognized by the university.

 

Roughly half of students study abroad through the Bing Overseas Studies Program. Students can study in countries like Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, and others.

 

The MIT Engineers play in the NCAA Division III. Around 45% of MIT students join fraternities and sororities, but as with Stanford, there are plenty of other activities to join. The Solar Electric Vehicle Team, Student Art Association, and Outing Club are just a few examples of the 450 student organizations. 

 

Many MIT students also choose to study abroad or participate in exchange programs with students coming from countries outside the U.S.

 

Culture and Diversity

 

More than half of undergraduate students represented U.S. minority groups at MIT in the 2019–2020 academic year, while 10% were from countries or territories outside of the U.S.

 

Stanford’s diversity statistics are as follows:

 

Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
White 32%
Asian 23%
Hispanic or Latino 17%
Black or African American 7%
International 11%
American Indian or Alaska Native 1%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander <1%
Two or more races 9%
Unknown <1%

 

Both universities offer resources and support for LGBTQ+ community members. MIT, for example, has a resource known as The Rainbow Lounge, meant to provide a supportive and inclusive space. In 2014, Stanford was named the top LGBT-friendly campus in the nation by The Princeton Review.

 

How to Decide Between Stanford vs. MIT

 

At first glance, Stanford and MIT have many commonalities. However, there are quite a few factors that distinguish them from one another.

 

Stanford is the better fit for you if:

 

  • You want to explore many different programs or majors
  • You’d like to attend school on the West Coast, where the weather is moderate and outdoor activities are abundant
  • You prefer a less busy setting with a suburban feel (but still want to be able to visit the city occasionally)
  • You’re ready to cheer on (or play with) some of the top collegiate athletes in the country

 

Opt for MIT if:

 

  • You’re focused on pursuing a tech or STEM career (while MIT offers other programs, a majority of students major in tech-related disciplines)
  • You don’t want to miss out on New England seasons and experience plenty of snow
  • You love city life 
  • You’re eager to interact with students from other schools along with those from your own

 

Stanford and MIT are extremely impressive and selective schools with ultra-low acceptance rates. Do you have what it takes to get in? CollegeVine’s chancing engine will estimate your real odds of admission and give you tips on how to improve your profile. Sign up for your free account to get started today!

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.