Yale vs. Princeton: Which College is Right for You?

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Yale University and Princeton University are two of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world. Founded in 1701 and 1746 respectively, they are also among the three oldest schools in the United States. 

 

Students flock to New Haven, Connecticut, and Princeton, New Jersey, to study under some of the world’s greatest minds, including bestselling authors, Nobel laureates, leading lawyers and justices, and others. They have also graduated plenty of leaders across fields, including politics, the arts, medicine, law, and more.

 

Getting into just one of these colleges is an accomplishment. But if you’re admitted to both of the famed members of the Ivy League, how do you choose between them?

 

Princeton vs. Yale: A Quick Overview

 

Princeton Yale
Location Princeton, NJ New Haven, CT
Campus Type Suburban Urban
Undergraduate Enrollment 5,428 5,964
Acceptance Rate 5% 6.3%
U.S. News Ranking 1 3
Sticker Price $71,960 (2020-2021 school year) $74,900 (2020-2021 school year)
Student to Faculty Ratio 5:1 6:1
Middle 50% SAT/ACT SAT: 750-800 (M);  710-770 (ERW)

ACT: 33-35 (composite)

SAT: 720-770 (EWR); 730-790 (M)

ACT: 33-35

Subject Tests Required? Two recommended Recommended (no number specified)
Median Starting Salary $69,800 $66,800

 

Yale vs. Princeton: A Closer Look

 

Location and Weather

 

New Haven is a small city with nearly 130,000 people, and Yale plays a central role in the city’s community. The town itself has a high crime rate, however, so students are advised to be on guard. Still, there’s plenty to do, including shop and dine at revered restaurants like Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana.

 

Princeton is a much smaller town with around 31,000. It’s about equidistant from both New York City and Philadelphia (about 45-50 miles), so students can easily visit these cities on weekends. There are also plenty of attractions in Princeton itself, including museums, restaurants, and nightlife.

 

Since both universities are located in the Northeast, students will experience all four seasons and especially cold winters. 

 

Size

 

Princeton and Yale have similarly-sized undergraduate populations: 5,428 to 5,964. However, Yale has many more graduate students, with a total student body of 13,433 to Princeton’s 8,300. At both schools, more than 70% of classes have fewer than 20 students. The student to faculty ratio is 5:1 at Princeton and 6:1 at Yale.

 

Academics

 

Yale offers 80 majors, including diverse subjects such engineering, theater studies, art, religious studies, and astrophysics. The university also has numerous special programs, including Residential College Seminars, which are hosted by the 14 residential colleges and cover nontraditional material. 

 

While there are distribution requirements, they are fairly lenient and include two course credits each in: 

 

  • Humanities and the arts
  • Sciences
  • Social sciences
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Writing
  • Foreign languages

 

Students at Yale don’t need to declare a major until the end of sophomore year (for STEM majors), or the beginning of junior year for all other majors. 

 

Princeton offers 37 concentrations, with degree programs in areas like architecture, French and Italian, computer science, and others. Students may also earn certificates in programs such as creative writing and robotics and intelligent systems. There are different distribution requirements depending on whether you’re earning a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E), although both include writing and foreign language. Most A.B. candidates declare their majors in spring of their sophomore years, and B.S.E. candidates are required to do so in May of their freshman year.

 

Generally, A.B. students must write a Junior Paper, which is an independent research project. This paper often becomes the basis of a student’s senior thesis, which is required for all A.B. students. Many engineering students also complete independent projects in their junior year, and pursue a senior thesis.

 

At both schools, students have the option of pursuing an independent or special major or concentration with approval and guidance.

 

Housing

 

Yale students are initially assigned to one of 14 residential colleges, and they remain affiliated with these residences during all four years. A small fraction of students live off campus as juniors and seniors. These close-knit colleges go far beyond traditional dorm life, offering communities, seminar programs, and the chance to meet with faculty in a less formal setting. 

 

Princetonians, meanwhile, have a more traditional housing structure. Freshmen and sophomores must live on campus. Residences include students from all four years, as well as some graduate students. You may choose to live off campus as a junior or senior, although only 6% of undergraduates do.

 

Both universities offer gender-inclusive housing options, where students may opt to live in suites with suitemates regardless of gender.

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Food

 

At Yale, most students eat within their colleges, although there are other options available. The residential college dining halls enable them to mingle with the heads of the colleges, as well as resident fellows and deans. Freshmen are required to have the Full Meal Plan. Yale accommodates dietary restrictions, including offering Kosher options.

 

Princeton freshmen and sophomores must enroll in the unlimited meal plan, which also accommodates Kosher and other dietary restrictions. 

 

Princeton is also well-known for its eating clubs, which go to 1879, when students couldn’t eat on campus. Eleven clubs exist today, each with its own facilities; some clubs are selective, while others are open to all who wish to join. Not only do these clubs provide food options for students, but they also offer a community, much like Greek life at other schools.

 

Financial aid

 

Both Yale and Princeton have high sticker prices, more than $70,000 per year. However, many students are on financial aid, which is known to be extremely generous at both schools, and each institution commits to meeting 100% of students’ demonstrated need. Both schools are also no-loan and need-blind, meaning that you won’t receive loans in your financial aid award, that your ability to pay will not impact your admissions decision.

 

As is the case with all the Ivies, neither school offers merit-based scholarships, but instead awards grants based on financial need. Sixty-four percent of students at Yale are on financial aid, and the median net price for those on aid is $13,000. At Princeton, 61% of students receive financial aid, and the average grant for the Class of 2023 was $56,500, covering the entire cost of tuition.

 

Want to learn how much Yale or Princeton will actually cost you based on your income? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to see your estimated cost of attendance, based on real data for each school.

 

Sports and Extracurriculars

 

Yale and Princeton athletes participate in the NCAA Division I and Ivy League. The Yale Bulldogs have 35 varsity teams, while Princeton Tigers have 37. The schools both have club sports and plenty of other extracurricular organizations and opportunities.

 

At Yale, more than 10% of students participate in Greek life. Princeton doesn’t officially recognize fraternities or sororities, although there are some that are run off-campus. As mentioned earlier, Princeton’s eating clubs play a significant role in campus social life.

 

Additionally, both colleges have strong study abroad programs, operating in countries all over the world. At both schools, students on financial aid will continue to receive aid if they study abroad.

 

Culture and Diversity

 

About 56% of the Class of 2023 at Princeton identified as people of color. Princeton is also committed to LGBTQ inclusion, offering an LGBT center and initiatives for both current students and alumni.

 

Yale, meanwhile, also has a relatively diverse student body and has the following racial/ethnic statistics for its domestic students:

 

Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
American Indian or Alaska Native 0.3%
Asian 14.7%
Black or African-American 5.8%
Hispanic of any race 9.8%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0.1%
White 42.7%
Race/ethnicity unknown 1.0%

 

Yale is also LGBTQ inclusive, with a dedicated Office of LGBTQ Resources and more. 

 

Student Outcomes

 

Both Yale and Princeton graduates thrive in their careers. The starting salaries for recent graduates hover around $70,000 at both schools, and the 10-year averages are more than $110,000. Additionally, both schools offer robust student career services. 

 

How to Decide Between Princeton and Yale

 

As two of the most recognizable names and prestigious universities in the world, Yale and Princeton both offer top-notch educations with outstanding outcomes for graduates. When you’re deciding between the two, it really comes down to your personal preferences. Are you looking for a specific major, extracurricular, housing situation, or affinity group? Make a list of which factors are important to you, and evaluate how the schools stack up.

 

Here’s a summary of the major differences between the schools:

 

Yale might be for you if you want…

 

  • To live in a larger city with easy access to Boston and NYC via public transport
  • More choices of majors (80 at Yale vs. 36 at Princeton)
  • Greater involvement in politics and activism
  • An especially close-knit residential college community

 

Princeton might be for you if you want…

 

  • To live in a small college town that is safer (only 1 hour drive from NYC though)
  • A school that’s especially strong in international relations
  • More opportunities to be involved in music; Princeton has about 15 departmental music groups and 15 student-led groups, almost twice that of Yale

 

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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.