Boston College vs Harvard: A Comprehensive Look at the Two Universities

August 3, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Boston College vs Harvard: A Comprehensive Look at the Two Universities

When it comes to prestigious universities in the United States, Boston College and Harvard often come to mind. Both institutions are renowned for their academic rigor, cutting-edge research, and accomplished alumni. However, despite sharing a state and being located just a few miles apart, the two schools have distinct differences that set them apart from one another. We’ll compare Boston College vs Harvard based on different aspects.

Boston College vs Harvard: History of Boston College and Harvard

Boston College was founded in 1863 by the Society of Jesus as a small liberal arts college for men. Over the years, it expanded its offerings to include women and graduate programs, eventually becoming a research university with an enrollment of over 14,000 students.

Harvard, on the other hand, was founded in 1636 and is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States. Initially established to train Puritan ministers, the university has grown to become one of the most respected and influential schools in the world, boasting over 22,000 students and an endowment of nearly $40 billion dollars.

Despite their differences in age and size, Boston College and Harvard share a common bond as two of the most prestigious universities in the Boston area. Both schools have produced countless notable alumni, including politicians, business leaders, and Nobel laureates. Additionally, both institutions have a strong commitment to research and innovation, with groundbreaking discoveries and advancements being made on their campuses every year.

Boston College vs Harvard: How to Get into Boston College and Harvard

Both Boston College and Harvard are highly competitive schools that attract some of the brightest minds in the country. To gain admission, applicants must have excellent academic records, strong extracurricular activities, and impressive essays.

However, while both schools have similar admissions standards, Harvard is notoriously difficult to get into. With an acceptance rate of just 4%, Harvard is one of the most selective schools in the world. Boston College, by contrast, has an acceptance rate of around 19%, making it still incredibly competitive, but slightly less so than Harvard.

Group of students walking in the campus.

One factor that sets Harvard apart from Boston College is its emphasis on diversity. Harvard actively seeks to create a diverse student body, and considers factors such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status in its admissions process. Boston College also values diversity, but may not place as much emphasis on it as Harvard does.

Another important aspect of the admissions process at both schools is the interview. While not all applicants are offered an interview, those who are should take advantage of the opportunity to showcase their personality and passion for learning. 

At Harvard, interviews are typically conducted by alumni volunteers, while at Boston College, they are conducted by admissions staff or current students. Regardless of who conducts the interview, it is important to come prepared with thoughtful questions and a genuine interest in the school.

Boston College vs Harvard: Tuition and Financial Aid at Boston College and Harvard

Attending either Boston College or Harvard comes with a hefty price tag. Tuition and fees at Boston College total approximately $64,000 for undergraduate students, while Harvard’s tuition and fees are over $57,261 per year.

However, both schools are committed to making education affordable for all students, regardless of financial need. Boston College meets the full demonstrated need of all admitted students, while Harvard’s financial aid program has been praised for helping lower-income students attend the university without incurring significant debt.

smiling woman inside university

In addition to financial aid, both Boston College and Harvard offer various scholarships and grants to help offset the cost of tuition. Boston College offers merit-based scholarships, such as the Presidential Scholars Program, which covers full tuition and fees for four years. Harvard also offers a range of scholarships, including the Harvard College Scholarship, which is awarded based on financial need and covers the full cost of attendance.

Furthermore, both schools have resources available to help students navigate the financial aid process and manage their finances while in school. Boston College’s Office of Student Services provides financial literacy workshops and one-on-one counseling sessions to help students make informed decisions about their finances. 

Harvard’s Office of Financial Aid offers similar resources, as well as a financial wellness program that provides students with tools and resources to manage their finances and plan for the future.

Boston College vs Harvard: A Comparison between Boston College and Harvard

Despite their similarities, Boston College and Harvard have very different campus cultures. Boston College, located in the suburban Chestnut Hill neighborhood, has a close-knit community vibe and is known for its strong Catholic identity and emphasis on service.

Harvard, situated in the heart of Cambridge, prides itself on being one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan campuses in the country. Its student body is comprised of individuals from all over the world, and the university offers a wide range of cultural events and extracurricular activities to reflect this diversity.

Group of students studying together in the library.

One major difference between the two campuses is the size of the student body. Boston College has a smaller student population, which allows for more personalized attention from professors and a greater sense of community among students. In contrast, Harvard’s larger student body provides more opportunities for networking and a wider range of academic programs and research opportunities.

Another notable difference is the campus architecture. Boston College’s buildings are primarily constructed in a Gothic style, giving the campus a traditional and historic feel. Harvard, on the other hand, has a mix of architectural styles, including modern and contemporary buildings, which reflects the university’s commitment to innovation and progress.

Boston College vs Harvard: Which Offers Better Programs?

Both Boston College and Harvard are renowned for their academic programs, and each school has its own unique strengths.

Boston College is particularly strong in the humanities, social sciences, and business, with highly-ranked programs in fields such as English, economics, and accounting.

Harvard, on the other hand, is consistently ranked among the top universities in the world, with top-notch programs across a wide range of disciplines. It is particularly well-known for its schools of law, business, and public policy, and its faculty includes a staggering number of Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, and MacArthur fellows.

Three students looking at each other.

However, when it comes to undergraduate education, Boston College has a smaller student-to-faculty ratio, allowing for more personalized attention and mentorship opportunities for students. 

Additionally, Boston College has a strong emphasis on Jesuit values and social justice, with a required core curriculum that includes courses in philosophy, theology, and ethics. This focus on ethical leadership and service to others sets Boston College apart from other universities and prepares students to make a positive impact in their communities and the world.

Student Population: How Diverse Are Boston College and Harvard?

Diversity is an important consideration when choosing a university, and both Boston College and Harvard are committed to fostering inclusive environments where students from all backgrounds can thrive.

Boston College’s student body is diverse, with students hailing from all 50 states and over 100 countries. However, the university has faced criticism in the past for being less diverse than some of its peers.

Harvard, by contrast, has been praised for its commitment to diversity and inclusion. The university actively recruits students from underrepresented minority groups, and has implemented a number of programs and initiatives to support these students once they arrive on campus.

Multiracial students talking while walking.

In addition to its efforts to recruit and support underrepresented minority students, Harvard has also taken steps to address issues of diversity and inclusion within its faculty and staff. The university has implemented training programs and workshops to help faculty and staff better understand and address issues of bias and discrimination in the workplace.

Similarly, Boston College has also taken steps to improve diversity and inclusion on its campus. The university has implemented a number of programs and initiatives aimed at recruiting and supporting underrepresented minority students, and has also worked to increase diversity among its faculty and staff.

Sports Programs at Boston College vs. Harvard: Which is More Competitive?

For some students, athletics are an important consideration when choosing a university. Both Boston College and Harvard have highly-regarded sports programs, with a long history of competitive rivalries and championship wins.

Boston College is particularly strong in basketball, ice hockey, and football, while Harvard is known for its rowing, fencing, and cross-country teams. Ultimately, however, which program is “better” depends largely on personal preference and the individual student’s athletic interests.

It’s worth noting that both Boston College and Harvard have a strong emphasis on academic achievement for their student-athletes. Both universities have high graduation rates for their athletes and provide extensive academic support to ensure their success in the classroom. Additionally, both schools have a strong commitment to sportsmanship and fair play, with a focus on developing well-rounded individuals both on and off the field.

Another factor to consider is the level of competition in each program. While both Boston College and Harvard compete at the Division I level, Boston College is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which is widely considered one of the most competitive conferences in college sports. Harvard, on the other hand, is a member of the Ivy League, which has a strong academic focus and places restrictions on the amount of time athletes can spend on their sport. This can make for a different experience for student-athletes at each school, depending on their goals and priorities.

Job Prospects for Graduates of Boston College vs. Harvard

When it comes to post-graduation job prospects, both Boston College and Harvard graduates are highly sought after by employers.

Boston College graduates are known for their strong work ethic and excellent communication skills, and many go on to careers in finance, consulting, and education.

Harvard graduates, meanwhile, have a reputation for their intellectual rigor and creative problem-solving abilities. Many go on to successful careers in law, business, and public service.

However, it’s important to note that job prospects can also vary depending on the field of study. For example, Boston College graduates in the nursing and healthcare fields have a high demand for their skills, while Harvard graduates in the technology and engineering industries are highly sought after. It’s important for students to research and consider their career goals and the job market in their chosen field when deciding on a college or university.

Research Opportunities at Boston College vs. Harvard

Both Boston College and Harvard are known for their cutting-edge research programs and commitment to innovation.

Boston College has a number of research centers and institutes, including the Institute for Integrated Science and Society, the Center for Retirement Research, and the Connell School of Nursing.

Harvard, meanwhile, is a global leader in research across a wide range of fields. Some of its most well-known research centers include the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

One of the advantages of conducting research at Boston College is the smaller class sizes and more personalized attention from faculty members. This allows for more one-on-one mentorship and guidance throughout the research process. Additionally, Boston College has a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research, encouraging collaboration across different fields and departments.

On the other hand, Harvard’s vast resources and reputation as a world-renowned research institution provide unique opportunities for researchers. Harvard has access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, as well as a large network of experts and scholars in various fields. This can lead to groundbreaking discoveries and collaborations with leading researchers from around the world.

Campus Resources: How do the Libraries, Dining Halls, and Health Centers Compare?

When it comes to campus resources, both Boston College and Harvard have plenty to offer students. Each campus has numerous libraries, dining halls, and health centers designed to meet students’ needs.

Boston College’s main library, the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Library, is a six-story facility that houses over 1.5 million volumes of books and periodicals. The university also offers a wide range of dining options, including vegetarian and vegan choices, and a state-of-the-art health and wellness center.

Harvard’s resources are similarly impressive, with over 70 libraries and collections, numerous dining halls and cafes, and a comprehensive health center with a range of medical services.

However, there are some differences between the two universities’ resources. Boston College’s libraries are known for their extensive collection of Catholic and Jesuit literature, which is reflective of the university’s religious affiliation. In contrast, Harvard’s libraries are known for their vast collection of rare and unique materials, including manuscripts, maps, and photographs.

Additionally, Boston College’s dining halls are known for their emphasis on locally sourced and sustainable food options. The university has its own farm, which supplies fresh produce to the dining halls. Harvard, on the other hand, has a strong focus on international cuisine, with dining options that reflect the diverse backgrounds of its student body.

Housing Options for Students at Both Universities

Where a student lives can have a significant impact on their overall college experience. Both Boston College and Harvard offer a range of on-campus housing options to suit students’ needs.

At Boston College, first-year students typically live in traditional residence halls, while upperclassmen have the option to live in apartments or townhouses.

Harvard’s housing options are similarly varied, with dorms ranging from modern high-rises to historic brick buildings, as well as several on-campus apartments and suites.

It’s important to note that both universities also offer off-campus housing options for students who prefer to live independently or cannot find on-campus housing. Boston College has partnerships with several nearby apartment complexes, while Harvard has a database of off-campus housing options for students to search through. However, it’s important for students to carefully consider the location and cost of off-campus housing, as well as transportation options to and from campus.

Social Scene: Comparing Nightlife, Clubs, and Organizations between Boston College and Harvard

For many students, extracurricular activities and social events are just as important as academics when choosing a university. Both Boston College and Harvard have robust social scenes, with a wide range of clubs, organizations, and events to suit students’ interests.

Boston College has over 200 clubs and organizations, ranging from student government to cultural and performing arts groups. The university is also home to numerous student-run publications, including The Heights, the school’s independent newspaper.

Harvard’s social scene is similarly diverse, with over 400 student organizations and clubs. The university also boasts a number of cultural centers and initiatives designed to celebrate diversity and promote understanding across different communities.

Unique Traditions, Events, and Activities at Both Universities

Each university has its own unique traditions and events that help define campus life and foster a sense of community among students.

At Boston College, some of the most popular traditions include Light the World, a celebration of the holiday season that features Christmas trees and light displays, and Modstock, a day-long music festival.

Harvard, meanwhile, is famous for its annual Harvard-Yale football game, which is one of the oldest and most storied rivalries in college sports. The university also hosts a range of cultural events and festivals throughout the year, including the Cultural Rhythms festival and the Arts First festival.

Another unique tradition at Boston College is the First Year Academic Convocation, where all first-year students gather to hear from the university president and other faculty members about the academic expectations and opportunities at the school. At Harvard, students can participate in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, a student-run theater group that puts on an annual musical comedy show.

Future Plans for Each University: What’s in Store for Boston College vs. Harvard?

Looking ahead, both Boston College and Harvard have big plans for the future.

Boston College is currently in the midst of a major campus renovation project that will add new academic and residential buildings, as well as enhance athletic and recreational facilities. The university is also expanding its research programs and partnerships with other institutions.

Harvard, meanwhile, has a number of exciting initiatives in the works, including the creation of a new campus in Allston, an expansion of its engineering and applied sciences programs, and a focus on interdisciplinary research that brings together experts across different fields.

In addition to these plans, Boston College is also working to increase its sustainability efforts. The university has set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2050 and is implementing a number of initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint, such as installing solar panels and using more energy-efficient lighting and appliances.

Harvard, on the other hand, is focusing on increasing access to education for students from diverse backgrounds. The university has launched a number of programs aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion on campus, such as the Harvard First Generation Program, which provides support and resources for first-generation college students.


Overall, Boston College and Harvard are two of the most respected and prestigious universities in the world, each with their own unique strengths and characteristics. Whether a student is interested in a close-knit community with a strong service orientation, or a cosmopolitan campus with endless opportunities for intellectual and personal growth, both Boston College and Harvard offer a wealth of opportunities for students to excel and achieve their goals.


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