Cornell vs Harvard: Which University Is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a female student writing an essay

Cornell vs Harvard: Which University Is Right for You?

When it comes to deciding which university to attend, there are many factors to consider. Two of the most prestigious universities in the United States are Cornell University and Harvard University. Both of these institutions have a reputation for academic excellence, but each also has unique features that may appeal to different students. In this article, we will compare Cornell vs Harvard across a range of categories, from location to student life to job prospects. By the end of this comprehensive comparison, you will have a better understanding of which university is right for you.

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Location: Where Are Cornell and Harvard Located, and How Does That Affect Your Experience?

First, let’s take a look at the location of Cornell and Harvard. Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York, a small town with a population of around 30,000. In contrast, Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is part of the greater Boston area. Boston is a bustling city with a population of around 685,000.

How does the location of these universities affect your experience as a student? At Cornell, you will be surrounded by the natural beauty of upstate New York, with access to hiking trails, waterfalls, and outdoor recreation. However, the remote location of Ithaca can sometimes feel isolated, and it may be more difficult to find internships or job opportunities off-campus.

At Harvard, you will have access to all that the vibrant city of Boston has to offer, including museums, restaurants, and cultural events. However, the pace of life in a big city like Boston can feel overwhelming, and you may need to learn how to navigate public transportation.

Another factor to consider is the weather. Cornell experiences cold and snowy winters, which can make getting around campus more difficult. However, the campus is equipped with snow removal equipment and students are provided with warm clothing options. On the other hand, Harvard experiences milder winters, but summers can be hot and humid, which can make studying and living in dorms uncomfortable.

Finally, the location of the universities can also impact the cost of living. Ithaca has a lower cost of living compared to Boston, which can make it easier for students to find affordable housing and save money on daily expenses. However, Boston offers more job opportunities and higher salaries, which can be beneficial for students looking to gain work experience while studying.

Academics: Comparing the Curriculum, Faculty, and Course Offerings of Cornell and Harvard

Both Cornell and Harvard are renowned for their academic programs. Cornell is divided into several undergraduate colleges, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the College of Engineering. Harvard College offers a liberal arts education, with opportunities to concentrate in a wide range of fields, from computer science to African American studies to neurobiology.

Both universities have highly respected faculty, with many professors who are leaders in their fields. At Cornell, you may have the opportunity to work with professors who are conducting groundbreaking research in subjects like genetics, environmental science, and business management. At Harvard, you may have the chance to study with Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, and other distinguished scholars.

When it comes to course offerings, both Cornell and Harvard offer a wide range of options. At Cornell, there are over 4,000 courses available across all colleges and departments. At Harvard, there are over 3,700 courses available each year, with opportunities to take classes at other schools in the Boston area, including MIT and Tufts University.

Additionally, both Cornell and Harvard offer extensive resources for academic support. Cornell has a Learning Strategies Center, which provides tutoring, study groups, and workshops on topics like time management and test-taking skills. Harvard has a Bureau of Study Counsel, which offers individual counseling, workshops, and peer tutoring. Both universities also have libraries with vast collections of books, journals, and other resources to support research and learning.

Campus Life: The Social Scene, Extracurricular Activities, and Student Culture at Cornell vs Harvard

Another important factor to consider when choosing a university is campus life. What is the social scene like? What kinds of extracurricular activities are available? What is the student culture?

At Cornell, the student body is known for being friendly and welcoming. There are over 1,000 student organizations on campus, including clubs focused on cultural identity, community service, and student government. Greek life is also popular at Cornell, with over 65 fraternities and sororities on campus.

Group of students walking in the campus.

At Harvard, the social scene is also lively, with opportunities to attend concerts, lectures, and cultural events throughout the year. There are over 400 student organizations on campus, ranging from political groups to sports teams to community service clubs. Greek life is not as prominent at Harvard, but there are still opportunities to join co-ed fraternities and sororities.

Both Cornell and Harvard offer a wide range of opportunities for students to get involved in research and other academic pursuits outside of the classroom. At Cornell, students can participate in research projects in fields such as engineering, agriculture, and veterinary medicine. Harvard offers similar opportunities, with research programs in areas such as neuroscience, public health, and environmental science. These programs provide students with valuable hands-on experience and can help them build connections with faculty members and other researchers in their field.

Admissions: What It Takes to Get Accepted to Cornell vs Harvard

Now let’s talk about the admissions process. Both Cornell and Harvard are highly selective, with acceptance rates of around 10%. When applying to either university, you will need to submit transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation.

At Cornell, there is no single formula for getting accepted. Admissions officers look at a range of factors, including academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and personal qualities. They also consider legacy status, athletic ability, and other factors.

At Harvard, there is a similar emphasis on a well-rounded application. Admissions officers look for academic excellence, extracurricular achievements, and personal qualities such as leadership, character, and motivation. They also consider diversity, legacy status, and athletic ability.

It’s important to note that both Cornell and Harvard have different application deadlines. Cornell has an early decision deadline of November 1st, while Harvard has a restrictive early action deadline of November 1st and a regular decision deadline of January 1st. It’s important to plan accordingly and submit your application by the appropriate deadline.

Additionally, both universities offer need-based financial aid to students who qualify. It’s important to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile to be considered for financial aid. Both universities also offer merit-based scholarships to exceptional students.

Financial Aid: How Much Will It Cost You to Attend Cornell vs Harvard?

One of the biggest concerns for many students and families is the cost of attending college. Both Cornell and Harvard have relatively high tuition rates, but they also offer generous financial aid packages.

At Cornell, the total cost of attendance for the 2021-2022 academic year is around $78,000, including tuition, fees, room, and board. However, over half of Cornell students receive some form of financial aid, with an average award of around $50,000 per year.

At Harvard, the total cost of attendance for the 2021-2022 academic year is around $72,000. However, around 55% of Harvard students receive financial aid, with an average award of around $55,000 per year.

It’s important to note that financial aid packages at both Cornell and Harvard are based on a student’s financial need. This means that the amount of aid a student receives will depend on their family’s income and assets. Students who come from lower-income families may receive more aid than those from higher-income families.

Additionally, both Cornell and Harvard offer a variety of scholarships and grants that students can apply for. These awards are typically based on factors such as academic achievement, leadership, and community service. Students should research and apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible to help offset the cost of attendance.

Career Opportunities: Comparing Job Placement Rates, Alumni Networks, and Post-Graduate Prospects at Cornell and Harvard

When it comes to choosing a university, it’s important to consider the potential job opportunities after graduation. Both Cornell and Harvard have strong alumni networks and high job placement rates.

At Cornell, the career services office offers a wide range of resources, including job fairs, employer visits, and resume workshops. Around 90% of Cornell graduates are employed or attending graduate school within six months of graduation.

At Harvard, the career services office offers similar resources, as well as networking events and alumni panels. Around 95% of Harvard graduates are employed or attending graduate school within six months of graduation.

Group of people talking about a business.

However, it’s important to note that the industries and job markets in which Cornell and Harvard graduates find employment may differ. Cornell has a strong focus on agriculture, engineering, and hospitality, while Harvard is known for producing graduates who excel in law, business, and politics.

Additionally, the location of each university may also play a role in post-graduate prospects. Cornell is located in Ithaca, a small town in upstate New York, while Harvard is located in Cambridge, a bustling city just outside of Boston. This may impact the types of job opportunities available to graduates in each area.

Campus Facilities: Comparing Housing Options, Dining Halls, Libraries, and Sports Facilities at Cornell vs Harvard

Finally, let’s take a look at the campus facilities at Cornell and Harvard. Both universities have impressive amenities, but they also have some differences.

At Cornell, there are a variety of housing options available, from traditional dormitories to themed houses to apartments. The university also boasts over 20 dining options, including cafes, food courts, and sit-down restaurants. The libraries at Cornell are extensive, with over 7 million volumes, as well as rare manuscripts, archives, and digital resources. There are also state-of-the-art sports facilities, including a climbing wall, Olympic-size pool, and fitness center.

At Harvard, housing options include traditional dormitories, suites, and apartments. There are over a dozen dining halls on campus, as well as cafes and restaurants. The libraries at Harvard are also extensive, with over 20 million volumes, as well as special collections, archives, and digital resources. There are also many sports facilities available to students, including a rock climbing wall, ice rinks, and multiple fitness centers.

One notable difference between the two universities is the availability of outdoor spaces. Cornell has a large botanical garden, arboretum, and natural areas for hiking and exploring. Harvard, on the other hand, has a more urban campus, with limited green spaces. However, Harvard does have a river running through its campus, which provides opportunities for boating and other water activities.

Another difference is the accessibility of campus facilities. Cornell’s campus is spread out over a large area, which can make it difficult to get from one facility to another. Harvard’s campus, on the other hand, is more compact and walkable, making it easier for students to access all of the facilities on campus.

Student Diversity: How Diverse Are the Student Populations at Cornell vs Harvard?

Finally, let’s consider student diversity. Cornell and Harvard both strive to attract a diverse student body, but they may differ in terms of the demographic makeup of their student populations.

At Cornell, the student body is fairly diverse, with around 47% of students identifying as members of underrepresented minority groups. There are also international students from over 100 countries, as well as students from all 50 states.

At Harvard, the student body is also diverse, with around 42% of students identifying as non-white. There are also international students from over 130 countries, as well as students from all 50 states.

However, the two universities differ in terms of the socioeconomic diversity of their student populations. At Cornell, around 14% of students come from families with incomes below $60,000 per year, while at Harvard, this figure is around 20%. Additionally, Harvard has a policy of admitting students regardless of their ability to pay, while Cornell does not have a need-blind admissions policy.

Another aspect of student diversity to consider is the representation of different academic disciplines. At Cornell, the largest undergraduate colleges are the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, while at Harvard, the largest undergraduate college is the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. However, both universities offer a wide range of academic programs and opportunities for interdisciplinary study.

Conclusion: Which University Is Right for You?

After considering all of the factors above, it’s clear that both Cornell and Harvard are excellent universities with many opportunities for academic and personal growth. However, each university may appeal to different students based on their individual preferences and needs.

If you value access to nature and a strong focus on research, Cornell may be the right choice for you. If you want to be surrounded by a vibrant city and participate in a diverse array of extracurricular activities, Harvard may be the better option.

Students writing in a table.

Regardless of which university you choose, it’s important to remember that your college experience is what you make of it. With hard work, determination, and a willingness to explore all that your university has to offer, you can make the most of your time at Cornell or Harvard, and set yourself up for success in whatever career or life path you choose.

It’s also worth noting that both Cornell and Harvard have strong alumni networks that can provide valuable connections and opportunities after graduation. Cornell has a large and active alumni association, with chapters all over the world, while Harvard boasts a network of influential and successful graduates in a wide range of fields.



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