Harvard vs. Carleton: A Comprehensive Analysis

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female student holding a pen while looking distracted.

Harvard vs. Carleton: A Comprehensive Analysis

When it comes to choosing the right college, there are many aspects to consider. In this article, we will delve into the details and provide a comprehensive analysis comparing Harvard vs. Carleton, allowing you to make an informed decision about the college you want to attend.

For students looking to attend prestigious and high-ranking institutions, it’s not uncommon for Harvard and Carleton to be at the top of the list. That said, the two colleges differ in many ways, from location and campus to academic programs, extracurriculars, and more.

Location and Campus Comparison: Boston vs. Northfield

The location and campus of a college play a significant role in student life, and Harvard and Carleton couldn’t be more different in this regard.

Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, and is known for being set in a bustling and vibrant city. Carleton, on the other hand, is located in Northfield, Minnesota, a smaller town that’s more rural than its counterpart.

Harvard’s campus offers students the excitement and energy of a big city, with access to all the cultural and intellectual opportunities that come with that. The campus is a mixture of historical buildings and modern facilities, all set alongside the Charles River, with a view of Boston’s skyline.

Carleton, on the other hand, has a smaller campus with a more intimate feel. The buildings are mostly built with limestone, giving the campus a cohesive aesthetic. The Arb, Carleton’s large natural reserve, adds great natural beauty to the small-town environment.

Despite the differences in location and campus, both Harvard and Carleton offer unique opportunities for students. Harvard’s proximity to Boston allows for easy access to internships and job opportunities in a variety of industries.

The city’s diverse population and cultural events provide students with a rich and dynamic environment to explore. Conversely, Carleton offers a tight-knit community where students can form close relationships with their peers and professors. The small class sizes and personalized attention from faculty members create a supportive and collaborative learning environment.

Another factor to consider when comparing the two campuses is the weather. Boston experiences all four seasons, with cold winters and hot summers, while Northfield has a more extreme climate with very cold winters and mild summers.

This may be a deciding factor for students who prefer a certain type of weather or are not accustomed to harsh winters. However, both campuses offer indoor facilities and activities to keep students engaged and active during inclement weather.

Harvard vs. Carleton: Acceptance Rates and Admissions Process

Admission to Harvard and Carleton is an extremely competitive process. However, there is a disparity in their acceptance rates. Harvard has an acceptance rate of less than 5%, making it one of the most selective universities in the world. On the other hand, Carleton has an acceptance rate of around 20%, which is still quite low.

Young woman smiling at the camera.

The admissions process for both colleges is rigorous and demanding. Applicants must submit an application form, test scores, essays, recommendation letters, and transcripts. Prospective students are also encouraged to interview alumni or admissions representatives and showcase their extracurricular activities and leadership skills.

Despite the difference in acceptance rates, both Harvard and Carleton have holistic admissions processes that take into account more than just academic achievements. They also consider factors such as personal qualities, character, and potential for success.

This means that even if an applicant does not have a perfect academic record, they still have a chance of being accepted if they demonstrate other strengths.

It is worth noting that both colleges have a need-blind admissions policy, which means that they do not consider an applicant’s ability to pay when making admissions decisions. This ensures that all qualified students, regardless of their financial situation, have an equal opportunity to attend these prestigious institutions.

Harvard vs. Carleton: Faculty and Academic Programs Comparison

Both Harvard and Carleton are known for their rigorous academic programs and esteemed faculty. At Harvard, students have access to over 50 different areas of study, from engineering to the liberal arts. The college’s faculty comprises many respected and accomplished professors, many of whom are also involved in groundbreaking research.

Carleton offers 33 majors and 17 minors in the liberal arts and boasts a significantly smaller student-faculty ratio than Harvard. Both colleges take pride in their commitment to undergraduate education.

Harvard’s academic programs are not only diverse but also highly competitive. The college has a reputation for producing successful graduates who go on to excel in their respective fields. Harvard’s faculty members are not only experts in their fields but also highly accessible to students, providing mentorship and guidance throughout their academic journey.

Carleton’s liberal arts programs are designed to provide students with a well-rounded education that prepares them for a variety of careers.

The college’s small class sizes allow for more personalized attention from faculty members, who are dedicated to helping students achieve their academic and career goals. Carleton also offers a range of study abroad programs, allowing students to gain a global perspective and expand their cultural horizons.

Student Life: Housing, Clubs, and Extracurriculars

Student life is an essential aspect of college, and Harvard and Carleton differ significantly in this regard. At Harvard, students have access to a broad range of clubs and student organizations, including music groups, political clubs, and sports teams.

The college is also known for its impressive housing system, which offers students the opportunity to live in historic residential buildings equipped with modern amenities.

In contrast, Carleton’s student life is more intimate and centered around residential housing. Most students live in dormitories or apartments on or near campus, creating a tight-knit community.

The college has dozens of student organizations, from volunteer groups to environmental clubs. The college placed a strong emphasis on extracurricular activities, believing that they contribute to students’ personal and intellectual growth.

Group of students smiling at the camera.

Aside from the clubs and organizations, Harvard also offers a variety of events and activities for students to participate in. From guest lectures to cultural festivals, there is always something happening on campus. Additionally, Harvard has a strong tradition of community service, with many students volunteering in the local community and beyond.

At Carleton, students have the opportunity to participate in unique programs such as the “Buddies” program, which pairs students with individuals with disabilities for social activities and events. The college also has a strong focus on sustainability, with many student-led initiatives aimed at reducing waste and promoting environmental awareness.

Overall, Carleton’s student life is characterized by a strong sense of community and a commitment to social responsibility.

Harvard vs. Carleton: The Cost of Education

The cost of education is a significant factor for most students and their parents. Harvard’s comprehensive fees for the 2021-22 academic year total $75,891, including tuition, fees, and room and board. In contrast, Carleton’s comprehensive fees for the same academic year come to $70,672.

While both colleges are among the most expensive in the country, they offer extensive financial aid programs and scholarships to mitigate the burden of cost. Harvard has a need-based financial aid system that covers tuition, room, and board for students from families earning less than $65,000 a year.

Carleton offers a similar program for students from families earning less than $150,000 a year.

It is important to note that the cost of education goes beyond just tuition and fees. Additional expenses such as textbooks, supplies, and transportation can add up quickly. To help alleviate these costs, both Harvard and Carleton offer work-study programs where students can earn money to help cover these expenses.

Additionally, many students choose to apply for external scholarships and grants to reduce further the financial burden of attending college.

Post-Graduation Employment Rates and Opportunities

Harvard and Carleton are both known for their high placement rates and impressive alumni networks. Harvard graduates are highly coveted by employers in various industries, with 90% of students landing jobs within six months of graduation.

Similarly, Carleton graduates have a similarly high placement rate in competitive fields. The college works diligently to connect students with alumni and potential employers, offering resources like informational interviews, job fairs, and mentorship opportunities.

Additionally, both Harvard and Carleton offer robust career services to help students navigate the job market and prepare for their future careers. Harvard’s Office of Career Services provides students with access to career counseling, job search resources, and networking events.

Carleton’s Career Center offers similar services, including resume and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, and career exploration workshops. Both institutions also have strong internship programs, allowing students to gain valuable work experience and make connections in their desired fields.

Harvard vs. Carleton: Research Opportunities and Facilities Comparison

Research opportunities can be a crucial factor in selecting a college for prospective science and engineering students. Harvard has a significant edge over Carleton, as it boasts some of the country’s most extensive research facilities and programs, with well-funded departments and groundbreaking research taking place in fields ranging from astrophysics to nanotechnology.

Carleton’s smaller size means that research opportunities are more limited, but the college makes up for it by emphasizing undergraduate research opportunities, encouraging students to work on faculty-led projects, and pursuing individual research.

Additionally, Harvard’s research facilities are not only extensive but also state-of-the-art, with cutting-edge equipment and technology available to students and faculty. This allows for more advanced and innovative research projects to be conducted.

On the other hand, Carleton’s smaller size allows for a more personalized research experience, with students having more one-on-one time with faculty members and the opportunity to work on projects that align with their specific interests and goals.

Study Abroad Programs at Harvard and Carleton

Study abroad programs allow students to gain unique cultural experiences and broaden their perspectives. Both Harvard and Carleton offer diverse study abroad options, with programs in dozens of countries worldwide.

Harvard has multiple centers overseas, giving students the chance to study in locations like Paris, Beijing, and Berlin, while Carleton has semester-long programs in countries like India, Senegal, and New Zealand.

Young woman smiling for the camera.

In addition to traditional study abroad programs, both Harvard and Carleton offer unique opportunities for students to engage in service learning and community-based projects abroad.

Harvard’s Public Service Network offers programs in countries like Ghana and Peru, where students can work on projects related to education, health, and environmental sustainability. Similarly, Carleton’s Global Engagement Program allows students to work on community-based projects in countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Furthermore, both universities offer financial aid and scholarships to support students who wish to study abroad. Harvard’s Office of International Education provides need-based grants and scholarships.

At the same time, Carleton’s Global Learning Office offers a range of funding options, including scholarships for students from underrepresented backgrounds and those studying in non-traditional locations.

Harvard vs. Carleton: Diversity on Campus

Diversity is an essential aspect of a comprehensive college experience. Harvard and Carleton strive to create welcoming communities for students of various identities and backgrounds. In terms of diversity, both colleges fare relatively well in the US News and World Report rankings, with Carleton placing 22nd and Harvard coming in at number 25.

Harvard is known for having a relatively diverse student body, with students from all 50 states and 140 different countries represented. Carleton has a similarly diverse student body, with students from 50 nations and 40 US states.

The college is strongly committed to equity and inclusion, with resources like the Bias Incident Reporting System and inviting speakers from diverse backgrounds to campus.

Despite their efforts to promote diversity, both Harvard and Carleton have faced challenges in creating truly inclusive communities. At Harvard, some students have criticized the lack of diversity among faculty members and the administration.

Additionally, there have been incidents of racism and discrimination on campus, highlighting the need for continued efforts to promote equity and inclusion. Similarly, Carleton has faced criticism for not doing enough to support students from underrepresented backgrounds, particularly in terms of financial aid and mental health resources.

Both colleges have taken steps to address these challenges and improve their diversity and inclusion efforts. Harvard has launched initiatives to increase the diversity of its faculty and staff, and has implemented training programs for students and staff on issues of bias and discrimination.

Carleton has increased its financial aid offerings and has created new programs to support students from underrepresented backgrounds, such as the Carleton Posse Program, which provides full-tuition scholarships to students from urban public schools.

Harvard vs. Carleton: Sports Teams and Athletic Facilities Comparison

For students who enjoy sports, Harvard and Carleton offer various options. Harvard is home to multiple Division I teams, including basketball, football, and ice hockey, and the college has some of the best athletic facilities in the country.

Carleton does not have a varsity football team but has competitive men’s and women’s soccer teams that have seen great success in recent years. The college’s facilities include a large gymnasium and multiple sports fields and courts.

In addition to the varsity sports teams, both Harvard and Carleton offer a wide range of intramural and club sports for students to participate in. Harvard has over 50 club sports teams, including ultimate frisbee, fencing, and sailing, while Carleton has over 30 club sports teams, including rugby, ultimate frisbee, and quidditch.

These opportunities allow students to stay active and engaged in sports, even if not at the varsity level.

Alumni Networks at Harvard and Carleton

Alumni networks are crucial to a college’s reputation and connections to the world beyond the classroom. Both Harvard and Carleton have considerable alumni networks, with graduates going on to successful careers across many industries.

Two students smiling while walking.

Harvard’s alumni network is extensive, comprising notable figures like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg. In contrast, Carleton’s network is not as large, but alumni remain closely connected to the college and often participate in various campus events and initiatives.

Despite the difference in size, both Harvard and Carleton’s alumni networks offer valuable resources to current students and recent graduates. Harvard’s network provides access to top-tier job opportunities and influential individuals in various fields.

In contrast, Carleton’s network offers a tight-knit community of supportive alumni who are eager to help fellow graduates succeed. Additionally, both colleges offer mentorship programs and networking events to help students and alumni connect with each other and build meaningful relationships that can last a lifetime.

Notable Professors at Both Institutions

Both Harvard and Carleton attract talented and accomplished professors who are leaders in their respective fields. Harvard’s faculty includes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz, economist and former chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, and renowned biologist Hopi Hoekstra.

Carleton has notable professors like historian Steven Schier, poet and writer Lucy Marsh, and economist Nathan Grawe. Students at both institutions have the distinct privilege of learning from some of the world’s most brilliant minds in their fields.

In addition to these notable professors, both Harvard and Carleton also have a strong commitment to hiring diverse faculty members. Harvard has made a concerted effort to increase the number of women and people of color on their faculty, with over 50% of their recent hires being women and juveniles.

Carleton has also prioritized diversity in their hiring practices, with a faculty that includes individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. This commitment to diversity ensures that students at both institutions are exposed to a variety of perspectives and ideas, enriching their educational experience.

Rankings Comparison: US News, Forbes, etc.

Harvard and Carleton are frequently ranked in the top echelons of college and university rankings. In the most recent US News and World Report rankings, Harvard comes in at number two, and Carleton ranks seventh.

In Forbes’ 2019 Best College rankings, Harvard comes in first, and Carleton ranks 21st. Both colleges have earned international recognition for their rigorous academic curricula, faculty, and notable alumni.

It is important to note that while rankings can be a helpful tool for prospective students, they should not be the sole factor in making a decision about where to attend college. Other factors such as location, campus culture, extracurricular opportunities, and financial aid should also be considered. Additionally, rankings can vary widely depending on the methodology used by each publication, so it is important to look at multiple sources and consider the specific factors that are most important to you when evaluating colleges.

Community Engagement and Service Opportunities at Harvard vs. Carleton

Service and community engagement opportunities can be vital components of a college education and contribute to students’ personal growth and development. Harvard has a robust commitment to service, with the Phillips Brooks House Association coordinating over 80 different public service programs that serve the greater Boston area.

Carleton also places a strong emphasis on service, with programs like the Center for Community and Civic Engagement and community-focused student organizations like Students Organized for Service.

However, the approach to community engagement and service opportunities at Harvard and Carleton differs in some ways. At Harvard, service is often integrated into academic coursework, with many courses offering service-learning components that allow students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations.

Conversely, Carleton emphasizes the importance of service as a standalone activity, with students encouraged to engage in service projects outside of their academic coursework.

Another difference between the two schools is the focus of their service programs. While both Harvard and Carleton offer a wide range of service opportunities, Harvard’s programs tend to be more focused on urban issues and serving the local Boston community. In contrast, Carleton’s programs often address rural and environmental issues in the surrounding Northfield area.

Internship Opportunities for Students of Both Institutions

Internships can be a significant factor in a student’s career development and future job prospects. Both Harvard and Carleton offer a wide range of internship opportunities for students. Harvard has multiple programs like the Harvard Career and Internship Fair and various industry and company-specific resources. Carleton offers extensive career counseling and internship advising, and the college maintains partnerships with large companies like Amazon and the Mayo Clinic.

Harvard vs. Carleton: Sustainability Efforts

Climate change and sustainability have become significant concerns for the current generation of college students. Both Harvard and Carleton have taken steps to become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprints. Harvard has established the Office of Sustainability, which works to reduce energy consumption and implement sustainable practices across campus. The college has also invested heavily in green buildings and renewable energy sources. Carleton has established the Sustainability Office, which works towards reducing waste, promoting sustainable transportation, and creating a sustainable food system on campus.

Group of Ivy league students standing near a building.


Choosing between two exceptional colleges like Harvard and Carleton can be challenging, but we hope this comprehensive analysis has helped make the decision easier. Both colleges emphasize rigorous academics and undergraduate education and offer many unique opportunities for students to grow personally and professionally. Ultimately, the choice comes down to individual preferences, goals, and interests, and students are encouraged to weigh the different factors and choose the institution that best aligns with their aspirations.

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