Harvard vs Cornell: Which University is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Portrait of a cheerful young couple of students wearing backpacks, carrying textbooks standing isolated over blue background

Harvard vs Cornell: Which University is Right for You?

Choosing the right university can be a daunting task, especially when you have to pick between two of the best universities in the world -Harvard vs Cornell. Both universities have a lot to offer, from great academic programs to an active student life. In this article, we’ll help you make the best decision by comparing these two institutions in detail. We’ll look at academics, admissions requirements, student life, campus facilities, and more.

Introduction: Finding the Perfect University Fit

Before we dive into comparing Harvard and Cornell, let’s first establish what factors you should consider when choosing a university. It’s important to look at academics, campus culture, location, student life, and career opportunities. You’ll also want to consider the size of the university, the type of education you’re looking for, and which extracurricular activities are available.

Another important factor to consider when choosing a university is the cost. Tuition fees, room and board, and other expenses can vary greatly between universities. It’s important to research and compare the costs of different universities to ensure that you can afford to attend and won’t be burdened with excessive debt after graduation. Additionally, you may want to look into scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options that can help offset the cost of attending a university.

Harvard vs. Cornell: A Brief Overview

Harvard and Cornell are both Ivy League universities that offer a great education. Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while Cornell is in Ithaca, New York. Both universities have a long history and an alumni network that is second to none. However, while they may share some similarities, they also have some differences that could make one a better choice for you than the other.

a smiling college student holding her phone and credit card

One major difference between Harvard and Cornell is their size. Harvard has a smaller student body, with just over 6,000 undergraduate students, while Cornell has over 15,000 undergraduate students. This means that Harvard may offer a more intimate and personalized learning experience, while Cornell may have more diverse academic offerings and extracurricular activities.

Another difference is their location. While both universities are located in the Northeast, Harvard is closer to Boston and all the opportunities that come with a major city, while Cornell is situated in a more rural area. This could be a factor to consider if you prefer a more urban or rural environment.

Academics: What Majors and Programs are Offered?

When it comes to academics, both Harvard and Cornell have an outstanding reputation. Harvard is well known for its liberal arts program, while Cornell is known for its STEM fields.

However, both universities offer a wide range of majors and programs, so you’re sure to find something that fits your interests and career goals. Harvard has 12 degree-granting schools, while Cornell has 14, so Cornell offers more choices.

At Harvard, some of the most popular majors include economics, computer science, and government. The university also offers unique programs such as the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, which combines medicine, engineering, and science. Cornell, on the other hand, is known for its strong agricultural and veterinary programs, as well as its hotel administration program, which is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world.

Both universities also offer a variety of interdisciplinary programs, allowing students to combine multiple fields of study. For example, Harvard offers a joint degree program in law and business, while Cornell offers a program in information science that combines computer science, social sciences, and humanities. With so many options available, students at both universities have the opportunity to explore their interests and pursue their passions.

Admissions Requirements: How to Get Accepted

Getting accepted into either university is a challenge. Both Harvard and Cornell have acceptance rates under 10%, which means they’re highly selective. However, both universities have different admission requirements.

To get into Harvard, you’ll need excellent grades, impressive extracurricular activities, and high test scores. To get into Cornell, you’ll need these things, but you’ll also need excellent writing skills and a demonstrated interest in the major you’re applying for.

a female high school student choosing from the best degrees posted on the bulletin

Aside from the academic requirements, both universities also value community involvement and leadership skills. Harvard looks for applicants who have made a positive impact in their community through volunteer work or leadership positions. Cornell, on the other hand, values applicants who have demonstrated leadership potential through their involvement in clubs or organizations related to their intended major.

It’s important to note that both universities also consider the applicant’s personal qualities and character. Harvard looks for applicants who are intellectually curious, creative, and have a passion for learning. Cornell values applicants who are independent, self-motivated, and have a strong work ethic. Therefore, it’s important to showcase these qualities in your application essays and interviews.

Student Life: Housing, Activities, and Clubs

Both Harvard and Cornell offer a vibrant student life. Harvard has a wide range of clubs and activities, including a student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. Cornell also has a thriving social scene with over 1,000 clubs and organizations. Both universities offer on-campus housing, and you can choose from traditional dorms to apartment-style living spaces.

Additionally, both universities have resources available to help students find off-campus housing options. Harvard has a Housing Office that provides assistance with finding apartments, sublets, and roommates in the surrounding area. Cornell has a similar service called Off-Campus Living, which offers resources and advice for students looking to live off-campus. These resources can be especially helpful for upperclassmen who may be looking for more independent living options.

Location and Surrounding Area: City vs. Rural Campus

One of the biggest differences between Harvard and Cornell is their location. Harvard is located in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts, which offers a dynamic and bustling city atmosphere. Cornell, on the other hand, is located in Ithaca, New York, a small college town with a laid-back vibe. Both locations offer advantages and disadvantages, so it depends on what type of environment you prefer.

For those who enjoy outdoor activities, Cornell’s location in the Finger Lakes region of New York provides easy access to hiking trails, waterfalls, and other natural attractions. Harvard, on the other hand, is located near the Charles River, which offers opportunities for kayaking, rowing, and other water sports. Additionally, Harvard’s location in the greater Boston area provides easy access to cultural attractions such as museums, theaters, and historical sites.

Campus Culture: Harvard vs. Cornell

The campus culture at Harvard and Cornell is different as well. Harvard has a larger student population, and the atmosphere is more competitive. Cornell has a smaller student population, and the atmosphere is more collaborative and friendly. Again, it depends on what kind of environment you’re most comfortable in.

Another factor that contributes to the campus culture is the location of the university. Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is a bustling city with a lot of opportunities for internships and networking. This can add to the competitive atmosphere as students strive to stand out in a crowded job market.

3 students from Harvard talking to each other in the yard

On the other hand, Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York, which is a smaller town with a more relaxed pace of life. This can contribute to a friendly and collaborative atmosphere as students have more time to connect with each other.

The campus culture can also be influenced by the extracurricular activities offered by the university. Harvard has a strong focus on academic and research opportunities, which can lead to a more serious and intense atmosphere.

Cornell, on the other hand, has a diverse range of extracurricular activities, including a strong focus on the arts and music. This can contribute to a more well-rounded and creative atmosphere on campus.

Alumni Network: Harvard vs. Cornell

Both Harvard and Cornell have a large and impressive alumni network. However, Harvard’s network is larger, with many famous and successful graduates. Cornell is not far behind, though, and also offers a strong alumni network.

Harvard’s alumni network is not only larger, but it also has a more global reach. With alumni in almost every country, Harvard graduates have access to a vast network of professionals and resources. On the other hand, Cornell’s alumni network is more concentrated in the United States, with a strong presence in the Northeast region.

Despite the size and reach of their alumni networks, both Harvard and Cornell offer similar benefits to their graduates. Alumni from both universities have access to career services, networking events, and mentorship opportunities. Additionally, both universities have active alumni associations that organize social events and provide opportunities for alumni to give back to their alma mater.

Career Opportunities: Harvard vs Cornell

Harvard and Cornell have both produced many successful graduates who have gone on to have high-paying and fulfilling careers. However, Harvard has a slight edge over Cornell when it comes to job prospects. Harvard’s location and reputation give its graduates access to some of the best companies and job opportunities in the world.

View of students sitting on their chair.

Additionally, Harvard has a strong alumni network that provides valuable connections and resources for graduates seeking employment. This network includes successful individuals in various industries who are often willing to mentor and assist fellow Harvard alumni in their career pursuits. While Cornell also has a notable alumni network, it is not as extensive or influential as Harvard’s.

Campus Facilities and Resources: Libraries, Labs, and Sports Centers

Both Harvard and Cornell offer excellent campus facilities and resources. Harvard has dozens of libraries, research centers, and sports facilities, as well as state-of-the-art labs and technology. Cornell also has many libraries, research centers, and sports facilities, including a famous ice skating rink. Both universities offer excellent resources to help you excel in your studies.

In addition to the libraries, labs, and sports centers, Harvard and Cornell also offer a variety of other resources to support students. Harvard has a comprehensive career services center, which provides students with guidance and resources to help them find internships and job opportunities. Cornell has a robust health services center, which offers medical care, counseling, and wellness programs to students.

Furthermore, both universities have strong community engagement programs. Harvard has a public service center, which connects students with volunteer opportunities in the local community. Cornell has a community engagement office, which works to build partnerships between the university and local organizations to address social and environmental issues.

Cost Comparison: Harvard vs Cornell

Cost is, of course, a major factor in choosing a university. Harvard’s tuition and fees are higher than Cornell’s, and both universities offer financial aid to eligible students. You’ll want to compare financial aid packages and determine which university offers the most support for your specific financial situation.

financial aid as one of the factors to consider when choosing a college


It’s important to keep in mind that the cost of attending a university goes beyond just tuition and fees. Other expenses, such as room and board, textbooks, and transportation, can add up quickly. Some universities may offer more affordable options for these additional expenses, such as on-campus housing or discounted transportation passes. Be sure to factor in these costs when comparing the overall affordability of different universities.

Conclusion: Making Your Final Decision between Harvard vs Cornell

Choosing between Harvard and Cornell is a difficult decision. However, after considering all of the above factors, you’ll be better equipped to make the best choice for you. Ultimately, it comes down to what type of education and environment you’re looking for. Both universities offer amazing opportunities, and no matter which one you choose, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals.

It’s important to note that both Harvard and Cornell have unique campus cultures. Harvard is known for its competitive and intense academic environment, while Cornell is known for its collaborative and supportive community. Consider which type of environment you thrive in and which one will help you reach your full potential.

Additionally, it’s worth researching the specific programs and departments that interest you at each university. While both schools have strong overall reputations, one may have a particular program or department that aligns better with your career goals and interests. Take the time to explore each school’s website and reach out to current students or alumni for their insights.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.


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