Harvard vs Northeastern: Which University Is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a female student appears to be thinking

Harvard vs Northeastern: Which University Is Right for You?

In the Boston area, two of the most renowned universities are Harvard University and Northeastern University. Both institutions have a rich history of providing quality education and have produced successful alumni. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Harvard vs Northeastern and provide insightful comparisons to help students make an informed decision.

An Overview of Harvard University

Harvard University, established in 1636, is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is the oldest institution of higher education in America and has consistently ranked among the top universities in the world.

Harvard has a diverse student body, with about 20,000 students enrolled across its undergraduate and graduate programs. The university offers arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences programs, as well as professional programs in fields such as law, business, and medicine.

Harvard has a strong reputation for producing influential leaders in various fields, including politics, finance, law, and entertainment. The university has an impressive alumni list, including eight U.S. presidents, numerous billionaires, and Nobel laureates.

The campus features many iconic buildings, including the historic Harvard Yard, the central hub of undergraduate student life.

Harvard University historic building in Cambridge at Massachusetts USA

Harvard University is also known for its extensive research programs, with over 20 research centers and institutes. These research programs cover many topics, including public health, education, and technology. The university is strongly committed to innovation and has produced many groundbreaking discoveries and inventions.

Harvard is also dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. The university has implemented various initiatives to support underrepresented groups, including the Harvard College Women’s Center and the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations.

Additionally, the university offers various resources and support services for students, including counseling and mental health services, academic advising, and career services.

An Overview of Northeastern University

Northeastern University, founded in 1898, is a private research institution in Boston, Massachusetts. The university has an enrollment of approximately 28,000 students across its undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.

Northeastern offers programs in various fields, including engineering, business, social sciences, humanities, and health sciences.

Northeastern is renowned for its co-op program, which allows students to alternate semesters of rigorous academic study with semesters of full-time employment in their chosen field. The university has partnerships with over 3,000 employers worldwide, giving students practical experience in various industries.

In addition to its co-op program, Northeastern University is known for its commitment to experiential learning. The university offers a range of opportunities for students to engage in hands-on learning, including research projects, service learning, and global experiences.

Northeastern strongly focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation, with resources such as the Northeastern University Innovation Campus and the Center for Entrepreneurship Education.

Furthermore, Northeastern University has a diverse student body, with students from all 50 states and over 140 countries. The university is committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive community with resources such as the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service.

Admission Process: Harvard vs Northeastern

Admission to both Harvard and Northeastern is highly competitive, with universities receiving many applications each year. Harvard has an acceptance rate of about 4.6%, while Northeastern has an acceptance rate of about 18%.

Harvard looks for applicants who have a record of academic excellence, leadership skills, and extracurricular achievements. The university also considers personal qualities, character, and the ability to contribute positively to the community.

Northeastern values applicants with a passion for their chosen field, intellectual curiosity, and an eagerness to learn. The university also considers leadership, community service, and extracurricular activities.

a male student doing community work

One major difference between the Harvard vs Northeastern admission processes is the emphasis on standardized test scores.

While Harvard requires applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, Northeastern has adopted a test-optional policy, allowing students to choose whether or not to submit their scores. This policy is intended to reduce barriers for students who may not have access to test preparation resources or need to perform better on standardized tests.

Another factor that sets the two universities apart is their approach to interviews. Harvard conducts interviews with a select group of applicants, while Northeastern offers optional interviews to all applicants.

These interviews allow students to showcase their personality, interests, and fit for the university and can be a valuable addition to an application.

Curriculum Comparison: Harvard vs Northeastern

Both Harvard and Northeastern offer a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs. At Harvard, undergraduate students can choose from 50 concentrations across 12 schools, while graduate students can pursue programs across various disciplines.

Northeastern offers more than 90 undergraduate programs and over 140 graduate programs across its nine colleges and schools.

One of the major differences between Harvard and Northeastern is their programs’ flexibility. At Northeastern, students can customize their degree paths and explore various fields, while Harvard tends to have more rigid degree structures.

Another difference between the two universities is their approach to experiential learning. Northeastern is known for its co-op program, which allows students to gain real-world experience through paid work placements in their field of study. This program is integrated into the curriculum and can last up to six months.

On the other hand, Harvard offers various research opportunities for students, including the chance to work with renowned faculty members on cutting-edge projects.

a woman looking at a microscope and a man writing notes

Additionally, the two universities have different approaches to international education. Northeastern strongly focuses on global learning, with opportunities for students to study abroad, participate in international co-ops, and take courses with a global perspective.

Harvard also offers study abroad programs, focusing more on research and academic collaborations with international institutions.

The Campus Experience: Harvard vs Northeastern

The campus experience at both Harvard and Northeastern is unique and exciting. Harvard has a historic campus featuring numerous iconic buildings and landmarks, including the Widener Library, the Harvard Art Museums, and the Harvard Science Center.

The university is in Cambridge, a beautiful and vibrant city known for its diverse cultural scene and rich history.

Northeastern has a bustling campus located in the heart of Boston. Various cultural attractions, sports arenas, and entertainment venues surround the university. The campus features state-of-the-art facilities, including the Snell Library, the Matthews Arena, and the Marino Recreation Center.

View of Northeastern campus.

One of the unique features of Harvard’s campus experience is the House system, a residential community that provides students with a sense of belonging and fosters a strong sense of community.

Each House has its own dining hall, common spaces, and traditions, which creates a close-knit community within the larger university.

On the other hand, Northeastern offers students a co-op program, allowing them to gain real-world experience in their field of study. This program will enable students to work with top companies and organizations in Boston and worldwide, giving them a competitive edge in the job market.

Student Life at Harvard University

Harvard has a vibrant and active student life, with numerous student organizations and clubs. The university also has a rich history of athletics, with 42 varsity sports teams, including the renowned Harvard Crimson football team.

The university has a diverse student body, with students from all over the world, creating a rich learning environment.

Additionally, Harvard University offers students a wide range of cultural and artistic opportunities. The Harvard Art Museums house over 250,000 works of art, including pieces from ancient civilizations to contemporary art. The American Repertory Theater, located on campus, is a Tony Award-winning theater company that produces innovative and thought-provoking performances.

The university also hosts various cultural events throughout the year, including music concerts, film screenings, and lectures by prominent artists and scholars.

Student Life at Northeastern University

At Northeastern, students can enjoy an exciting life focused on experiential learning opportunities.

The co-op program allows students to gain practical experience in various fields, and the university has a range of student organizations that cater to multiple interests. Northeastern athletics are also popular, particularly the hockey and basketball programs.

Additionally, Northeastern University offers a variety of cultural events and activities throughout the year. The university strongly commits to diversity and inclusion and hosts cultural festivals, guest speakers, and performances celebrating different cultures and perspectives.

Students can also participate in community service projects and volunteer opportunities through the university’s Center of Community Service.

Furthermore, Northeastern has a beautiful campus located in the heart of Boston. The campus features modern facilities, green spaces, and historic buildings. Students can take advantage of the city’s many attractions, such as museums, theaters, and restaurants, and can easily access public transportation to explore other parts of the city.

A woman looking at paintings in the Museum of Modern Art

The university also offers study abroad programs that allow students to experience different cultures and gain a global perspective.

Housing Options at Harvard and Northeastern

Both universities offer on-campus housing options to students. At Harvard, first-year students are required to live on campus, while upper-class students have the opportunity to live off campus.

Harvard has several on-campus housing options, including traditional dormitories, suites, and apartments. Northeastern also offers on-campus housing, from traditional dormitories to luxury apartments.

However, off-campus housing can be more challenging to secure in Boston and Cambridge due to high demand and prices.

Several resources are available for students who live off-campus to help with the search. Both universities have online databases of available apartments and rooms for rent, and several real estate agencies in the area specialize in student housing.

It is essential to start the search early and be prepared to pay a premium for housing in these desirable locations.

In addition to on-campus and off-campus housing options, both Harvard and Northeastern offer summer housing for students who need to stay on campus during the summer months.

This can be a convenient option for students taking summer classes or participating in research programs, as it allows them to stay close to campus and avoid the hassle of finding temporary housing elsewhere.

Scholarships and Financial Aid: Harvard vs Northeastern

Both universities offer various scholarships and financial aid programs to help students cover tuition and other expenses.

Harvard has a need-blind admission policy, meaning that applicants are admitted regardless of their ability to pay, and the university meets 100% of demonstrated financial need. Northeastern also offers need-based financial aid, as well as merit-based scholarships.

It is important to note that the application process for financial aid differs between the two universities. Students must submit the CSS Profile and FAFSA at Harvard to be considered for financial aid. Northeastern, on the other hand, only require the FAFSA.

Additionally, Harvard offers limited scholarships for international students, while Northeastern has a dedicated International Student Scholarship program.

Career Opportunities after Graduation: Harvard vs Northeastern

Harvard and Northeastern provide robust career services to help students prepare for their future careers. Both universities have extensive alumni networks, providing students access to various job opportunities.

Harvard is known for producing successful professionals in various fields, including law, medicine, finance, and politics. Northeastern has a strong reputation for producing workforce-ready graduates who employers across various industries are highly sought after.

Additionally, Harvard offers many internship opportunities for students to gain practical experience in their desired fields. These internships often lead to job offers upon graduation.

Northeastern, on the other hand, has a unique co-op program that allows students to alternate between semesters of coursework and semesters of full-time work experience. This program gives students a competitive edge in the job market and often leads to job offers from their co-op employers.

Campus Safety and Security Comparison

Both universities have comprehensive safety and security measures to ensure the well-being of their students, faculty, and staff.

Harvard has its police department, which operates 24/7 and provides various services, including emergency response and crime prevention. Northeastern also has its police department, which patrols around the campus and provides safety escorts to students.

However, there are some differences in the safety and security measures of the two universities. Harvard has a larger campus and therefore has more security personnel and cameras installed throughout the campus.

On the other hand, Northeastern has a more centralized campus and has implemented a mobile safety app that allows students to report incidents and request assistance from the campus police department.

Faculty Comparison: Harvard vs Northeastern

Both universities have diverse and distinguished faculty members who are leaders in their respective fields. Harvard has a large faculty of over 2,000 members, including numerous Nobel laureates, Rhodes scholars, and Pulitzer Prize winners.

Northeastern has a faculty of over 1,500 members, many of whom are industry professionals, providing students with practical expertise and real-world knowledge.

In addition to their impressive faculty, Harvard and Northeastern offer unique opportunities for students to engage with their professors. Harvard has a student-to-faculty ratio 7:1, allowing for personalized attention and mentorship.

On the other hand, Northeastern offers a co-op program where students can work alongside their professors in industry settings, gaining hands-on experience and networking opportunities.

Another notable difference between the two universities is their research approach. Harvard is known for its extensive research facilities and funding, with over $1 billion in research expenditures annually.

While also committed to research, Northeastern places a greater emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and community engagement, with initiatives such as the Social Impact Lab and the Global Resilience Institute.

Research Opportunities at Harvard and Northeastern

Both universities strongly focus on research, with numerous research centers, institutes, and laboratories.

Harvard is known for its groundbreaking research in various fields, including medicine, law, science, and humanities. Northeastern’s research focuses on solving real-world problems, including health, security, sustainability, and social justice.

Harvard’s research initiatives are supported by a vast network of resources, including the Harvard Library system, the world’s largest academic library. The university also has several research partnerships with other institutions, both nationally and internationally, allowing for global collaboration.

At Northeastern, students can participate in co-op programs, which provide hands-on experience in their field of study. This allows students to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world situations and gain valuable skills and connections.

Additionally, Northeastern is strongly committed to interdisciplinary research, encouraging collaboration between different departments and fields of study.

Extracurricular Activities at Harvard and Northeastern

Both universities have a range of extracurricular activities that cater to various interests, including sports, arts, music, and community service. Harvard has over 400 student organizations, including the famous a cappella groups and the Harvard Lampoon.

Northeastern has over 300 student organizations, including the Northeastern University Wind Ensemble and the Global Entrepreneurs Club.

In addition to the numerous student organizations, both Harvard and Northeastern offer opportunities for students to participate in research projects and internships.

Harvard has a robust undergraduate research program, allowing students to work alongside faculty members on cutting-edge research projects. Northeastern’s co-op program allows students to gain real-world experience in their field of study through six-month internships with top companies and organizations.

Athletics Programs Comparison: Harvard vs Northeastern

Both universities have an impressive list of athletic programs, with numerous varsity sports teams and club sports. Harvard is part of the Ivy League Conference and has a long history of athletic excellence, particularly in rowing, football, and hockey.

Northeastern is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association and has a strong reputation for its hockey, basketball, and track and field programs.

Two men playing basketball.

However, there are some differences in how the two universities approach their athletics programs. Harvard strongly emphasizes the academic success of its student-athletes, with a high graduation rate and a focus on maintaining a balance between academics and athletics.

On the other hand, Northeastern has a more competitive approach, focusing on winning championships and recruiting top athletes from around the country.

Diversity and Inclusivity: Harvard vs Northeastern

Both universities have a diverse student body with various cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Harvard has vibrant diversity and inclusion office that provides various resources, including cultural organizations and events. Northeastern is committed to creating an inclusive community and has multiple programs that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

One notable difference between the two universities is the curriculum’s approach to diversity and inclusion. Harvard has a General Education program requires students to take courses in various disciplines, including those that explore issues of diversity and inclusion.

On the other hand, Northeastern has a more flexible curriculum that allows students to choose courses that align with their interests and career goals, including those that focus on diversity and inclusion.

Another difference is the level of support for underrepresented groups on campus. While both universities have resources for students from diverse backgrounds, Harvard has a specific office for LGBTQ, which provides support and advocacy for this community.

On the other hand, Northeastern has a Center for Intercultural Engagement, which supports students from all backgrounds and promotes cross-cultural understanding.

Making the Decision Between Harvard and Northeastern

Choosing the right university between Harvard vs Northeastern depends on several factors, including academic interests, career goals, location preferences, and financial situation. Both are excellent universities, providing students with quality education, vast resources, and endless opportunities.

Before deciding, it’s essential to research both institutions thoroughly, attend virtual or in-person information sessions, talk to current students, and consult with academic advisors and mentors.

In conclusion, selecting between Harvard vs Northeastern can be a challenging task. By understanding the unique features of these two institutions, you can make an informed decision that will shape your educational and professional journey.

AdmissionSight is crucial in helping students decide between Harvard and Northeastern University.

AdmissionSight provides personalized guidance that considers students’ academic goals, aspirations, and preferences. Our team of experts assists students in evaluating the unique advantages of each university, whether it be Harvard’s prestigious reputation or Northeastern’s strong emphasis on experiential learning and co-op programs.

Furthermore, AdmissionSight’s expertise in college admissions equips students with the strategies and support needed to navigate the competitive application processes for both universities, maximizing their chances of securing admission.

With AdmissionSight’s assistance, students can confidently make informed decisions and embark on an enriching educational journey at the institution that aligns best with their goals and aspirations.



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