Princeton vs Harvard: Which University is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Two students talking in front of a laptop.

Princeton vs Harvard: Which University is Right for You?

Are you considering attending one of the most prestigious universities in the United States? Princeton and Harvard are undoubtedly two of the most well-known universities in the world, but which one is the right fit for you? In this article, we’ll compare Princeton vs Harvard based on different factors. By the end, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of which university is the right choice for your educational journey.

Introduction to Princeton and Harvard

Princeton University and Harvard University are both private Ivy League research universities located in the northeastern United States. Both universities have a long history of academic excellence, with Harvard being founded in 1636 and Princeton in 1746. While Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Princeton is situated in Princeton, New Jersey. Despite the differences in location, both universities share a commitment to providing their students with a rigorous and rewarding academic experience.

A student sitting on the chair, thinking intently while holding a notebook and pen.

One notable difference between Princeton and Harvard is their undergraduate student body size. Princeton has a smaller undergraduate population of around 5,400 students, while Harvard has a larger undergraduate population of approximately 6,700 students.

This difference in size can impact the overall campus culture and student experience. However, both universities offer a wide range of academic programs and extracurricular activities to their students, ensuring that they have access to a well-rounded education.

History of Princeton and Harvard

As previously mentioned, Harvard was founded in 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The university has a long and storied history, having educated eight United States presidents and numerous other notable figures throughout its 400-year history.

Princeton University, on the other hand, was founded in 1746 as the College of New Jersey before changing its name to Princeton University in 1896. The university, like Harvard, has a long history of producing successful graduates in politics, business, and academia.

Despite their similarities, there are some notable differences between Princeton and Harvard. For example, Princeton has a smaller student body and a more intimate campus setting, while Harvard is known for its large and bustling campus in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Additionally, Princeton has a strong focus on undergraduate education, while Harvard is known for its graduate programs and research initiatives.

Both universities have also faced their fair share of challenges throughout their histories. Harvard, for example, has had to navigate issues related to diversity and inclusion, including controversies surrounding affirmative action policies.

Princeton, on the other hand, has had to grapple with questions about its relationship with the surrounding community and its historical ties to slavery.

Princeton vs Harvard: Campus Life

Both Princeton and Harvard have beautiful campuses that are rich in history and tradition. Harvard’s campus is located in the heart of Cambridge and includes such landmarks as Harvard Yard and the Widener Library. Princeton’s campus is known for its gothic architecture and includes such iconic buildings as Nassau Hall and Blair Arch.

When it comes to campus life, both universities have a lot to offer their students. Harvard has over 400 student organizations, including sports teams, cultural groups, and academic clubs. Princeton, too, has a vibrant student life scene, with over 300 active student organizations ranging from the Princeton University Band to the Princeton University Chess Club.

Two students talking to each other.

One major difference between the two universities is their approach to undergraduate education. At Princeton, the focus is on the undergraduate experience, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1 and a strong emphasis on small class sizes and individual attention. Harvard, on the other hand, is a larger university with a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1 and a greater emphasis on graduate education and research.

Another difference is the location of the two universities. While Harvard is located in the bustling city of Cambridge, with easy access to Boston and all it has to offer, Princeton is situated in a more suburban area of New Jersey. This can be a factor in deciding which university is the right fit for a particular student, depending on their preferences for city or suburban living.

Princeton vs Harvard: Academic Programs

At both Princeton and Harvard, students have access to a wide range of academic programs and majors. Harvard offers concentrations in over 50 fields of study, including economics, computer science, and psychology. Princeton, on the other hand, offers undergraduate degrees in over 30 academic departments, including comparative literature, classical studies, and neuroscience.

Both universities also have highly regarded graduate schools in fields such as business, law, and engineering. If you’re looking for a specialized area of study, both Princeton and Harvard have a wide range of options to choose from.

Three happy students smiling

However, there are some differences between the two universities when it comes to their academic programs. For example, Harvard has a renowned School of Public Health, which offers graduate programs in areas such as epidemiology, health policy, and global health. Princeton, on the other hand, has a strong focus on undergraduate research, with opportunities for students to work closely with faculty members on independent projects in a variety of fields.

Additionally, both universities have unique programs that set them apart from each other. Harvard has the Harvard Extension School, which offers part-time undergraduate and graduate courses for non-traditional students. Princeton has the Princeton Environmental Institute, which brings together faculty and students from across the university to address environmental challenges through research, education, and outreach.

Princeton vs Harvard: Admissions Process

If you’re interested in attending either Princeton or Harvard, you’ll need to get through the highly competitive admissions process. Both universities look for academically talented students who have demonstrated a commitment to extracurricular activities and community service. Additionally, for both universities, the SAT or ACT is required, along with several other requirements.

It’s important to note that both universities have extremely low acceptance rates, with Princeton being slightly more selective than Harvard. However, with the right academic preparation and extracurricular experiences, it’s possible to gain admission to either university.

One important aspect of the admissions process for both Princeton and Harvard is the essay portion of the application. This is an opportunity for applicants to showcase their writing skills and provide insight into their personality, values, and goals.

Group of students walking in the campus.

It’s important to take the time to craft a well-written and thoughtful essay that highlights your unique qualities and experiences. Admissions officers at both universities also look for applicants who demonstrate a strong fit with the school’s values and mission, so it’s important to do your research and tailor your application to each specific university.

Princeton vs Harvard: Cost of Attendance

Both Princeton and Harvard are expensive universities, with the cost of attendance exceeding $70,000 per year. This includes tuition fees, room and board, textbooks, and other expenses. However, both universities offer generous financial aid packages and scholarships to help offset the cost of attendance. Harvard offers need-based financial aid to every student, while Princeton has a generous financial aid policy that ensures that students from all backgrounds can afford to attend.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance at these universities can vary depending on the program of study. For example, some programs may require additional fees for materials or equipment. Additionally, students may incur additional expenses for extracurricular activities or travel.

Group of students talking.

Despite the high cost of attendance, attending a prestigious university like Princeton or Harvard can have significant long-term benefits. Graduates from these universities often have higher earning potential and greater career opportunities. Furthermore, the quality of education and resources available at these institutions can provide a valuable foundation for future success.

Princeton vs Harvard: Financial Aid

If you’re concerned about how to pay for your education, both Princeton and Harvard have robust financial aid programs that can help. Harvard’s financial aid program is 100% need-based, meaning that the university will cover the full cost of attendance for students whose families earn less than $65,000 per year.

Princeton’s financial aid program is similarly generous, with the university meeting the full financial need of all students who are admitted. Additionally, Princeton has a “no-loan” policy, which means that students don’t need to take out loans to pay for their education.

It’s important to note that financial aid is not just limited to these two universities. Many other colleges and universities also offer financial aid programs to help students pay for their education. Some schools may offer merit-based scholarships, which are awarded based on academic or athletic achievements, while others may offer need-based aid, which is awarded based on a student’s financial situation.

When applying for financial aid, it’s important to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid programs. It’s also a good idea to research and apply for scholarships and grants from outside organizations, as these can also help offset the cost of tuition and other expenses.

Princeton vs Harvard: Alumni Network

Both Princeton and Harvard have large and influential alumni networks that can help graduates succeed in their chosen career fields. Harvard has produced many successful graduates who have gone on to work in fields such as finance and law, while Princeton has a strong reputation in politics and public policy.

Additionally, both universities have a variety of career services and resources available to graduates, including job search assistance and networking events.

Furthermore, alumni from both universities often hold high-level positions in various industries, providing graduates with valuable connections and potential job opportunities. These alumni networks also offer mentorship programs, allowing recent graduates to receive guidance and advice from experienced professionals in their field.

Moreover, both Princeton and Harvard have strong research programs, which can benefit graduates pursuing careers in academia or research-based industries. Graduates can access research resources and collaborate with faculty members to further their knowledge and expertise in their chosen field.

Student Body Diversity: Which University is More Inclusive?

Both Princeton and Harvard strive to create inclusive and diverse campus communities. Harvard has a student body made up of approximately 50% female students, 23% international students, and 22% students of color. Princeton has a similar percentage of female students and international students, but a slightly higher percentage of students of color at 29%.

Both universities also have a variety of multicultural organizations and initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion on campus.

However, it is important to note that diversity goes beyond just numbers. Both universities have faced criticism for their lack of socioeconomic diversity, with a majority of their students coming from affluent backgrounds. To address this issue, both universities have implemented financial aid programs and initiatives to increase access for low-income students.

Athletics: Comparing the Sports Programs at Princeton and Harvard

If you’re a fan of college sports, both Princeton and Harvard offer a variety of athletic programs. Harvard is part of the Ivy League athletics conference, while Princeton is known for its highly competitive Division I sports teams. Both universities have strong athletic programs, with Harvard having a particularly impressive record in basketball and Princeton excelling in football and lacrosse.

However, there are some differences in the way the two universities approach their sports programs. Harvard places a greater emphasis on individual sports, such as tennis and squash, while Princeton focuses more on team sports. This is reflected in the number of varsity teams offered by each school, with Harvard having more individual sports teams and Princeton having more team sports teams.

Another difference is in the facilities available for athletes. While both universities have top-notch facilities, Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium is considered one of the best in the country, with state-of-the-art equipment and a capacity of over 6,000 spectators. Harvard’s Lavietes Pavilion, on the other hand, is smaller and more intimate, with a capacity of just over 2,000.

Research Opportunities: Which University Offers More?

Both Princeton and Harvard are renowned for their research programs, with numerous research institutes and centers located on their campuses.

Harvard has a particularly strong reputation in the field of medicine, with the Harvard Medical School being one of the most prestigious medical schools in the world. Princeton is known for its innovative research in fields such as astrophysics and neuroscience.

However, when it comes to research funding, Harvard has a clear advantage. In 2019, Harvard received over $1.5 billion in research funding, while Princeton received just over $300 million. This funding allows Harvard to invest in cutting-edge research equipment and attract top researchers from around the world. Despite this, both universities offer ample opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to get involved in research projects and gain valuable experience in their fields of interest.

Study Abroad Programs: What You Need to Know about Princeton and Harvard

Both Princeton and Harvard offer a wide range of study abroad programs, allowing students to gain international experience while earning academic credit. Harvard offers study abroad programs in over 150 countries, while Princeton has agreements with over 50 programs around the world.

It’s important to note that the study abroad programs offered by Princeton and Harvard vary in terms of duration, location, and academic focus. Some programs may be as short as a few weeks, while others may last an entire academic year.

Additionally, certain programs may be more focused on language immersion, while others may offer courses in specific academic disciplines. It’s important for students to carefully research and consider their options before selecting a program that best fits their academic and personal goals.

Pros and Cons of Attending Princeton vs Harvard

Both Princeton and Harvard offer top-notch academic programs and resources, along with vibrant student life and strong alumni networks. However, there are some differences to consider. For example, Harvard is located in a bustling urban area, while Princeton has a more suburban campus. Additionally, Princeton has a smaller student population, which some might prefer.

It’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each university when making your decision.

Another factor to consider is the cost of attendance. While both universities offer generous financial aid packages, the total cost of attendance can still be quite high. Harvard’s tuition and fees are $57,261, while Princeton’s are slightly higher at $57,410. However, the cost of living in the surrounding areas can also vary significantly. For example, the cost of living in Cambridge, where Harvard is located, is higher than in Princeton, New Jersey.

Conclusion: Which University is Right for You?

Ultimately, the decision of which university to attend is a highly personal one that should be based on your individual academic goals, interests, and needs. Both Princeton and Harvard are outstanding universities that offer a wealth of academic resources, a strong sense of community, and opportunities for personal growth and career advancement.

By carefully considering all the factors we’ve discussed in this article, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision about which university is the right fit for you.

It’s important to remember that while the reputation and prestige of a university can be a factor in your decision, it’s not the only thing that matters. You should also consider factors such as location, campus culture, extracurricular activities, and the availability of resources that align with your academic and personal interests.



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