MIT vs Harvard University: Which Is Better?

MIT and Harvard are two renowned institutions that consistently top national college ranking lists and are known for their premier academics, distinguished faculty, and vibrant communities. But which university is better: MIT or Harvard? More importantly, which is a better fit for you?

We give you a complete MIT vs Harvard comparison and introduce four essential factors you must consider to help you figure out which school is an ideal match for you. Before all that, though, let’s take a look at what types of schools MIT and Harvard actually are.

What Is MIT?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, is a prestigious, private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1861, MIT focuses mainly on science, engineering, and technology, with the mission of encouraging research, discovery, and innovation.

The university is on the smaller side, with an undergrad enrollment of just 4,638 and a total enrollment of 11,934 students (which, as you can see, means that there are more graduate students than there are undergrads). MIT currently employs nearly 13,000 staff and faculty.

Six schools and colleges make up MIT:

  • School of Architecture and Planning
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
  • Sloan School of Management
  • School of Science
  • MIT Schwarzman College of Computing

The most popular school is (not surprisingly) the School of Engineering, which currently has around 3,500 students. In total, MIT offers 56 undergraduate majors and 50+ minors.

MIT is highly selective, admitting around only 4% of first-year applicants every year. It’s also top-ranked in both the US and world, coming in at #2 on US News‘ list of the best national universities.

Outside of academics, MIT offers more than 450 student organizations and 33 varsity sports.

What Is Harvard?

Harvard University is a world-renowned, private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts—the same city where MIT is based—with nearby campuses in Allston (a neighborhood in Boston) and Longwood.

It’s the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, having been established back in 1636. Harvard also has the biggest endowment of any university in the world. Its mission is to educate citizens and future leaders through a premier education in the liberal arts and sciences.

At present, the university has around 2,400 faculty members and a total enrollment of 21,648 students, including 7,153 undergrads. Like MIT, there are more graduate students than there are undergrads here.

In terms of size, Harvard University consists of 13 schools as well as one specialized institute:

  • Harvard Business School
  • Harvard College
  • Harvard Divinity School
  • Harvard Division of Continuing Education
  • Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
  • Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Harvard Kennedy School
  • Harvard Law School
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Harvard School of Dental Medicine
  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Just to clarify, Harvard College is the undergraduate college of Harvard University, so when people talk about applying to Harvard as a first-year student, what they’re really talking about is applying for admission to the College, which is located on the main Cambridge campus.

At Harvard College, students can choose from among 50 majors that span topics in the social sciences, the arts and humanities, science, and engineering.

Harvard is one of the most selective universities in the US, with an acceptance rate of just 4%. Due to its prestige and quality academics, it’s also extremely highly ranked and currently listed at #3 by US News for best national universities.

Finally, Harvard offers more than 450 student clubs and is part of the NCAA Division I in sports.

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MIT vs Harvard: Complete Comparison

Below is a side-by-side comparison of Harvard University vs MIT so you can get a better sense as to how these two very prestigious universities differ.

MIT vs Harvard University: Which Is Better?
MIT vs Harvard University: Which Is Better?
LocationCambridge, MACambridge, MA
Public or Private?PrivatePrivate
Part of Ivy League?NoYes
Undergrad Enrollment4,6387,153
US News Ranking23
Niche GradeA+A+
Acceptance Rate4%4%
Average GPA*N/A4
Avg SAT/ACT ScoreSAT: 1520
ACT: 35
SAT: 1480
ACT: 35
Tuition & Fees$57,590$52,659
Student-Faculty Ratio3:17:1
# of Schools/Colleges613 + 1 institute
# of Majors5650
Most Popular MajorsEngineering, comp sci, mathEconomics, history, biology
# of Student Clubs450+450+
SportsNCAA Division IIINCAA Division I
Med Starting Salary$114,000$95,000
Overall ReputationOne of the most highly regarded science and technology universities in the world; known for its academics, scientific discoveries, and researchWorld-renowned research university famed for its academics, professors, and award-winning alumni, and for also having one of the biggest academic libraries in the world

* Data on this page sourced from Peterson’s Databases © 2022 (Peterson’s LLC, All rights reserved) as well as additional publicly available sources.


Both Harvard and MIT are located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is northwest of Boston and considered part of the Boston metropolitan area. Cambridge has a total population of about 100,000 people, including several thousand students at MIT and Harvard.

The MIT campus lies southeast of Harvard’s main campus (Harvard’s two other campuses can be found south of the Charles River in Allston and Longwood).

University Type

Though both MIT and Harvard are private universities, meaning that neither is funded by the state, Harvard is one of eight members of the Ivy League, whereas MIT is not.

This doesn’t necessarily mean anything in terms of prestige: there are many non-Ivies that are just as prestigious as, if not more than, the Ivies. MIT, for example, is no doubt a very renowned school—even without that Ivy label!

Here’s the full list of Ivy League schools for reference:

  • Brown University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Harvard University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Princeton University
  • Yale University


In terms of undergraduate enrollment and number of schools and colleges, Harvard’s got MIT beat. Whereas MIT has 4,638 undergrads, Harvard has slightly more at 7,153. As for total enrollment (undergrads and graduate students), MIT has less than 12,000 students compared to Harvard’s slightly under 22,000 students.

When it comes to schools, MIT has six schools in total, whereas Harvard’s got 13. Notably, MIT does not have a medical school or law school—but Harvard does.

Rankings and Grades

Even though Harvard is a member of the Ivy League and MIT isn’t, the two schools are neck and neck when it comes to college rankings.

At present, Harvard beats out MIT just barely on most lists. Obviously, rankings fluctuate slightly from year to year, so expect Harvard to beat MIT some years and MIT to come out on top other years.

Here are the current rankings of MIT vs Harvard by leading publications and websites:

 US NewsForbesNicheTimes Higher Education

As you can see here, outside of the Forbes ranking, the rankings for Harvard University vs MIT really are incredibly close. As a result, you can’t argue one school is “better” based on rankings alone.

In addition to national rankings, we looked at Niche grades, which are grades (A+ to F) given by real students who attended the universities. As expected, Harvard and MIT both earned A+ ratings thanks to their high-quality academics, excellent faculty, and active social scenes.


The acceptance rates for MIT and Harvard are incredibly low—just 4% for each. Both Harvard and MIT are two of the most difficult universities to get into, so you’ll need to have a killer application to raise your chances of getting accepted.

But what exactly goes into a good MIT or Harvard application? To figure this out, you’ll have to look at the academic profile of admitted applicants.

Incoming Harvard students have a 4.0 high school GPA on average. While MIT doesn’t report incoming freshmen’s high school averages, the fact that MIT’s admissions rate is 4% suggests that accepted students have very competitive GPAs as well. This indicates that you’ll need to have super-high grades (mostly or all As) to be able to get into either MIT or Harvard.

In terms of standardized test scores, MIT students have slightly higher averages, with an SAT score of 1520 and an ACT score of 35, compared with Harvard’s averages of 1480 and 35.

Overall, these slight differences are nominal, meaning that both schools are extremely hard to get into.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition and fees are similar at Harvard and MIT. Harvard tuition and fees are $52,659 per year, whereas MIT’s are slightly more expensive at $57,590 per year.

However, both universities offer incredible financial aid, so you likely won’t have to pay much, if anything, in order to attend. At Harvard, students don’t need to pay for any tuition or fees if their family makes less than $65,000 a year. Meanwhile, at MIT, you don’t have to pay anything if your family makes less than $90,000.

Student-Faculty Ratio

The student-faculty ratio shows how many students there are per professor. Lower ratios are ideal, as this means you’ll get more personalized attention from your professors.

Both MIT and Harvard have excellent student-faculty ratios, but the ratio at MIT is even better at 3:1 (Harvard’s is 7:1). This indicates that there is one faculty member for every three students at MIT.


Although MIT is more focused on science and technology, and Harvard concentrates more on the liberal arts, both schools offer 50+ majors in a variety of fields.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular majors at MIT are science, engineering, and technology ones, including computer science, biology, and mathematics. At Harvard, the most popular majors cover a slightly broader array of fields, such as history, economics, and the social sciences.


Both MIT and Harvard offer a giant array of 450+ student clubs you can join. On Niche, the two schools each received an A+ for student life. MIT earns an A for its party scene, whereas Harvard’s ranking is an A-. Both schools will definitely allow you to have an active social life, regardless of which of these universities you end up attending.

As for sports, MIT is part of the NCAA Division III, whereas Harvard is part of the NCAA Division I.

Median Starting Salary of Alumni

The median starting salary of MIT alumni is far higher than it is for Harvard alumni. According to Payscale, MIT alumni can expect to make $114,000 right after graduating—a particularly high starting salary—Harvard alumni can expect to make around $95,000, or $19,000 less (which is still a solid salary but not nearly as strong as MIT’s).