I'll do my best to paraphrase a friend's dad:
When I sent to Stanford Medical School, I thought all doctors were wonderful, altruistic people who wanted to help people and change the world for the better. Then, after my residency, I got a job at Harvard Medical School's hospital. There I realized, wow, everyone here is a complete and total bastard. I've realize that, to survive at Harvard, you have to be a bastard. So I left and started my own practice.
My 2 cents:
Basically, Stanford students are more about changing the world while Harvard students are more about their own careers. Yes, there are plenty of cutthroat, selfish Stanford students and there are plenty of altruistic, caring Harvard students, but in general the previous statement holds. Stanford students will help you, Harvard students will crush you.
^Way off base bud.
Financial aid: Harvard > Stanford
Prestige: Harvard > Stanford, slightly
Weather: Stanford > Harvard
Lax factor: Stanford > Harvard
Grade inflation: it's a wash
Other than that, it's all up to what you want to do. Engineering is better at stanford right now, but harvard's got the fastest growing engineering school by far (Wyss anyone?). Silicon Valley and Cambridge are both equally exciting places to be, although palo alto is warmer (yet more expensive too), so unless the finaid discrepancy is TOO big(more than 10K) I'd suggest Stanford. Both schools are equally elite (better than Yale, Princeton, and slightly MIT in my opinion).
Check my posts from Spring '08 for an extensive discussion on Harvard v Stanford. My D chose Stanford.
i just got in to stanford and my decision to apply early was partly based on talking to the kids from my school that have gone to the two schools in years past. Not one of the Stanford students who was admitted to both regrets his/her decision while three of the six Harvard students that I spoke to that got in to Stanford wish that they had gone there (two of them tried to transfer and they were both rejected). Your college's prestige matters in a select few professions, but in general is meaningless (my dad went to Northern Illinois University and now he teaches at MIT). What does have meaning is your college experience. The fact of the matter is that Stanford is a good time, Harvard, quite often, is not.
that's true, at my school at least
of the eight people that got in to Harvard but didnt go in the last five years seven of them went to Stanford (one to Olin)
The problem with Harvard is that it has reached such an idealized state that many of the people who go, go there for the wrong reasons. Many of the people who overachieved to get in (as I've seen thus far) start to lose meaning in anything. Meanwhile, those who ignored the whole name-brand thing and went solely for practical reasons (a minority here) are those who end up succeeding the most and taking everything they can out of the experience. No other school has been put up on such a high pedestal in so many venues (and therefore overrated) and so the problem isn't as widespread at peer schools.
Of course this is just my theory. I'm one of the happy campers btw
Don't you dare take Harvard over Stanford based on prestige! I see it as an advantage- you can talk about Stanford's reputation as a laid back place for unsnobbish dedicated kids who are on the cutting edge of research and entrepreneurship (or something like that). Telling people you're going to Harvard is like carrying a big ole' weight around that demands you impress everyone.
IMO, Harvard students are a cynical bunch quick to assure you that their school isn't all it's cracked up to be.
In my limited experience, Stanford students are pretty unlikely to do that.
maybe this is all because, when I went to the Harvard Campus when I was about five, it seemed like a dark, moldy, claustrophobic sort of place.
harvard because it snows.
i've lived in cali all my life. it'll be a nice change of scenary.
[quote]The problem with Harvard is that it has reached such an idealized state that many of the people who go, go there for the wrong reasons.[/quote]
This is some of the best advice on this thread. Harvard IS the epitome of American higher learning (especially as demonstrated in books, film, etc.). However, don't pick Harvard because of that. Consider locations, your interests and the strength of the respective programs, and so on. I'm sure that there are plenty of laid back Stanford students and plenty of cutthroat Harvard students, but just because you go to either school doesn't mean that you're going to see nothing but that type of student.
Historically Stanford always has lost the "battle" for cross-admits with Harvard and by a wide margin. It's Harvard. And with Harvard's finaid improvements, the case for H among those cross-admits with family incomes less than 200k becomes even stronger.
mia305, that's actually not true
I think Ykim's point is valid, if she's making a point. one of the reasons that i'm going to stanford is that i've lived in cambridge all my life
I didn't apply to H (only app/accepted @ S), but I would encourage you to look beyond H. YPS all offer superior undergrad experiences. I think Y is best for a myriad of reasons, but I'd defend YPS over H any day of the week.
As an East Coaster, I considered the East Coast schools (with the exception of Stanford, Pomona and CMC). Spent a whole break touring and when it came down to deciding where to apply, Harvard definitely wasn't on my list. Why? Because of the atmosphere. Harvard is great if you love the prestige, if you are ambitious, if you want a really great job. Stanford is the place to go if you want to learn, if you want to be exposed to a ton of different experiences, and if you want to get a really great job.
I might be biased because I'm currently attending Stanford, but there are a number of friends (including one who actually transfered from Harvard) who were faced with this choice and are completely satisfied with their decision. Harvard is an amazing school, but it cannot compare in terms of the atmosphere: there is a ton of work at Stanford, but there is also a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Here the idea of stealing someone's notes in order to ruin their GPA would be completely unacceptable. People are so open and willing to help and the teachers are fantastic. People don't want to leave.
Financial aid is a major factor, but Stanford has been continuously increasing it's aid and policies, and while Harvard might have the edge in FA, Stanford is certainly catching up.
DON'T CHOOSE YOUR COLLEGE BASED ON PRESTIGE. It's so overrated. Bragging does not make you happy...being at the right place for the next four years will.
Also, as a city girl, it's great to have San Francisco so close by...not that you need to even venture off campus.
And we have palm trees and fountains to jump into. I was still sunbathing the week before Thanksgiving. Sure, snow is nice, but so is sunshine. :)
I'll say this:
DONT let it come down to the name. Harvard has, as of late, been viewing Stanford as its #1 rival (Yale's losing ground...) and they understand that Stanford is "inventing the future."
When I visited Harvard, after being accepted to Stanford and Harvard, my father and I spoke to a CS professor who said that he cannot deny that "Stanford is inventing the future."
If thats what you want. Stanford is the place. Stanford looks ahead. Ivies look back... its where their money comes from... Stanford's money cam from invention by affiliated individuals (see... Silicon Valley).
In many ways, this is a supremely silly thread.
The supposed prestige difference between Harvard and Stanford hasn't mattered to anyone who actually attended either university in the past 20 years, and certainly isn't going to matter to any of you. (It doesn't matter whether your barber, or the shopkeeper on the corner, has heard of Harvard but not Stanford. Your prospective employer, or graduate school, knows better.) The quality of the student bodies are the same. Forget the revealed preference survey -- lots of the best students at Stanford never bothered to apply to Harvard.
There are huge differences between the colleges, although those differences are relatively unimportant overall.
Stanford is in the middle of a ginormous, wealthy suburb that extends for 30-40 miles in every direction, until you finally get to one of the most beautiful, exciting cities in the world. It has a huge, set-apart campus that resembles nothing so much as a golf course. It has the best weather in the world. It is in California. Its "traditional" fight song is a (great) lite-metal riff from 1971, and no one has any idea what its alma mater song is. It has real Division I athletics, some of whom you will watch on TV for years to come in the pros (and plays against even more professional teams). People generally pretend to be laid back (and secretly work their butts off). Being intellectual in public is mildly discouraged. It is very engineering-centric.
Harvard is a thoroughly urban campus in a ritzy part of a great city. There's public transportation 100 feet from your dorm to take you all over the city, to the airport, to anywhere in the Northeast Corridor. It has a great House system that fosters long-term relationships. It is on the East Coast. The Crimson and the Lampoon have the best alumni networks around. The weather generally sucks in the winter, but makes everyone feel like a hardass. It is more than 250 years older than Stanford; its fight songs are almost as old as Stanford itself, and its alma mater much older . You are more likely to see its athletes in Congress than on national TV. People generally try to look busy, and kick back behind closed doors. Being intellectual in public is the one sport almost everyone plays. Engineers are people who go to MIT (a mile or so away).
None of that stuff should make a difference if the important things between the two universities weren't a complete toss-up. But, given that the important things are a complete toss-up, it's completely fair to notice that the two universities offer very different social experiences. (Princeton is much more like Stanford than Harvard is.) Neither one is inherently better than the other, but hardly anyone could be truly indifferent between them. If you are lucky enough to have the choice, going with your gut is just fine.
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