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Yale vs. Harvard?

2014collegebound2014collegebound Posts: 19Registered User New Member
edited May 2010 in Yale University
This may seem like a happy (and perhaps show-offy) dilemma, but I really, really am torn and confused. I got into both, and, having visited both schools, am more confused than ever.

I liked the atmosphere/campus of Yale better than Harvard (I don't know.. it seemed like it was friendlier at New Haven than at Cambridge, but then again, I only stayed for about a day at both so I may have seen only a piece of each school).

But as a biology major (I am hoping to go to medical school after finishing my undergrad), I also think Harvard may be a better choice than Yale.. and besides, Harvard is offering a bit more financial aid than Yale.

I have friends at Harvard (both of whom have told me to come to Harvard, no bias, of course), but do not know anyone at Yale (but the people were so friendly when I visited..).

The admissions officers at Yale have told me that barely anyone from Yale undergrad gets accepted to Yale grad schools, and, asking around, Harvard seems to have more undergrads going into its grad/medical schools than Yale.. (.... can anyone confirm this? I tried doing some research but came up with nothing)

I've tried making a pro-con list, talked to people at both schools/visited classes and dorms at both, and even tried flipping a coin to see where I should go.

It's so difficult to choose one over the other. =/

I don't want the "prestige" to factor into my decision more than the quality of education and life I would have for the next four years.

Can you please give me any advices? Especially from current Harvard and Yale students? I would greatly appreciate it if you can please tell me if there is anything you DON'T like about your school. (I am also posting this question to "Harvard" and "Yale" sections of CC..) I welcome all other inputs, as well!
Post edited by 2014collegebound on
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Replies to: Yale vs. Harvard?

  • MSauceMSauce Posts: 675Registered User Member
    I'm sort of confused by what they mean by its rare for a Yale Undergrad to get into a Yale Grad school. Yale's placement in Graduate Schools is extremely good, and I guess I always assumed that would be the same for Yale's Graduate schools. Is it possible people choose to go to a different school than the one they graduated from for Graduate school? Also, in terms of your Biology major--didn't Yale just pledge $2 Billion to their undergraduate Biology department, or did I misunderstand that?

    As another prospective student who just chose Yale, I'd say the academics are going to be comparable enough that you should decide based on the atmosphere.
  • wjbwjb Posts: 2,902Registered User Senior Member
    2014: Many Yale students go on to medical school, including YMS. This chart shows the med school cumulative data for the years 2000-2009. During that period, 292 Yale undergrads were admitted to YMS. http://www.yale.edu/career/students/...hool_stats.pdf

    Re financial aid: If you decide Yale is your first choice, you should contact Yale’s Financial Aid office ASAP and explain the situation and that Y is your top choice. They will probably ask you to fax H’s financial aid offer. These two schools typically match one another's financial aid offers. Neither wants to lose a student to the other.

    My son had the same decision you’re faced with now. It’s not an easy one. (He chose Yale, and he is having a fantastic experience.) You're right to do your analysis, make your lists, and talk them over with your parents (and even with strangers on the internet). In the end, you'll make your decision based on gut -- underpinned by knowledge.
  • pkm2232pkm2232 Posts: 340Registered User Member
    If I am in the same (deliriously happy yet also difficult) situation as you this time next year, I would decide based on which place I feel more comfortable at, where I could see myself fitting in for the next four years. Obviously, both are outstanding schools, and I've heard that for undergrad it's more about what you do rather than where you o (thus, I don;t see the harvard education as that much different than the Yale one). In the end, college will be what you decide to make of it and I'm sure that, regardless of what you decide, you will be happy and do well (you must have done something right to get into H and Y). Congratulations and good luck!
  • learninginproglearninginprog Posts: 842Registered User Member
    "I don't want the "prestige" to factor into my decision more than the quality of education and life I would have for the next four years."


    2014- I may not be qualified to provide you with an answer, since I'm not a student of either. However, per your above statement, If you categorize which is the "Prestige" and which is the other, I think you have your answer. Undoubtedly, you will receive unparalleled education at both.

    Like you, my son had these two choices and has since made his decision after visiting both this past week.
  • 1a11a1 Posts: 567Registered User Member
    What did your son decide?
  • 2014collegebound2014collegebound Posts: 19Registered User New Member
    MSauce wrote:
    I'm sort of confused by what they mean by its rare for a Yale Undergrad to get into a Yale Grad school

    Well, the admissions officer told my parents and me that Yale likes seeing diversity, and so most Yale grad schools choose to take very few of their own undergraduate students and instead accept students from other schools.

    Thank you everybody for your quick responses!

    Would you say there is anything (anything at all.. classes, food, dorm, parties, etc) that you might not like about Yale? (or Harvard?)
  • kwijiborjtkwijiborjt Posts: 750Registered User Member
    I was in a similar position. Like you, i felt like Yale had a better campus environment. Granted, i've never been a harvard undergrad, but i still believe that. My impression from harvard undergrads is that they perceive us to have more fun in college as well (there's a recent piece in the NY observer by a Harvard grad about how yalies are distinctly creative and sociable and not obsessed with clawing up professional ladders... google "the yaliens among us"). This is usually evident at the game, which rotates between Harvard and Yale every year. There's also a rather telling article about perceived differences in quality of life at Harvard and Yale published in the Harvard Crimson. Search "The cult of Yale." Honestly, that article might be the deciding factor for you... it might have been for me.

    I know plenty of Yale undergrads who go to grad school here. I think yale med accepts Yale undergrads at three times more than you'd expect based on its average admissions rate (this is also because Yale prepares you to be a very strong med school applicant!).

    If you call the admissions/financial aid office and tell them what Harvard offered you, yale will likely match it (or better). You should do that asap.

    Yale is super friendly, and i think we have more of a focus on quality of life here. That was important to me, and was ultimately why i chose Yale. I think Harvard is more focused on... well... being Harvard. Not to underestimate the Yale brand, but i think we benefit from not having *the* most recognizable name in the world (which belongs to Harvard!), because that siphons off a lot of people who are primarily concerned with things (that i think are silly) like US News ranking or marginal differences in perception by people who know very little about either school. The people who don't know how to have fun because their parents have forced them to do homework and build a resume every waking hour of their lives usually do what their parents tell them to do, and given the choice those parents tell their kids to go to Harvard (not to say that we don't have any people like that here).

    I'm a biology major - Yale will prepare you just fine for med school :-). We are one of the largest and most influential research institutions in the country. Research opportunities and money are soo easy to find. There's something like 1000 labs to work in. We have a top flight med school where tons of undergraduates work/volunteer/do shadowing. Two professors won Nobel prizes this year - one at the med school and another in the college's biochemistry department. Another Nobel prize winner (who discovered catalytic RNA!) teaches a freshman molecular biology class. We have a popular fifth year masters of public health program if you're interested in public health and medicine.

    I suspect quality of education is similar at Harvard and Yale. Both obviously have excellent professors and students. But if you're identifying quality of life as more important to you than marginal (/irrelevant) differences in name brand, i'd choose Yale. I was in the same position, and i did choose Yale.
  • 1a11a1 Posts: 567Registered User Member
    From another thread:

    "even SOME of the greatest academicians alive don't even bother with undergrads at Harvard. An example is Amartya Sen, 1998 Nobel prize winner economist, he's one of the best in the field, is a professor at Harvard, but only teaches grad courses.

    On the other hand at Yale, even the university president himself(who is an econ professor) teaches undergrads. I'm using examples from econ, because basically that's the part I know :P, but it applies to those colleges as a whole.

    I just chose Yale over Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia today :P"
  • learninginproglearninginprog Posts: 842Registered User Member
    "What did your son decide?"

    @1a1 he chose Yale.
  • teachcounselteachcounsel Posts: 31Registered User Junior Member
    My D had to make this same decision this time last year. She also chose Yale. She always felt strongest about Yale--the people, the residential colleges, the sense of community, the happiness factor that Harvard seemed to lack. It seemed a fairly easy decision.

    One evening, however, she got together with a local girl who attends Harvard. After a three-hour meeting over coffee my D came home and declared that she was almost certainly going to attend Harvard instead of Yale. Her primary reason, after that long talk with the Harvard student, was that Boston was a cooler city than New Haven.

    It was obviously her decision, but my gut told me that she would be happiest at Yale and that she may have regrets. I kept my mouth shut. The only thing I suggested was that she be make the ol' pros and cons list about each school. After arriving home late the next evening I noticed her list sitting on the table. Clearly Yale was the winner and as expected, she announced her final decision the next morning.

    Unbeknownst to my D, I kept the list for her memory box. I just looked at it and Harvard racked up just 5 items in the "pros" list; the most compelling being "Boston." Yale, on the other hand, had a list of 12 items on my daughter's list (my sense is Yale's list could have been even longer but she saw the light by that point).

    After watching my now-Yalie daughter have the most enjoyable freshman year I could ever imagine for her, two of the items on her Yale "pros" list stand out as having been especially spot-on: "community atmosphere" and "people=easy to get along with, laid back." Yes, the academics are superb--arguably better than Harvard's with its disproportionate graduate school focus. And yes, the faculty has been beyond accessible as my D is on a first-name basis and in regular communication with most of her profs. The majority of her classes have been small (less than 20) encouraging plenty of interaction and dialogue with the professors and other students. The extra-curricular opportunities are rich and endless. The university is blessed with amazing financial resources (e.g., my D received a generous grant to study abroad this summer). And the distinguished speakers that come through Yale on a weekly basis are astounding. The myriad speakers and Masters teas provide wonderful, stimulating enrichment to Yale students. Despite all these wonderful characteristics, I am confident that my D would tell you it's the extraordinary people that make Yale most special.

    My D's fellow students are brilliant, caring, interested, engaged, fun-loving, informed, arts-appreciating, tolerant, supportive, collaborative, and HAPPY. I'm not sure you will find the same type of people or sense of community at Harvard.

    Think long and hard about your decision. The prestige factor is irrelevant when you're talking about these two world-renowned schools (and by the way, Yale happens to currently hold the #1 spot for "student selectivity" in the 2010 U.S. News and World Report rankings--above Harvard and Princeton).

    If you crave the highest level of intellectual engagement as well as emotional and social fulfillment, choose Yale.

    Good luck!
  • MarsdenMarsden Posts: 654Registered User Member
    Yes, the academics are superb--arguably better than Harvard's with its disproportionate graduate school focus.

    For me, this really makes all the difference. I'd have tremendous trouble deciding between Princeton and Yale, but no trouble at all choosing Yale over Harvard.

    Separately, I spent a few years on a graduate admissions committee at Yale and--if anything--there was a predisposition in favor of Yale applicants. Largely because we all knew quite intimately how tough it was to excel at Yale. Hence we had a natural respect for those who did.
  • memakememake Posts: 558Registered User Member
    i don't have much of a bone to pick in this fight, but i'd like to clarify something.
    OP - are you interested in med school, or possibly in biology grad school?
    I believe there is *no* discrimination against Yale undergrads for admission to Yale Med School, OR Yale Grad bio programs. I believe that the overall undergrad academic experience at Yale is not significantly different from the one at Harvard. I can't make the
    same claim for the strength of the undergrad bio programs in particular (I'm not implying that they are not equal, just sayin' that I do not know enough to say). However, I can tell you pretty unequivocally that, while the grad bio programs at Yale are VERY GOOD, the ones at Harvard are Top-5. And the ones at Yale are not. That does not necessarily have to matter to you--- or then again, it might. It won't make ANY difference in your preparation for med school, if that's your interest. Basically,the best Yale undergrad bio majors who want to continue in biology in grad school are often focussed on programs at Harvard, UCSF, MIT, UC-B etc. That's why most of them don't end up at Yale for grad school.

    Now, what does this mean for you. Possibly nothing. If you like Yale, go to Yale. If you like Harvard (I hope you get a chance to visit before you decide), go to Harvard. You'll be more than fine at either one.
  • HannaHanna Posts: 11,326Registered User Senior Member
    "An example is Amartya Sen, 1998 Nobel prize winner economist, he's one of the best in the field, is a professor at Harvard, but only teaches grad courses."

    This is false, and reflects a misunderstanding of the way Harvard operates. Other than the courses through which grad students conduct research, undergrads can take any course. They may be listed as "graduate courses" in some departments, but they are open to any qualified student. The course descriptions don't say "open to undergraduates" because that's the default.
  • HillsongfanHillsongfan Posts: 13Registered User New Member
    Wow! You guys have me feeling a lot better about getting into Yale and only on the Harvard wait-list. I even feel slightly lucky :)
  • rockermcrrockermcr Posts: 14,670Registered User Senior Member
    ^ As you should. As someone who turned Harvard down last week, I can honestly say that I have absolutely no regrets. :)
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