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similarities/differences Harvard and Chicago

mom421mom421 Registered User Posts: 18 New Member
edited October 2012 in Harvard University
It seems like Harvard and University of Chicago share many similarities, including a similar culture. Here are some of the similarities that I have noted, does anyone disagree? Are there any major differences (particularly in school culture) that I have missed?


--Top Economics programs
--Highly ranked
--Located in neighborhoods right outside of a major urban area (accessible to Boston/Chicago, but not directly in)
--House System
--Relatively Diverse & International
--Not party schools -- disparate social groups, little centralized social life
--Minimal sports related school spirit
--Accomplished student bodies
--Undergrad to Grad ratio


--Chicago's core curriculum

I have seen many threads that compare Chicago to Yale, but after a little research it seems that Chicago is very similar to Harvard. Agree or Disagree?
Post edited by mom421 on

Replies to: similarities/differences Harvard and Chicago

  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,484 Senior Member
    Off the top of my head, I can think of two other clear differences:

    -- Harvard has better financial aid for the middle class than UChicago.
    -- Cambridge is a better (and safer) location than the south side of Chicago.
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,484 Senior Member
    If you use google, you can find many other websites that have side-by-side comparisons:
    Compare Colleges: Side-by-side college comparisons | Parchment - College admissions predictions.
    Harvard University and University of Chicago Compared

    And based upon sheer numbers, it's easier to get into UChicago than Harvard.
    See: [url]https://****/spreadsheet/pub?key=0ArlRBr9Qvz0mdEdLNzNsRnBKT3Z1dDZ5QTFCQVV1NkE&output=html[/url]

    2012 Overall Acceptance Rates:
    Harvard: 5.92%
    UChicago: 13.23%
  • mom421mom421 Registered User Posts: 18 New Member
    Thanks Gibby, I think you're right about the location being a big difference between Chicago and Harvard, otherwise, it seems to be me that the culture at each of the schools is quite similar (except, of course, Harvard is more difficult to get into).
  • texaspgtexaspg Forum Champion Pre-Med & Medical Posts: 16,681 Forum Champion
    Chicago has no engineering. Harvard is making an effort to create one.
  • perazzimanperazziman Registered User Posts: 2,376 Senior Member
    ^I believe I read some where that Chicago is too.
  • memakememake Registered User Posts: 559 Member
    OP: you say "it seems to be me that the culture at each of the schools is quite similar "

    I think 'culture' covers a lot of ground. Whether you find UofC and Harvard to be similar depends a lot on what you mean by culture. Anyways, my impression is that for most people, they offer a fairly distinct experience -- that having been said, a flexible, smart, well-adjusted undergrad could no doubt obtain a great education and have a good time at either one.

    They just really really feel very different. So, are there plenty of kids at UofC who would have happily gone to Harvard if they'd been accepted there? I would bet that there are. If you could talk a bit about the point of your query, it might help narrow the discussion.
  • texaspgtexaspg Forum Champion Pre-Med & Medical Posts: 16,681 Forum Champion
    perazziman - no engineering. they started a department of biomolecular engineering but no major offered unless they are doing so for 2013.
  • CPUscientist3000CPUscientist3000 Registered User Posts: 5,450 Senior Member
    for some reason this went through as a double post.
  • CPUscientist3000CPUscientist3000 Registered User Posts: 5,450 Senior Member
    I believe a UChicago rep has stated on CC previously that UC is not planning on adding engineering any time soon. They said it was too pre-professional and that wasn't in line with the school's "learning for the sake of learning" ideal.

    Harvard has engineering. The ability to study engineering and related disciplines has been around since 1847 and "The Harvard Engineering School" was established in 1918.

  • exultationsyexultationsy Registered User Posts: 1,100 Senior Member
    Harvard's more diverse in terms of its students' mindsets. UChicago students tend to all be very school-for-the-sake-of-school. As a school-for-the-sake-of-school person myself, I very much enjoy being around both people like me and people whose primary goals are accomplished outside the classroom. It feels like a broader educational experience. This isn't hate; Chicago was my second choice school and had it been cheaper, or even close to the same price, I might have matriculated. $6,000 more per year for the privilege of not going to Harvard seemed a little foolish, though. Also Cambridge's a lot nicer, safer, and more developed than Hyde Park. It seems silly but my life is significantly improved by the presence of more than one or two coffee/dessert/fast food places within five minutes of campus.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,941 Senior Member
    Chicago and Harvard are similar in the sense that they are both wealthy, world-class American private research universities with liberal arts colleges in large cities. Which means that they are about 90% the same -- along with a number of other, similar universities. The 10% that is different is really different.

    -- It's wrong to say they are located in areas "right outside of a major urban area". By any definition, both are smack in the middle of major urban areas. But Cambridge is a wealthy, vibrant, glitzy neighborhood, and Hyde Park is a little plain and sleepy, and a longish trip from anything exciting to do in Chicago. In general, Chicago (the city) is much bigger than Boston/Cambridge, and much more spread out, too.

    -- There is a lot of hugeness at Harvard. It doesn't make so much difference at the college level, but elsewhere in the university it really shows. All the professional schools are much larger, and the graduate programs are larger, too. In general, the student population at Harvard is about 40% larger than at Chicago. Harvard is also much wealthier than Chicago -- probably the richest permanent private secular nonprofit the world has ever known.

    -- It seems like there is a real culture of self-promotion at Harvard. Mostly on the faculty, but often among the students, too. People are very, very impressed with themselves, and consider themselves to be Extremely Important. There is often a lot of rivalry within particular schools or departments. Arguably, that leads to a lot of achievement, and all the self-promotion leads to a lot of general-public fame. Chicago is much more ivory-towerish. There is a very strong culture of civil discourse -- people who play to the press or the cameras are not respected; people who listen to others and adjust their positions to reflect good points someone else has made are the norm. People spend more time talking to each other than writing for The New Yorker. There is a lot of interdepartmental collaboration.

    -- Chicago seems very midwestern. People tend to be soft-spoken and polite, and don't consume conspicuously for the most part. At the undergraduate level, there is nothing like Harvard's final clubs. Chicago doesn't get a lot of celebrity students, either -- no Natalie Portmans or Rivers Cuomo. The closest thing was Anna Chlumsky, and that was 15 years ago.

    -- While the faculties and student bodies at both trend left of center, conservative viewpoints are more present at Chicago, at least insofar as economic policy is concerned (the religious right is almost entirely absent from both universities).

    -- The Harvard house system is fabulous and really adds to people's experience. Very few students ever live off campus, in part because it's much cheaper to live on-campus and the houses are special. Chicago's house system actually antedate's Harvard's, but it doesn't work nearly as well, and 90% of students move off campus by their third year. The neighborhood housing is nicer and cheaper (and sometimes closer) than the university dorms. The dorms are where you really see the wealth difference between the two universities, although Harvard is just beginning a long-delayed renovation program for its houses.

    -- The undergraduate culture at Harvard makes classroom experience secondary to extracurricular activities in many respects. Whether it's writing for The Crimson, playing a varsity sport, or doing social justice work in the surrounding community, students tend to see that as their central activity, and class as something they do because they have to. At Chicago, everything is subordinate to the classroom. People talk about their classes; there is social pressure to do all the reading and hold up your end.

    -- Both colleges have core curriculums, but Chicago's takes a lot more time and ensures a lot more overlap in what everyone knows and what reference points they can use. The core at Chicago is definitely a mixed blessing, though. Many/most Chicago students love the idea of the core, and are really ambivalent about the execution of it. Harvard keeps revising its version, so I'm not sure what it is without looking it up.
  • collegealum314collegealum314 Registered User Posts: 6,768 Senior Member
    I think JHS's comparison is accurate.
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,484 Senior Member
    Excellent post JHS!

    One other note: Many students, including some Harvard students, have used UChicago as a back-up school. But, the reverse does not happen as often. To wit: UChicago's yield was 46 percent last year, while Harvard's was 81 percent. See: Early Word on 2012 College Admission Yields and Wait-List Offers - NYTimes.com
  • PMCM18PMCM18 Registered User Posts: 469 Member
    I might be getting a little defensive here, but yield and acceptance rates are rarely valid arguments for choosing a college (also, don't be fooled by current acceptance statistics, U Chicago is poised to see a major drop next year, more so than other colleges). Also, there's some major commercial development going on in Hyde Park (which U Chicago is very much involved in), with a major center due to open around 2013: Harper Court Project | Retail and Residential Development in Hyde Park. Anyway, I don't know enough about Harvard to do a thorough comparison, but based on very general things I've heard from students in Harvard and my short time here, JHS indeed is very accurate. They're not exactly apples and oranges, but the differences are noticeable. Both are amazing schools, and you will have MANY opportunities to be involved in extra curricular activities in both, but there's differences in the vibes of their student bodies. As for the Core, yeah, I would not recommend it if you hate humanities/social science geared classes. You can test out of math, and the science options are very varied in their rigor, but be prepared to devote a lot of time to humanities and social sciences at some point while going through the Core. Conversely, if you love those subjects and would enjoy starting college with seminar style discussions of Rousseau, Smith, Aristotle, Socrates, Marx and more, then by all means please consider U Chicago (not saying that Harvard doesn't have these, I'm sure there's a lot, but they're definitely a corner stone of a U Chicago education).
  • hzhao2004hzhao2004 Registered User Posts: 540 Member
    I think UChicago is more similar to Columbia than to Harvard, in all aspects discussed above.
This discussion has been closed.