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Dilemma: Harvard vs. MIT (Athletic Recruit)

MonepoMonepo Registered User Posts: 241 Junior Member
edited October 2012 in Harvard University
So the EA deadline is coming up pretty soon, and I'm trying to decide between MIT and Harvard. I am an athletic recruit who is being called by both schools.

I am interested in Engineering/CS, but that's not what I want my career path to be. I know my dad works in a CS job, and even though he is a manager, it still involves a lot of grind sitting at a computer all day. I know I would like to pursue a career that uses some technical knowledge but also involves talking to people, resolving issues, etc. and I think that's what consulting is.

What my take is, is that Harvard is a better ground for consulting and making connections. However, MIT is the best for building a strong engineering base that gives you the freedom to do the same or even maybe start your own company with the knowledge that you have.

I know that I want to be at the top. Sorry if that sounds pretentious, but it is my ambition.

CC, what are your thoughts on this?
Post edited by Monepo on

Replies to: Dilemma: Harvard vs. MIT (Athletic Recruit)

  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,158 Senior Member
    (1) You really can't go wrong whichever school you choose.

    (2) As you will be spending the vast amount of your non-academic time with the athletic team, you should go with the coach that gives you the best vibe.

    (3) If your family needs financial aid, Harvard gives more aid to the middle class than MIT.

    (4) If you go to Harvard and don't like it, your chances of transferring to MIT are about 10% (MIT Office of the Provost, Institutional Research), whereas Harvard's transfer acceptance rate is less than 1%. In either case, you can cross register at either school.

    (5) Most students switch their majors at least once during their 4 years of college, so leave yourself open to options. Which school do you think has more options?

    (6) As any Harvard student will tell you, there is definitely an "H-bomb" effect when applying for jobs. I'm not sure there is a "MIT-bomb" -- not in the same way, at least.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,011 Senior Member
    As any mountain climber can tell you, there are lots of different routes to the top, and not everyone who starts out gets there. (If they did, there wouldn't be any glory in it.)

    With mountains, there may well be one best route, at least most of the time. With careers, there isn't. You need to look into yourself and find the best route for you, not anybody else. It's tough enough to make the climb if everything lines up perfectly; taking a route that isn't YOUR route makes it that much tougher to succeed.

    Harvard and MIT are two great institutions, and I don't think either one gives you a better chance of success ex ante. What's more, although they have different vibes and cultures, they basically agree on what tools you need to succeed, including communications ability, critical thinking, networking, and technical depth. I think most MIT students tend to approach things from a standpoint of grounding themselves in technical stuff; some Harvard students do that, and others have the sense that they are smarter than the average bear and can "think outside the box" and figure things out quickly. People can succeed (or not) from both frameworks, but an individual generally has to pick one or the other. It's not that MIT = technical base and Harvard = overview, because certainly Harvard has lots of technically grounded people, but if you are NOT a technically grounded person you probably will prefer Harvard.

    As for consulting -- you don't have to know anything to get hired as a junior spear-carrier by a large consulting company. (You just have to show that you are really smart, a good communicator, and able to jump when your boss says "Jump".) But that's not a career. To have a career in consulting, you have to know a lot more about something than almost anyone else. You aren't going to get to that point in college, or even graduate school. It's a long haul to actually know things in a way that you can get other people to pay you a lot of money to help them. The best way for you to start is to figure out which place you are going to learn more, and how you are going to learn the most possible once you get there.

    What's more, if you approach it that way, no matter what direction your career takes you will have something valuable to offer. The best choice is almost always the choice that makes you the better, more skilled person, without regard to where you want to end up.
  • lioness4lioness4 Registered User Posts: 190 Junior Member
    what sport? maybe that could be the decider? fwiw, athletes are everywhere at harvard and they are very well respected, don't know bout mit. at harvard, your team will be a huge part of your life for better or worse. which school do you love?
  • stemitstemit Registered User Posts: 575 Member
    Harvard can virtually guarantee admission to a recruited athlete through the use of a Likely Letter (issued by admissions after a full application is submitted). The MIT coach cannot do the same; the MIT coach can only ask admissions on your behalf.

    If you go the MIT route and do not get in, there is a very high likelihood that your spot on the team at Harvard would be filled by someone else, thereby leaving you out in the cold (your athletic prowess becomes a very good EC).

    I know this because my student was recruited by both a few years ago. Passed on MIT due to the uncertainty of admission.
  • MonepoMonepo Registered User Posts: 241 Junior Member
    Hm. It's kind of the opposite case for me. (This is for crew by the way. I am a coxswain.) I just talked to the Harvard coach tonight and he said that there were two other coxswains and there was me. Academically, I have the 2400 and a great GPA, and he said am at par with one of them and above the other. I still felt that I was not getting a whole lot of enthusiasm.

    The MIT coach has said I am their top coxswain, and since they do need a coxswain, it is likely I will get a larger recommendation. I also have the stats mentioned above, which apparently matters more for MIT. That's why I am leaning in that direction. It's the uncertainty of the Harvard admission that's keeping me at bay.
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,158 Senior Member
    "I still felt that I was not getting a whole lot of enthusiasm."

    If the the Harvard coach was REALLY pushing for you -- writing your name down on one of his slots and sending it to the admissions office -- you would NOT have such a tepid feeling. Does the coach know you are being courted by MIT? If not, you should tell him. It may change his attitude . . . and if it doesn't, you'll have a firm answer, and a direction as to which way you should go.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,011 Senior Member
    I would be really surprised if the Harvard coach used any "slots" on a cox. Admissions will give him one of a list of candidates, but they will do the picking.
  • stemitstemit Registered User Posts: 575 Member
    Monepo, in light of your information, you are not being recruited by Harvard. You are a back-up plan for Harvard (coaches have a depth chart of recruits and will keep a prospective athlete on the hook as long as possible). Therefore at the present moment, no Likely Letter is on the horizon (either because you are not the top choice or because the coach simply doesn't have a LL to get (with your stats, I have no question that you would get through admissions if the coach wanted to use a precious LL)).

    Your stats are great, but without that LL (which, while given by admissions, is the result of a great deal of understanding of the requirements for admission by the coach), you're on your own in admissions.

    As for MIT, the coach gives a list of his/her prospective recruits to admissions and lets the chips fall where they may.

    In light of the situation, I'd apply to the school which is your number 1 choice.
  • sherpasherpa Registered User Posts: 4,038 Senior Member
    I agree with stemit's assessment. To put it another way, being a recruited athlete is a "hook" at Harvard, but only a "tip" at MIT.

    Given the circumstances it seems your statistical chances would be higher at MIT.

    Good luck.
  • 3togo3togo Registered User Posts: 5,233 Senior Member
    edited October 2012
    I'd also consider how important your sport is to you and what experience you'd like in college. I ran track & field in high school and was a borderline recruit for the Ivies and as a high school senior would have been the second best runner in my event at MIT ... there was a pretty big difference in the level of competition. Does this matter to you?
  • MonepoMonepo Registered User Posts: 241 Junior Member
    Does not matter 1 bit.
  • harvard12harvard12 Registered User Posts: 50 Junior Member
    As you said, Harvard is much better at consulting than MIT is. Also, if you were to change majors, Harvard has a broader selection to choose from. Lastly, Harvard takes athletics more into consideration in admissions (weighs more); you would have a better chance getting accepted to Harvard. If I were you, I would apply EA to Harvard, and RA to MIT. You lose nothing this way!

    Good luck with the rowing!
This discussion has been closed.