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Applied Math at Harvard vs. Stanford

dbk2024dbk2024 7 replies3 threads New Member
Hi, Harvard/Stanford 2024 admit here. Fairly set on math/applied math as a major. I'm not 100% certain what area of focus I'd pursue in applied math, but it could be bio, comp sci, physics or something else. I'm finding it extremely difficult to make a decision because both schools are strong in math, and though their atmospheres are quite different, I can visualize myself at either place. I never expected this result and wasn't really prepared to make this decision, so I'd love if I could get some help here!

If you guys have any info on what it is like to study math/applied math at Harvard and insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the respective departments, I'd greatly appreciate it.

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Replies to: Applied Math at Harvard vs. Stanford

  • jzducoljzducol 809 replies15 threads Member
    Harvard arguably has the best faculty and students in math by the measure of its Fields medal winners. If your near term goal is not transitioning into CS or working at a startup in SV I think Harvard degree in applied math will give you more benefits, both in terms of pursuing more advanced degrees later and having access to best faculty and peers during college.
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  • OneMoreToGo2021OneMoreToGo2021 584 replies5 threads Member
    Harvard is quite a lot stronger in all math fields, and that includes the level of talent among the undergraduates in the concentration. Unless I were intent on pursuing computer science as well as math, I'd choose Harvard in a minute. Congrats to you on having such wonderful choices, and best of luck!
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  • dbk2024dbk2024 7 replies3 threads New Member
    Thanks for the replies. I could see myself in SV but it's not something I'm extremely interested in pursuing at the moment. I think I'd rather try to shoot for a PhD in applied math (or a related field as I narrow down my interests in college). After doing some research, it definitely seems like Harvard does better than Stanford in terms of placement at top grad schools, though I don't think Stanford limits grad school prospects in any way.

    I think I'll go with Harvard. Crossing my fingers I actually get to set foot on campus in the fall!
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6417 replies1 threads Senior Member
    edited April 28
    I have a master's degree from Stanford in Operations Research, which is essentially a sub-field of applied math. The last time that I looked MIT, Harvard, and Stanford were the three top ranked universities in the world in math. Of course the order between these three schools (and Princeton, Oxford, and Cambridge) can change from one ranking to another.

    Stanford is very strong at math. So is Harvard.

    The one thing that I am not sure about is which program is more applied versus more theoretical. I thought that Harvard was supposed to be a bit more theoretical.

    Also, with a degree in math it is a good idea to have some software engineering / computer science knowledge. This certainly helped me quite a bit when I was looking for a first couple of jobs way back when. Stanford is of course very strong at computer science.

    However, I do not think that you can go wrong between these two schools. Which ever you can afford and which ever you want to attend is probably a perfectly reasonable way to choose.
    edited April 28
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  • VTSeniorVTSenior 2 replies1 threads New Member
    First off, congratulations! I don't think you can go wrong with either choice, but something else to think about is where your current level is with math. I assume that it is pretty high already, in which case it does not matter all that much, but if you need a little more development mathematically, Stanford might be the better choice.

    In my own search, I talked with a few math professors at different schools. One of them said that while HPYM Chicago tends to assume you are already at a very high level in math already and gives less support, LACs and Stanford tend to be better at developing those who haven't already had a lot of experience beyond calculus etc.

    Bear in mind that this is second-hand information, so I can't vouch for its complete accuracy, but it is worth bearing in mind. Good luck with your selection!
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  • dbk2024dbk2024 7 replies3 threads New Member
    Contrary to my previous comment, I actually ended up committing to Stanford. They definitely have a more applied focus, and they seem like a better place to pick up practical coding skills/explore other potential interests like engineering. Luckily, I don't have to worry about easing into higher level math.

    From what I've gleaned, both schools are obviously tier 1 in math, but Harvard 's department seems to have a slightly stronger reputation than Stanford's. I'm not a PhD student, though, so who cares.

    I appreciate everyone's input. I'm glad I can finally quit lurking these forums!

    Farewell, college confidential, you've served me well :).
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