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Stanford vs Harvard Kids

RonaldP66RonaldP66 44 replies25 threads Junior Member
I know these are two of the most selective schools in the country. But I was wondering if there's a common thread between the kids that get accepted to Stanford as opposed to Harvard. I have heard that Stanford likes kids that are "different" and I use that term in quotes because it's not that they're not brilliant, but perhaps their achievements are more unique and stick out a bit where Harvard kids have won national type of awards, etc... not saying Stanford kids haven't.
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Replies to: Stanford vs Harvard Kids

  • TheGFGTheGFG 6072 replies213 threads Senior Member
    Stanford likes risk-takers who may one day become entrepreneurs. That can translate into admissions selecting kids that have taken less traditional paths and haven't necessarily sought to win the well-known math or violin competitions but have done something else interesting.
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  • Data10Data10 3338 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited June 26
    There are some differences in how much different admission criteria are emphasized, such as Stanford's focus on "intellectual vitality." However, rather than admission criteria, I think the far more influential factor in differences in Stanford kids vs Harvard kids is differences in who chooses to apply.

    For example, the most enrolled majors at Stanford as listed on the website are below. Note that CS is by far the most popular major at Stanford. CS enrollment is similar to the rest of the top 5 combined. Engineering also has a decent showing at Stanford. The total enrollment for all CS + Engineering is 39% of declared students.

    Stanford Enrolled Major Count
    1. Computer Science -- 745 (20%)
    2. Human Biology -- 240 (6%)
    3. Economics -- 197 (5%)
    4. Symbolic Systems -- 179 (5%)
    5. Engineering (General) -- 170 (4.5%)
    6. Management Sciences & Engineering -- 159 (4%)

    The corresponding list from Harvard is below, as cut and pasted from a post I wrote earlier (not current year). The Harvard major distribution is very different from Stanford. Econ is most popular rather than CS. Harvard has more than 3x as many students enrolled in Econ than Stanford. Government and mathematics appear in the most popular majors at Harvard, rather than symbolic systems and engineering at Stanford.

    Harvard Enrolled Concentration Count
    1. Economics -- 660
    2. Computer Science -- 453
    3. Government -- 340
    4. Applied Mathematics -- 305

    Both the freshman survey and senior survey suggest a similar distinction between Harvard kids and Stanford kids. Roughly half of Harvard kids said they planned to enter finance + consulting in the 2020 senior survey, compared to 14% for Stanford. 33% of Stanford kids say they planned to work in tech after graduation, compared to 18% for Harvard..

    Another major difference between Harvard and Stanford kids is location. In the most recent IPEDS year, 39% of Stanford non-international kids were from California, compared to 13% for Harvard. Harvard's freshman survey indicates 47% of non-international kids were from the northeast -- roughly half. COVID-19 may make these regional preferences notably larger in the coming year.

    A kid from CA who is interested in tech is probably far more likely to apply to Stanford than Harvard. While a kid from the Northeast who is interested in finance or consulting is probably far more likely to apply to Harvard than Stanford. These differences will be reflected in a comparison of accepted students between the 2 schools, but do not necessarily reflect the school's admission preference. If anything, the schools may lean in the opposite direction, favoring the rarer applicant among the pool.
    edited June 26
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  • compmomcompmom 11731 replies81 threads Senior Member
    edited June 27
    I really don't think you can generalize. I mean, let's just say Stanford kids don't like snow and Harvard kids don't mind it.
    edited June 27
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3875 replies182 threads Senior Member
    Tiger Woods vs. Mark Zuckerberg?
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 2243 replies36 threads Senior Member
    edited June 27
    World class athlete and dropout? I wouldn’t say they represent generalizations of the two schools.

    I think of the two in terms of geography and majors, and don’t really see much overlap.

    Stanford is CS, Engineering, and other STEM for laid back California kids. Harvard is government, sociology, liberal arts for stuffy northeast preppy legacy kids.
    edited June 27
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  • privatebankerprivatebanker 6883 replies170 threads Senior Member
    Bill Gates vs. Tom Watson
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3875 replies182 threads Senior Member
    ^Yeah, I can't help it. When I think of Stanford I think of golfers. When I think of Harvard I think of really smart guys who became rich.
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  • Data10Data10 3338 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited June 27
    Tiger Woods vs. Mark Zuckerberg?
    Bill Gates vs. Tom Watson

    Extreme outliers are not representative of graduates as a whole, but if you do look at extreme outliers, the general trend favors Stanford among both athletes and tech entrepreneurs.

    Stanford competes in Div I and has won the NACDA award for best college overall in Div I athletics during each of the past >25 years. Harvard came in 57th last year. Similarly in recent years, Stanford students have won more Olympic medals than students from any other college. There are too many well athletes who were former Stanford students to name. A few of the well known ones besides golfers include John Elway, Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman, John McEnroe, the Bryan twins, and Katie Ledecky.

    As noted in my earlier post, a much larger portion of Stanford grads pursue tech than Harvard grads. Stanford has special programs that encourage tech entrepreneurship... I expect to a greater degree than Harvard. Stanford grads are associated with the founding of a large portion of the most well known tech companies -- Google, Yahoo, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Paypal, LinkedIn, Facebook (Peter Thiel attended Stanford), and numerous others. One could make a good case that the origins of the Silicon Valley tech center of the United States largely relate to the proximity to Stanford (and history with Terman encouraging grads to start companies, rather than go to east coast for jobs). Harvard is well known for the Harvard drop outs who went on to found Facebook and Microsoft, but is not as well represented in tech entrepreneurship as Stanford overall.

    However, Harvard outlier alumni are more represented than Stanford in other fields, such as government, which should not be unexpected considering the major distribution listed in my earlier post and the schools' respective histories. For example, 60-70 surpreme court justices attended Harvard, including the majority of the current justices. Only 2 attended Stanford, none of which are current. I am including grad school in the numbers above, but the same pattern occurs for undergrad. I don't believe any supreme court justices attended Stanford for undergrad, while ~35 attended Harvard including the current chief justice... again more than any other college.
    edited June 27
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  • RonaldP66RonaldP66 44 replies25 threads Junior Member
    If you work in admissions at Stanford or Harvard is there a difference in the kids you would accept ?
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  • privatebankerprivatebanker 6883 replies170 threads Senior Member
    @Data10 this was just a joke. But I’ll switch it up but remain on theme.

    Kris Kristofferson vs. John Elway
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  • katliamomkatliamom 13973 replies170 threads Senior Member
    Natalie Portman vs. Reese Witherspoon.
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  • hebegebehebegebe 2937 replies41 threads Senior Member
    In our school, the kids that were accepted into Harvard and applied to Stanford routinely get accepted to Stanford as well. Everyone that has been cross-admitted chose to attend Harvard but that’s mainly because Harvard is nearby.

    So from my sample set they look for the same type of kids.
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  • privatebankerprivatebanker 6883 replies170 threads Senior Member
    @katliamom

    Bonnie Raitt vs John McEnroe
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  • Data10Data10 3338 replies11 threads Senior Member
    @katliamom

    Bonnie Raitt vs John McEnroe
    Bonnie Raitt attended Radcliffe, rather than Harvard. The Radcliffe/Harvard distinction touches on another difference between the two schools.

    Stanford has always allowed women, going back to the 1800s. Harvard has a more complicated history with women, with limitations for women as late as the 1970s. In general, I think Harvard has more bounds to tradition and their long history than Stanford. If choosing a single outlier, one might choose a white male from a wealthy northeast family for Harvard and a less traditional not white male from CA for Stanford, such as:

    Franklin D. Roosevelt vs Sally Ride
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  • compmomcompmom 11731 replies81 threads Senior Member
    The majority of Harvard students went to public schools and 55% get aid, 20% go for free, and average parent contribution is $12k. I don't know the stats for Stanford but there are some misconceptions here about Harvard.
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  • Data10Data10 3338 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited June 28
    compmom wrote: »
    The majority of Harvard students went to public schools and 55% get aid, 20% go for free, and average parent contribution is $12k. I don't know the stats for Stanford but there are some misconceptions here about Harvard.
    Note that my post emphasized historical differences between Stanford and Harvard listed specific years of those differences. While women have had limitations at Harvard as late as the 1970s that doesn't mean that women still have limitations today at Harvard. A similar statement could be made about students from private schools and wealthy families. The listing of outlier examples in this thread was meant as a tongue in cheek type joke, as were some of the other comments.

    I don't think all Harvard students are like FDR. However, far more Harvard students have been president than Stanford students, and far more Harvard students seem to pursue government. I think that the older generation fits with Harvard's long history as the oldest US college. I don't think having a wealthy private school background was particularly unique in FDR's day or throughout a large portion of Harvard's long history. Wikipedia mentions that most students from the MA private boarding school that FDR attended went to Harvard in FDR's day. As such it can be a good representation of Harvard's history and tradition, sort of like Harvard naming a student residence after FDR.

    Similarly I don't think all Stanford students are like Sally Ride. However, far more Stanford students have been astronauts and nationally ranked tennis players like Ride than Harvard students. Ride is also a CA native who has worked at Stanford and has a student residence hall named after her. I think being the first US American woman in space also fits with Stanford being more like the new kid (compared to Harvard) who is breaking from tradition, which includes always allowing women.

    As my post mentioned, what I believe is more relevant about the current class is differences in degree of influence from tradition and school history.
    edited June 28
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  • rleamanrleaman 11 replies1 threads New Member
    Sandra Dat O,Connor, William Rehnquist, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer we’re Stanford undergrads
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  • compmomcompmom 11731 replies81 threads Senior Member
    I wasn't referring to any particular poster in my post.

    I mentioned snow before. I think Stanford kids prefer palm trees and Harvard students like pines.

    Seriously, the whole point of holistic admissions is to assemble a class that is sufficiently diverse in interests, talents and experiences to make for an interesting mix.

    It had been distressing to administration that 40% at Harvard end up in finance and consulting but many exit out quickly too. Drew Faust tried to enhance arts on campus by giving more credit and opportunities to applied arts, in an effort to lure and support more diversity of focus for undergrads. Humanities and arts are still alive.

    I would imagine Stanford has a similar issue with most going into tech/CS/STEM but I don't know what compensatory measures have been taken to prop up Humanities and arts.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6659 replies10 threads Senior Member
    The 3 most recent kids I know without a connection to either school who gained admission were admitted to both.

    Almost everyone I know who was admitted to Harvard and not Stanford was a legacy (including kids who were legacies at both. This is partly because legacy status counts for less at Stanford. )
    But in some ways, that is more of the Stanford culture - a little more "California modern" than "traditional". Super accomplished kids, very qualified, but hooked in that way.

    And I know tons of kids who applied to (and were admitted to) only one of the two. Many were also legacies. They are pretty different schools in terms of vibe.

    In terms of history, Stanford was really much more of a regional school through the 70s. If you were a high achieving West coast kid, you applied to Stanford. It had great programs and was well regarded among its peers, but it was not a household name like Harvard.

    I don't think either school has a "type" they admit, but the institutional priorities can affect applicants differently.
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