Harvard vs. Yale
November 17, 2017
Harvard vs. Yale
In light of the impending football game, it is only appropriate to compare Harvard vs. Yale on a more holistic basis.
Let me start out by saying that I went to Yale, not Harvard. My wife went to Yale, her father went to Yale - it’s safe to say that I don’t have some unfair prejudice against my alma mater. Still, it is hard for me to deny that Harvard is - all things considered - the superior institution. Of course, I’m making a huge generalization here: Yale is better than Harvard in many specific ways or in several departments and disciplines. But we need not concern ourselves with such methodological nuance. This isn’t science, this is an opinion! Instead, today I am giving you the final verdict on these two storied institutions: Harvard vs. Yale. Here are four or more reasons Harvard is better than Yale.
1. Harvard vs. Yale: The Location
Having lived in New Haven for the past five years, let’s just say that it leaves a lot to be desired. It’s cloudy and raining from October until May, and then brutally humid from May until September. Usually you get two solid weeks of good weather at the end of September, although sometimes the rain comes early (as it did this year) and you just buckle up for another year indoors.
New Haven is also uglier than Boston/Cambridge, has fewer cultural sites, a worse night life, and is the site of far fewer events of historical significance. That being said, it is also much cheaper to live in New Haven, and the food is pretty good. So, it’s not entirely without merit.
However, it is nearly impossible to compare Boston and Cambridge - two of the most historically significant and beautiful cities in the US, to New Haven, which is largely famous because of its high rate of petty crime and Yale’s Gothic architecture.
Harvard - 1; Yale – 0
2. Harvard vs. Yale: The Buildings
This is a very minor point, and I’m almost half-joking by including it, but come on. Can you really compare the regal beauty of Harvard with the menacing gothic architecture at Yale? See below for a better idea of what I’m referring to.
Harvard - 2; Yale - 0
3. Harvard vs. Yale: The Rankings
If you’re applying to these schools, then there is a reasonable likelihood that you care a lot about school rankings. If you don’t care about those rankings, then be prepared to meet ~1,500 schoolmates who do.
There are a lot of rankings we need to consider courtesy of our friends at US News and World Report, so let’s take a look at them side-by-side:
Rankings by Department, US News and World Report
|Undergraduate Teaching||Not even ranked||10||Yale|
|Biology and Chemistry||1 and 4||7 and 12||Harvard|
|Fine Arts||Not ranked||1||Yale|
|Public Affairs & Public Health||3 and 2||Not ranked and 14||Harvard|
|Total||Harvard - 12||Yale - 4||Tie - 3|
Clearly, Harvard takes the cake on the rankings front. Add to that the fact that Harvard is also less expensive than Yale, and we have a clear winner. The only caveat is that Yale appears to have slightly better undergraduate education (something which I would agree with anecdotally), which is nothing to scoff at. It also has a better student:teacher ratio than Harvard, at 6:1.
Harvard - 3; Yale – 0, with an asterisk for college education.
4. Harvard vs. Yale: The Vanity Stats
These are the statistics that you’re supposed to care less about, but can’t help obsessing over. They are the ones that make you feel good but that you never repeat to another soul. Thus, what remains:
1. Post-graduation Salaries: Tie. Harvard boasts an average entry-level salary of $57,700 with mid-career salary jumping to $118,200. Yale has similar numbers, with entry-level salaries averaging $58,500 and mid-career salary jumping to $115,100.
2. Prestige: Harvard. Like it or not, prestige is a big part of going to school at one of these institutions. The students care about it, the faculty care about it, and your parents almost certainly care about it. This is an easy win for Harvard because…Harvard.
3. Average Test scores: Tie. The schools boast similar mid-50 percent SAT score ranges. Harvard’s is 2120-2400 and Yale’s is 2140-2390.
4. Selectivity: Harvard. Harvard’s acceptance rate is 5.8% while Yale’s is 6.9%. I guess Yale is basically letting anyone in these days.
5. Famous Alums: Harvard. Harvard boasts eight US presidents, twenty Supreme Court Justices - including the notorious RBG, and a host of billionaires including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Yale, on the other hand, comes in strong with five US presidents, ten Supreme Court Justices, and a slew of celebrity actors such as Meryl Streep and Paul Giamatti. Perhaps it’s just a personal preference, but I’m taking dinner with Zuckerberg over the guy who co-starred alongside Ben Affleck in a movie about time travel 10 out of 10 times.
Harvard - 4; Yale - 0
But Should We Care?
A lot of conversation goes into comparing Harvard vs. Yale. Most of the time, it’s just students who want to take the opportunity to tell you that they were admitted to both and explain why they chose Yale over Harvard, how they got into Yale or Harvard, etc. etc.
So, should we really care about any of this? The answer is a definite “maybe.” If you are a graduate student pursuing a STEM field, or an undergraduate student certain that you will pursue a STEM field, Harvard is generally speaking the stronger institution. On the other hand, if you are a humanities person, Yale has a number of very strong departments - such as History - and a strong argument can be made to recommend it.
Generally, choosing between these schools are champagne problems with no right or wrong answer. Going to either school, in many cases, will set you up for a very good life, and provide a world-class education. There aren’t many kids at Harvard who lament not going to Yale, and vice versa. Chances are, if you will be happy and successful at one, you will be happy and successful at the other. The rest is just vanity stats.