Princeton vs Harvard vs Yale University

One of the most important decisions you make in life is where to go to college. When considering your options, three schools often arise: Princeton, Harvard and Yale. While these schools offer similar programs, the complete package should be considered when making a decision. The best way to gather information about these three great schools is to compare their statistics, including acceptance rates, student demographics and median earnings after graduation.

Princeton vs Harvard vs Yale University –

Getting into an Ivy League institution is the dream of every high schooler and what’s better is having a foresight of what’s required to get into the ivy league schools ranking in the US. The Big Three schools: Harvard vs Yale vs Princeton are the 3 oldest higher institutions in the United State, and it is not surprising that almost everyone will be interested in knowing the comparison that exists when it comes to topics like prestige, tuition, admission criteria, etc. that exist among Princeton vs Harvard vs Yale University. Want to know more about Princeton vs Harvard vs Yale University, princeton vs yale culture & harvard vs yale undergrad.

You will also discover recent, related posts on harvard vs yale vs princeton vs stanford, princeton university, harvard university & princeton vs yale culture on infolearners. You will also discover related posts on which is better harvard princeton or yale on infolearners.

Which is Better Harvard Princeton or Yale?

There are several factors to consider when comparing Princeton vs Harvard vs Yale University. Basically, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton University are three of the most reputable ivy league universities in the USA. Founded in1636, 1701, and 1746 respectively, they are also the first, second, and third oldest institutions in the United States. There are several yardsticks that can be used to analyze Yale Vs Princeton University so we will start by comparing tuition and admission statistics of Harvard vs Yale vs Princeton University.

Before we proceed, we will like to start our comparison with the emphasis that Harvard, Yale and Princeton University are both Private (not-for-profit), 4 or more years University located in Cambridge, Massachusett, New Haven, Connecticut, and Princeton, New Jersey respectively. So in the table below you will see a breakdown of some of the differences in Princeton vs Harvard vs Yale University.

This is one of those questions that I suspect is endlessly debated among the high-achievers at the after-school SAT prep course and, I would argue, is really pretty meaningless. A couple of randomly organized thoughts:

It doesn’t matter; depending on the criteria each of the colleges will be ranked first, second and third, but they’re all, always, among the top 10 in the WORLD on any ranking.

Ivy League Universities: List of colleges, ranking, selectivity &  admissions | MBA Crystal Ball

If someone is so fortunate as to actually get to choose between any two of these three, the only right answer is where the individual is going to feel most comfortable – one is in a quiet village, one is in a protected enclave within a medium and going-downhill city, and one is shoved in the midst of busy city streets plagued by tourists. One is good for pre-law, one for pre-business, and one for pre-research. And so forth and so on.

In spite of the differences, every student at every one of these three schools will insist to their dying day that their school is absolutely the best of the three.

And there are at least five, maybe ten other schools with graduates who will do every bit as well in life. (Think Stanford, of course; and MIT, Chicago, CMU, Johns Hopkins, Claremont, CalTech, and so forth and so on.

So argue away until it comes time to either make your choice, happily and proudly take your place at the one that accepts you, or begin to understand that a happy life and success aren’t conferred by the school you attend, they are achieved and that can be done in many places.

Breakdown of Princeton vs Harvard vs Yale University

Harvard Yale Princeton Indoor Meet
Yale Harvard
LocationPrinceton, NJNew Haven, CT Cambridge, MA
Campus TypeSuburbanUrban Urban
Undergraduate Enrollment5,4285,964 6,788
Acceptance Rate5%6.3% 5%
U.S. News Ranking13 2
Sticker Price$71,960 (2020-2021 school year)$74,900 $72,391
Student to Faculty Ratio5:16:1 6:1
Middle 50% SAT/ACTSAT: 750-800 (M);  710-770 (ERW)ACT: 33-35 (composite)SAT: 720-770 SAT: 1470-1560
Subject Tests Required?Two recommendedRecommended Recommended
Median Starting Salary$69,800$66,800 $66,800

A comparison of Princeton vs Harvard vs Yale is a very common topic within the USA. It is not uncommon to find the “Big Three” schools: Princeton, Harvard, and Yale ranked among the top three institutions in the National Universities category along with Columbia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Chicago. Over the past eighteen years ending with the 2018 rankings, U.S. News has named the best national university Princeton eleven times, Harvard twice, and the two schools tied for first five times. In the current 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Ranking, Princeton is ranked first; Harvard is second; Columbia is third, tied with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Yale, and the University of Chicago.

  • Harvard is the school of innovation. People here are focused on changing the world through the formulation and realization of ideas. Regardless of the discipline, they focus on academic research and discovery that affects the big picture and addresses global problems.
  • Yale is the school of leadership. Probably the most socially vibrant of the three, people here are really focused on other people. Extracurricular activities have a huge presence, and are seen as important as classes sometimes. It often feels like academic programs prioritize breadth over depth, and are designed to prepare a student for a career involving delegation and broad understanding rather than deep exploration.
  • Princeton is the school of intellectual genius. It’s a very self-contained campus, and the lack of professional schools plus the strength of humanities and natural science departments indicates a focus on knowledge and understanding in its purest form.
HARVARD VS. YALE: Which Ivy League School Is Really the Best?

Yale vs. Princeton: A Closer Look

Location and Weather

New Haven is a small city with nearly 130,000 people, and Yale plays a central role in the city’s community. The town itself has a high crime rate, however, so students are advised to be on guard. Still, there’s plenty to do, including shop and dine at revered restaurants like Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana.

Princeton is a much smaller town with around 31,000. It’s about equidistant from both New York City and Philadelphia (about 45-50 miles), so students can easily visit these cities on weekends. There are also plenty of attractions in Princeton itself, including museums, restaurants, and nightlife.

Since both universities are located in the Northeast, students will experience all four seasons and especially cold winters. 


Princeton and Yale have similarly-sized undergraduate populations: 5,428 to 5,964. However, Yale has many more graduate students, with a total student body of 13,433 to Princeton’s 8,300. At both schools, more than 70% of classes have fewer than 20 students. The student to faculty ratio is 5:1 at Princeton and 6:1 at Yale.


Yale offers 80 majors, including diverse subjects such engineering, theater studies, art, religious studies, and astrophysics. The university also has numerous special programs, including Residential College Seminars, which are hosted by the 14 residential colleges and cover nontraditional material. 

While there are distribution requirements, they are fairly lenient and include two course credits each in: 

  • Humanities and the arts
  • Sciences
  • Social sciences
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Writing
  • Foreign languages

Students at Yale don’t need to declare a major until the end of sophomore year (for STEM majors), or the beginning of junior year for all other majors. 

Princeton offers 37 concentrations, with degree programs in areas like architecture, French and Italian, computer science, and others. Students may also earn certificates in programs such as creative writing and robotics and intelligent systems. There are different distribution requirements depending on whether you’re earning a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E), although both include writing and foreign language. Most A.B. candidates declare their majors in spring of their sophomore years, and B.S.E. candidates are required to do so in May of their freshman year.

Generally, A.B. students must write a Junior Paper, which is an independent research project. This paper often becomes the basis of a student’s senior thesis, which is required for all A.B. students. Many engineering students also complete independent projects in their junior year, and pursue a senior thesis.

At both schools, students have the option of pursuing an independent or special major or concentration with approval and guidance.

Yale vs Princeton University - College Learners


Yale students are initially assigned to one of 14 residential colleges, and they remain affiliated with these residences during all four years. A small fraction of students live off campus as juniors and seniors. These close-knit colleges go far beyond traditional dorm life, offering communities, seminar programs, and the chance to meet with faculty in a less formal setting. 

Princetonians, meanwhile, have a more traditional housing structure. Freshmen and sophomores must live on campus. Residences include students from all four years, as well as some graduate students. You may choose to live off campus as a junior or senior, although only 6% of undergraduates do.

Both universities offer gender-inclusive housing options, where students may opt to live in suites with suitemates regardless of gender.


At Yale, most students eat within their colleges, although there are other options available. The residential college dining halls enable them to mingle with the heads of the colleges, as well as resident fellows and deans. Freshmen are required to have the Full Meal Plan. Yale accommodates dietary restrictions, including offering Kosher options.

Princeton freshmen and sophomores must enroll in the unlimited meal plan, which also accommodates Kosher and other dietary restrictions. 

Princeton is also well-known for its eating clubs, which go to 1879, when students couldn’t eat on campus. Eleven clubs exist today, each with its own facilities; some clubs are selective, while others are open to all who wish to join. Not only do these clubs provide food options for students, but they also offer a community, much like Greek life at other schools.

Financial aid

Both Yale and Princeton have high sticker prices, more than $70,000 per year. However, many students are on financial aid, which is known to be extremely generous at both schools, and each institution commits to meeting 100% of students’ demonstrated need. Both schools are also no-loan and need-blind, meaning that you won’t receive loans in your financial aid award, that your ability to pay will not impact your admissions decision.

As is the case with all the Ivies, neither school offers merit-based scholarships, but instead awards grants based on financial need. Sixty-four percent of students at Yale are on financial aid, and the median net price for those on aid is $13,000. At Princeton, 61% of students receive financial aid, and the average grant for the Class of 2023 was $56,500, covering the entire cost of tuition.

Harvard vs. Yale: Which Is the Better Investor? | Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth  college

Sports and Extracurriculars

Yale and Princeton athletes participate in the NCAA Division I and Ivy League. The Yale Bulldogs have 35 varsity teams, while Princeton Tigers have 37. The schools both have club sports and plenty of other extracurricular organizations and opportunities.

At Yale, more than 10% of students participate in Greek life. Princeton doesn’t officially recognize fraternities or sororities, although there are some that are run off-campus. As mentioned earlier, Princeton’s eating clubs play a significant role in campus social life.

Additionally, both colleges have strong study abroad programs, operating in countries all over the world. At both schools, students on financial aid will continue to receive aid if they study abroad.

Culture and Diversity

About 56% of the Class of 2023 at Princeton identified as people of color. Princeton is also committed to LGBTQ inclusion, offering an LGBT center and initiatives for both current students and alumni.

Yale, meanwhile, also has a relatively diverse student body and has the following racial/ethnic statistics for its domestic students:

EthnicityPercentage of Student Body
American Indian or Alaska Native0.3%
Black or African-American5.8%
Hispanic of any race9.8%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander0.1%
Race/ethnicity unknown1.0%

Yale is also LGBTQ inclusive, with a dedicated Office of LGBTQ Resources and more. 

Student Outcomes

Both Yale and Princeton graduates thrive in their careers. The starting salaries for recent graduates hover around $70,000 at both schools, and the 10-year averages are more than $110,000. Additionally, both schools offer robust student career services. 

How to Decide Between Princeton and Yale

As two of the most recognizable names and prestigious universities in the world, Yale and Princeton both offer top-notch educations with outstanding outcomes for graduates. When you’re deciding between the two, it really comes down to your personal preferences. Are you looking for a specific major, extracurricular, housing situation, or affinity group? Make a list of which factors are important to you, and evaluate how the schools stack up.

Here’s a summary of the major differences between the schools:

Yale might be for you if you want…

  • To live in a larger city with easy access to Boston and NYC via public transport
  • More choices of majors (80 at Yale vs. 36 at Princeton)
  • Greater involvement in politics and activism
  • An especially close-knit residential college community

Princeton might be for you if you want…

  • To live in a small college town that is safer (only 1 hour drive from NYC though)
  • A school that’s especially strong in international relations
  • More opportunities to be involved in music; Princeton has about 15 departmental music groups and 15 student-led groups, almost twice that of Yale

Ivy League Admissions by Race

What is the most diverse Ivy League school? The three schools have diverse student bodies, the majority of Harvard’s student body identifying as people of color. 

Harvard’s diversity makeup is as follows:

EthnicityPercentage of Study Body
African American14.3%
Asian American25.3%
Hispanic or Latino12.2%
Native American1.8%
Native Hawaiian.6%
Ivy League - Wikipedia

Yale diversity and inclusion

Yale’s university-wide ethnic makeup is the following, for domestic students:

EthnicityPercentage of Study Body
American Indian or Alaska Native0.3%
Black or African-American5.8%
Hispanic of any race9.8%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander0.1%
Race/ethnicity unknown1.0%
Princeton Acknowledged 'Embedded' Racism. The Education Dept. Says That's  Grounds for an Investigation.

Princeton, Harvard and Yale Rankings

U.S. News & World Report

The “Big Three” schools: Princeton, Harvard and Yale are often rated among the top three institutions in the National Universities category along with Columbia and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the past eighteen years ending with the 2018 rankings, U.S. News has named as the best national university Princeton eleven times, Harvard twice and the two schools tied for first five times. In the current 2022 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Ranking, Princeton is ranked first; Columbia, Harvard, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are tied for second; and Yale is fifth.

Peer schools

In the last several decades, ColumbiaStanford, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have consistently ranked nationally just as well as or better than HarvardYale and Princeton and so have been included as academic peers. These universities have among the largest endowments, Harvard being the highest at $41.9 billion, and largest endowments per student, Princeton being the highest at $3.1 million per student. The Ivy League plus Stanford and MIT placement rate also acts as a benchmark for high schools to measure how well it prepares its students for the college admissions process.

Order of the names

The three colleges, when named together, are generally named in the order Harvard, Yale, and Princeton or Harvard, Princeton and Yale. The Harvard, Yale, and Princeton order is the one in which they were founded — 1636, 1701, and 1746, respectively.

Princeton Vs Harvard

Princeton University joins Harvard University as one of the top  Ivy League schools in the QS World University Rankings: USA 2021. Both are ranked within the overall top 15 universities globally, and both excel across the board of academic subjects, making choosing between the two a tricky, but enviable, task to face.  

Here’s our guide to Princeton vs Harvard, taking in the latest data from the rankings, as well as information about location, student community, fees and financial aid. 

In the 2021 edition of the QS World University Rankings: USA, Harvard University remains the Ivy League’s frontrunner, ranked first in the USA, while Princeton follows behind in eighth.  

Princeton University Harvard University 
QS World University Rankings: USA 2021 Ranked eighth in the USA in 2021 Seventh in the USA for research First for learning experience Joint 44th for diversity and internationalisation Seventh for employability Ranked first in the USA in 2021 First in the USA for research and employability Joint 21st for diversity and internationalisation Joint seventh for learning experience  
 Subject strengths* 
Ranked eighth in the world for arts & humanities 30th for engineering & technology Joint 138th for life sciences & medicine 10th for natural sciences 15th for social sciences & management Ranked first in the world for arts & humanities 11th for engineering & technology First for life sciences & medicine Third for natural sciences First for social sciences & management 
Princeton, New Jersey Also in the northeast, just southwest of the state of New York. Cambridge, Massachusetts On the northeast coast of the US, north of Boston. 
 Student community 
About 8,213 students of which 5,267 of which 2,946 are postgraduates There are currently 2,053 international students (25 percent of all students) About 23,731 students, of which 15,250 are postgraduates  
24 percent of all students are international.  
 Tuition fees & financial aid 
Undergraduate student fees for 2019-20 are $51,870 (~ £36,700). 61 percent of undergraduates receive need-based aid. Need-blind admission for all For 2020/21, annual tuition fees for undergraduates are $51,143 (approx. £36,000) plus $4,444 fees (~ £3,100). 55% of undergraduates receive need-based aid, and   Harvard provides need-blind admission for all students.  

 *Based on the broad subject areas in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021. 

QS World University Rankings: USA 2021 

Both Harvard and Princeton are in the top 10 of the QS World University Rankings: USA 2021. At this elite level, there’s very little difference between institutions, but a closer look at the rankings data might throw some light on the fields in which each of these top Ivy League schools particularly excel. 

Harvard, ranked first in the country, scores extremely well across each of the indicators used to compile the rankings. It claims first place in the research and employability indicators this year.  

Princeton on the other hand ranks eighth in the USA. It receives a rank of seventh both in the research indicator and for employer reputation.  

Princeton does have the advantage over Harvard in the diversity of its students and faculty, ranking joint 21st in the diversity and internationalisation indicator, compared to Harvard’s joint 44th.  

Princeton also beats Harvard in learning experience, ranking first in the USA with Harvard falling slightly behind in joint seventh. 

Subject strengths 

Looking at the QS World University Rankings by Subject provides some more detailed insights into the individual subjects for which Harvard and Princeton each school is best known. 

In 2021, Harvard University is ranked as the world leader in 14 out of 51 subjects. Although Princeton isn’t considered the best in the world for any subject, it’s featured in the top 10 for 13 different subjects. 

The table below lets you see how the two schools directly compare for each subject. If no rank is given, it’s highly likely the subject isn’t available at that university. 

Harvard and Princeton in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 
Princeton University Harvard University 
Accounting & finance 15th 1st 
Anthropology 15th 3rd 
Architecture 51-100 5th 
Art & design 37th — 
Biological sciences 8th 1st 
Business & management 18th 1st 
Chemistry 18th 3rd 
Classics & ancient history 10th =6th 
Communication & media studies 33rd — 
Computer science & information systems =35th 7th 
Dentistry — 8th 
Development studies — =3rd 
Earth & marine sciences =15th 3rd 
Economics 8th 2nd 
Education & training — 2nd 
Engineering (chemical) 21st — 
Engineering (electrical) =90th 11th 
Engineering (mechanical) =95th 4th 
English language & literature 5th 3rd 
Environmental sciences =15th =1st 
History 4th 1st 
Law 4th 1st 
Linguistics =63rd =6th 
Materials science =21st =5th 
Mathematics 8th 3rd 
Medicine 8th 1st 
Modern languages 6th =1st 
Nursing 7th — 
Performing arts =20th =12th 
Pharmacy =17th 3rd 
Philosophy 16th 8th 
Physics & astronomy =16th 3rd 
Politics 8th 1st 
Psychology 7th 1st 
Social policy & administration — 1st 
Sociology =11th 1st 
Statistics 42nd 2nd 
Theology, divinity & religious studies 8th 2nd 
See the full QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 


Harvard can be found in the university town of Cambridge, Massachusetts, just to the north of the city of Boston. Named after the University of Cambridge in the UK, Cambridge, MA, is also home to the world’s current number one university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Unsurprisingly for a town with two prominent universities in such close proximity, the city has a longstanding history of being an academic hub, with a student-centred community. 

With riverbanks lined with trees, historical architecture and a thriving arts and culture scene, Cambridge is, in many ways, the classic student location. For those who want a bit more of a cosmopolitan experience, it’s an easy trip to neighbouring Boston, one of the leading urban centres in the US. 

Traveling southwest from Massachusetts, through the states of Connecticut and New York, down through Manhattan and the Bronx, you come to the state of New Jersey, where Princeton University is located, in the town from which it takes its name. 

Much like Cambridge, MA, Princeton very much has a college town feel, with its student population playing a key part in local life and culture. The college campus itself, which features architecture from the 18th century onwards and the manmade Lake Carnegie, has been listed as one of the most attractive among US universities. 

Student community 

Harvard University, significantly larger than Princeton, has a total student enrolment of 23,731, of which 15,250 are postgraduate students. Princeton claims a total enrolment of 8,213, of which 2,946 are postgraduates.  

These large numbers of postgraduates, making up two thirds of enrolment at Harvard and over one quarter of enrolments at Princeton, reflect the strong focus on research at each school. 

Though international diversity is not the strongest indicator for either institution, both offer reasonably high proportions of overseas students. In both cases, around 24 percent of all students are international, with most of Princeton’s international students studying at graduate level. 

Tuition fees 

As is the case for US universities more widely, tuition fees at the top Ivy League schools are among the highest in the world. However, you certainly shouldn’t let this prevent you from considering either school, as both schools operate a need blind admission policy, meaning financial aid is always available for those who are offered a place. 

At Harvard, undergraduate tuition fees for 2020/21 are set at US$51,143 (~£36,100). When additional fees, accommodation, travel and personal expenses are considered, the annual cost of attendance is estimated at $78,028-$82,178 (around £55,000-£58,000).  

Princeton’s annual tuition fees are $56,010 (~£39,600) for 2021-22. However, the school estimates that students should budget around $77,690 (~£55,000) per year to cover cost of accommodation and other expenses. 

Graduate fees are typically more expensive wherever you study, and tend to fluctuate significantly depending on the field of study. At Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, full tuition fees for 2020/21 are $48,008 (~ £33,900). 

If you’re considering studying medicine or business, however, costs will be higher still. Harvard’s Medical School (graduate level only) charges tuition fees of $99,416 (~ £70,100) for 2020/21. And at Harvard Business School, an MBA program will currently cost $73,440 (~ £52,000) per year, with a total annual budget of $110,818 (~ £78,000) recommended. 

Financial aid 

You’ll be pleased to hear that, like most of the Ivy League schools, Harvard and Princeton both offer generous financial aid programs.  

At Princeton, students whose family earn up to $160,000 typically pay no tuition. For students whose family income is up to $65,000 per year (~£46,000), the aid package covers full tuition, residential college fee, room and board. Approximately 61 percent of undergraduate students receive financial aid and 83 percent of recent seniors graduated debt free. 

At Harvard, 55 percent of undergraduate students receive need-based aid through the university’s financial aid program. Financial aid officers work to determine your demonstrated need and your family’s expected contribution, with students from families with an annual income below $65,000 expected to pay nothing, and more than 20 percent of students’ families paying nothing. 

At Princeton, the average financial aid grant for a student admitted for the class of 2023 was $56,500 (~£40,000), which fully covers Princeton’s tuition fees. 

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