Harvard vs Stanford

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

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Stanford and Harvard are two of the nation’s most prestigious and selective colleges. While both offer top-notch academics, their starkly contrasting locations lead to very different student experiences. If you’re deciding between Stanford vs. Harvard, here’s what you need to know about their academics, extracurriculars, housing, food, and more.

Harvard vs. Stanford: A Quick Overview

LocationCambridge, MAStanford, CA
Campus TypeUrbanSuburban
Undergraduate Enrollment6,7886,994
Acceptance Rate5%4%
U.S. News Ranking26
Sticker Price$72,391 (2020-2021 school year)$74,723 (2020-2021 school year)
Student to Faculty Ratio6:15:1
Middle 50% SAT/ACTSAT: 1470-1560 (combined)ACT: 33-35SAT: 720-800 (M); 700-770 (EWR)ACT: 32-35
Subject Tests Required?Two recommendedOptional
Median Starting Salary$69,000$70,400

Harvard vs. Stanford

Location and Weather

Harvard is located in Cambridge, just a few miles away from Boston. Students have access to all the famed sites in the city, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Faneuil Hall, and plenty of restaurants. They can also enjoy the major attractions in Cambridge itself, including Harvard Square and the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It’s easy to get around the city by subway, called the T by the locals. Those coming from farther away will also enjoy easy access to Boston Logan Airport, which is accessible by public transport from Greater Boston.

Cambridge is in the heart of New England, where winters are cold and snowy, though summers tend to get fairly hot. Since Harvard is right along the Charles River, and not far from the Atlantic Ocean, you can also expect a fair amount of windy weather.

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Stanford, meanwhile, is located in Stanford, right by Palo Alto. San Francisco is nearby, accessible via Caltrain or a shorter car ride. The city is even closer to San Jose.

Stanford is surrounded by tech giants, including Google and Facebook. There’s plenty to appreciate right in the Stanford-Palo Alto area, including terrific coffee, excellent produce, and frequently sunny weather (don’t expect to experience four seasons in this neck of the words!). Like much of the Bay Area, residents tend to be outdoorsy; you’ll encounter many hikers and mountain bikers.


Although both Stanford and Harvard have undergraduate student bodies of under 7,000, Harvard has far more graduate students, with a total enrollment of 20,700 to Stanford’s 16,384 students. About 69% of Stanford classes have fewer than 20 students, while 72% of Harvard’s do. The student to faculty ratio is 5:1 at Stanford and 6:1 at Harvard.


Stanford is particularly known for tech majors, including engineering and computer science, However, the university also offers majors across a wide variety of disciplines, such as aeronautics and astronautics, art practice, Native American studies, and theater and performance studies. 

Students must fulfill general education requirements across areas including:

  • Thinking Matters
  • Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing
  • Writing and Rhetoric, and Language

 Stanford students are required to declare their majors before junior year.

Harvard offers 50 majors (called “concentrations”), including popular ones like psychology, computer science, history, and economics. Students must fulfill general education requirements in areas including:

  • Aesthetics and Culture
  • Ethics and Civics
  • Histories, Societies, Individuals
  • Science and Technology in Society

Most students at Harvard declare their concentrations in the fall semester of their second year, though one-third of students end up changing.

Students at both schools may design their own major or concentration with guidance and approval.


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Housing is guaranteed for all full-time undergraduate students at Stanford. Options include residence halls, apartments and suites, and small-group houses. Freshmen and new transfer students are required to live on campus and are assigned to residences based on preference forms they fill out, while upperclassmen use a lottery system. As part of residential life, students may attend and participate in activities such as faculty dinners, lectures, film screenings, trips to nearby attractions, holiday celebrations, community events, and more. Approximately 97% of undergraduates live on campus.

Meanwhile, Harvard’s students live in one of 12 houses after their first year, when they share suites in dormitories with other first-year students on the Harvard Yard. The houses provide a community, helping foster friendships and connections with classmates and faculty. More than 97% of undergraduate students live on campus, and housing is guaranteed for all four years.


Stanford undergraduates have a choice of three meals plans: 19, 14, or 10 meals per week. Certain dorm residents enjoy meals cooked in their halls. There are several dining halls offering a range of cuisines. Additionally, the university accommodates dietary restrictions including allergies, Kosher, and Halal.

Harvard freshmen eat at Annenberg Hall, while upperclassmen eat in their respective Houses. There are plenty of options, and the university accommodates dietary restrictions, too. That includes offering a Hillel dining hall that serves Kosher food, where all students are welcome to eat. 

harvard vs stanford acceptance rate

 Though Stanford had a lower acceptance rate for the Class of 2018, 82 percent of incoming freshmen accepted to Harvard chose to attend, as compared to 78.9 percent for Stanford.

Acceptance Rate5.0 %5.2 %

harvard vs stanford mba


The table below represents Stanford vs. Harvard Class of 2021 profile:

Stanford vs. HarvardStanfordHarvard
Class Size417938
Average GMAT734730
GMAT Range600-790590-800
Average Work experience4.64.7
Average GPA3.73.70
International Students43%37%

Both schools offer personalized/customized career plan for its students.

placement-and-internship-at stanford-and harvard

Harvard’s class size of 938 is quite large as compared to Stanford, which is 417 for a full-time MBA program. Similarly, the average GMAT score for Stanford (734) is slightly high as compared to Harvard (730), with an average GPA of 3.7 for both the business schools. The percentage of international students at Stanford vs. Harvard is 43% and 37%, respectively.

The table below represents the placement statistic for Stanford vs. Harvard:

Employment reports – Placement Statistics – class of2019
Stanford vs. HarvardStanfordHarvard
Job offers within three months of graduation94%95%
Median Base Salary$150,000$148,750
Mean Sign-on Bonus$25,000$30,000
Placement Statistics by major Functions
Business DevelopmentN/A9%
General Management9%16%
Strategic PlanningN/A6%

Have a look at the Summer Internship Statistics Class of 2020 for Stanford vs. Harvard:

Summer Internship Statistics for Class 2020
Stanford vs. HarvardStanfordHarvard
Average Monthly Median Base Salary$7,477$5,633
Internship Statistics by major Functions
Business DevelopmentN/A12%
General Management3%9%
Strategic PlanningN/A11%
Human Resource<1N/A

Note: Data from Stanford and Harvard Internship report for Class 2020.

Stanford vs. Harvard: Rankings


Stanford has an advantage when it comes to ranking. Both schools have few points of difference on various ranking lists. For example, QS World University ranks Stanford #1 and Harvard #5 for the best business schools in 2020.

The global ranking list for Stanford vs. Harvard from the year 2017 – 2019:

Stanford vs. Harvard – Global Ranking Lists
QS World University Ranking
US News Ranking
Bloomberg (Only US)
The Economist
FT Ranking

Stanford vs. Harvard: MBA Program Focus

Both schools have a two-year residential MBA program that focuses on general management. According to US News, Stanford ranks number two in management, while Harvard ranks number one.

Both the schools are battling towards becoming number one in entrepreneurship with Stanford ranking at #2 and Harvard at #4.

More than 60 different courses related to innovation and entrepreneurship are offered to Stanford GSB students, whereas, at Harvard, one in four electives has an entrepreneurship focus. Harvard has approximately thirty-nine faculty members who teach entrepreneurship verses, 15 faculty members, at Stanford.

According to Harvard’s website, there are 32 courses on entrepreneurship management, with 50% of HBS grads creating at least one venture. Also, 17% of the HBS MBA batch 2019 joined a start-up. On the other hand, 15% of Stanford’s batch 2019 is starting a new venture.

Both schools rank #6 in marketing, but Finance at Harvard ranks #7, after Stanford. Harvard gets an edge over Stanford in Non-profit specialty. For Non-profit, Stanford ranks #4 and Harvard ranks #2. On the other hand, Stanford beats Harvard in Production/ Operations specialty with Stanford at #3 and Harvard ranking at #11, according to US News.

Stanford vs. Harvard: MBA Program and Curriculum

As compared to other business schools like Booth, Kellogg, NYU, etc., Stanford and Harvard students cannot waive their classes. Therefore if a student can prove a certain level of proficiency, he/she cannot test out of classes making the curriculum at Stanford and Harvard is not fully flexible.

mba- program-and-curriculum-stanford-vs-harvard

harvard vs stanford computer science

The difference between the two educational juggernauts is fairly simple — Harvard has a focus on intellectual growth, while Stanford seeks to give its students more practical knowledge. As Meg P. Bernhard at The Crimson writes:

Stanford’s objective to “qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life,” as stated in its founding grant, differs greatly than that of Harvard, which according to University literature, focuses primarily on the advancement of knowledge.

… Harvard focuses not so much on the application of education, but, as Harvard President Drew G. Faust wrote in an official capital campaign message, on the discovery of knowledge and the education of future leaders. The University remains true to its founding charter from 1650, part of which emphasizes the “advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences.”

A Stanford computer science major offers a more real-life example — “We see Harvard as more focused on theory, the softer side … Even in computer science, there’s a lot more focus on how you do things as opposed to Stanford, which focuses a lot more on the practicality,” he told The Crimson.

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