HARVARD VS. YALE: Which Is REALLY The Best Ivy League School?

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The annual football game between Harvard and Yale

Harvard vs. Yale. The two universities regularly battle for the top spot on college rankings and claim some of the most powerful alumni networks in the world.

But which school is really better?

To answer the question we compared them across six categories  — cost, academics, job prospects, campus, student body, and student life — which together describe everything that should go into one's college choice.

Here's what we found:

Cost

Annual tuition including room, board and personal expenses at Harvard costs $57,950, while Yale costs $58,600 — a slight edge for Harvard but not much of a difference. When you factor in financial aid, however, Harvard still comes out ahead.  At Harvard, about 60 percent of undergrads receive about $182 million in need-based financial aid, while at Yale approximately 55 percent of undergrads receive $120 million in need-based financial aid. At both schools, students whose families earn under $65,000 per year can qualify for financial aid.

Harvard has a slight advantage in cost.

Academics

Harvard and Yale are both elite institutions that offer world-class academics.

Both schools stress the importance of a balanced liberal arts education. Harvard has a Core Curriculum, which requires students to take a variety of classes. Yale's distributional requirements mean that students have to take classes in certain categories like the humanities, social science, and natural science. Both schools have strong economics and political science programs. Yale excels in drama and the arts, while Harvard is arguably slightly stronger in the sciences.

Harvard offers about 3,900 courses and more than 40 majors for undergrads. Yale offers 2,000 courses and more than 75 majors. Let's call that a tie.

Both schools have world-renowned faculty members and a similar faculty-to-student ratio. (Harvard has a 7:1 ratio and Yale has a 6:1 ratio.) At Harvard, 78 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students, while at Yale 72 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students, according to the US News & World Report. Again it's a wash.

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The statue of John Harvard sits in Harvard Yard

Harvard has 47 Nobel Laureates who are faculty or alumni, while Yale counts 25 Nobel Laureates among its faculty and alumni. Harvard faculty or alumni have won a total of 47 Pulitzer Prizes, while Yale comes out ahead with a total of 56 Pulitzer Prizes awarded to faculty and alumni.

Students who rate professors on Ratemyprofessors.com gave Harvard professors an average rating of 3.84 and Yale professors an average rating of 3.8—a nominal difference.

In short, the schools are about equal, with similar course offerings, class sizes and high-quality professors and alumni.

Academics are a tie.

Job Prospects

Both Harvard and Yale have strong brand recognition that almost guarantees jobs for future students, but one school appears to have an advantage.

Harvard grads will earn slightly more money. According to PayScale, the  average starting salary for Harvard grads is $50,700 , while the  average starting salary for Yale grads is $48,900 . The mid-career salary for Harvard grads is $111,000, while the mid-career salary for Yale grads is $105,000, according to PayScale.

In our poll to determine the 50 Best Colleges in America  — which focused on future job prospects — Harvard was ranked the the number three school in the country, while Yale came in behind at number four. Similarly, the Times Higher Education ranking of universities by reputation  gave Harvard the number one spot last year, while Yale came in at number 10.

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As for alumni networks, another critical factor in getting a job, both schools are excellent. Eight U.S. Presidents graduated from Harvard, while only five graduated from Yale. Twenty U.S. Supreme Court Justices attended Harvard, while 10 Justices attended Yale.

According to US News, Harvard topped the list of 2012 Fortune 500 CEO degree granters with 65 total degrees. Yale didn't even make the list of the top 13 schools for CEOs.

Harvard's notable contemporary alumni include CEOs and financial bigwigs like Lloyd Blankfein and Ben Bernanke; foreign leaders like Mexico's Felipe Calderon; and actors like Ashley Judd and Natalie Portman. Yale's include writers like Harold Bloom and Tom Wolfe; actors like Paul Newman and Meryl Streep; and political figures like Hillary Clinton and Dick Cheney.

The bottom line: Both schools have strong alumni networks and brand recognition that will land students great jobs, but Harvard takes the lead in brand value.

Harvard has a slight advantage in job prospects.

Campus

Harvard is located in Cambridge, Mass., a bustling district outside of Boston that's been called one of the  best communities for young people  and  the healthiest city in America  by Self magazine.

Yale is in downtown New Haven, Conn., which has a reputation for having some unsafe neighborhoods. But the area surrounding the college is filled with shops, restaurants, and bars, and students feel right at home there.

When it comes to architecture, it's tough to pick one over the other. Both Harvard Yard and Yale's campus are known for their centuries-old stone buildings, leafy quads, and high-tech laboratories. Harvard's libraries hold around 17 million volumes, while Yale's have 12.99 million.

Neither college has a central undergraduate student center, though Harvard students launched a campaign to build one in 2011.

Both have great athletic facilities: Yale's 9-story Payne Whitney Gymnasium has training centers for crew, gymnastics, swimming, and a state-of-the-art fencing salon, while Harvard's 5-floor Malkin Athletic Center has three pools, a cycling studio, and two cardio rooms.

As for future spending,  Harvard has the largest endowment in the world at $30.7 billion . Yale's endowment is still impressive but not as high at  $19.3 billion .

While students on both campuses are satisfied with their surroundings, we'll give Harvard the edge for its cool neighborhood, proximity to Boston, and the classic beauty of Harvard Yard.

Harvard has a slight advantage in campus.

Student Body

Yale and Harvard are two of the most competitive schools in the world. Yale admitted 6.7 percent of applicants for the class of 2017, while Harvard accepted 5.8 percent, giving Harvard the slight edge.

Both colleges have also admitted an increasingly diverse group of students in recent years. For the class of 2016, Harvard's admitted students were 21 percent Asian American, 10 percent African American, and 11 percent Hispanic or Latino ,  while Yale's were  21 .1 percent Asian American, 9.5 percent African American, and 10.5 percent Hispanic. 

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Student reviewers on College Prowler gave both schools an A+ for diversity.

Yale's average SAT score is slightly higher than Harvard's. The SAT range at Yale is 2120-2390, compared to Harvard's 2080-2380, according to College Prowler.

Both schools have standout students within their current undergraduate ranks.  Harvard's include undergrads  who are making strides towards curing cancer and have played at Carnegie Hall, and even the daughter of the head of China's Communist party.

Yale's student body includes Rhodes Scholars, entrepreneurs, a composer of classical music, and a professional magician.

Harvard's undergraduate student body is slightly larger at around 6,650, compared to Yale's 5,322.

Both schools fared well, but we'll give Harvard the category for its slightly lower admission rate —  when you're talking single-digit percentages, one percent matters.

Harvard has a slight advantage in student body.

Student Life

Both colleges offer tons of extracurriculars and vibrant social scenes for undergraduate students. Yale's student life revolves around the residential college system, in which incoming freshmen are assigned to one of 12 residential colleges, where many students live, eat, and make their closest friends.

Harvard also has a house system. Freshmen live in dorms and join one of 12 houses at their end of their first year. Houses also have dorm rooms, dining halls, and common spaces.

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Harvard does not have a formal Greek system, but its eight all-male "final" clubs serve a similar social purpose. Around 10 percent of Yalies participate in Greek life. Fifty percent of seniors are also members of the school's famous "secret societies."

Both schools offer tons of extracurriculars: Yale has more than 400 organizations on campus, including over 50 performance groups and 60 cultural associations. Harvard also has more than 400 campus organizations for students with any interest under the sun.

When it comes to the dining halls, Harvard has Yale beat; Harvard, with 13 undergrad dining halls, ranked #12 on The Daily Meal's latest list of the best colleges for food, while Yale was #21.

But Yale bests Harvard when it comes to nightlife. College Prowler's reviewers gave Yale's nightlife an A+ for its variety, from campus-wide theme parties to frat parties to the dance floor at local nightclub Toad's. Harvard, where nightlife is centered around the finals clubs and local bars, got an A. 

Overall, Yale seems to be a happier place to be. According to The Daily Beast's latest ranking of the happiest colleges — based on student opinion data and retention rates — Harvard ranked #11 and Yale was #3.

This one was almost too close to call. Both offer tons of clubs, ways to socialize, and house systems. But since Yale ranked higher in terms of nightlife and student happiness, we'll give it the edge in this category.

Yale has a slight advantage in student life.

THE WINNER 

While both universities are excellent, Harvard is the winner,  coming out slightly ahead in  cost, job prospects, campus, and student body.



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