Harvard or Cambridge?

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Discus: Ivy League Schools: Harvard University: 2004 Archive: Harvard or Cambridge?
By Multinational on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 04:37 am: Edit

I am accepted to both Harvard and Cambridge University (UK). Now I'm having a difficult time deciding which college to attend. Cambridge is cheaper for me and allows me to graduate in three years. Harvard is much stronger in economics which will be my field of concentration. Harvard also gives me more opportunities to explore different subjects.
I would be very thankful for your opinions. What about the prestige factor? How do Americans view the two schools?

By Farooqtirmizi (Farooqtirmizi) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 05:22 am: Edit

I myself am an international student. If you are going for Economics, I would STRONGLY recommend Harvard over Cambridge, because even though Cambridge is a brilliant university it will not allow you to diversify and expand your mental horizons to the extent that Harvard will. Also, prestige-wise Harvard is just a touch above everything else, even though both Cambridge and Oxford come awfully close. By the way, where are you from and what are your stats?

By El_Diablo (El_Diablo) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 11:39 am: Edit

hey! cool! i am in somewhat of a similar situ, only that cambridge I cannot afford and harvard with their generous financial aid might hopefully work for me. But then again, I'm an engine student. which cambridge college accepted you?

By alice on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 06:35 pm: Edit

almost same situation, oxford or harvard?
i'm eu citizen so oxford is cheaper. but i got an amazing aid from harvard to and now i can't choose.
i love europe much better but harvard gives me many more options (year abroad, and possibility to explore different areas). i deferred for both, so i'll probably have the time to make up my mind, but it's hard to turn down either.
only one hint- don't look at the names (they're all Great Schools anyways), go for what would make you happy!
Good luck.

By Uglyboy05 (Uglyboy05) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 07:44 pm: Edit

i would SO choose england over harvard. any day.

By Datadigit1 (Datadigit1) on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 07:55 pm: Edit

In the "prestige" deparment (not that it matters much anyway) Cambridge is clearly ahead of Harvard and Oxford in the sciences, but the reverse is true for Lib Arts. As was mentioned previously, they're all great schools and thus whichever one fits you best is where you should go. Cambridge or Harvard... eh, I'm sure there are tons of high school seniors out there right now that will kill to make such a tough decision ;-).

By Upandover (Upandover) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 04:26 am: Edit

7 out of 13 people in my class got accepted to Cambridge. While it is only a small sample, but... Harvard is harder to get into. Think about it this way. Harvard is the most elite school in the US, Cambridge in UK. (Ignoring international students) So, the pool Harvard has to choose from is much bigger than what Cam has to choose from. Hence, competition is harder at Harvard.
Strike me down for my faulty reasoning =)

By Datadigit1 (Datadigit1) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 08:01 am: Edit

Not to pick on you there Upandover, but do you have any real reason for saying Harvard is all and superior?... since your statistics and reasoning seem a bit bogus. ;-)

Probably about 70+% of the people that "apply" to Harvard know (or should know) that they realistically have a next to zero chance of getting in, but of course apply anyway either just for kicks or in case something amazing happens.

As you may know, the college admissions system over in the UK is much different and prevents a lot of things like that from happening (i.e. you can't apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same way you can apply to both Harvard and Princeton). So I'm sticking with my initial choice of Cambridge for sciences or engineering and Harvard for lib arts. ;-)

By Multinational on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 12:12 pm: Edit

Thank you so much for your opinions, everybody. Faroogtirmizi, I am a Chinese-born living in Germany and I was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, in January and now to Harvard.
My stats:
SAT1: V 710, M 800
SAT2: Writing 790, Math 2C 800, Physics 800
Ranking: 1/72
National Champion in Multilingual Competition and Top 20 in Naional Mathematics Olympiad
Alice, where are you from and what subject do you want to study?

By El_Diablo (El_Diablo) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 12:24 pm: Edit

Man, Cambridge kicks ass for engineering and sciences, expecially Churchill College (ranked first amongst the colleges for it)! I think Cambridge rankz first in the UK for Computer science (what with the new Gates research thingy), but loses that position for engine to Imperial College. However, starting salaries and job prospects are better for Cambridge grads than Imp, mebbe coz of the whole "Cambridge" thing

By Upandover (Upandover) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 12:27 pm: Edit

Cambridge for sciences?!
You can cross-register at MIT for all your science courses. Erm. Yeah. 7 out of 13 was accepted to Cambridge. I can't say anything of Harvard, because I was the only one applying to Harvard from my class.

Harvard emphasizes a well-rounded education, but not Cambridge. Cambridge is good if you are intending on concentrating on one subject only. You do not have much freedom, sorry, you do not have ANY freedom to choose the subjects you want. The education you undertake there is pretty much laid out for you, with few exceptions : eg. Natural Sciences, where you take four subjects in thefirst year, then you narrow down to your field of specialization. But freedom to choose courses at Cam is pathetic when place with side-by-side with Harvard. Unless you mean to be highly focused in whatever you are doing and do not intend to sample other fields, Cambridge would be a better choice. If not, HARVARD!

By Jetboy1857 (Jetboy1857) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 12:28 pm: Edit

For the sciences Cambridge > Harvard.

Also, interesting factoids: Harvard was founded by scholars from Cambridge (they named the town after their old university) and John Harvard himself was also a Cambridge grad. Also, when Harvard was founded Cambridge was already older than Harvard is now!

By Datadigit1 (Datadigit1) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 12:38 pm: Edit

I would somewhat agree with Upandover's comment in that if you have no clue what you want to do then perhaps Harvard might offer you more "freedom" to explore other subject areas, but remember that breadth comes at the cost of depth. But, if you know what you want to study then Cambridge education in that subject will be much more intense than a Harvard one (we're talking sciences here). Case in point, if you went to Harvard for mathematics undergrad and then wanted to be a math grad student at Cambridge (perhaps to most prestegious math degree in the world) then you would be required to take the final year of undergrad math at Cambridge before going on to PhD studies since the non-Cambridge math undergrad is not rigorous enough.

It's all a personal preference. Also, before bashing Cambridge's "highly specialized" education process don't forget that their "high school" studies are also much more rigorus than what we have in the states and thus British students basically got all their "liberal arts/general education" out of the way earlier and thus can afford to focus earlier. Not better, not worse, just different... but one would certainly be in the wrong for trying to say that an Oxbridge educated student is any less qualified or less well rounded than a Harvard student.

By El_Diablo (El_Diablo) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 01:04 pm: Edit

Actually, there is a lot of freedom within the engineering discipline at cambridge. when you apply you do for a kind of engineering, but when u get there, you find that you gotta do 2 years of general engineering where you learn the fundamentals of all kinds of engineering (they are heavy on the math) and then you decide where you want to secialize in. If you leave in that year, you get your BA hons. Else if you complete two years you get your MEng. So within the confines of engineering, there is in fact a lot of freedom: u can taste all the different enginieerin disciplines before eatin

By El_Diablo (El_Diablo) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 01:33 pm: Edit

Cambridge has historically gone heavy on the math, and then sciences later on, while oxford is kick ass for arts. interesting to note oxford has finally topped the list ahead of cambridge after 8 years, but funny enough, its because they got a high rating for funds/services available, and cambridge was second though it was better for most, like grad rate, job prospects, research, selectivity ya da ya da.

whatever it is, all these unis are tres excellent, and im cool with going to any university (at one point, it looked like i aint going anywhre)

MA GAWD! does Harvard really have a 18 Billion dollar endowment? thats more than Sri Lanka's GDP(i think)!!! i cant beleive this? It suddenly hits me how rich America is

By Mahras (Mahras) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 03:03 pm: Edit

Hey guys I know that oxford bases their US acceptances on AP scores only. Does Cambridge do that also? Congrats to all who got in.

By El_Diablo (El_Diablo) on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 10:30 pm: Edit

About the Selectivity Issue of Oxbridge.

Not everyone applies to Oxbridge like they do to Harvard. Many ppl (that includes me!) apply to Harvard with Harvarditis (apply and see if I can get lucky – worth a shot). In the UK especially, schools frown upon letting unlikelies from applying because schools try to maintain a good relationship with the individual colleges and when their recommended applicant gets rejected, it doesn’t help their reputation with the colleges.

So basically schools (not just in the UK, even international schools like mine) basically screen potentials who are definitely gonna get their 3-4-5 A’s for Advanced Levels anyway – because Oxbridge usually gives conditional offers – and then they let ‘em apply.

The colleges individually evaluate the apps and if they like what they see, interviews/exams are administered Otherwise, I think you get “pooled”. Sometimes they invite you to campus, give you a general interview (with admissions tutor) and special interview (excellent stuff coz u get to meet brilliant professors of sumthings) where (for engineering) you get (impossible) problem sets and he/she watches you try (in vain) to get them right. Then you can ask him stuff and he asks you stuff specific to your subject (engineering for me). Then you gotta take the pre-engineering test with math/physics/chem., which is disgustingly hard (especially if you hate chemistry like I do). I spoke to sum dudes there, and its generally correct to say no one ever finishes this test on time (in fact, a group of first years were genuinely surprised there WAS a chemistry section – the last section haha). A friend of mine got a 40/90 and was “one of their strongest applicants”. Usually I meet ppl lower scores, one of whom who got 18/90 has maintained a First (think first class honors) after the finals last year and is headed to MIT on exchange. If you are borderline stuff, they make u do STEP papers. I was handed a sample papers by the tutor who said they might make me do them if they feel like it. But I was given a Math I paper and told since Im a “further math” student, I’ll have to do Math II. I cant begin to imagine what paper II is like coz paper I still has me stumped on sum Q’s (there is a handy note on the paper saying that you got 3 hours for it, and if u can do 4 (?) Q’s, it means you rocked the paper –a girl from my school got a 30% and was handed a rare “unconditional” offer).

But this year, I know the adcoms came to Sri Lanka and made ALL do critical thinking papers. Dunno about that procedure though.

Though stats reveal that Oxbridge has sumthing like 25% acceptance rate (1 in 4 as they put it). For internationals it’s even worse. If im not mistaken, only 1 med student from the whole world is taken per college NOW but it used to be worse back then. On top of it, internationals havta pay like 10 times more than EU locals. They could ask u to show funds for as much as 100,000 pounds.

By Jetboy1857 (Jetboy1857) on Monday, April 05, 2004 - 03:54 am: Edit

A very nice summary by El Diablo...

I've taken a look at some of the exam papers ect. for science courses at Cambridge and the UNDERGRAD level exams are easily just as hard if not harder (in terms of the level of material covered) than GRADUATE level courses at universities here in the states! I'm sure it's probably the same at Oxford as well, but I've never actually looked at exams from there. The senior math exam at Cambridge (Tripos as they call it), is the most famous math test in the world and the person that gets the highest score each year even gets a title that they can carry around for the rest of their life (Issac Newton only got the second highest score his hear!). With such a rigorus program in the sciences it's no surprise that Cambridge alumns have won more Nobel Prizes than any other university in the world... by far!

By Upandover (Upandover) on Monday, April 05, 2004 - 09:57 am: Edit

Cambridge alumns have won more Nobel Prizes than any other university in the world... by far!

That's because Cambridge has been around FAR longer than any other university..

I've taken a look at some of the exam papers ect. for science courses at Cambridge and the UNDERGRAD level exams are easily just as hard if not harder

The British system practices a 13-schooling period. And like I said, Cambridge's courses are much more limited than the courses you take at Harvard so therefore you study your subjects with more in depth.

Harvard really have a 18 Billion dollar endowment?

Cambridge's paltry as compared to Harvard. Erm, I am too lazy to Google it, but there are recent articles on Cambridge's lack of funding. Plus you get financial aid from Harvard.

Harvard does not practice discrimination based on country of origin, but Cambridge does. If you are not a UK citizen, it's harder for you to get in.

By Datadigit1 (Datadigit1) on Monday, April 05, 2004 - 01:20 pm: Edit

RE: Cambridge alumns have won more Nobel Prizes than any other university in the world... by far!

That's because Cambridge has been around FAR longer than any other university..

Ummm.... Nobel Prizes have only been around since the 20th century... Harvard was already several hundred years old by the time the first set came out... age dosen't have anything to do with it, the quality of science that has come out of both schools does.

By El_Diablo (El_Diablo) on Tuesday, April 06, 2004 - 12:20 am: Edit

Datadigit1, hehehe, nice of you point that out! I wanted to, but decided not to in the end.

By El_Diablo (El_Diablo) on Tuesday, April 06, 2004 - 12:47 am: Edit

Harvard gives you finaid but it cost you 40,000 oddish an year, Cambridge "costs" 1700-oddish pounds, but with "top up" fees, its gonna cost a "staggering" 3000-oddish pounds.

Now do you really think a degree there costs peanuts? Costs are subsidized I think. Rooms are butt cheap as well, and humongous (im basing my decision on their cheapest rooms). In fact, an MIT dude mentions on the "MIT Guide to Cambridge" that rooms are twice the size and half the price. Furthermore, I think cambridge has a endowment of 3.9 billion (pathetic by american standards?) but it costs them millions to just maintain their antiques.

However, Im real sore that they make internationals pay so much, coz I come from a poor country and its so hard to pay. damn, I so wish I could go there, but its stinking expensive and I jes cant afford it.

The really cool thing about the college system is though its a mammoth university with 30-oddish colleges, eahc college brings about a very homely atmosphere. Like Churchill for instance, it has 3 Nobel laureates and 24 engine students max each year. Thats just superb!

When you consider the british educational system, cambridge offers a lot of freedom. I think you can take life sciences if you are a CompSci student, and you, like i mentioned before, dont decide what discipline of engine u wanna do until in ur third year. Most of my engine friends in UCL and Kings College and other british universities are a bit messed up coz they took up fields now they regret.

By Stanfordnualum (Stanfordnualum) on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 11:21 pm: Edit

Cambridge is a lot easier to get in than Harvard. Some Harvard guy who went to Oxford/Cambridge and did one semester there told me the students there are not as bright on average.

There was this girl in my Kaplan GRE class studying architecture there few years ago. She got bunch of questions on math....the super easy GRE math! I thought architecture people are supposed to know trigonometry well.

English HS students have been pretty mediocre (not even top 20) in International Math/Phy/Chem Olympiad anyway.

By Brunoniana (Brunoniana) on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 11:36 pm: Edit

Europe's largest newspaper, The Times of London, said that Harvard and Yale are "the two greatest universities in the world" .... and that Oxford and Cambridge suffer from massive funding gaps and "can no longer compete."

Read the article in The Times, 27 November 1998.

In other words, I say Harvard.

By Stanfordnualum (Stanfordnualum) on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 11:39 pm: Edit

The senior math exam at Cambridge (Tripos as they call it), is the most famous math test in the world and the person that gets the highest score each year even gets a title that they can carry around for the rest of their life (Issac Newton only got the second highest score his hear!).


Well..as far as I know, UK doesn't have the best talent pool in math. Whatever that exam is, the person that gets the highest score may be regarded as the best mathematician in UK at best, but definitely not in the world. In IMO (International Mathematical Olympiad), UK has been usually ranked outside top 15, let alone anywhere close to the best. China has been consistently #1 or #2 but still they never say they have the best math exam.

By Jab93 (Jab93) on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 02:10 am: Edit

For people who are supposed to be representative of the brightest in the world, you all sound quite immature and tacky. Give it a rest.
Both Harvard and Cambridge are amazing. The differences in quality are insignificant...
There is NO objective way to say one is better than the other... you should try to determine which is a better fit for YOU personally... rather than bickering back and forth quoting the most obscure and irrelevant statistics... really, I say this with respect: "Grow up!"

I especially think its funny when some of you get all concerned about the amount of opportunities you'd have at one versus the other... worried if one has enough oportunities for you... as if you could even remotely come even close to exhausting even an iota of the opportunities at either.

In any case... I graduated from Harvard back in 1993 with a joint concentration in physics and astrophysics... I then graduated from Berkeley with a PhD in Astrophysics in Feb. 2004...
If any of you have questions about science or life at Harvard, drop me some e-mail at jabarranco@msn.com.

By El_Diablo (El_Diablo) on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 04:36 am: Edit

bravo, well said!

personnally i think cambridge is best for me and i like it better, but cant afford it so goin to the other one... im jes glad i got in both places by divine miracles hehehe

By Willitevers (Willitevers) on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 07:48 am: Edit

i'm a brit who's been rejected by oxford but got into harvard.
personally, i think if u look at the prestige factor, cambridge and harvard carry roughly the same weightage.
i think it's going to boil down to personal preference: at cambridge you're going to get a very highly specialised, disciplined, focused course whereas at harvard you'll get the chance to diversify your experiences by being able to explore lots of different areas outside your area of specialisation (i think you mentioned economics?)
ask yourself: do you want an american or british education? is it diversity or specialisation for you?

By Monekit (Monekit) on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 03:24 pm: Edit

Hey Multinational, I was going to reccomend Harvard but then you said you got accepted, specifically, to Trinity College in Cambridge. Trinity College is probably the best college Cambridge has underneath it's hood and it's very well-known (I think an Nobel prize winner for Economics is currently a master of Trinity) and I would be very hesitant in turning an offer like that down.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 03:41 pm: Edit

Actually, the Master of Trinity has returned to Harvard. His name is Amartya Sen.

By Wickedsmaht (Wickedsmaht) on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 03:45 pm: Edit

To further that, it's because there is a mandatory retirement age of 70 at Cambridge. Plus, time to research.

By Multinational (Multinational) on Saturday, May 08, 2004 - 07:43 am: Edit

Thank you all for your comments. I've decided to go to Harvard.

By Sraid7777 (Sraid7777) on Saturday, May 08, 2004 - 10:14 pm: Edit

congrats, Multinational. Have fun. And say hi to professor Huntington for me.

By Adxj220 (Adxj220) on Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 07:39 am: Edit

As in Sam Huntignton? What did you guys think of his recent artcle/book on hispanics? I can't stand him.

By Mintbee (Mintbee) on Sunday, May 23, 2004 - 06:27 am: Edit

congrats multinational-

did you do the abitur or the IB in germany? and what were your results if i may ask? are you in the north or south?

By Multinational (Multinational) on Sunday, May 30, 2004 - 05:55 am: Edit

Hi Mintbee,

I just finished my abitur early may, so i dont have my results yet. but im pretty sure itll be 1.0 (0.8 theoretically). I live in the north, near hannover.
do you also live in germany and also consider applying to harvard?

By Sraid7777 (Sraid7777) on Sunday, May 30, 2004 - 07:38 pm: Edit

As in Sam Huntignton?

yesiry. I read Clash of C., a very good book, but I can't find out if he is more liberal or conservative. Does anyone know?

By Adxj220 (Adxj220) on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 08:28 pm: Edit

he considers himself a moderate liberal, but i would consider him relatively conservative. Depends on your definition.

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