MIT VS Harvard

Click here to go to the NEW College Discussion Forum

Discus: Individual Schools: US News Top 25: Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 2004 Archive: MIT VS Harvard
By Pacman (Pacman) on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 02:52 pm: Edit

Personally, I think MIT should be considered as the BEST school in the US since it's the master when it comes to everything useful.

Let', no comparison.
Pure science, MIT was rated higher in math than Harvard.
Economics/Management, MIT is at least as good.

Let's see what makes Harvard better than MIT...history, law, languages... but are those really more important than engineering??

Don't really understand what makes Harvard so great/arrogant...other than the fact that it is the oldest.

By Memememe (Memememe) on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 05:24 pm: Edit

You may say whatever you want, but Harvard math is better, at least in theoretical mathematics. Many others agree. It is one of the reasons why, despite my love for MIT, I'll probably choose Harvard.

By Vsage3 (Vsage3) on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 07:04 pm: Edit

Note Pacman said everything useful :p. Jk I know even abstract algebra has the weirdest applications.

By Neo (Neo) on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 07:44 pm: Edit

Haha...Pacman, I hate to say it, but you're reaching. MIT and Harvard are excellent, top-notch schools, but it's rather impractical to declare one as definitively better than the other, because it truly depends on the person.

A person with a desire to attain a career in (for example) Computer Science would be just as well off chosing Harvard as MIT, in my opinion, because the schools are just that evenly matched with one another.

But it's not a competition, and if it is, it shouldn't be, because the only thing that comes down to it at the end is which college you feel more comfortable at -- that's the best school in the country, and no list will give you the name of that school. You've got to find it for yourself.

From your post, it seems as if you've been struggling with some qualms as to whether your investments and hopes in attending MIT will actually pay off, and you're feeling a bit threatened by the fact that when you graduate, the average person might still consider Harvard to be the top college in the country, and not MIT. Well, tough luck. An inferiority complex on your part isn't going to make MIT any better (or worse) than Harvard, or any other University in the country.

And before you go crowning MIT as the "BEST" school in the country, you might not want to forget a few itty-bitty schools like Stanford, CalTech, Yale, Northwestern, Williams, Columbia, UPenn, Princeton, UChicago, Harvard, Dartmouth, Westpoint...etc. The list is endless.

It depends on what you want to become. If you'd like to be an author or a literary giant someday, you're far more likely to get the proper training in that field in a focused and dedicated liberal-arts school than in MIT. The same could be said if you wished to become a musician, or a politician. You've got to find your own measurement when you're looking for a suit, a dress, or a wristwatch. There isn't one school that can give everyone everything, which is why there isn't a "best" school in the country -- it's not a one size fits all affair.

And I didn't even say a word about campus atmosphere, or class sizes, or location, or price...there are so many variables that come into play...

By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 10:38 pm: Edit

Oh wow... CS is even? I checked Harvard's CS site and they even noted that it's small. And no kidding... only 13 faculty members and 74 students per class, it's a pretty crappy ratio: (74*4+grad students) / 13

By Memememe (Memememe) on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 11:31 pm: Edit

International olympiad types (even IOI), top Intel/Siemens finishers, and RSI types are just as likely to choose Harvard as MIT. In fact, more of them go to Harvard, despite their career aspirations as scientists/mathematicians. If by useful you mean science, Harvard does not shortchange you.

As for CS, sure Harvard has a weak department. But plenty of CS types go to Harvard and study math or physics, as can be seen in the success of the Harvard ACM team. What's more, it's rising. A certain Hvd dropout named Bill Gates is funding part of this expansion. They have a snazzy new CS building and seem to offer interesting sounding classes. I am sure it will become better.

BTW, I've always wanted to study CS, but I am really turned off that it is taught as engineering at schools like MIT. I want to learn CS as a science, not as engineering. I guess I'm more interested in computation and applied math in CS than programming and EECS nitty gritty.

I guess I won't be making much money then. :-)

By Gottagetout (Gottagetout) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 12:22 am: Edit

me^4, you cite preference of population groups as reasons for Harvard's superiority over MIT. I find this, at best, naive on your part. You seem to be rather intelligent, however, you fail to acknowledge the self-selecting personality factor of your (anecdotal) sample. Many of those students whom you base your conclusions on are, to a large degree, glory-seeking, arrogant, externally motivated, and/or subhuman. I concede, we all share these traits to some degree but I would like to bring into discussion my anecdotal evidence.

If you get into both MIT and Harvard, please choose Harvard, I think it suits you better.

By Memememe (Memememe) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 12:36 am: Edit

I totally don't think Harvard > MIT. I just think that MIT > Harvard is false.

I like MIT more. I know it fits me better. But somehow, I feel the pull of Harvard's excellent math department (which, if you read carefully, is the only thing I cite as being outright better at Harvard than MIT in my opinion). However, since I'm not into engineering (I find it repulsive), my science studies at either place would be awesome.

You see, if CS was my only concern, I would go to MIT. It's that great. You see, CS is not taught as a science, though, it's more of a skill, and that's really a turn-off for me. I see that studying math might be better for me. Besides, I don't think going to Harvard will dash my CS hopes either, as some have suggested it might. For college, I want to stick to pure stuff, like math. That way, when I really decide what I want to study and research in grad school and later on, my options are wide open.

By Binks (Binks) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 12:51 am: Edit

Go to Harvard. Don't come to MIT unless you really want to be here.

By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 01:09 am: Edit

Hey... why does Gates also fund Stanford's CS building? What's his loyalty to then?

By Webhappy2 (Webhappy2) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 01:09 am: Edit

repost, sry

By Memememe (Memememe) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 01:57 am: Edit

I feel unpopular. I always thought MIT was about openness, accepting everything.

I guess that openness stops when that other college down the river is mentioned. ;-)

Oh well, I'll just jump off Green Building one of these days.

By Mrowry (Mrowry) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 02:18 am: Edit

Me^4, do you really believe that any major at MIT could be totally hands-on, outsourceable programming gruntwork, with no theory? That's just kind of an insult to anyone who has respect for the school (such as the people attending)...

By Memememe (Memememe) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 02:48 am: Edit

Okay, so the original poster starts like this:

"Don't really understand what makes Harvard so great/arrogant...other than the fact that it is the oldest."

I mention how much I love MIT and I'd love to go there but I'm nevertheless leaning more towards Harvard for various reasons, which by the way aren't even clear to me. I have a lot of reasons to want to go to MIT; I love EC and I even love the campus (which not many people can claim). I'm trying to present my points so that it can be understood by others. Is this truly offensive?

Mind you, I was dead set against Harvard when I started doing college search. After spending six weeks at MIT, I was extremely set on MIT and refused to see anything bad about MIT or anything good about Harvard. I didn't even visit Harvard during the six weeks in Cambridge, even though I passed by numerous times in Harvard Square and what not.

Later, I re-visited MIT and was like, wow, I love this place. But then I visited Harvard, met lots of my friends and acquaintances, asked questions, and realized that I wouldn't lose anything by going to Harvard. With that mindset, I was able to find out what's good and bad about both MIT and Harvard. And what do you know, I realized maybe CS isn't all that great after all for me. Do I program? Oh yes, I do. I compete in USACO and all that good stuff, and I consider myself a pretty good programmer. But it doesn't challenge me enough. I love seeing stuff I don't understand. Right now, that's math. I thought I was good at math, but just seeing the kind of stuff I COULD be learning versus what I already know convinced me that perhaps math is something I should study in college. So naturally, I started looking into the math programs and found that Harvard math program is really quite impressive, much to my surprise. You see, I had been prejudiced (like the poster of the original message) into thinking that MIT could beat Harvard's socks off in all math and science subjects.

It's all been things I've gone through, things I've realized, things I've seen. Is all of this really something to get offended by? Hardly. Besides, I'm not even sure if I'm going to Harvard or MIT. I haven't even been accepted to MIT. I also might go to Caltech, Stanford, or whatever other school. I go around these boards discouraging people from sending their reply cards because I believe that choosing a school is something that you should consider really carefully and make a good decision at the end. So who's being the offensive one here? Me or the guy who claims "Personally, I think MIT should be considered as the BEST school in the US since it's the master when it comes to everything useful"?

By Foreignboy (Foreignboy) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 03:53 am: Edit

First of all, what's with all the 'College X vs. Harvard' threads?
Neither Harvard nor MIT can be considered 'better' than the other. They are just better at different things.
Pacman, I thought you wanted to transfer to Harvard?

By Ishan (Ishan) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 06:17 am: Edit

Memememe although the cs option most ppl take comes under eecs there is a cs for more theoretical cs oriented ppl. This is the one, I would like to pick up. Here is the link.

As a international I get the feeling that Harvard's cs dept isint close to mit. Me and other intl students here in India feel,
MIT => great, Harvard => good/ok ok not great
(for cs, We know that Harvard is better when it comes to math or other stuff)

I didnt apply to Harvard. (One because I want to do both CS and math and I want both those depts to be good and two because I know I have almost no chance ;) )

look at option 18C
I too was quite angry, when I though I had to do engineering to do cs , but luckily I found this.

By Pacman (Pacman) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 01:32 pm: Edit

I'm applying to both Harvard and MIT. MIT is my "first love". Ever since I came to the US I wanted to go there. But now, Harvard is my "most loved". So...tough to say which one I prefer.

I want to learn nanotechnology with a minor in management. Which one would be more suitable? Nanotech has a lot of applied physics and Harvard is good at that. But then again, nanotech is not pure science, it has many engineering aspect, which MIT is better.

By Binks (Binks) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 03:29 pm: Edit

Okay, well, here's the thing. Harvard does have a great math department, but when it comes to CS, you'ld just be crazy to think Harvard's CS program is on the same level as MIT's or even CalTech's. One guy cross-registered and took a CS class at Harvard and people at Harvard even thought that guy's nuts. And yes, it is annoying that they make you take a few engineering classes under CS, but hey, where's the harm in that, just circuits and stuff. One thing though, Harvard does A LOT of reading and writing, so if that's not your style and would rather do problems then MIT would probably be better for you.

I apologize for that unwelcoming remark. However, your posts in the beginning did seem a bit arrogant...(what pissed me off was comparing Harvard's CS program to MIT's as equal)

Basically, they're both great schools. I'm assuming whoever started this thread is still in high school. Believe it or not, MIT and Harvard has a very good cooperative friendship, and outside admissions, there's hardly any rivalry. You can't say one school is better than the other, that's just mean spirited. Besides, for those of you waivering on the two, remember that you can cross register and take classes at both colleges.

And finally...please leave your superiority complex at home. We all know the people who go to these colleges are smart. Saying how one college is better than the other and etc. just hurt people's feelings. So yeah, let's keep this friendly.

By Bluestardust (Bluestardust) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 04:43 pm: Edit

^^binks is right. in the long run, it doesn't matter which is better. it's not going to decide the fate of the universe. there are better things you could be wasting your time on.
what truly matters is which college is best for you.

By Neona (Neona) on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 07:18 pm: Edit

"^^binks is right. in the long run, it doesn't matter which is better. it's not going to decide the fate of the universe. there are better things you could be wasting your time on.
what truly matters is which college is best for you. "

Which is basically what Neo said in his first post on this thread.

By Poutingminotaur (Poutingminotaur) on Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - 02:54 am: Edit

regarding nanotech... since i dont go to harvard, i dont really know how their program goes, but i suppose i can speak for MIT.
nanotech is definitely an expanding field here in MIT. in fact, a brand new nano tech lab just opened earlier this school year (the bright glassy ones off the infinite in building 8). if i get this right... the department that is most involved in nanotech development is course 3, department of material science and engineering. relatively, its one of the smaller department here at the institute, but by no means it is inferior. mit has been pumping lotsa money into the department to improve it, and it has lotsa great profs. also, due to the relatively smaller number of people in the major, it has a really good faculty to student ratio. and nanotech is definitely a forte in course 3... and so if you are looking into nanotech... definitely look into it.

and minor in management.... one word: sloan.

i dunno if harvard is a better or a worse choice... but i know for sure that nanotech major/management minor is definitely very very solid at MIT.

and i definitely agree with binks. yes maybe MIT kids make fun of harvard kids every now and then. but in the big picture, MIT and harvard do have a very close relationship. yes there is the cross registration option. and also, there are many projects, research on all levels that are developed jointly by both schools.

it all comes down to... a little rivalry can be fun and games... but afterall, the goal is to make this world a better place. and i believe both colleges are educating and training the future generations to reach this goal. like many of you have said... the two colleges differ in style... which one works better for you, only you will know.

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, February 15, 2004 - 05:19 pm: Edit


What do you think of the Princeton and Chicago math departments compared to Harvard's? My S is interested in theoretical math like you, and I'd like your opinion. Not just about the faculty, but also the students, opportunities for research, and the general college experience. Thanks in advance

By Memememe (Memememe) on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 02:26 am: Edit

I have no definite idea about those theoretical math departments because I didn't apply to those places, but I just met w/ someone yesterday (well, he's my long-distance mentor) who went to Princeton undergrad. That someone was an IMO participant and is very well known in math competition circles. He was very happy w/ the Princeton education he received. I have no idea about Chicago. Adding my own opinion, I'm sure that the Princeton math department is quite excellent. After all, they have guys like Andrew Wiles (OMG, ANDREW WILES!).

By Pacman (Pacman) on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 10:50 am: Edit

Reid Barton, the smartest IMO participant, chose MIT.

By Ishan (Ishan) on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 11:43 am: Edit

probably because he was interested in cs too...

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 12:03 pm: Edit

I've heard that Harvard has so many core requirements that it's actually possible for an MIT student to take more Harvard electives than a Harvard student.

By Memememe (Memememe) on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 01:23 pm: Edit

"Reid Barton, the smartest IMO participant, chose MIT." - Heh, way to judge people as the smartest IMO participant. I suppose the Lohs who went to Caltech and Gabe Carroll who's at Harvard are just inferior. Right? I could name a number of international olympiad participants who chose Harvard over MIT, but I guess Reid is the smartest and therefore the rest of the bunch don't matter, though I beg to differ... I think 3rd on Intel STS is a bigger achievement than any petty or non-petty math or CS competition, be it the international olympiad (and granted, Carroll has 3 golds at IMO and would have had a fourth if he didn't go to RSI, not to mention Putnam Fellow three times)... see any real-life mathematicians messing with Olympiad problems for which the answer is already known? Not to say that Barton is not a smart guy, but come on. There are people in this country who have matched or exceeded his achievements by some standards, and you probably haven't met all the IMO kids in existence, so you can't really say who's smarter. Besides, there might be a math genius in the middle of Czech Republic who may just be smarter than Barton.

Besides, what constitutes smart? If you want to say MIT kids are smarter than Harvard kids, well, I give that to you. The average MIT student does seem to be more intelligent (by my standards) than the average Harvard student. But they go through four years, and come out as MIT and Harvard graduates. They are both quite ready for just about any challenge that life presents. I don't think the MIT kid is more prepared for life than Harvard kid, or vice versa. Most MIT graduates (according to some estimates) end up not doing science or engineering anyways.

Speaking of core requirements, I actually heard that MIT's core might be heavier than Harvard's. And from what I've seen, that might even be true, but I won't bet on it because I really haven't investigated.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 01:49 pm: Edit

Hard to know specifically what makes one person choose a college over another. In the case of Reid Barton, however, the answer is not difficult. Barton, who was homeschooled, had several years of internship at Akamai, which was founded by an MIT professor, Tom Leighton. Going to MIT allows him to continue pursuing his interests in applied math and working with Leighton.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 07:30 pm: Edit

>"MIT's core might be heavier than Harvard's."

I suspect that the required courses at MIT are more heavy-duty than the required courses at Harvard. When I first heard about MIT students getting more Harvard electives than Harvard students, I just took it to mean that Harvard had a larger number of required courses, leaving fewer slots for electives. You know, Harvard is into all that "well-rounded" stuff.

By Poutingminotaur (Poutingminotaur) on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 07:42 pm: Edit

i dunno what the core classes at harvard are... but here's MIT's:
18.01 (single variable calc), 18.02 (multivariable calc), 7.01_ (3 different forms of intro biology, you pick one), 8.01 (physics, mechanics), 8.02 (physics, E&M), 5.1_ or 3.091 (intro chem). and students need to average 1 HASS (humanities, arts and social science) class per semester.
but a lot of people pass out of a lot of these classes. 8.01, 18.01 and bio are easy to pass out of (5 on APs)... so personally i dont think MIT has that many core requirements... most people are able to finish up all the math/sci core by the end of their freshman year.

By Memememe (Memememe) on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 07:47 pm: Edit

Well, I've heard that Harvard's core curriculum is not as heavy as you'd expect it to be, considering that they want graduates who "know something about everything and everything about something." You do have to take a certain number of classes farthest away from your concentration, but it's not that bad is the agreement.

MIT, meanwhile, you'd expect a light core curriculum, because the stereotypical MIT student isn't a well-rounded one. However, MIT does have a core curriculum that's not that light. So when I say MIT's core may be heavier than Harvard's, it may be actually one of two things which have nothing to do with the actual difficulty.

1. MIT's core might be heavier than expected, whereas Harvard's might be lighter than expected.

2. MIT students may not handle the well-rounded curriculum as well as Harvard kids do. Not to be discriminating against MITers, but Harvard does have the more well-rounded kids.

In any case, Harvard's core is pretty flexible, according to RSI alums. But I really haven't heard anyone complain that MIT's core is too difficult either.

At the same time, my acquaintances may not be the best people who can judge how difficult a courseload really is. After all, they are trying to lure me to one camp over another, so they may make their experience sound a lot easier than it really is... or the more likely reason is, RSI alums handle stress pretty well and probably wouldn't get owned by taking a couple extra composition classes.

Report an offensive message on this page    E-mail this page to a friend
Posting is currently disabled in this topic. Contact your discussion moderator for more information.

Administrator's Control Panel -- Board Moderators Only
Administer Page