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Princeton vs Harvard: Which One Should You Choose?
  • Sep 2022
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Princeton vs Harvard: Which One Should You Choose?

17th September 2022

In the QS World University Rankings: USA 2021, Princeton University joins Harvard University as one of the top Ivy League schools.

Both are regarded among the top 15 institutions in the world and excel in a wide range of academic topics, making selecting between the two a difficult, but enviable, task.

Here's our Princeton vs. Harvard comparison, which includes the most recent rankings data as well as information regarding geography, student community, fees, and financial assistance.

Harvard University is the Ivy League's leader, placed first in the USA in the 2021 edition of the QS World University Rankings: the USA, with Princeton coming in eighth.



Princeton University 

Harvard University 


QS World University Rankings: USA 2021 

  • In 2021, the United States will be ranked seventh.

  • Seventh in the United States for research

  • First, for learning purposes.

  • 44th in terms of diversity and internationalization

  • Seventh in terms of employability

  • In 2021, the United States will be ranked #1.

  • First place in the United States for research and employment

  • 21st Century Partnership for Diversity and Internationalization

  • Joint seventh in terms of the learning experience


Subject strengths* 

  • Arts and humanities are ranked sevearoundh in the globe.

  • 30th place for engineering and technology

  • 138th for life sciences and medicine

  • tenth in natural sciences

  • 15th in the social sciences and management

  • First in the world for arts and humanities

  • eleventh for engineering and technology

  • First and foremost for life sciences and medicine

  • Natural sciences are ranked third.

  • First and foremost for social sciences and management

*Based on the QS World University Rankings by Academic 2021 broad subject groups.


QS World University Rankings: USA 2021 

Harvard and Princeton are both ranked in the top ten of the QS World University Rankings: USA 2021.

There is relatively little variation between universities at this high level, but a deeper look at the rankings data may shed some light on the categories in which each of these top Ivy League colleges excels.

Harvard, which is ranked top in the country, does exceptionally well on all of the factors used to create the rankings. This year, it takes top place in the research and employability indices.

Princeton, on the other hand, is ranked seventh in the United States. It ranks sixth in both the research indicator and employer reputation.

Princeton has an edge over Harvard in terms of student and faculty diversity, ranking joint 21st in the diversity and internationalization category, whilst Harvard ranks joint 44th.

Princeton also outperforms Harvard in terms of learning experience, ranking first in the United States, with Harvard trailing slightly in equal seventh place.


Subject strengths 

The QS World University Rankings by Subject give more thorough insights into the particular topics for which Harvard and Princeton are most recognized.

Harvard University will be ranked first in the world in 14 of 51 categories in 2021. Although Princeton is not regarded as the finest in the world in any area, it is ranked in the top ten in 13 distinct subjects.

The table below shows how the two schools compare directly on each topic. If no rating is given, it is quite likely that the topic is not offered at that university.

Harvard and Princeton in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 



Princeton University 

Harvard University 

Accounting & finance 









Art & design 



Biological sciences 



Business & management 






Classics & ancient history 



Communication & media studies



Computer science & information systems 






Development studies 



Earth & marine sciences






Education & training 



Engineering (chemical) 

21 st 


Engineering (electrical) 



Engineering (mechanical) 



English language & literature 



Environmental sciences 












Materials science 

= 21 st




Harvard is located in the university town of Cambridge, Massachusetts, approximately north of Boston. Cambridge, MA is named after the Institution of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and it is also home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the world's current number one university (MIT).

Unsurprisingly for a city with two famous colleges so near together, the city has a long history of being an intellectual hub with a student-centered population.

Cambridge is the archetypal student destination, with tree-lined river banks, ancient buildings, and flourishing arts and cultural scene. 

For those seeking a more cosmopolitan experience, a short excursion to neighboring Boston, one of the main urban centers in the United States, is recommended.

Traveling southwest from Massachusetts, via Connecticut and New York, down through Manhattan and the Bronx, you arrive in the state of New Jersey, where Princeton University is located in the town that bears its name.

Princeton, like Cambridge, MA, has a college town character, with its student population playing an important role in local life and culture.

The college site, which boasts 18th-century buildings and the man-made Lake Carnegie, has been named one of the most appealing among US institutions.


Student community 

Harvard University has a far bigger student body than Princeton, with a total enrollment of 23,731, of which 15,250 are postgraduate students. Princeton has a total enrollment of 8,213, with 2,946 postgraduate students.

These enormous numbers of postgraduates, accounting for two-thirds of Harvard enrollment and more than one-quarter of Princeton enrollment, reflect each school's strong emphasis on research.

Though international diversity is not the most important metric for each university, both have a sizable share of foreign students.

In both situations, around 24 percent of all students are foreign, with the majority of international students at Princeton studying at the graduate level.


Tuition fees 

Tuition costs at the best Ivy League colleges are among the highest in the world, as is the case for US universities in general.

However, you should not allow this to deter you from choosing either institution because both have a need-blind admission process, which means financial help is always accessible for those who are given a seat.

Undergraduate tuition at Harvard is scheduled at US $51,143 (£36,100) for 2020/21. When extra fees, lodging, travel, and personal expenditures are included, the yearly cost of attendance is expected to be $78,028-$82,178 (about £55,000-£58,000).

For 2021-22, Princeton's yearly tuition is $56,010 (£39,600). The school estimates that students should budget around $77,690 (£55,000) each year to cover the cost of housing and other expenditures.

Graduate tuition is normally higher wherever you study, and it varies greatly depending on the topic of study. Full tuition at Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for 2020/21 is $48,008 (£33,900).

However, if you want to study medicine or business, the prices would be even greater. Tuition at Harvard Medical School (graduate level alone) is $99,416 (£70,100) for 2020/21.

An MBA program at Harvard Business School now costs $73,440 (£52,000) each year, with a total yearly budget of $110,818 (£78,000) advised.


Financial aid 

You'll be glad to know that, like the rest of the Ivy League institutions, Harvard and Princeton have excellent financial assistance programs

Students from families earning up to $160,000 often pay free tuition at Princeton. The aid package includes full tuition, residential college fees, lodging, and board for students whose family income is up to $65,000 per year (£46,000).

Approximately 61% of undergraduate students get financial help, while 83% of recent graduates finish debt-free.

Harvard's financial assistance program provides need-based funding to 55 percent of undergraduate students. Financial assistance officials assess your demonstrated need as well as your family's estimated contribution, with students from households earning less than $65,000 expecting to pay nothing and more than 20% of students' families paying nothing.

The average financial assistance amount for a student enrolled in Princeton for the class of 2023 was $56,500 (£40,000), which completely covers Princeton's tuition expenses.

Both are among the five US colleges that have a need-blind policy for all undergraduate students, both local and international. This entails a promise to admit all students exclusively on merit, even if you are unable to pay any of the costs.

If you accept the offer, each institution will provide the amount necessary for you to attend their program.

Both colleges also provide financial assistance to graduates, which can take the form of grants, loans, fellowships, and scholarships, as well as paid employment.

The amount offered is determined by numerous aspects, including dethe gree of study, programmed financial position; for more information on how much you may anticipats pending.



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