This is the first of our “Schools Like” series, where we’ll break down those super-duper reach schools into actually digestible components, and then offer you a list of some schools that are similar, comparable, and/or possess a lot of the same qualities.
If you Google “Schools like [insert school here]” you’re going to get a lot of misinformation and message boards. We compiled these lists and used our years of knowledge to help you avoid that information. We’ve been gathering data for years on schools based on visits, our knowledge about colleges, and actual student experiences at all of these schools. We don’t get our information from collegemom93 or yaledad1975, and you probably shouldn’t either.
When students tour schools, we ask them to really pay attention to the qualities of the school that they enjoy—everything from location, to campus structure, extracurricular involvement, class size, department size, weather…the list goes on.
We’re starting with Harvard, because, well, Harvard. For a lot of students, it’s the ~academic mecca~. For us, it’s another school with a lot of different characteristics and traits that you can certainly find elsewhere. And spoiler: that elsewhere is actually going to read your application. So put in effort to schools that aren't Harvard. At the end of the day, a reach school like Harvard is a reach school for everyone who applies, regardless of GPA or test scores, due to the sheer volume of applications and the brand name. Any school is just the sum of its parts, but what we’re going to do here is break down these schools into parts, and give you something to actually think about and work with.
What makes Harvard unique is the fact that it’s situated in a small college town that exists literally 5 minutes from a major U.S. city. The contrast and juxtaposition of Cambridge and Boston is a big draw for many. You can reap all of the benefits of going to school in a small town—local haunts, highly walkable, lush greenery and ivy climbing up the walls—and a city with renowned restaurants, a plethora of job and internship opportunities, bustling neighborhoods, and lots of museums.
Another thing that makes Harvard unique is its plethora of top-notch graduate institutions. It is simultaneously a research institution and a liberal arts school, and undergraduates are strongly encouraged to enroll in pre-professional classes that are cross-listed with Harvard’s many professional and graduate schools. Additionally, Harvard gets a lot of those “big name” professors to teach classes and oftentimes welcomes them for shorter periods of time to teach said classes. OK, enough of the fantasizing about Harvard—let’s get you the list you came here for.
Location: Cambridge, MA (small-town/city)
Size: ~6.5K undergraduates
Faculty to student ratio: 7:1
Schools similar to Harvard:
Johns Hopkins University
Location: Baltimore, MD
Size: ~5.3K undergraduates
Johns Hopkins is a highly regarded research university with a liberal arts twist. Though Johns Hopkins is known for its medical school and STEM facilities, it also happens to house the Peabody Institute, a world-renowned conservatory, and highly-regarded liberal arts programs within the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences. It’s also in Baltimore, which is one of the most interesting and dynamic cities in the U.S.—or at least we think so. Think of it as Harvard’s multi-talented, very cool, highly intelligent, slightly hipster sibling.
Location: Claremont, CA
Size: ~1.5K undergraduates
Claremont McKenna is considered by many to be the “Harvard” of the Claremont Colleges, and in some ways of the West Coast. It’s highly selective, and you get the benefit of going to school in a college-focused area with Los Angeles just a short drive away. The 8:1 faculty to student ratio is also comparable to Harvard’s 7:1, ensuring that every student has the opportunity to access highly individualized attention from faculty members. The school is also part of the Claremont Colleges, which means that students enrolled can take classes at any of the schools included in the grouping: Pomona College, Scripps College, and Harvey Mudd. Its graduate institutions are Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate University. This means you have increased ability to do research, take classes, socialize, and create communities within multiple settings.
Washington University in St. Louis
Location: St. Louis, MO
Size: ~7.5K undergraduates
Wash U is an incredible place. In fact, if we were applying to school all over again, we’d probably go here. Maybe. It has rapidly become a top-tier school where everyone wants to be, and St. Louis is a big reason for that shift. It’s a notable city with lots to do and the campus itself is gorgeous, situated a bit west of central St.Louis. There is a wide range of extracurricular activities and the professors are incredibly reputable. It's known to have one of the highest rates of student satisfaction and quality of life. Its graduate schools have a huge emphasis on health and medicine in the same way that Harvard’s do, and also have other top-ranking graduate schools like the George Warren Brown School of Social Work (ranked #2 in the nation).
Location: Durham, NC
Duke is an elite, selective university situated in Durham, NC which actually isn’t as quaint as you think. There are tons of sights, restaurants, and things to do in the area—it’s quite busy—not to mention all of the areas and that surround UNC Chapel Hill and the age-old rivalry between the schools (quite comparable to the Harvard-Yale). This, paired with highly competitive and rigorous academic offerings, makes it a superb school where many students dream of going each year. Sports are important, perhaps a bit more than they are at Harvard, but mostly for the competition and classes always win out. Duke’s Trinity College of Arts & Sciences has a lot of research opportunities for liberal arts students, and its multiple graduate schools on campus help with that as well. There is immense school pride at Duke, which you’ll notice the moment you set foot on campus—everything is dotted with Duke blue, similar to how Harvard is all about the crimson.
Location: Nashville, TN
Some call it the “Harvard of the South” and we tend to agree, but not for the same reasons. Vanderbilt is situated on a lovely campus in Nashville, TN which has become quite a popular destination as of late. Vanderbilt is academically rigorous, with a lot of room for student-driven research and projects. When you walk around Vanderbilt’s campus, we’ll be honest—it exudes some serious ivy prestige. The school has been around for a long time and the traditions run deep, similar to Harvard. Every year the school throws an extravagant Commons Ball and the range of extracurricular activities makes it a bustling and lively campus that’s sort of a city unto itself, like Cambridge.
Location: Williamstown, MA
Williams is definitely the most remote of the colleges on this list, but it’s worth considering mostly because of the cultural component. Williams has incredibly strong liberal arts and specifically arts-focused programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. The faculty: student ratio mirrors Harvard’s at 7:1 and the majority of classes are under 20 students. The individualized attention is something to pay attention to, and the faculty at Williams. Additionally, going to school in the Berkshires has its perks. Fun fact: their current president, Protik (Tiku) Majumder is a Harvard grad.
Location: Amherst, MA
Size: ~1.8K undergraduates
Amherst is a top-tier school and offers a lot of what makes Harvard unique, from the highly intense and competitive academic culture of its students to its location. Amherst is part of the five-college consortium, which means that students are able to take classes at any of the schools within it, including Mount Holyoke, UMass Amherst, Hampshire College, and Smith College. All of these range from relatively to highly selective schools and access to them is incredibly valuable. You’re able to reap all of the benefits of going to school in a quaint area, but with easy access to numerous other environments, nearby Northampton, MA, and many museums and historical attractions nearby that make the area unique. Also, Boston is also only an hour and a half way.
Location: Hamilton, NY
Colgate is a serious academic institution located in upstate New York. While the location is a bit rural, its surrounding area and town of Hamilton, NY is charming and a wonderful “college town.” It is also located incredibly close to a number of schools that have prominent surrounding towns and activity, like Syracuse and Hamilton. Colgate prides itself on its academic intensity and the community’s commitment to creating a rich intellectual space. Much like Cambridge, because of the faculty, campus, and students, Hamilton, NY operates as its own little academic utopia.
We know that jumping from Harvard to any other school can seem overwhelming. It’s also important to remember that everyone is different and that this list is not an end-all-be-all. We’re here to answer any questions you have so just email or call us if you feel like your concerns weren’t addressed. We’re here to help.