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Early Decision to Harvard vs. Northwestern

, [edited]

Hi! I am trying to select a university to apply for through early decision. I am torn between Harvard and Northwestern. Here is my dilemma:

I am an international student in need of financial aid (the cost of attendance cannot exceed $19,000). I want to study Mathematical Economics.

On the one side, Harvard has a very very low acceptance rate for early decision applicants, but it is need-blind. On the other side, Northwestern has a higher acceptance rate for early decision applicants, but it is need-aware. I know that financial need negatively impacts my application, but to what extent? Would the decreased chancing for Northwestern (as a result of the need-aware policy) be lower than my chancing for Harvard?

In terms of chancing, where do I have a greater probability of being accepted?

Thank you!


4 answers

answered on[edited]
Accepted answer

The chancing engine takes into account financial need and changes your chances based on the schools' policies (if need-aware, it will reduce your chances accordingly). Since you're an international applicant though, I don't believe this is reflected in your Northwestern chances, as the school is need-blind for domestic applicants. It's difficult to say how much this will impact your chances as our data is for domestic applicants. At other schools (for domestic students), needing finaid can reduce your chances 10-25%

It is actually possible to have a more favorable chance at top schools if you have a strong profile. If you have any questions about the engine, please email Also be sure to fill out as much demographic info as possible to have the most accurate chances - this is especially true for race/ethnicity. Based on your current chances, either school could make sense for early applications. Just keep in mind that the chancing engine is for domestic students, and your chances overall are likely lower as an international student.

That being said, there are other things to keep in mind beyond chancing. The benefit of applying to Harvard EA (restrictive) is that you're able to apply to other schools RD (and public schools EA, if you want), so you can compare financial aid packages if you get in. If you apply to Northwestern ED, you won't be able to compare financial aid packages. This has nothing to do with chancing, but it's important to consider, especially since you expect to need most of your costs covered. Run your info through Northwestern's and Harvard's net price calculators, and make sure that amount is something you'd be comfortable paying (if you're already using CollegeVine's financial aid tool, still double check with the schools' calculators). Also keep in mind that these are estimates, and your actual aid could vary slightly.

Hope this helps, and let me know if you have more questions!

answered on

Just from what I see here I think you should pick NW for a couple of different reasons. From solely a “should i do this” standpoint, well, there are a lot of factors. When it comes down to the numbers NW is easier to get into than Harvard, so you probably have a much better shot at NW. You are supposed to pick your ED school based on which one of your (top) universities, or top reaches, you have the best chance at getting into. If you’re already at a very low percentage for Harvard then applying ED isn’t going to help you: you will most likely get rejected anyway and rhen your one shot at ED was wasted. I honestly recommend you apply to NW instead since (I’m assuming that because you’re applying to Ivys that you have high level stats (sat/gpa)) you probably have a decent shot there anyway, and if you’re already at a 30-50% chance your ED will basically guarantee you an acceptance. They also meet 100% of demonstrated need (as Harvard does) so your aid package shouldn’t have to be a deducing factor when choosing where to go. So if you have to make a choice I would really go with NW just because you probably have a much higher chance of getting in , and unless you are a STELLAR student (which no one really is, at least in all respects) applying ED isn’t going to help you much in getting into Harvard. Idk it’s your choice, but this is my (informed) opinion. Hope this helps!

Thank you for replying to my question @crsgo0422. My chancing according to College Vine is 27%–35% for Harvard (which seems wrong) and 41%-49% for Northwestern. My SAT isn't great (1470) but I plan on retaking it this month, and my GPA is 3.97 (weighted). What I'm most worried about is that the financial aid package that I would need for Northwestern (which would be around $60,000 USD) would have a large and negative impact on my chances. What do you think?
So NW is need blind meaning aid needed doesn’t impact your chances. If cost af attendance is 90k (made up) and your EFC (google it too complicated for me to explain) is 20k your aid package will be 70k and your EFC can be 90k or 0 and your chances will be the same.
So as your an international student full need met isn’t a garuntee but I’ve seen a few articles that NW semi regularly meets full need. As for admissions chances if you have a 50% chance (according to CV) compared to a 15% admit rate you are doing phenomenally and CV tracks need and whether your are a domestic or international applicant.
Hi @DebaterMAX, NW is need-aware for international students... So requesting an aid package of $60,000 USD will likely hurt my chances. What I wonder is, to what extent?
I found this: "Northwestern's acceptance rate for international applicants requesting aid is less favorable than acceptance for students not requesting aid."
Depends on other applicants if they get a flood of applicants needing 75k you’ll have better chances so it is subjective in that sense but generally I’d say if you have a 50% chance now you’ll be at like 30-35% but again this my guess.
Also CV I believe takes location and aid into account when calculating it if you’d like more details email
honestly at any school you have a slightly lower chance if you request aid than if you don’t. don’t however let that stop you! :) just saying, it’s pretty much the case at any university so don’t really make that be a distinguishing factor in where you choose necessarily.
answered on

First of all, Harvard does not offer early decision, rather it offers restricted early action. In other words, you can only apply to Harvard during the early period but you may still go to another school if you get in during the regular decision period. So keep that in mind. It's hard to say what school you would have a better chance at consider I don't know how strong of and applicant you are. But if you feel that your grades, test scores (if you have them), ECs, and essays are exemplary, then go ahead and apply to Harvard if it's your dream school. Apply for financial aid, and Harvard will help you out!

Hi! Yes, I knew that, but since my question was in terms of chancing related to an early application, I thought it would be easier and clearer to label it as an early decision (although I am aware of the differences). Thanks anyways!
answered on[edited]

Both Harvard and Northwestern are need-blind and meet 100% of demonstrated need.

If you are fortunate enough to have the 3.90+ avg. unweighted GPA, 1500+ SAT, 33+ ACT, Level 1-2 ECs, high SAT IIs, high APs, examples of intellectual vitality, exemplary essays & recommendations, and any bump from being a legacy, development, or dean's list or recruited athlete, you should go for Harvard ED. The 13.9% acceptance rate is nearly 3x better than the 4.92% RD acceptance rate.

NW meets full need too. NE I’m not sure about. Also @cameron RaTe talked about NW not NE. Just a heads up.
Corrected. Thx
Look at the question RaTe asked about Northwestern not northeastern. I’m trying to help. Edit: you fixed it
Also @RaTe I completely agree with Cameron’s answer. Also what type of campus do you want? NW is in Chicago and the Big10 conference and Harvard is in Boston and is in the ivy conference. Also I hear a few stories about ivy workload being too much for somepeople as the circiculum is grueling. NW I can’t speak about it but it is likely a bit less grueling. So both are great schools but it also comes down to personal preference. So hope this helps you! Good luck!
Hi @DebaterMAX! Thank you for helping me out again! I am more interested in NW's campus. I also like that it encourages interdisciplinary studies to a larger extent than Harvard does. You are right that it is about personal preference. I will definitely give it more thought.
Also, @CameronBameron, thank you for your reply! NW is need-blind for US Citizens, but not for international students. That is what worries me the most. Since I would need a very large financial aid package, perhaps Northwestern's need-aware policy will largely hurt my chances (even if I apply through ED).
Harvard doesn’t do ED, they do REA...