What Does It Cost to Go to Harvard: Calculating My Harvard Degree Cost

College education is expensive, especially at Harvard. But what does it cost to go to Harvard? Discover what did my Harvard degree cost me.


Everyone knows that attending college is becoming more and more expensive every year, especially in the United States. In fact, for international students for whom financial aid is limited, the cost of attending Harvard is one of the biggest deterrents that keeps them from even applying. Even for students coming from well-to-do American families, the high tuition and living expenses make one rethink college education.

Is Harvard Expensive?

Yes, it most certainly is. Harvard is among the most expensive schools to attend with one of the highest sticker prices, going up to $50-$70,000 per year for tuition. However, it is not even the most expensive school there is. Harvard University cost is comparable to other Ivy Leagues like Yale, and even other private institutions in the US such as Stanford.

Additionally, unlike Harvard, a lot of private institutions offer no funding for international students. So for a lot of students, the net cost for attending Harvard university may be lesser than some of the other schools in the US. So what does it cost to go to Harvard? Let’s take a look…

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What Does It Cost to Go to Harvard Really

Let’s look at the items that make up the budget for attending Harvard. First and foremost is the tuition for the academic year, plus other school fees like library or student activity fees. Then there are the other expenses like health insurance plan, housing, dining and cost for books, miscellaneous expenses, etc.

  • Annual Tuition
  • Heath insurance plan
  • Health services
  • Student activity fee/ library fee
  • Board/ living
  • Dining or daily food expense
  • Socializing/party/fun/eating out
  • Books/ supplies/laptop
  • Miscellaneous expenses

This is my breakdown of it, based on what I spent and the items one needs to look at when calculating what it costs to go to Harvard. Harvard schools have their own breakdown estimate. This total cost estimate is usually given as an annual budget by each Harvard school, based on what they call a “moderate student lifestyle”.

But this cost is usually offset by scholarships, financial aid, or student’s part-time employment.

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Variations in Cost for Attending Harvard

The overall cost of attending Harvard university, whether it’s for undergrad or graduate school, can vary from student to student. This cost depends on their lifestyle, where they live and eat and even what school they attend. That’s why there’s no one clear answer when people ask me the question, “What does it cost to go to Harvard.” Even within Harvard university, the tuition can vary as much as 40% depending on what school you attend.

This variation of the net cost of attending Harvard university where is even more when you consider scholarships and/or merits, and whether or not the student earns through part-time employment during their academic year. All these factors make it quite difficult to put a concrete number on your budget for attending Harvard. However, we can take some examples and I can tell you what I spent as a student at Harvard.

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Harvard Degree Cost / Budget for Attending Harvard

The first step when calculating how much your Harvard degree will cost you is to go to your school’s website and check out the budget given therein. As an example, here’s the annual budget for Master’s degree given by my own school, Harvard Graduate School of Design on their website for academic year 2019-2010:

Tuition: $51,620
BCBS Health Insurance: $3,700
Health Service Fee: $1,206
Activity Fee: $150
Room and Board: $15,716
Books/ Supplies: $3,098
Personal: $4,046

Similarly, let’s take the annual budget given by Harvard Business School, perhaps the most expensive one at Harvard, for a single student for the academic year 2019-2010.

Tuition: $73,440
HUHS Student Health Fee: $1,206
Health Insurance: $3,700
Course & Program Materials Fee:$2,550
Room & Utilities: $13,940
Living expenses: $15,904
Total: $110,740
Computer (Variable; not included in above budget): $1,500

You may also like: Is Harvard Worth It? Analyzing Costs to Benefits for a Degree


How Accurate is This Budget?

This budget is not an accurate number of what you should expect to spend, but it does give a good idea of what you should be planning for (before considering scholarship/financial aid). For most students, it’s a bit on the higher side. This budget is not designed on the basis of a frugal lifestyle, and not too lavish either.

Looking at this budget, you can see that the non-negotiable items are tuition, health plan, health service fee and activity fee. Your savings can only apply to the other items, unless of course, you already have a different health plan, or got financial aid.

If you live a simple lifestyle, or minimize your personal expenses, you can expect to save about 10% on the given budget.
You can save up to 20% if you have off-campus housing, with a lot of roommates.

Harvard University Housing Costs


Boarding costs depend on where you live, and whether you’re on sharing basis or not.  Here are some quick figures:

  • $820-1100 per month per room for Harvard dormitories (based on the GSAS residence halls)
  • $1700 to $2,600 per month for studio or IBHK in Harvard Housing
  • $1150- 2000 per month for a studio apartment or a 1BHK somewhere within campus, which is not owned by Harvard (sharing basis).
  • $500-850 per person in a 3BHK or 4BHK outside campus on sharing basis.
  • When choosing off-campus housing, also consider setting up costs for furniture, utilities & more.

What a Harvard Degree Cost Me

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Academic Year 1

Tuition: $51,620
BCBS Health Insurance: $3,700
Health Service Fee: $1,206
Activity Fee: $150
Financial Aid: -$10,324
Richards Hall small room: $7,402

GSAS Commons Meal plan: $2,426
India-US air-tickets (return): $1200
Groceries, food, utilities & Transportation: $2,750
Winter clothing: $350
Socializing/eating out/party: $1,280
Books/ supplies: $150
Laptop: $700
Miscellaneous expenses: $550

Total: $63,160

Academic Year 2

Tuition: $25,810 (One semester only)
BCBS Health Insurance: $3,700
Health Service Fee: $1,206
Activity Fee: $75
Financial Aid: -$5,162
Perkins Hall small room: $8,058
GSAS Commons Meal plan: $2,426
India-US air-tickets (return): $1300
Groceries, food, utilities & Transportation: $2,750
Winter clothing: $150
Socializing/eating out/party: $1,080
Books/ supplies: $150
Cross-registration classes & materials: $300
Miscellaneous expenses: $550

Total: $42,393
Total cost for my Harvard degree*: 1,05,553

* I received my Harvard degree in 2011, so these costs are adjusted for inflation & tuition+dorm costs are based on academic year 2019-2010, so that you can compare them with budgets given above.

I offset these costs with student loans & part-time student employment. You can read more here:
How to Pay for Harvard as an International Student

Hope this guide on what does it cost to go to Harvard was helpful. Let me know your comments down below!

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