I was at a college meeting the other day and I learned that Harvard and MIT have agreements that students of both institutions can take classes at the other for credit towards their degrees. Besides the type of students you'll encounter more and things like housing and dining, what would be some more differences between attending Harvard and MIT?
Three key things to keep in mind when considering these types of arrangement are:
- Different universities have different requirements, and taking courses from the one university will often not clearly satisfy requirements from the other.
- Just because students can take classes at another university doesn't mean they will find it practical to cross town to do so.
- Certain courses are restricted even within a university (e.g., Harvard's legal and medical programs).
Thus, for example, my observation of the Harvard/MIT arrangement that you provide as an example is that few students take much advantage of it. Early undergraduate is dominated by core curriculum requirements that are incompatible between the two schools. Mid-undergraduate likely focuses on requirements from one's major which are likewise either incompatible or duplicated. It is only in upper-level electives, where the class is strongly individual to a professor, that there is likely to be a strong benefit for taking courses at the other university. Even there, however, with two strong institutions there are a lot of good and interesting courses to be had "close to home," and students rarely choose to cross town unless they are strongly motivated towards a particular course.
Requirements for the degree programs likely differ between the universities, and there are often limits (especially limits in practice) as to how many courses one can cross-register for at another university while still satisfying all requirements for a degree program at one's home university.
There are also differences in social aspects, institutional policies, opportunities provided by the university other than class enrollments (and/or library use), and alumni networks.