MSU vs. Michigan: How Do They Compare?

Picking between these two academic dynamos is no easy task. Let's explore the facts about Michigan State vs. University of Michigan.
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Their rivalry is legendary. Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of Michigan (U-M) both claim to have the best reputation for performance and offer the best value for your money. But that's just sports. What's beyond the longstanding football matchup between these two schools?

We take a look at how the University of Michigan vs. Michigan State stack up against each other as academic powerhouses. Explore some of their academic offerings, key differences, and factors to consider when exploring which school is right for you.

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What Should You Know About Michigan State University?

Michigan State University was founded in 1855 and ranks as one of the world's top research colleges. MSU's 50,000 students include almost 40,000 undergraduates who study on campus in East Lansing. The public school's sweeping catalog consists of 400 academic programs delivered in classes with a 17-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Joining one of the 300 education-abroad programs can help give you a global perspective. And the scenic 5,200-acre campus serves as one of the nation's largest residential living communities, with 27 residence halls. The campus features a planetarium, botanical gardens, an art museum, and an ice arena.

At MSU, you can participate in one of the nation's largest intramural sports and fitness programs. The school's 23 Division I intercollegiate athletic teams comprises 11 intercollegiate teams for men and 12 for women.

But it is the football that might draw you in with the massive crowd. MSU's Spartans regularly square off with the University of Michigan's Wolverines in a heated college football rivalry that began decades ago.

What Should You Know About the University of Michigan?

Founded in 1817, the University of Michigan is one of the nation's leading public institutions. Located in the city of Ann Arbor, U-M enrolls approximately 51,200 students in 275 programs and operates additional campuses in Dearborn and Flint. A 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes personalized learning in the classroom.

U-M regularly lands among the top five public colleges in national rankings. Student outcomes include high retention of first-year undergraduates and strong six-year graduation rates. About 100 U-M graduate schools and programs rank in the top 10 in their fields. The National Science Foundation ranks U-M third in the nation for research and development expenditure.

If you're into sports, U-M began its athletics program in 1865. Today, it manages 29 varsity teams. The Wolverines have 50 national championships in 12 sports under their belt. You can also participate in dozens of intramural, fitness, and club activities. Now let's take a deeper dive into Michigan vs MSU.

MSU vs. Michigan: 5 Key Differences

MSU and U-M share many similarities in terms of student body, academic programs, and athletics. But differences exist, and you might want to explore them.

1. Acceptance Rate

Both schools offer a rich tapestry of academic and extracurricular offerings. But knowing your odds of acceptance is a key factor when exploring potential colleges. Getting into U-M is very selective, while MSU is less so. In fall 2022, U-M admitted just 18% of undergraduate applicants compared to 88% at MSU, according to data from the NationalCenter for Education Statistics (NCES).

Both schools take a variety of factors into consideration for admissions. MSU has no minimum requirements but strongly encourages the completion of a college-preparatory program. MSU also considers high school academic performance, class rank, and standardized test results. In fall 2022, admitted MSU students typically had a 3.5-4.0 GPA, composite ACT scores of 23-29, and total SAT scores of 1130-1350.

U-M also considers cumulative GPA, your college prep curriculum, class rank, and optional standardized test scores. In the fall of 2022, U-M freshmen had a 3.9-4.0 high school GPA, ACT scores in the 31-34 range, and total SAT scores of 1350-1530.

2. Cost of Attendance

The cost of college tuition may concern many prospective students. Your school, program, and in-state or out-of-state residency status impact how much you'll pay.

Tuition costs more at U-M than MSU, according to NCES data. U-M's undergraduate in-state tuition and fees for the 2022-2023 school year is $16,736, compared to $15,372 at MSU. Out-of-state U-M students pay $55,334 in tuition and fees, compared to $41,958 at MSU.

Graduate students also pay more at U-M compared to MSU. NCES data shows that U-M's in-state graduate students pay $26,226 in tuition and fees for the 2022-2023 school year, compared to $20,382 at MSU. Out-of-state U-M graduate students pay $52,456 in contrast to $39,876 at MSU.

3. Student Body Size

About 50,000 students attend MSU, including 39,200 undergraduates and 10,800graduate students. U-M has a slightly larger population, with a total enrollment of 51,200students: 32,695 undergraduates and 18,500 graduate students. One difference that may interest you is that more part-time students attend MSU than U-M.

4. Student-to-Faculty Ratio

U-M has a smaller student-to-faculty ratio than MSU, which some students may prefer. U-M has a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, compared to 17-to-1at MSU. The student-to-faculty ratio is a breakdown of the number of students compared to the number of college professors at the school. Smaller ratios suggest smaller classes and much more interaction between students and faculty. This could impact your learning experience if you prefer more personalized learning.

5. Campus Setting

U-M is located on a 3,200-acre campus in the city of Ann Arbor, a mid-size city with a population double the size of East Lansing. The college's central location gives you access to recreational facilities such as museums, many parks and outdoor activities, restaurants, and nightlife.

MSU is located in the suburb of East Lansing, home to 25 unique neighborhoods. MSU's scenic 5,200-acre campus is close to downtown East Lansing's many attractions, such as a family aquatic center and shops, restaurants, and entertainment.

MSU vs. Michigan: Which Is Right for You?

Whether you choose MSU or U-M will depend on which school is right for your academic and social needs. Bear in mind that U-M has more selective admissions compared to MSU. U-M has a slightly bigger student body than MSU, and tuition costs more. U-M could also offer more personalized learning with smaller class sizes.

MSU's academic catalog consists of 400 programs, compared to 275 programs at U-M. This may give you more degree choices, depending on your field of study. U-M may also seem the better choice for research programs, given that it ranks among the top five in the nation for research and development.

Frequently Asked Questions About MSU vs. Michigan

Which is better: University of Michigan or Michigan State University?

MSU comes out on top for breadth of programs, affordability, admission probability, and if you want a campus located in a suburban setting as opposed to a bigger city. Both MSU vs. Michigan offer you academic and athletic excellence, given their prowess in each department. MSU and Michigan offer access to the Great Lakes and many outdoor activities centered on nature.

Is it harder to get into Michigan or Michigan State?

It is harder to get into U-M, which admits only 18% of undergraduate applicants, compared to 88% of applicants at MSU. However, both schools consider the same factors, such as college-preparatory program, high school GPA, and standardized test results if you choose to submit them.

Is Michigan an elite University?

U-M ranks number 23 and 25 in world and national university rankings, compared with MSU, which ranks number 77 and 157, respectively. Though the two schools may not be Ivy League, both are considered Public Ivies, offering an Ivy League-level education at a public college price. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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