How to Get Into Cornell University - Admission Requirements

Cornell campus, Ithaca, New York
April 26, 2024
9 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Thinking about applying to Cornell? This is your comprehensive guide on how to get into Cornell University.

Cornell University, located in Ithaca, New York, has been a popular choice for undergraduate degree seekers since 1865. According to U.S. News, Cornell ranks among the top 20 best colleges in the United States, making it an attractive option for those comparing and choosing undergraduate programs. 

This guide will provide you with all the background knowledge you need about getting into Cornell University, including how you may compare to other potential applicants, application requirements and how to apply, and class profile information.

Cornell University Acceptance Rate: 7%

Cornell is a selective university, and although acceptance rates tend to fluctuate annually, Cornell’s acceptance rates historically are relatively low. With 4,994 students admitted to the class of 2027, the current acceptance rate is approximately 7%, meaning that Cornell has a highly selective admissions process. 

Cornell acceptance rate compared to how many students Quad get's into the same school!

Here is a table that shows Cornell’s acceptance rate for the past few years.

Year Number of Applicants Number of Accepted Students Acceptance Rate
2023 67,846 4,994 7%
2022 71,164 5,168 7.27%
2021 67,380 5,852 8.68%
2020 51,500 5,514 10.7%

As you can see, Cornell’s acceptance rate has ranged from 7-10% for the past few years. 

Cornell University Early Decision Acceptance Rate: 17.5%

Cornell's early decision acceptance rate is 17.5%, which is higher than the regular decision acceptance rate. So, if you want to attend Cornell University, you should apply early because it has a higher acceptance rate and a smaller applicant pool.

How Hard Is It to Get Into Cornell University? 

Cornell is highly selective, with an acceptance rate of 7%. Although Cornell’s acceptance rate is quite low, like the other Ivy League schools, this number only reflects the number of applications accepted and not the quality of those rejected. 

Cornell University is by no means an easy school to gain acceptance to, but fortunately, there are actionable steps you can take to present your best self in your application.

Take our interactive quiz below to find out how likely you are to get into Cornell.

Cornell University Admissions Statistics

Here are the admission statistics of recently admitted students to help you understand what Cornell University sees in its applicants. 

Cornell University Average GPA: 4.07

The average GPA of accepted students to Cornell is 4.07. Cornell University has a minimum GPA grade of 3.5. Although this is their minimum requirement, submitting a 3.5 will not guarantee admission into Cornell. Because Cornell is extremely competitive, ensure you aim for a score of at least 4.07.

Cornell University Average SAT Score: 1520

The 50th percentile SAT score of recently admitted students at Cornell University is 1520. Achieving such a high average SAT score indicates that Cornell attracts and enrolls students who excel academically and are well-prepared to tackle the university's challenging coursework and intellectual rigor. Ensure you aim for an SAT score of at least 1520 or higher to get admitted to Cornell. 

Cornell University Average ACT Score: 34

The 50th percentile ACT score of recently admitted students at Cornell University is 34. With such an impressive score, Cornell continues solidifying its reputation as a prestigious institution that values academic excellence and intellectual prowess. A score of 34 or higher can help solidify your chances of getting into Cornell. 

Cornell University Admissions Requirements 

Cornell uses the Common Application, which prospective students fill out and submit online. Below, we’ll cover Cornell’s admission requirements.

Make sure that you pay close attention to requirements that you need to meet for your Cornell application and that you submit the materials you need to before deadlines. 

Cornell University Application Deadlines

Here are the key deadlines you should be aware of during the application process:

Application Type Application Deadline Admissions Decisions Sent Out
Early Decision Early November Mid-December
Regular Decision Early January Early April

If you are applying to a program that requires supplemental materials like a portfolio, interview, or other materials, be sure to check the program’s webpage and note these deadlines. 

Cornell University Early Decision Deadlines

Cornell's early decision program allows quicker application submission, binding applicants to the university if accepted. While risky, it demonstrates dedication. Some may be deferred to regular decisions, offering an opportunity to strengthen their application. Early decision deadlines are earlier than regular ones, with international students facing a November 1st financial aid deadline.

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting Into Cornell University

Here are some things you can do to improve your chances of getting into Cornell.

1. Strong Academics and Standardized Test Scores 

Although Cornell does not provide direct information on the high school GPAs of its enrolling students, it’s safe to say that a high GPA will undoubtedly work in your favor during the admissions process. 

For example, in a previous admissions cycle, 84.2% of students graduated in the top tenth of their graduating class, and 96.4% of admitted students graduated in the top quarter. 

Given this information, you should ensure that your GPA places you in the top 25% or 10% of your class to give yourself the best chance of acceptance. 

In the same admissions cycle, Cornell released that 40.8% of enrolling students submitted SAT scores, while 19.7% submitted ACT scores. 

2. Get Meaningful Teacher Evaluations

An excellent way to strengthen your application is to gather insightful recommendations from your teachers, as these forms carry quite a bit of weight in the admissions process. If you’re still in high school, ensure that you forge meaningful relationships with your teachers besides just performing well in their courses, although doing well is certainly a plus. 

3. Embody the Traits That Cornell Looks For 

Although you want to ensure that you demonstrate your true character and personality to the admissions committee, you should also consider what Cornell is looking for in its first-year applicants. Firstly, the admissions committee is looking for evidence of your intellectual promise, so be sure to demonstrate your passion and hunger to learn and gather more information — your curiosity is a strength. 

Beyond intellectual potential, be sure that you display all of the positive character traits that make you unique. Look for ways in your application to allude to your empathy, passions, honesty, initiative, and any other strong character traits. 

Another application factor you should keep in mind is showing the admissions committee your passion and involvement in extracurricular activities. This can include community involvement, workplace experience, or your experience with developing leadership skills. 

Lastly, you want to make your reasons for applying to Cornell clear. Try to give specific examples about how Cornell can help you achieve your personal or professional goals and why Cornell is the school for you. 

If you consider all of these top tips, your application will undoubtedly be a more impactful read and can help you claim your seat.  

What is Cornell University Looking For In Applicants?

Cornell’s admissions committee evaluates each application holistically. The university states that it’s looking for students who demonstrate intellectual potential, involvement, a strong character, and have solid reasons for choosing the school.

Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Rigor of secondary school record X
Class rank X
Academic GPA X
Standardized test scores X
Application essay X
Recommendation(s) X

Non-Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Interview X
Extracurricular activities X
Talent/ability X
Character/personal qualities X
First generation X
Alumni/ae relation X
Geographical residence X
State residency X
Religious affiliation/commitment X
Racial/ethnic status X
Volunteer work X
Work experience X
Level of applicant’s interest X

Cornell University Essay Prompts

Beyond the Common Application essay prompts, Cornell also requires that you write a supplemental essay. The essay prompt you answer will depend on the college of the school you’re applying to, and you should write no more than a maximum of 650 words. Below is a list of potential prompts you may write about depending on which program you want to attend: 

All Applicants’ Cornell University Essay Question

In the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, Ezra Cornell wrote, "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study." For over 150 years, Cornell University has remained deeply committed to Ezra’s vision. Explain how your life experiences will help inform your contributions to a learning community devoted to “... any person … any study.” We encourage you to think broadly about your life experiences, including how local (e.g., family, school, neighborhood) or global communities you’ve been part of have helped shape your perspective. (350-word limit)

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Why are you drawn to studying the major you have selected? Please discuss how your interests and related experiences have influenced your choice. Specifically, how will an education from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals?

You may also reply to one of the following optional prompts: 

  • At Cornell CALS, we aim to leave the world better than we found it, so we seek out those who are not simply driven to master their discipline, but who are also passionate about doing so to serve the public good. Please elaborate on an experience where you had a meaningful impact on people, a community, and/or an environment of importance to you. (200-word limit)
  • Cornell CALS is dedicated to purpose-driven study of the agricultural, life, environmental, and social sciences and welcomes students with interests that span a wide variety of disciplines. Given our agricultural history and commitment to educating the next generation of agriculturalists, please share if you have a background or interest in agriculture, regardless of your intended major. An "agricultural entity" for the purpose of this question is defined as cultivating soil, growing crops, and raising livestock (e.g., farm, ranch, greenhouse, vineyard, etc.). 

College of Architecture, Art, and Planning

How do your interests directly connect with your intended major at the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP)? Why architecture (B.Arch), art (BFA), or urban and regional studies (URS)? B. Arch applicants, please provide an example of how a creative project or passion sparks your motivation to pursue a 5-year professional degree program. BFA applicants may want to consider how they could integrate a range of interests and available resources at Cornell into a coherent art practice. URS students may want to emphasize their enthusiasm and depth of interest in the study of urban and regional issues.

College of Arts and Sciences

At the College of Arts and Sciences, curiosity will be your guide. Discuss how your passion for learning is shaping your academic journey, and what areas of study or majors excite you and why. Your response should convey how your interests align with the College, and how you would take advantage of the opportunities and curriculum in Arts and Sciences.

Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy

Why are you drawn to studying public policy? Drawing on your experiences, tell us about why you are interested in your chosen major and how attending the Brooks School will help you achieve your life goals. 

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

What kind of a business student are you? Using your personal, academic, or volunteer/work experiences, describe the topics or issues that you care about and why they are important to you. Your response should convey how your interests align with the school(s) you apply within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and/or the School of Hotel Administration).

College of Engineering

Instructions: Applicants must write responses to two of the three essay options. They may choose which two prompts they write about—their choice. Each response is limited to a maximum of 250 words.
  • Required: How do your interests directly connect with Cornell Engineering? If you have an intended major, what draws you to that department at Cornell Engineering? If you are unsure what specific engineering field you would like to study, describe how your general interest in engineering most directly connects with Cornell Engineering. It may be helpful to concentrate on one or two things that you are most excited about.
  • Choice A: Describe an engineering problem that impacts your local community. This could be your school, neighborhood, town, region, or a group you identify with. Describe one to three things you might do as an engineer to solve the problem.
  • Choice B: Diversity in all definitional forms is intrinsic to excellence in engineering. Indeed, devising the best engineered solutions to complex problems is often achieved by drawing from the diverse ingenuity of people from broadly different backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity and inclusion of the Cornell Engineering community? What is the unique voice you would bring to the Cornell Engineering community?

College of Human Ecology

How have your related experiences influenced your decision to apply to the College of Human Ecology (CHE)? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future? Your response should show us that your interests and aspirations align with CHE and your choice of major.

School of Industrial and Labor Relations:

Using your personal, academic, or volunteer/work experiences, describe the topics or issues that you care about and why they are important to you. Your response should show us that your interests align with the ILR School.

It’s worth noting that almost all schools or colleges will require you to write only one program-specific essay, but if you apply to the Cornell College of Engineering, you’ll need to answer two questions with a tighter word limit. 

Always keep length in mind, and be sure to thoroughly read the requirements for your chosen program before completing your application. 

Cornell University Interview

Cornell’s interview process is different from some of the other top universities. Only applicants to the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning are required or encouraged to participate in an interview depending on their chosen department. 

If you apply to the Department of Architecture, you are required to participate in an interview, while applicants to the Department of Art or Urban and Regional planning are encouraged to participate. 

Regarding the other colleges and schools, there are no interviews required (or available). However, applicants to these other colleges or schools may request “an informational meeting with an alumni admissions ambassador in their local area. This informal conversation with a member of our Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN) is not required, and is offered as an additional way for applicants to learn about Cornell.”

If you want to sit down and have an informal chat with a member of the CAAAN, you can request a meeting through the Cornell applicant portal. Note that you may not be contacted due to geographical or time constraints; don’t worry, as this has no bearing on the decision regarding your application. 


Still have questions on how to get into Cornell University? Take a look at these FAQs for more information. 

1. Does Cornell Accept Transfer Credit?

Cornell accepts transfer students every year, but whether or not the credits you’ve earned at another institution will be transferred depends on what courses you took and what college or school you want to attend. Check each school or college’s specific web page for details.

2. Is Cornell an Ivy League School?

Yes, Cornell is an Ivy League school. The Ivy League “is the most diverse intercollegiate conference in the country with more than 8,000 student-athletes competing each year.”

3. Can I Get Into Cornell With a 3.5 GPA?

A GPA of 3.5 or even 3.6 is by no means considered a low GPA, but top national universities like Cornell can be quite competitive. As discussed above, consider that almost 98% of students ranked in the top quarter of their class, so aim for a GPA as close to 4.0 as possible. 

4. How Do You Stand Out in the Cornell Application Process?

Nelson Ureña, a former Cornell admissions officer, suggests students should go beyond demonstrating their passions, and try to turn them into assets. This means creating tangible evidence of your passion, like “awards, projects, narratives, photos, portfolios, letters of recommendations, transcripts etc.”

In short, the things you love to do and the things you’re good at can add value to your application. Remember to be honest, authentic, and show off your creativity.

5. When Should You Prepare for Cornell?

You should start preparing for college admissions as soon as you can to give yourself enough time to polish your application. Try to perform your best academically in your junior and senior years, and think about activities or initiatives you can undertake to accumulate skills and accolades for your future application. 

6. What Should You Do if You Get Rejected From Cornell?

If you are rejected from Cornell, know that it does not speak to your intellect or character — try not to take it personally. You have two options: you can accept an offer from another school or take a gap year and try again in the following admissions process. 

If you accept an offer from another school, keep in mind that you can eventually apply to transfer to Cornell if you still want to down the line, so hope is not lost. 

7. How Do I Get Into Cornell’s MBA Program?

You will need to finish your undergraduate degree, take the GMAT or GRE, ideally gain a few years of relevant work experience, and have some sort of leadership experience to get into Cornell’s MBA program. 

8. What Is Cornell University Known for Academically?

Aside from being a prestigious Ivy League school with some of the highest quality of education in the nation, Cornell is renowned for its exceptional programs, particularly in agriculture, engineering, business, and the life sciences. In fact, Cornell’s College of Engineering is consistently ranked among the top programs globally!

9. What Is the Tuition For Cornell University?

Tuition costs $65,204 for most Cornell students and $43,888 for state-contact New York residents.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know more about Cornell’s culture, admissions requirements, acceptance rates, and class profile data, you’re better informed and can take comfort in removing the guesswork out of the admissions process. 

Remember that every component of your application counts and that every part showcases everything about you — your individuality, character, creativity, and more. If you want to boost your chances of getting into Cornell, consider our Cornell admissions counseling service

With the information, tips, and tricks written in this guide, be confident that you can gain acceptance to Cornell.

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