How to Get Into Cornell University - Admission Requirements

Cornell campus, Ithaca, New York
January 22, 2024
16 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 9/14/23

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

Cornell University is a popular choice for those looking to obtain their undergraduate degree. According to U.S. News, Cornell ranks in 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 how to get into Cornell University, including how you may compare to other potential applicants, application requirements and how to apply, and class profile information.

Below you will find all the information you need to know about the Cornell essays and how to masterfully execute your writing in a way that positively impacts your candidacy. 

Crafting an undergraduate application to such a prestigious school can be a daunting task, but this guide will explore the process and components in detail. If a particular undergraduate program at Cornell has caught your eye, read on to learn how you can rightfully claim your seat in the class. 

Cornell Acceptance Rate 

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!

How Hard Is It to Get Into Cornell? 

Because Cornell is often regarded as one of the country’s top universities, claiming your seat at this prestigious school will undoubtedly be more difficult than many others. Even though 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 Requirements 

Getting into Cornell University is challenging. This Ivy school expects SAT scores in the range of 1510-1540 and ACT scores around 34-35. Moreover, the closer your GPA is to a 4.0, the more competitive your application will be. Strive to rank in the top 10% of your class to truly impress the admissions committee!

There are numerous first-year admissions requirements you need to fulfill as part of your Cornell application. Below we will explore each condition in detail and what you will need to fulfill each one. 

Choose a College 

Before you can start filling out your application, you need to choose which undergraduate college or school you want to attend. Cornell only allows you to apply to one, so be sure to research which school best fits your interests and career goals before you decide. Below are the eight colleges or schools you can choose to apply to: 

Keep in mind that you want to be sure of your decision because Cornell does not allow applicants to change their selection after their application is submitted. 

The School Report 

As part of your application, your high school guidance counselor or official needs to complete a School Report to be submitted along with your official transcript. The School Report can be sent using the Common Application and submitted by mail or an online document delivery service. 

The School Report contains information about your class rank, class size, cumulative GPA, and information about your diploma. The report also has a section where your school official ranks your academic achievement, extracurricular accomplishments, personal qualities, character, and overall ranking compared to your peers. 

In terms of your official transcript, know that Cornell does not have any specific cut-off for GPA, but that a higher GPA will undoubtedly bolster your application. 

Counselor Recommendation 

The Counselor Recommendation is a short form that should be completed by your high school guidance counselor. The form asks the counselor to share how long they’ve known you and in what context, and the first words that come to mind when describing you. 

Your counselor also has an opportunity to provide additional comments to help differentiate you from other applicants. They may write about your personal or academic qualities, the positive or negative context for your performance and involvement, and any other parameter that the admissions committee should explore more. 

Teacher Evaluations 

As part of your application, you need to submit two Teacher Evaluation forms. The first part of the form will ask your evaluator to describe the context of your relationship, what courses they taught you and in what grade, and the first words that come to mind when describing you. 

Your teachers then have the opportunity to rank you in comparison to other students in your year on numerous parameters, including: 

  • Academic achievement 
  • Intellectual promise 
  • Quality of writing 
  • Creative, original thought 
  • Productive class discussion 
  • Respect accorded by faculty 
  • Disciplined work habits 
  • Maturity 
  • Motivation 
  • Leadership 
  • Integrity 
  • Reaction to setbacks 
  • Concern for others 
  • Self-confidence 
  • Initiative, independence, and 
  • Overall rating 

Your teachers will also be free to write any information about you that will help differentiate you from other applicants, including a brief description of your personal and academic characteristics. 

Mid-year Report 

Your mid-year report will share data with the admissions committee on your academic performance in your high school senior year if you are still completing classes. However, missing the midyear report will not prevent your application from being reviewed. If you’ve already graduated high school or your school does not release midyear transcripts, it’s okay not to include this section in your application. 

Standardized Test Scores (SAT/ACT) 

Applicants applying to Cornell in the 2023-2024 admissions process are not required to submit SAT or ACT scores. Some of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges are “score-free,” while some colleges and schools are “test-optional.” Cornell does not consider the essay portion on the SAT or the ACT in the admissions process. 

Application Fee

An application fee of $80 is required for your application to be considered. However, you may be eligible for a fee waiver if you decide to request one. 

Additional Submissions 

Depending on what college or school you’re applying to, you may need to provide additional materials in your Cornell application. For example, if you’re interested in an art or architecture major, you need to provide additional “forms, portfolios, or design indexes.” Be sure to check the individual requirements of the school or college you apply to ensure that you don’t miss any mandatory items.

Cornell University Tuition Fees and Scholarships

The total cost to attend Cornell can be broken down as follows:

Expense Endowed Colleges State Contract Colleges: Non-NY State Residents State Contract Colleges: NY State Residents
Tuition $65,204 $65,204 $43,888
Student Activity Fee $310 $310 $310
Health Fee $500 $500 $500
Housing $11,562 $11,562 $11,562
Food $6,992 $6,992 $6,992
Books, Course Materials, Supples, Equipment $1,364 $1,364 $1,364
Personal Expenses $2,218 $2,218 $2,218
Total $88,150 $88,150 $66,834

Fortunately, Cornell is committed to meeting its students' full demonstrated financial need in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and more! They will even try to match any financial aid offers you receive from their peer institutions, like other Ivy schools!

Cornell Essays 

The Cornell essays are a valuable component of your undergraduate application and can serve to show the admissions committee a more significant account of your character than your grades can.

Cornell Essay Prompts

As part of the Cornell application, you will need to choose one personal essay to write from a list of prompts provided by the Common Application. Below is a list of potential prompts you may be given: 

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Cornell Supplemental Essays 

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. 

How to Write the Cornell Essays 

Writing your personal essay and Cornell supplemental essay(s) can seem like a daunting task, especially when writing about yourself and your life. However, remember that you’re an expert in the goings-on of your own life, and you can undoubtedly convey your thoughts eloquently even with a restrictive word limit. 

Some of these questions are intentionally broad, meaning they are also intentionally challenging. Below you will find tips and tricks to help make the content of your essays more impactful and digestible, no matter what prompt you choose. 

1. Identify the Purpose of the Essay — What Does the Admissions Committee Want to See? 

In every essay you write, you should make sure that you understand the essay’s broader purpose behind the prompt. This does not mean that you should twist or fudge your experiences to sound like the ideal Cornell student — it means you should make sure your writing authentically reflects you while also considering what the admissions committee wants to see. 

For example, the essay prompts above all look for you to uncover something about your character, motivations, and goals, or why Cornell is the university you want to attend. Pay careful attention to what precisely the admissions committee looks for, and it will no doubt make your writing more impactful. 

Remember that Cornell’s mission is to educate the next generation of leaders who will positively impact the lives and world around them. If you can showcase how your values and potential tie into the school's values, you will undoubtedly produce a stellar piece of writing. 

2. Pick Your Topic (for the Personal Essay Only) 

When writing the Cornell supplemental essays, you won’t have much choice in terms of your topic unless you’re applying to the College of Engineering. For your personal essay, you’ll have much more leeway to write whatever essay you choose, especially because you have the opportunity to come up with your own topic if you wish. 

However, picking a topic can be difficult. Your best bet is to sift through all of the available prompts and brainstorm ideas related to each one. You may find that you have a compelling story to tell for one prompt, while you may come up with peanuts for another. Find which answers and stories feel right, and run with them. 

3. Create an Outline/Bullet Points 

When you know the story you want to tell, you may be tempted to dive headfirst into your writing without any planning. However, your essays should showcase specific details and events to be as effective as they can be. Ideas swirling around in your head put to paper can help you make sense of timelines, the flow of your essay, and pinpoint what message you aim to convey. 

You should have one main overarching idea that is clear, but your supporting points are just as important to produce a high-quality essay. 

4. Start With the Introduction — Or Don’t 

Think of your introduction as a first impression. You want your introduction to immediately captivate the reader and convince them that they want to hear the rest of the story and what you have to say. In the same way, you may have perfected the firm yet gentle introductory handshake; you’ll want to make sure that your introduction is punchy and puts yourself out there. 

In terms of how you want to start your introduction, pulling a relevant anecdote that’s emotionally charged can work in your favor to immerse the reader in the middle of the action and get the ball rolling. You may also want to do some creative scene-setting to ensure that the rest of your narrative is set up for success. 

No matter how you choose to introduce your topic, ensure that you keep it exciting and unlike the drab academic writing you did for a book report in your junior year. Also, keep in mind that if you’re the type of person to agonize over starting a piece of writing from the top, you can come back to your introduction once you’ve written the body and conclusion of your essay. The points you developed in step three will keep you on track no matter what manner you go about constructing your essay! 

5. Create the Body 

The body of your essay will contain the juicy details of the story you set up in your introduction, including specific examples of how an event, person, or place shaped you to be who you are today. Think about your experiences and convey what you learned from them, how they developed your character, or how they changed your perspective. 

6. Wrap Up With the Conclusion 

Your conclusion should wrap up everything you’ve written about in your essay into a neat package. Beyond summarizing your main idea or the outcome effectively, your conclusion should leave the reader feeling satisfied with the story they’ve read. A helpful tip is to look toward the future at the end of your essay; maybe you want to expand on your story beyond the past and present and look toward what you hope is next for you. 

7. Revise, Revise, and (You Guessed it) Revise Again

A genuinely stellar essay does not start perfectly. To ensure your work is the best that it can be, you’ll likely need several revision sessions to ensure that your writing is free of spelling or grammar errors, that it flows well and that there are no inconsistencies, and that your story makes sense. 

Spending a lot of time in the revision process can feel tedious, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure that your essay is impactful, effective, and easy to follow. Producing high-quality essays in your application strengthens your candidacy and can certainly boost your chances of admission. 

How to Prepare for the Cornell Interview

Two people shaking hands after an 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. 

Department of Architecture Interview 

Applicants to this department are required to participate in an interview because the purpose is “to explore an applicant's interest in architecture and to understand how that interest developed.” Keep in mind that you won’t have to bring a formal portfolio but that your interviewer will expect you to bring some samples of your artwork to show. 

Cornell states that these interviews carry significant weight in the admissions process and that you should only schedule an interview if you’re sure you’re applying to the architecture major. Interviews are completed virtually, and you can either schedule one with a Cornell faculty member or architecture alumni near your home. 

Department of Art Interview 

Although an interview for this department isn’t mandatory, it’s highly encouraged and would be in your best interest to participate in one. The interview is a portfolio interview, where you must share your accumulated work with a faculty member or art alumni.

Department of Urban and Regional Planning Interview 

Like the Department of Art interview, an interview for this department isn’t mandatory, but it’s encouraged. The interview “serves as an opportunity for you to learn more about our urban and regional studies program directly from alumni of the program. This is also a chance for us to better understand your interest in urban and regional studies, city planning, and beyond.” 

Interviews are coordinated at the convenience of alumni and the applicant, and you will need to fill out an interview request form if you’re interested. 

Cornell Interview Questions 

Now that you know what departments require or encourage interviews, you’re probably wondering what kinds of questions you’ll be asked. Below you will find a list of potential questions you may be asked in your Cornell interview. 

Personal Questions

Your interviewer will likely start with a few personal questions to get the ball rolling. Remember that your interviewer doesn’t have access to your application and that when they sit down with you to talk, you are effectively a clean slate.

  • Tell me more about yourself. 
  • Tell me about your upbringing. 
  • What is your favorite school subject? 
  • What do you like to do for fun? What are your hobbies? 
  • Do you have any interesting or special talents?

Cornell-Specific Questions 

These questions will focus entirely on your motivations for applying and wanting to attend Cornell. This is a fantastic opportunity to show that you’ve done your school research, and if you can talk about any particular classes, clubs, or any component of the Cornell lifestyle that especially appeals to you, your answers will be even stronger. 

  • Why do you want to go to college? 
  • Why do you want to attend Cornell? 
  • What school clubs or activities are you interested in and why? 

Department-Specific Questions 

No matter what department in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning you’re applying to, you will likely be asked department-specific questions in your interview. For the Department of Architecture, you may be asked questions like: 

  • Tell me about x in your portfolio.
  • Who is your favorite architect, and why? 
  • What are some examples of your favorite buildings today, and why do you like them?
  • Why do you want to be an architect?

Your Department of Art interviewer may ask you questions like: 

  • Why do you want to apply to the art program? 
  • Who or what inspires your art? 
  • Tell me about x piece of art in your portfolio. 
  • Tell me about your most meaningful piece of art. 

Your Department of Urban and Regional Planning interviewer may ask you questions like: 

  • What inspired you to be interested in urban and regional planning? 
  • Why do you want to apply to this program in particular? 

Strength/Weakness-Based Questions 

These types of questions allow your interviewer to evaluate your strengths and your areas for potential improvement. 

  • Tell me about an obstacle that you’ve faced or a time that you failed. How did you overcome this? 
  • What do you consider to be your greatest weakness? 
  • Tell me about your strengths. 
  • Tell me about a time that you contributed within your community, an organization, etc.

Remember to answer honestly and that no one is perfect; if you were, you wouldn’t be human. Your interviewer wants to see if you can persevere even in the face of adversity and if you can handle the rigor of college life at Cornell. 

Questions About the Future 

Circling back to Cornell’s mission about educating future leaders to improve the world around them, you can potentially be asked questions about your future. Before your interview, take the time to imagine what you want your life to look like post-graduation, 10 years later, and beyond. 

  • What’s your next big goal after graduation?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years?
  • How would an education from Cornell help you achieve your goals?
  • What will success look like for you? 

How to Apply to Cornell 

A person applying to Cornell University

Cornell uses the Common Application, which prospective students fill out and submit online. First, you’ll need to gather the materials needed to get your application started, including: 

  • A copy of your high school transcript
  • A list of your activities and your information about your work and family responsibilities, if any 
  • The dates and scores of your college entrance exams (SAT/ACT) 
  • Parent/legal guardian information 
  • Any academic honors or achievements 

You will then create an account through the Common Application, including some general registration information like your name, home address, date of birth, and phone number. Make sure that you click the “The First Year Student” button when creating your account. 

Next, you can add the colleges that you want to apply to and adjust the list at any time. Keep in mind that you can only add up to 20 different colleges at a time. 

The next step is to “engage supporters,” meaning that you gather things like your counselor recommendation and teacher evaluations in this step. Often, these supporters will submit these forms on your behalf. You can invite recommenders through your account. 

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. 

The Common Application also has space to plan out your essays to help you formulate and organize your first drafts. Lastly, all you have to do is submit your application when you’re finished and pay the application fee (unless approved for a fee waiver). 

Cornell Application Process and Deadlines 

Before you think about college applications, make sure that you have taken either the SAT or ACT as soon as you feel prepared to take either. A great tip is to get started on this college requirement early because that way, you can give yourself extra time to retake any test if you’re not happy with your initial score. 

When you decide to apply to Cornell, you will need to use the Common Application as mentioned above. It’s preferred that all necessary materials are submitted online, but if you do need to submit a paper copy of a document for whatever reason, ensure that you refer to Cornell’s mailing instructions first. 

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

Application Type Application Deadline Financial Aid Application Deadline Admissions Decisions Sent Out
Early Decision November 1 November 1 (International)
November 21
(US/eligible non-citizens)
Regular Decision January 2 January 2 (International)February 15
(US/eligible non-citizens)
Early April

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

Cornell Early Decision Deadlines

Cornell offers prospective applicants the opportunity to apply sooner than the regular decision through the early decision program. Applying through the early decision deadline may be right for you if Cornell is your top choice and you’re confident that you can pull together a solid application by the accelerated deadline. 

One important factor about early decision is that it’s a binding commitment; this means that “if you’re admitted to Cornell, you are required to withdraw any applications you’ve sent to other schools and send your enrollment deposit to Cornell by early January.” 

Applying to early decision can seem a little like putting all of your eggs in one basket, but it also shows the school your seriousness about attending. 

Early decision applicants may also be postponed to regular decision applications. Hoping to receive a letter of acceptance and instead seeing that your admissions decision is being referred can feel somewhat anxiety-inducing, but try not to fret too much. 

Your letter should include information about what you can do to boost your chances of acceptance — sometimes schools want to see more materials or information. If you’re faced with a deferral, you may want to bolster your application's new accolades, new and improved SAT or ACT scores, or anything other recent activity that can tip the scales in your favor. 

As you can likely surmise from the name, early decision applications have earlier deadlines than regular decision applications. International students have even earlier ones, as their financial aid deadline is November 1st.

Tips to Get Into Cornell 

Take a look at these tips to help you get into Cornell University. 

1. Strong Academics and Standardized Test Scores 

Because getting into Cornell is no easy feat, you want to do everything you can to put your best foot forward in your application and improve your overall candidacy. First, if you’re still in high school, you should strive for the best grades that you can possibly attain. 

You’ll also want to take the SAT or ACT in your junior year or the fall of your senior year if possible, and give yourself time to retake the tests if you’re not necessarily happy with your results. 

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 a staggering 96.4% of admitted students graduated in the top quarter of their graduating class. 

Given this information, you should try to 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% of students submitted ACT scores. Below you can see the breakdown of SAT and ACT scores of admitted students.

Test Section/Total 25th Percentile 50th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Evidence-Based Reading & Writing 700 730 760
SAT Math 750 780 800
SAT Total 1450 1510 1540
ACT Composite 33 34 35

Based on the information above, you should try to shoot for a total SAT score of 1510 to 1540 and a composite ACT score of 34 to 35. 

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. 

If you’ve already graduated, you probably will want to visit the teachers you plan to ask to recommend you—plan to visit them at the school or grab a cup of coffee with them to catch up. Your high school teachers care about your success and likely will want to help you reach your education goals, but it’s a good idea to remind them of what you’re like as a person and how you’ve grown.

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. Be sure to answer the question, “What special talents or interests have you developed?”

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.  

Should I Apply to Cornell? 

Ultimately, whether or not you want to apply to Cornell is your decision to make, but know that it’s a top university that can offer you an exciting undergraduate experience depending on your interests and career aspirations. 

Before applying, consider if any of Cornell’s undergraduate schools or colleges appeal to you personally and how an education from that institution would benefit you. Does the prospect of studying at Cornell fill you with joy and excitement? Have you been mulling over majors and minors, classes that pique your interest? Are you dreaming about exploring Ithaca’s waterways and gorges and hopefully forging lifelong friendships with your peers? 

If you said yes to any of these questions or catch yourself daydreaming or expending a lot of mental energy thinking about what your life at Cornell could look like, you should apply. Ensure that your application is the best it can be while also putting a personal and unique spin on your writing. If you have time before the deadline to do anything that can boost your chances of acceptance and highlight why you’re an excellent candidate, take advantage and do what you can. 

No matter what you do, try to evaluate any gaps in your application or any points you feel are not as impressive as the rest of your materials. Addressing any shortcomings honestly shows your maturity and can boost your chances of acceptance. 

Finally, you should make sure that Cornell is the right fit for you instead of fretting about whether you’re the right fit for Cornell. Remember that you will spend years around campus, so you’ll want to make sure that you like the school's vibe, culture, and feel before committing.  

If you’re able to do so, set up a school visit or online tour and reach out to people who currently study in your desired school or college at Cornell. Ask alumni questions, and evaluate whether Cornell is the right place for you to facilitate your growth, learning, and life. 


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

1. What Does Cornell Look 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. It should be clear that you challenge yourself academically and personally, are passionate, curious, involved in your community, and dedicated to Cornell. 

2. 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.

3. 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.”

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

Unfortunately, there is no magic GPA that will guarantee your acceptance to Cornell. 

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. 

5. 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.

6. 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. 

7. 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. 

8. 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. 

9. 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!

10. What Is the Tuition For Cornell University?

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


Applying to university is a gigantic step that can help you achieve your personal and professional goals. The application process can be intimidating, especially when applying to a top-ranked university, but the information in this guide will illuminate the process. 

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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