With more than 23,000 students and 250,000 alumni, Cornell has one of the best employability rates in the U.S. The school boasts more than 60 Nobel laureates, Turing Award winners, and dozens of Olympians.
Translation: you can’t do much better than Cornell University.
Every year, thousands upon thousands of prospective students from all over the world try to get into an Ivy League school — and while most applications fall short, Cornell University has one of the highest acceptance rates in the Ivy League.
But just because Cornell has a higher acceptance rate than other Ivy League schools doesn’t mean it’s easy to get into.
This guide explains everything you need to know about Cornell, what GPA and standardized test scores you need to get accepted, the Cornell application process, Cornell’s acceptance rate, and more.
About Cornell University
Before we talk about how to get into Cornell, let’s explore precisely why so many prospective students want to study there.
Cornell University was founded in 1865, and it’s a private Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York.
Don’t make the mistake of confusing Cornell University with Cornell College, which is a small private liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Interestingly, however, the founders of both Cornell University and Cornell College were related.
Cornell University is exceptional for many reasons, but one of the points that makes Cornell stand out is that it’s one of the only private land grant universities in the U.S.
But what is a land grant university?
Simply put, a land grant university is a higher education institution based in America that was given federal land to establish agricultural or mechanical colleges in the 1800s. These gifts were made possible by the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 — with beneficiaries including Rutgers University in New Jersey and Kansas State University.
A lot of land grant universities have since moved on to become public research institutions. But a few institutions like Cornell have remained private.
However, Cornell isn’t just unique because of the land that it’s on or the laws that helped create it.
Cornell University has a student body of more than 23,000 students. Around 14,700 of those students are undergraduates, and 6,200 are graduates.
Cornell’s student population is split between seven undergraduate colleges and schools. Unlike some big Ivy League universities, each individual college and school at Cornell maintains its own programs, academic requirements, and faculties.
But no matter which college students graduate from, everybody receives a degree from Cornell University.
Although Cornell is famous for its sprawling Ivy League campus in Ithaca, New York, the university also has two satellite campuses.
One satellite campus is based in New York City. The other satellite campus is in Education City, Qatar — where a number of western universities have successful international campuses in operation.
If you’re looking for history and pedigree, Cornell has that, too.
Cornell University’s impressive list of alumni includes 61 Nobel laureates, four Turing Award winners, and one Fields Medalist.
The university also awarded the world’s first journalism degree, the U.S.’s first veterinary medicine degree, and the first-ever doctorates in electrical and industrial engineering.
In terms of financial aid and funding, it’s worth pointing out that Cornell awarded more than $297 million in institutional grants in 2020-2021 to help undergraduate students cover tuition fees and living costs.
The average need-based grant Cornell awarded for the 2020–21 academic year for a first-year student was $44,000.
Undergraduate application requirements
Cornell University is one of the best colleges in the U.S., so it should go without saying that Cornell admissions are pretty selective.
If you want to be eligible to get into Cornell as an undergraduate student, you’ll need to fulfill numerous prerequisites and requirements.
That being said, it’s also worth noting that Cornell has one of the highest undergraduate acceptance rates of anywhere in the Ivy League.
To help give you a rough idea of what you’ve got to achieve to get into Cornell, let’s delve into the school’s 2020 admissions figures.
What is Cornell’s acceptance rate?
Universities like Cornell calculate their annual acceptance rates by taking the total number of students that were accepted and then dividing that figure by the number of prospective students that applied in the first place.
Cornell’s acceptance rate varies each year. Let’s look at the 2020 Cornell admissions data the university published for its “Class of 2024” to give you an idea of your odds of acceptance.
For the 2020–21 academic year, a total of 51,500 people applied to go to Cornell. Of that applicant pool, only 10.7% of students were accepted — and only 6.4% of applicants ultimately enrolled for the fall semester.
While 10.7% may seem low, it’s actually a pretty generous acceptance rate if you look at some of Cornell’s Ivy League competitors.
If we delve a bit more into demographics, 64.2% of the Class of 2024 came to Cornell from a public high school. Just under 15% of admitted students are the relatives of Cornell alumni, and 15.5% of incoming freshmen were first-generation college students.
Cornell also has a great reputation as an NCAA Division 1 sports school — and so it’s unsurprising that 6.5% of new freshmen for the 2020–21 academic year were recruited athletes.
What GPA do you need to get into Cornell?
When you’re applying to a school like Cornell, the first measure of performance you’re going to need to consider is your grade point average (GPA). A GPA is the number that tells people how well you performed in all of your previous classes on average.
As far as the GPA requirement for undergraduate admissions is concerned, it goes without saying that Cornell is very competitive. But it’s important to bear in mind that there’s no formal GPA requirement to get in.
That being said, you do need to shoot high. As a point of reference, 83.7% of the students who enrolled at Cornell for the 2020–21 academic year finished high school in the top 10% of their class.
As a result, anything below a really high GPA will probably be a long shot.
Don’t let that discourage you from applying if your GPA is a little bit lower. But if you’ve underperformed in a few of your high school classes, you’ll need to make up for the performance in other places on your application, like in standardized test scores.
What SAT score is needed for Cornell?
Just like Cornell’s GPA requirement, there’s no published minimum SAT score that applicants must achieve to get into Cornell.
But if you want a rough idea of the SAT scores you’ll need to get in, all you need to do is comb through Cornell’s 2020 admissions data.
Last year, the total average SAT score of a new Cornell student was between 1,410–1,530. In the math section, Cornell’s incoming freshmen scored between 720–790. In the evidence-based reading and writing section, the average accepted scores were between 680–50.
In terms of whether you should choose to submit SAT scores, it is of interest to note that 72.6% of last year’s freshman class sent in SAT scores either on their own or in addition to ACT scores.
What ACT score is needed for Cornell?
Last year, 35.8% of accepted applicants opted to send in their ACT scores either in addition to SAT scores or on their own. But, Cornell’s admission officers don’t favor one test type over the other. Both the SAT and ACT are treated equally.
If you’re considering sending in an ACT score as part of your undergraduate application, the average ACT score for Cornell’s most recently accepted cohort was between 32–35.
Again, Cornell is keen to emphasize that there are no score cutoffs for standardized tests.
The undergraduate admissions team wants to see applications from a range of backgrounds and interests, and so your ACT score or SAT score isn’t necessarily going to make or break your chances of getting into Cornell.
But if you want to maximize your chances of acceptance, try to shoot for high standardized test scores.
How do you apply to Cornell?
If you want to apply to Cornell as a prospective undergraduate student, the process is fairly straightforward.
First, you’ll need to complete and submit the Common Application. Alongside the Common Application, you’ll need to include your school report, a counselor recommendation, and two teacher evaluations.
Then, you must submit a midyear report as soon as your mid-year grades are available, as well as an official high school transcript.
Cornell’s undergraduate application fee is $80, which you’ll need to pay at the point of submission.
Finally, you need to complete the Cornell University Questions and Writing Supplement, as well as anything that’s required by the particular undergraduate college or school you’re applying to.
For example, you may be required to send in a portfolio, submit a specific design, or pass an interview.
If you’re serious about getting into Cornell, it’s crucial that you follow the application process correctly and make sure you submit everything on time.
Is Cornell your number one college choice? You might want to apply for an early decision.
Early decision applications are reviewed in the fall, and successful applicants are normally notified by mid-December. If you want to apply for an early decision, your application must be in by November 1.
Graduate application requirements
Now that we’ve covered how to get into Cornell as an undergraduate student, let’s break down how to get into Cornell as a graduate student.
If you want to get into Cornell University Graduate School to pursue a master’s degree or a Ph.D., the application process you’ll need to follow is different.
To help you get started, we’ll boil down each element of the graduate application process — as well as all of the different colleges and schools within Cornell that award grad school degrees.
Standardized testing requirements
Standardized test scores aren’t just an undergraduate admissions requirement. A wide range of grad school programs at Cornell also require students to submit standardized test scores as part of the application process.
The number one test result that applicants will need to submit to get into Cornell University Graduate School is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
On the flip side, some graduate courses require the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) rather than the GRE.
There is a range of degree programs that will accept either the GRE or the GMAT. These include subjects like real estate, labor relations, and policy analysis. If you’re applying for a course in one of these areas, you can pick whichever test you want.
Just like ACT and SAT results, Cornell doesn’t publish a cutoff GRE or GMAT score. Any standardized test scores you submit will be considered as part of your wider application — which means that it’s okay if you fail to land a perfect GRE score.
But if you want to get into Cornell as a grad school student, you’re definitely going to need to do pretty well on the GRE or the GMAT.
How do you apply to a graduate program at Cornell?
Although the graduate application process at Cornell is different from the undergraduate application process, it’s equally straightforward.
To apply to Cornell as a graduate, you need to submit Cornell’s online application form. This application must include details of your program’s required standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and an academic statement of purpose.
In addition to your academic statement, some programs require a personal statement.
You’ll also need to enclose all of your transcripts.
Depending on where you’re from and how you’ve been educated, you may need to send in International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language results to prove you meet the language requirements for your course.
Finally, graduate applications need to include an application fee of $105.
Let’s look at some specific colleges at Cornell and how you can apply to them.
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) offers research-focused degrees in 30 fields of study ranging from agriculture and food production to applied economics.
If you’d like to apply to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as a master’s student, you’ll need to submit your application directly to the Cornell University Graduate School. You can’t apply directly to CALS for graduate programs.
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) offers degrees across a wide range of specializations.
Most of the master’s programs at Cornell AAP are administered centrally through Cornell’s grad school. As a result, prospective applications need to submit directly to the Cornell University Graduate School.
That being said, there are three unique departments within the AAP that have their own specific requirements and application deadlines. These departments are Architecture, Art, and City and Regional Planning (CRP).
College of Arts and Sciences
Cornell College of Arts & Sciences offers more than 40 majors to choose from, and the college’s impressive list of alumni includes over 50 Nobel laureates.
Just like most of the grad programs at Cornell, prospective students can’t submit their applications directly to the college. Instead, you need to file your application directly to the grad school.
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business was founded in 1946, and it’s responsible for awarding all of Cornell’s business-focused degrees.
The college is home to 58 full-time faculty members, and it boasts an endowment of more than $210 million.
To apply to the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, you’ll submit your application centrally to Cornell’s grad school.
College of Engineering
Founded in 1870, Cornell’s College of Engineering is consistently named one of the world’s leading engineering and technical institutions.
Applications to the Cornell College of Engineering need to be submitted directly to the Cornell University Graduate School.
College of Human Ecology
Cornell’s College of Human Ecology offers graduate degrees in subjects like human development, nutritional sciences, apparel design, public affairs, and more.
The college also plays home to the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs and the Sloan Program in Health Administration.
Just like Cornell’s other grad school programs, aspiring human ecology students need to send their applications centrally rather than to the college itself.
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Founded in 1945 as the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), the ILR offers degrees in subjects like human resource management, labor management, conflict resolution, and social statistics.
If you want to apply to the ILR as a master’s or Ph.D. student, you’ll need to send your application directly to the Cornell University Graduate School.
With an undergraduate acceptance rate of more than 10%, Cornell has one of the Ivy League’s highest acceptance rates — but that doesn’t mean getting into Cornell is easy.
You need to put in a lot of hard work, do your research, and make sure you fulfill all of the application requirements if you want to be considered for a place at Cornell.
Do you want to learn more about getting into Cornell? You’ve come to the right place. Check out TheGradCafe.com for real acceptance results from applications, Cornell application tips and tricks, and more.