Cornell vs Amherst: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Group of students smiling at the camera.

Cornell vs Amherst: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing the right college can be daunting, especially with so many great options. Two top contenders in the world of higher education are Cornell University and Amherst College. Both are highly-regarded institutions with a strong academic reputation, located in the northeastern region of the United States. In this article, we’ll do a comprehensive analysis of Cornell vs Amherst across different categories to help you make an informed decision.

Location and Campus: Cornell vs Amherst

Cornell University is located in Ithaca, NY, a small city nestled amidst stunning natural beauty. The university campus is vast and spread over 2,300 acres, with a mix of modern buildings and historic landmarks. The surrounding region is known for its abundance of outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, and swimming.

Cornell University campus

On the other hand, Amherst College is situated in Amherst, MA, a charming small town with a population of around 40,000. The campus is smaller than Cornell’s, with fewer buildings, but the atmosphere is cozy and intimate.

Despite the smaller size of Amherst’s campus, it boasts a high concentration of green spaces and outdoor areas, making it a popular spot for students to relax and study outside. The town of Amherst also offers a variety of cultural events and activities, including music festivals and art exhibitions.

Meanwhile, Cornell’s location in upstate New York provides easy access to nearby cities such as Syracuse and Rochester, allowing students to explore urban areas and gain valuable internship and job experience.

Academic Programs and Majors: Cornell vs Amherst

Cornell and Amherst both have strong academic programs and offer majors in a variety of fields. Cornell is a large research institution with prestigious schools such as the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering, and the Hotel School.

Meanwhile, Amherst is a liberal arts college focusing on undergraduate education and has a reputation for academic excellence in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

One major difference between Cornell and Amherst is the size of their student bodies. Cornell has over 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students, while Amherst has just over 1,800 undergraduate students.

Cornell offers a wider range of academic and extracurricular opportunities, but Amherst provides a more intimate and personalized educational experience.

Another factor to consider when comparing these two institutions is their location. Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York, a small college town in upstate New York. Amherst is located in Amherst, Massachusetts, a small town in the western part of the state.

While both locations offer a picturesque and peaceful environment for studying, Cornell’s location provides more opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing. In contrast, Amherst’s location is closer to major cities like Boston and New York City.

Admission Requirements: Cornell vs Amherst

Both Cornell and Amherst are highly selective schools with rigorous admission requirements. Cornell has an acceptance rate of around 9 percent. Similarly, Amherst’s acceptance rate for the 2022-2023 academic year is 9 percent.

Both schools require standardized test scores, transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation.

However, the two schools have some differences in admission requirements. Cornell requires applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, while Amherst is test-optional, meaning that students can choose whether or not to submit their scores.

Additionally, Cornell offers early decision and early action options, while Amherst only offers early decision.

Another factor to consider is the importance placed on extracurricular activities. While both schools value well-rounded applicants, Amherst places a greater emphasis on extracurricular involvement and community service. Cornell, on the other hand, places more weight on academic achievements and research experience.

Student Life and Extracurricular Activities: Cornell vs Amherst

Student life at Cornell is diverse and vibrant, with over 1000 student organizations and a strong Greek life presence. The university also hosts various cultural events, concerts, and sports games.

At Amherst, students can participate in over 100 student-run clubs and organizations, and the campus hosts frequent arts performances and lectures.

A girl performing on stage

However, one notable difference between the two universities is the size of their student bodies. Cornell has a much larger student population, which can make it easier to find a niche community within the larger student body.

On the other hand, Amherst’s smaller size fosters a tight-knit community where students often form close relationships with their peers and professors.

Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid: Cornell vs Amherst

The cost of attendance at Cornell and Amherst is relatively high, with tuition, room, and board surpassing $80,000 a year. However, both schools offer robust financial aid programs that can make attending less expensive.

At Cornell, over 50% of students receive some form of need-based financial aid, while at Amherst, over 60% receive need-based aid, and over 20% receive merit-based scholarships.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance and financial aid packages can vary greatly depending on individual circumstances. Factors such as family income, assets, and number of dependents can all impact the amount of aid a student receives.

Additionally, Cornell and Amherst offer work-study programs and opportunities for students to apply for outside scholarships to offset the cost of attendance further.

It’s important for prospective students to thoroughly research and compare the financial aid options at each school before making a decision.

Faculty and Class Size: Cornell vs Amherst

Cornell and Amherst both have distinguished faculty members who are experts in their fields, with a high percentage holding PhDs. Class sizes at Cornell vary widely, with some courses enrolling over 500 students and others having fewer than 10.

In contrast, Amherst has a much smaller student body and small class sizes, with most courses having fewer than 20 students.

Despite the differences in class size, both Cornell and Amherst offer opportunities for students to engage with their professors outside of the classroom.

Cornell has a robust system of office hours and TA-led discussion sections, while Amherst emphasizes close relationships between students and faculty through small seminars and one-on-one meetings.

Ultimately, the choice between these two schools may come down to personal preference for class size and teaching style.

Research Opportunities: Cornell vs Amherst

Cornell’s research facilities and opportunities are extensive, with 14 colleges and schools and over 100 research centers and institutes. At Amherst, research opportunities are more limited due to the college’s focus on undergraduate education, but there are still opportunities to work on research projects with faculty members.

Additionally, Cornell strongly emphasizes interdisciplinary research, with many centers and institutes dedicated to collaboration across different fields. This allows for unique research opportunities that may not be available at other institutions.

On the other hand, Amherst has a smaller student body and faculty, which can lead to more personalized research experiences and closer relationships with professors.

It’s also worth noting that both Cornell and Amherst have strong undergraduate research programs, with opportunities for students to conduct independent research projects and present their findings at conferences.

However, Cornell’s larger size and resources may provide more opportunities for students to get involved in research early on in their academic careers.

Alumni Network and Career Services: Cornell vs Amherst

Both Cornell and Amherst have robust career services offices and networks of successful alumni in various professional fields. Cornell has over 250,000 alumni worldwide, with notable figures including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Christopher Reeve.

Amherst has a smaller alumni network but boasts impressive alumni such as former US President Calvin Coolidge and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Foster Wallace.

Despite the difference in size, Cornell and Amherst offer extensive career services to their students and alumni. Cornell’s career services office provides resources such as career counseling, job and internship postings, and networking events.

high school intern looking at the camera

Amherst’s career center offers similar services, including resume and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, and career fairs. Both schools also have active alumni networks that provide mentorship, job opportunities, and networking events for current students and recent graduates.

Rankings and Reputation: Cornell vs Amherst

Cornell consistently ranks highly among national and international universities, with a current ranking of #18 in the US News & World Report rankings. Amherst also ranks highly among liberal arts colleges, holding second place in the same rankings.

Both institutions are highly respected in their respective fields and have a strong academic reputation.

However, there are some differences in the rankings and reputation of Cornell and Amherst. While Cornell is known for its strong engineering, business, and agriculture programs, Amherst is known for its exceptional liberal arts education.

Additionally, Cornell has a larger student body and offers a wider range of academic programs, while Amherst has a smaller, more intimate campus community and a focus on undergraduate education.

Student Diversity and Inclusion: Cornell vs Amherst

Cornell and Amherst place a high value on diversity and inclusion, with a diverse student body and efforts to create an inclusive campus environment.

Cornell has a larger student body and a more diverse range of majors and academic programs, while Amherst has a reputation for creating a tight-knit and supportive community.

However, it is essential to note that the approaches to diversity and inclusion at Cornell and Amherst differ. Cornell has a more proactive approach, with programs such as the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives and the Diversity and Inclusion Business Advisory Program.

On the other hand, Amherst focuses on creating a welcoming and inclusive community through initiatives such as the Multicultural Resource Center and the Queer Resource Center.

Athletics and Sports Teams: Cornell vs Amherst

Cornell has a robust athletic program, with over 30 varsity sports teams competing at the NCAA Division I level. Amherst also has a strong athletic program and competes at the NCAA Division III level, focusing on creating a balance between academics and athletics.

Despite the difference in NCAA divisions, both Cornell and Amherst have a strong tradition of athletic excellence.

Cornell has won numerous Ivy League championships and has produced many professional athletes, including NHL players Joe Nieuwendyk and Ken Dryden. Amherst has also succeeded in their respective division, winning multiple national championships in sports such as men’s soccer and cross country.

Both schools also offer a variety of club and intramural sports for students who want to participate in athletics at a more casual level. Cornell has over 40 club sports teams, ranging from ultimate frisbee to equestrian, while Amherst offers intramural leagues in sports such as basketball, volleyball, and flag football.

Campus Safety and Security Measures: Cornell vs Amherst

Cornell and Amherst prioritize campus safety and have strict security measures. Cornell has its own police department and emergency management team, while Amherst shares a police department with neighboring colleges and has a campus-wide safety escort service.

Despite their similarities, there are some differences in the safety and security measures at Cornell and Amherst. For example, Cornell has a comprehensive emergency notification system that sends alerts to students, faculty, and staff via text message, email, and social media in the event of an emergency.

On the other hand, Amherst relies on a siren system and public address announcements to alert the campus community.

Additionally, Cornell has a robust network of security cameras throughout the campus, monitored 24/7 by trained personnel. Amherst also has security cameras, but they are less widespread than those at Cornell.

However, Amherst has implemented a program that allows students to anonymously report safety concerns or incidents through a mobile app, which is then reviewed by campus security personnel.

Student Housing Options and Amenities: Cornell vs Amherst

Cornell provides a range of housing options, from traditional residence halls to themed housing communities and apartment-style living. The university also offers numerous dining options and recreational facilities, including gyms, sports fields, and hiking trails.

Amherst provides a mix of traditional residence halls and apartment-style housing, and students can access multiple dining options and athletic facilities.

However, Cornell’s housing options are more diverse and cater to a wider range of student needs. For example, there are gender-inclusive housing options, substance-free housing options, and even pet-friendly housing options.

Additionally, Cornell’s dining options include a variety of cuisines and dietary restrictions, such as kosher and halal options.

On the other hand, Amherst’s housing options are more limited, but the university makes up for it with its strong sense of community. The residence halls are designed to foster a close-knit community, with shared common spaces and organized events.

Amherst also strongly focuses on sustainability, with its buildings and facilities being LEED-certified.

Conclusion – Which College is Right for You?

Choosing between Cornell vs Amherst ultimately comes down to personal preferences and priorities. If you are seeking a large, research-oriented university with diverse academic programs and vibrant campus life, Cornell may be the right choice for you.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a smaller, liberal arts college focusing on undergraduate education and a supportive community, Amherst might be a better fit.

Amherst campus from afar

Regardless of your chosen institution, both Cornell and Amherst provide excellent educational opportunities and a solid foundation for future success.

It is important to consider factors such as location, cost, and specific academic interests when making your decision.

Cornell is in Ithaca, New York, while Amherst is in Amherst, Massachusetts. Additionally, Cornell is a larger and more expensive institution, while Amherst is smaller and more affordable.

Finally, Cornell offers a wider range of academic programs, while Amherst is known for its strong liberal arts curriculum. By carefully weighing these factors, you can decide which college is the best fit for you.

AdmissionSight provides valuable guidance to students facing the decision between Cornell and Amherst. By considering factors such as academic programs, industry connections, and campus culture, they assist students in making an informed choice.

Furthermore, AdmissionSight offers personalized strategies, essay review, and interview preparation to enhance students’ chances of gaining admission to either university, maximizing their potential for success.


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