Cornell vs Grinnell: Which College is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

College Decision Day

Cornell vs Grinnell: Which College is Right for You?

Choosing the perfect college can be an overwhelming decision, and weighing your options can feel daunting. In this article we’ll provide you with a comprehensive comparison of Cornell vs Grinnell, we’ll look at everything you need to know to decide which college is the best fit for you.

Location and Campus Environment: Cornell vs Grinnell

Cornell University is located in Ithaca, New York, with easy access to natural attractions like the Finger Lakes and Adirondack Mountains. The campus has a classic Ivy League feel with Gothic architecture and picturesque gardens. Meanwhile, Grinnell College is located in Grinnell, Iowa, and is known for its scenic campus that boasts a mix of traditional and modern buildings. The town of Grinnell offers a small-town feel, but students can also enjoy cultural events in nearby cities like Des Moines and Iowa City.

Despite their differences, both Cornell and Grinnell offer unique campus environments that cater to different student preferences. Cornell’s location in upstate New York provides students with access to outdoor activities and scenic views, while Grinnell’s small-town setting fosters a tight-knit community and a sense of belonging. Additionally, both campuses offer a variety of extracurricular activities and events that allow students to explore their interests and passions outside of the classroom.

Academics: A Detailed Comparison of Cornell and Grinnell

Both Cornell and Grinnell offer rigorous academics, but they have different strengths. Cornell is known for its strong engineering and business programs, while Grinnell has a reputation for excellence in the liberal arts. Cornell is also one of only a few Ivy League schools that offer programs in fields such as agriculture and hospitality management. Additionally, Cornell has a highly regarded law school and medical school, both of which are located on campus.

Grinnell, on the other hand, boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, which allows for personalized attention and close relationships with professors. The school has an open curriculum that allows students to design their own courses of study and lean into interdisciplinary learning. Grinnell also has a unique 3-2 engineering program where students can spend three years at Grinnell and two at a partnering school to earn both a liberal arts degree and an engineering degree.

View of computer engineers working on a project.

Another strength of Cornell is its commitment to research. The university has numerous research centers and institutes, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, and the Cornell Center for Materials Research. Students have the opportunity to work alongside faculty members on cutting-edge research projects, gaining valuable hands-on experience in their fields of interest.

Meanwhile, Grinnell is known for its emphasis on social responsibility and community engagement. The school has a strong tradition of service learning, where students apply their academic knowledge to real-world problems and work with community partners to effect positive change. Grinnell also has a robust internship program, with opportunities for students to gain professional experience in a variety of fields, from non-profits to government agencies to private companies.

Student Life at Cornell vs Grinnell: What to Expect

The student body at Cornell is roughly 23,000 students, which includes undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. With such a large population, there are over 1,000 student organizations to choose from, ranging from Greek life to political clubs to extracurricular sports teams. Cornell also has a diverse student body, with students hailing from all 50 states and over 120 countries.

At Grinnell, the student population hovers around 1,700, giving the campus a small, intimate feel. Despite its size, Grinnell also offers over 100 student organizations, including clubs focused on social justice, the arts, and intramural sports. The school also has a reputation for attracting politically and socially engaged students who are passionate about making an impact in their communities.

Both Cornell and Grinnell offer a variety of academic programs and resources to support student success. Cornell has over 80 majors and minors across its seven undergraduate colleges, as well as numerous research opportunities and study abroad programs.

Grinnell, on the other hand, has a unique open curriculum that allows students to design their own course of study and take classes across a variety of disciplines. The school also has a strong commitment to undergraduate research, with over 60% of students participating in research projects during their time at Grinnell.

Admissions Criteria: How to Get into Cornell vs Grinnell

Both Cornell and Grinnell are highly selective schools. Cornell’s acceptance rate is around 7.4%, while Grinnell’s is around 11%. Cornell looks for students who have a strong academic background, a commitment to extracurricular activities, and unique experiences that will contribute to the campus community. The school also considers legacy status and demonstrated interest in the university.

Grinnell also values academic achievement and extracurricular involvement, but the school is known for prioritizing students who are passionate about social justice and activism. The school also considers factors such as diversity, first-generation status, and geographic location when reviewing applications. Both schools encourage students to submit their test scores, but they are test-optional.

Scholarship document, admission paper or letter on table.

It is important to note that both Cornell and Grinnell have holistic admissions processes, meaning that they consider the whole applicant and not just their grades and test scores. This means that essays, letters of recommendation, and interviews can also play a significant role in the admissions decision.

Additionally, both schools have a need-blind admissions policy, meaning that they do not consider an applicant’s ability to pay when making admissions decisions. However, it is important to note that both schools have high tuition costs and limited financial aid, so it is important to research and plan accordingly when applying to these schools.

Cost and Financial Aid Comparison: Cornell vs Grinnell

Attending either Cornell or Grinnell is a substantial investment, but both schools offer financial aid to make their education accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. Cornell’s tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 school year are approximately $60,000 for undergraduate students. The school offers need-based aid and merit scholarships to help offset the cost.

Grinnell’s tuition and fees for the same year are approximately $60,000 as well, but the school has a commitment to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students. The school also has a no-loan policy, which means that students don’t have to take out loans to pay for their education. Instead, the school offers grants and work-study programs to cover expenses.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance at both Cornell and Grinnell goes beyond just tuition and fees. Students should also consider the cost of room and board, textbooks, and other expenses. At Cornell, the estimated cost of attendance for the 2021-2022 school year is around $78,000, while at Grinnell it’s around $72,000. However, both schools have resources available to help students manage these costs, such as payment plans and financial counseling services.

Campus Diversity: A Look at the Student Body of Cornell and Grinnell

Both Cornell and Grinnell prioritize diversity and inclusion on their campuses. Cornell’s student body is diverse, with 45% of students identifying as minority or international students. The school also has LGBTQ+ and first-generation student support programs.

Grinnell has a similar commitment to diversity, with students from 47 states and 35 countries represented on campus. The school has a robust Office of Intercultural Affairs that works to create a welcoming community for students of all backgrounds. Grinnell is also a member of the Posse Foundation, which brings talented students from diverse backgrounds together to attend college.

Group of students walking in the stairs.

In addition to their commitment to diversity, both Cornell and Grinnell have strong academic programs. Cornell is known for its research opportunities and has produced numerous Nobel laureates. Grinnell has a unique curriculum that emphasizes interdisciplinary learning and encourages students to explore a variety of subjects.

Both schools also offer a range of extracurricular activities for students. Cornell has over 1,000 student organizations, including a student-run radio station and a competitive debate team. Grinnell has a strong tradition of student activism and is home to a number of social justice organizations.

Athletics and Extracurriculars: Opportunities Available at Cornell and Grinnell

Cornell has a Division I athletics program that competes in the Ivy League. The school has a storied history of success in sports like hockey, wrestling, and lacrosse. Cornell also has a strong tradition of club sports, with over 60 options for students to participate in.

Grinnell competes in NCAA Division III athletics and has a unique tradition of innovation in sports. The school is known for developing the Grinnell System in basketball, which emphasizes a fast-paced offense and 3-point shots. Grinnell also offers intramural and club sports for students who want to get involved but don’t want to commit to varsity competition.

Aside from athletics, both Cornell and Grinnell offer a wide range of extracurricular activities for students to explore. Cornell has over 1,000 student organizations, including cultural clubs, service organizations, and academic groups. Students can also participate in music ensembles, theater productions, and student government. Grinnell similarly has a diverse array of student organizations, with over 150 groups on campus. Students can join clubs focused on social justice, environmental activism, or creative writing, among many others.

Additionally, both schools prioritize wellness and fitness for their students. Cornell has a state-of-the-art fitness center, with weight rooms, cardio equipment, and group fitness classes. The school also offers wellness programs, like meditation and stress management workshops. Grinnell has a similar focus on wellness, with a fitness center, yoga and dance classes, and outdoor recreation opportunities. The school also has a wellness center that provides mental health services and resources for students.

Alumni Network: How Graduates of Cornell and Grinnell Fare in the Job Market

Both Cornell and Grinnell have strong alumni networks that can help graduates find jobs and further their careers. Cornell has a large and active alumni association, with over 250,000 members around the world. The school’s graduates go on to work in a variety of fields, including finance, technology, and healthcare.

Grinnell may have a smaller alumni network, but its graduates are known for making a big impact in their post-college lives. Grinnell graduates have gone on to pursue successful careers in fields like law, academia, and the arts. The school also has a Career Development Office that provides resources and support for students as they transition into the working world.

Additionally, both Cornell and Grinnell offer opportunities for alumni to connect with current students and provide mentorship. Cornell’s alumni association hosts events and programs that allow alumni to share their experiences and advice with students. Grinnell’s alumni network also offers mentorship programs and encourages alumni to stay involved with the school through volunteering and fundraising efforts.

Faculty and Research Opportunities at Cornell vs Grinnell

Cornell and Grinnell both have highly regarded faculty members who are experts in their fields. Cornell has over 4,000 faculty members, many of whom are leaders in their respective disciplines. The school also has a robust research program, with opportunities for students to get involved in cutting-edge projects across a variety of fields.

Grinnell’s faculty members are equally impressive, with a commitment to teaching and mentorship that sets the school apart. Because of the school’s low student-to-faculty ratio, students have ample opportunity to work closely with professors on research and other projects. Grinnell also offers the opportunity for students to earn research fellowships and grants to support their academic pursuits.

professor teaching in class

One key difference between Cornell and Grinnell is the size of their respective faculties. While Cornell has a much larger faculty, Grinnell’s smaller faculty allows for a more personalized and intimate learning experience. Students at Grinnell often have the opportunity to work one-on-one with professors, which can be invaluable for their academic and professional development.

Another factor to consider when comparing faculty and research opportunities at Cornell and Grinnell is the schools’ respective locations. Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York, and is home to a number of research institutions and companies. This proximity to other research organizations can provide students with unique opportunities to collaborate and network. Grinnell, on the other hand, is located in a more rural area of Iowa. While this may limit some research opportunities, it also allows for a more focused and immersive academic experience.

Student Success Rates: Placement Statistics for Cornell and Grinnell Graduates

Cornell and Grinnell both have high rates of success for their graduates. According to Forbes, Cornell has a 94% post-graduation employment rate and a median starting salary of $68,200. Grinnell’s employment rate is also high, with around 91% of graduates finding work within six months of graduation. The median starting salary for a Grinnell graduate is around $46,000.

However, it’s important to note that success rates and salaries can vary depending on the field of study. For example, Cornell graduates in engineering and computer science tend to have higher starting salaries than those in humanities or social sciences. Similarly, Grinnell graduates in fields such as economics and biology often have higher salaries than those in the arts or humanities.


At the end of the day, choosing between Cornell vs Grinnell comes down to personal fit and priorities. Both schools offer unique opportunities and strengths, and students should carefully consider what they’re looking for in a college experience. Whether you want a large, diverse campus with a wide variety of academic offerings or a small, intimate campus with a focus on personalized attention and social justice, Cornell and Grinnell both have something to offer.

Want to learn more about getting into College? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.


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