Cornell vs Rice: Which University is the Best Fit for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Three caucasian students talking to each other.

Cornell vs Rice: Which University is the Best Fit for You?

If you’re considering attending a prestigious university in the United States, you may have heard of both Cornell and Rice. These two institutions offer some of the best academic programs, vibrant student life, and research opportunities in the country. However, choosing the right university that fits your interests, strengths, and personal goals can be daunting. In this article, we’ll compare Cornell vs Rice in several categories. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of which university is the best fit for you.

Group of students talking in a library.

Academic Programs: Which University Offers More Options?

Both Cornell and Rice provide a wide range of academic programs across various fields. Cornell has 14 colleges and schools, including the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, the School of Hotel Administration, and the Weill Cornell Medical College. Rice, on the other hand, has schools of architecture, engineering, humanities, music, natural sciences, and social sciences. Overall, Cornell offers more variety in academic programs, while Rice University offers more depth within individual programs. It’s important to research specific programs within both institutions to determine which one is best for you.

One area where Rice University stands out is in its interdisciplinary programs. The university offers several interdisciplinary majors, such as Cognitive Sciences, Environmental Science, and Policy Studies. These programs allow students to combine multiple fields of study and gain a more comprehensive understanding of complex issues. Cornell also offers interdisciplinary programs, such as the Africana Studies and Research Center and the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, but they are not as numerous as those offered by Rice.

Another factor to consider when comparing academic programs is the availability of research opportunities. Both Cornell and Rice are research-intensive universities, but Cornell has a larger research budget and more research facilities. This means that Cornell students may have more opportunities to participate in research projects and gain hands-on experience in their field of study. However, Rice’s smaller size and close-knit community may make it easier for students to connect with professors and find research opportunities that align with their interests.

Campus Life: Comparing Student Activities and Organizations

Cornell and Rice offer a vibrant campus life with plenty of organizations, clubs, and activities to choose from. Both universities have numerous student-run organizations that cater to various interests, such as cultural, athletic, political, and academic. Cornell has more than 1,000 registered student organizations, while Rice has over 300. Cornell also has a thriving Greek life, with over 60 fraternities and sororities, compared to Rice’s roughly 20. Both universities have plenty of experiential learning opportunities, such as internships, research projects, and community service. Although both universities offer a dynamic campus life, Cornell’s larger student body results in more diversity and opportunities.

Additionally, both Cornell and Rice have a variety of events and activities throughout the year that bring the campus community together. These can include concerts, festivals, guest speakers, and sporting events. Cornell’s location in upstate New York also provides unique opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking and skiing, while Rice’s location in Houston offers access to a vibrant city with a diverse range of cultural experiences. Overall, both universities offer a rich campus life that allows students to explore their interests, make connections, and have fun.

Location and Climate: Which University Offers a Better Environment?

Cornell and Rice are located in different geographical regions with distinct climates and cultures. Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York, which experiences four distinct seasons and is surrounded by forests, lakes, and mountains. Rice is located in Houston, Texas, which has a humid subtropical climate with mild winters and hot summers. Both cities have vibrant cultural scenes, with plenty of attractions and events to explore. However, Ithaca’s natural beauty and outdoor activities make it a popular destination for students who enjoy nature and outdoor recreation.

Male student typing in a table with his classmates.

In addition to the natural beauty of Ithaca, Cornell University is also known for its strong emphasis on sustainability and environmentalism. The university has implemented numerous initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainable practices, such as using renewable energy sources and promoting waste reduction and recycling.

On the other hand, Rice University is located in the heart of Houston, a bustling city with a diverse population and a thriving economy. Houston is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies and is a hub for industries such as energy, healthcare, and aerospace. As a result, Rice students have access to a wide range of internship and job opportunities, as well as a vibrant cultural scene that reflects the city’s diverse population.

Admissions Requirements: What You Need to Know Before Applying

Cornell and Rice have highly selective admissions processes, with SAT or ACT scores, transcripts, essays, and recommendations required. Cornell’s acceptance rate is roughly 11%, while Rice’s is around 8%. Cornell is known for having higher standardized test score averages, while Rice values holistic assessments of each applicant’s academic, extracurricular, and personal achievements. It is crucial to research each university’s admissions requirements and application deadlines ahead of time.

Additionally, both Cornell and Rice offer need-blind admissions policies, meaning that an applicant’s financial need is not taken into consideration during the admissions process. However, it is important to note that both universities have limited financial aid resources, and the cost of attendance can be quite high. Prospective students should research and consider all available financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, and loans, before applying to either university.

Student Body Diversity: How Do Cornell vs Rice Compare?

Both Cornell and Rice have diverse student populations, with individuals from different cultural, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds. Cornell has an undergraduate student body of around 15,000 students, with roughly 20% of students being international students. Rice has a smaller student population of around 7,500, with around 15% being international students. Cornell University has a higher percentage of students of color and more extensive diversity initiatives.

Despite the differences in size and international student population, both Cornell and Rice prioritize diversity and inclusion on their campuses. Cornell has a number of student organizations and programs dedicated to promoting diversity, including the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives and the Latino Living Center. Rice also has a variety of diversity initiatives, such as the Multicultural Center and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

It’s worth noting that while both universities have made strides in promoting diversity, there is still work to be done. In recent years, both Cornell and Rice have faced criticism for their handling of incidents related to race and discrimination on campus. However, both universities have taken steps to address these issues and continue to prioritize diversity and inclusion in their communities.

Faculty and Research Opportunities: Which University Has the Edge?

Cornell and Rice have renowned faculty members and a strong emphasis on research and innovation. Cornell has over 4,000 faculty members, many of whom have received prestigious awards and accolades for their contributions to research and academia. Rice has over 900 faculty members, who are also regarded as experts in their fields. However, Cornell has a larger research budget and is home to several world-class research facilities, such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Center for Materials Research. Cornell also offers more research opportunities for undergraduates and graduates, while Rice focuses more on graduate-level research.

Another factor that sets Cornell apart is its extensive network of research partnerships with other institutions and organizations. This allows students and faculty to collaborate with experts from around the world and gain access to cutting-edge research tools and technologies. Additionally, Cornell has a strong commitment to interdisciplinary research, encouraging collaboration between different departments and fields of study.

On the other hand, Rice University has a unique focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, with several programs and initiatives aimed at fostering a culture of innovation and creativity among its students and faculty. For example, the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship provides resources and support for students and faculty looking to start their own businesses or commercialize their research. Rice also has a strong emphasis on community engagement and social responsibility, with many research projects focused on addressing real-world problems and improving the lives of people in local and global communities.

Financial Aid and Scholarships: Comparing the Cost of Attendance

Cornell and Rice are both private institutions that prioritize affordability and accessibility. Both universities offer need-based and merit-based financial aid packages to eligible students. Cornell’s total cost of attendance for the 2021-22 academic year is around $79,000, while Rice’s is roughly $71,000. It’s important to factor in each university’s financial aid policies and scholarship opportunities when deciding which one is best for you.

Financial aid application forms in a table with a notebook and calculator.

When it comes to financial aid policies, Cornell vs Rice have some differences. Cornell offers a need-blind admission policy, which means that a student’s financial need is not taken into consideration during the admission process. However, Rice practices a need-aware admission policy, which means that a student’s financial need may be taken into account during the admission process.

Additionally, both universities offer a variety of scholarships to their students. Cornell offers scholarships based on academic merit, athletic ability, and other factors, while Rice offers scholarships based on academic achievement, leadership potential, and community involvement. It’s important to research and apply for scholarships at both universities to maximize your financial aid opportunities.

Career Services and Internship Opportunities: Which University Offers More Support?

Cornell and Rice both provide career services and internship opportunities to help prepare students for the workforce. Cornell has five career offices, which help students with resume building, job searching, interview skills, and networking. Cornell is also located in proximity to major metropolitan areas, such as New York City, which provides students with ample internship opportunities. Rice offers similar career services through the Center for Career Development, which hosts career fairs, workshops, and internship programs. Rice is located in the heart of Houston’s business district, which provides numerous internship opportunities and access to industry leaders.

However, there are some differences between Cornell vs Rice when it comes to career services and internship opportunities. Cornell has a larger alumni network, which can be beneficial for students seeking job opportunities after graduation. The university also offers a variety of career-related events, such as employer information sessions and alumni networking events, which can help students make valuable connections in their desired fields.

On the other hand, Rice has a strong focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, which is reflected in its career services and internship programs. The university offers resources for students interested in starting their own businesses, such as the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Rice also has partnerships with local startups and businesses, providing students with unique internship opportunities in the Houston area.

Athletics Programs: Comparing Division I Sports in Cornell vs Rice

Cornell and Rice have Division I athletics programs with numerous varsity and club sports teams. Cornell is a member of the Ivy League Conference and has teams in 36 varsity sports. Rice is a member of Conference USA and has teams in 14 varsity sports. Cornell is known for its hockey, lacrosse, and wrestling teams, while Rice has a strong baseball program. Both universities prioritize academic success and student-athlete well-being.

Sports equipment laid out in a bench.

Despite the differences in the number of varsity sports offered, both Cornell and Rice have robust club sports programs. Cornell has over 60 club sports teams, ranging from ultimate frisbee to equestrian, while Rice has over 30 club sports teams, including rugby and fencing. These club sports teams provide opportunities for students to participate in sports they may not have had the chance to play at a varsity level, while still representing their university and competing against other schools.

Alumni Network: Which University Offers Stronger Connections?

Cornell and Rice have extensive alumni networks that provide additional professional and personal connections and support. Cornell has over 250,000 living alumni, many of whom hold influential positions in various industries. Rice has around 50,000 living alumni, who are known for their entrepreneurial spirit and innovative contributions. Both universities provide alumni with opportunities to engage with current students and network with other alumni.

However, when it comes to international connections, Cornell has a clear advantage. With campuses in New York City, Qatar, and Rome, Cornell’s alumni network spans across the globe. This provides alumni with access to a diverse range of industries and opportunities in different parts of the world.

On the other hand, Rice’s alumni network is known for its close-knit community and strong relationships. Rice alumni often stay connected with each other and the university, even after graduation. This creates a supportive network that can be beneficial for personal and professional growth.

Rankings and Reputation: How Do Cornell vs Rice Stack Up?

Cornell and Rice are both highly regarded universities with prestigious reputations. According to the US News and World Report rankings, Cornell and Rice are currently tied for the 17th best national university in the country. Cornell is known for its strong research programs, while Rice is noted for its small class sizes and close-knit community. Both universities have produced numerous influential alumni in various fields.

However, there are some differences between Cornell vs Rice. Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York, which is a small college town, while Rice is located in Houston, Texas, which is a large city. This means that students at Cornell may have a more isolated college experience, while students at Rice may have more opportunities to explore a bustling city.

Additionally, Cornell has a larger student body than Rice, with over 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students, compared to Rice’s approximately 7,000 students. This means that Cornell may offer a wider range of academic programs and extracurricular activities, while Rice may have a more intimate and personalized learning environment.

Study Abroad Opportunities: Comparing International Programs at Cornell vs Rice

Cornell and Rice offer numerous study abroad programs for students who wish to gain global experience and exposure. Cornell has over 100 study abroad programs in over 40 countries, ranging from short-term to year-long programs. Rice has around 100 study abroad programs in over 30 countries and emphasizes cultural immersion and language acquisition. Cornell’s extensive study abroad options offer more variety, while Rice’s focuses on a personalized experience.

Female student answering a test while smiling.

Additionally, Cornell offers a unique program called “Global Health Program” which allows students to study public health issues in various countries. This program is ideal for students who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare or public health. Rice, on the other hand, offers a program called “Rice in Country” which allows students to study in a specific country for an entire semester, fully immersing themselves in the culture and language of that country.

Both Cornell and Rice offer financial aid and scholarships for study abroad programs. Cornell’s Office of Global Learning offers need-based and merit-based scholarships, while Rice’s Study Abroad Office offers a variety of scholarships and grants to help students fund their study abroad experience. It is important for students to research and apply for these opportunities early on in order to maximize their chances of receiving financial assistance.

Housing Options: Comparing On-Campus Housing and Off-Campus Living

Cornell and Rice provide on-campus housing options for students, as well as resources for off-campus living. Cornell has 36 different residence halls and apartment complexes for students to choose from, including themed housing options. Rice has 11 residential college buildings that house students with similar academic and social interests. Both universities offer on-campus dining options, but Cornell has more diverse meal plans and options. Off-campus housing is available in both Ithaca and Houston, but students must research the cost, safety, and convenience of each option.

It is important to note that there are pros and cons to both on-campus and off-campus housing options. On-campus housing provides convenience and easy access to campus resources, but can be more expensive and have limited space. Off-campus housing can offer more independence and potentially lower costs, but may require a longer commute and additional responsibilities such as grocery shopping and cooking. It is important for students to weigh their options and consider their individual needs and preferences when deciding on their housing situation.

Student Success Rates: How Do Graduation and Job Placement Rates Compare?

Cornell and Rice boast impressive graduation and job placement rates for their students. Cornell’s six-year graduation rate is around 94%, while Rice’s is around 91%. Both universities have high job placement rates for graduates, with the majority securing employment or enrolling in graduate programs within six months after graduation. Cornell has a larger alumni network to facilitate job connections, while Rice’s personalized career services provide tailored job search assistance.

It’s worth noting that while graduation and job placement rates are important indicators of student success, they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Factors such as student debt, salary levels, and career satisfaction are also important considerations when evaluating the value of a college education. Additionally, it’s important to consider the specific programs and majors offered by each university, as some may have higher success rates in certain fields than others.


Cornell and Rice are both excellent universities that offer a rigorous academic curriculum, vibrant campus life, and numerous opportunities for personal and professional development. Choosing between Cornell and Rice requires careful consideration of your personal interests, strengths, and goals. Cornell offers a larger, more diverse community and a wider variety of academic programs, research opportunities, and student organizations. Rice emphasizes personalized holistic education, small class sizes, and a supportive community. Ultimately, the best university for you depends on what you value most in a higher education experience.

Female student writing an reading in a library.

It is important to note that both Cornell and Rice have unique strengths that set them apart from other universities. Cornell is known for its strong programs in agriculture, engineering, and hotel administration, while Rice is renowned for its top-ranked programs in engineering, business, and the natural sciences. Additionally, Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York, a small college town surrounded by natural beauty, while Rice is situated in the heart of Houston, Texas, a bustling city with a diverse cultural scene.

Ultimately, the decision between Cornell vs Rice should be based on a variety of factors, including academic interests, location, campus culture, and personal preferences. It is important to visit both campuses, talk to current students and faculty, and carefully consider all aspects of each university before making a final decision. With the right research and preparation, you can make an informed choice that will set you on the path to success in your academic and professional pursuits.


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