Cornell vs Wesleyan: A Comprehensive Overview

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Unknown person using a laptop.

Cornell vs Wesleyan: A Comprehensive Overview

If you’re a high school student deciding which college to attend, you’ve likely come across Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. These two institutions have different academic programs, campus environments, and student activities available. In this article, we will comprehensively compare Cornell vs Wesleyan to help guide your decision-making process.

Location and Campus Environment: Cornell vs Wesleyan

When it comes to location, Cornell is situated in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, while Wesleyan is located in central Connecticut. Cornell’s campus has a mix of traditional and modern buildings, with a vast, sprawling green area and a gorge that runs through the campus. On the contrary, Wesleyan’s campus has a more traditional feel, with red-brick buildings and a large central lawn.

However, despite their differences, both campuses offer a variety of outdoor activities for students to enjoy. Cornell’s location in the Finger Lakes region provides opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor adventures. Wesleyan’s campus is located near several parks and nature reserves, offering students the chance to explore the natural beauty of Connecticut. Additionally, both schools have a strong commitment to sustainability and offer numerous eco-friendly initiatives and programs for students to get involved in.

Academic Programs and Majors Offered at Cornell and Wesleyan

The two universities offer a wide range of fields of study. Cornell has seven undergraduate colleges, including the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the College of Human Ecology. Wesleyan, on the other hand, offers students bachelor’s degrees in 47 academic departments, including programs in the arts, sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The university also has a strong liberal arts focus.

Plato's statue

In addition to their undergraduate programs, both Cornell and Wesleyan offer a variety of graduate and professional programs. Cornell has graduate programs in fields such as business, law, medicine, and veterinary medicine. Wesleyan offers graduate programs in fields such as biology, chemistry, and mathematics, as well as a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program.

Both universities also have a strong commitment to research. Cornell is a member of the prestigious Ivy League and is known for its research in fields such as agriculture, engineering, and computer science. Wesleyan is a member of the Little Three athletic conference and is known for its research in fields such as neuroscience, psychology, and music.

Admission Requirements and Selectivity: Cornell vs Wesleyan

Both universities have a selective admissions process, with acceptance rates ranging from 7.4% at Cornell and 19% at Wesleyan. Cornell weighs standardized test scores and academic achievement heavily in its admissions decision, while Wesleyan looks for students who have demonstrated intellectual and creative abilities, in addition to academic aptitude.

Another factor that sets Cornell and Wesleyan apart in their admissions process is their approach to extracurricular activities. Cornell values students who have shown leadership and initiative in their extracurricular pursuits, while Wesleyan places a greater emphasis on students who have pursued their interests in a unique and creative way.

Furthermore, both universities have different policies when it comes to early decision applications. Cornell offers an early decision option, which is binding and requires students to commit to attending if accepted. Wesleyan, on the other hand, offers an early decision option that is non-binding, allowing students to apply to other schools and compare financial aid packages before making a final decision.

Student Life: Activities, Clubs, and Organizations at Cornell and Wesleyan

Both universities have an enabling environment that provides a wide range of extracurricular activities, clubs, organizations, and events to their students. Cornell is home to over 1,000 student organizations, including the Cornell Daily Sun, the campus newspaper that has been in circulation since 1880. Wesleyan’s student life revolves around its more than 300 student-run organizations, including The Argus, a weekly campus newspaper, and WESU, Wesleyan’s student-run radio station.

Group of students walking in the campus.

In addition to the numerous student organizations, both Cornell and Wesleyan offer a variety of activities and events for students to participate in. Cornell hosts an annual Slope Day celebration, where students gather on the slope of the campus for a day of music, food, and fun. Wesleyan’s Spring Fling is a similar event, featuring live music, food trucks, and carnival games.

Furthermore, both universities have a strong commitment to community service and social justice. Cornell’s Public Service Center offers students opportunities to engage in service projects and internships with local and global organizations. Wesleyan’s Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life provides resources and support for students interested in pursuing social change through research and community engagement.

Faculty and Student Ratio Comparison between Cornell vs Wesleyan

With a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:9, Wesleyan has one of the most significant student-to-faculty ratios among any undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution in the U.S. Cornell, on the other hand, has a higher student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1, creating more significant class sizes and fewer opportunities for individualized attention.

Despite the higher student-to-faculty ratio at Cornell, the university has a larger faculty size, with over 1,600 full-time faculty members compared to Wesleyan’s 300. This means that while individual attention may be harder to come by, Cornell students have access to a wider range of expertise and research opportunities.

Additionally, both universities have implemented various strategies to address the challenges posed by their respective student-to-faculty ratios. Wesleyan has a robust advising program that pairs each student with a faculty advisor, while Cornell has a system of smaller, discussion-based classes to supplement larger lectures.

Research Opportunities for Students at Cornell vs Wesleyan

Cornell is a research powerhouse, with a focus on engineering, biotechnology, and agriscience. The school offers opportunities for undergraduates to engage in research, including the Cornell Research Scholars Program (CRSP). At Wesleyan, students have the opportunity to engage in independent research, often with the guidance of faculty members.

Additionally, Cornell has a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research, encouraging students to collaborate across fields of study. This approach has led to groundbreaking research in areas such as nanotechnology and sustainable energy. Wesleyan also offers opportunities for interdisciplinary research, with programs such as the College of Integrative Sciences and the Quantitative Analysis Center.

Both Cornell and Wesleyan prioritize undergraduate research, providing students with hands-on experience and the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge research projects. These research opportunities can also lead to valuable connections and networking opportunities in the academic and professional worlds.

Cost of Attendance at Cornell vs Wesleyan: A Breakdown of Fees

The cost of attendance at Cornell is approximately $78,598 per year for an undergraduate student, including tuition, fees, room, board, and personal expenses. At Wesleyan, the average cost of attendance is around $72,218 per year. However, both universities have robust financial aid programs that help students cover the cost of attendance, meaning that students from lower-income homes can attend without being burdened by excessive student debt.

It’s important to note that the cost of attendance can vary depending on a student’s individual circumstances, such as their major, housing choices, and extracurricular activities. Additionally, both Cornell and Wesleyan offer various scholarships and grants that can further reduce the cost of attendance for eligible students. It’s recommended that students thoroughly research and compare the financial aid options available at each university before making a decision on where to attend.

Financial Aid Comparison between Cornell vs Wesleyan: Who Offers More?

Both colleges offer financial aid packages to help cover students’ expenses. Cornell has been ranked one of the top schools for overall financial aid packages. The university offers both need-based and merit-based scholarships and grants, as well as work-study opportunities, and federal student loan programs. Wesleyan also offers scholarships and grants, work-study opportunities, and federal student loan programs to help students attend the university.

However, when it comes to the average amount of financial aid awarded to students, Cornell tends to offer more. According to recent data, the average financial aid package at Cornell is around $50,000 per year, while at Wesleyan it is around $45,000 per year. This difference may not seem significant, but it can make a big impact on a student’s ability to afford college and manage their finances while in school.

Athletics Programs Comparison between the Two Colleges

Both Wesleyan and Cornell have strong athletics programs. Cornell has a NCAA Division I program, with approximately 36 varsity sports and over 1,100 student-athletes. Wesleyan is a member of the Division III athletics program, with 29 varsity sports and over 750 student-athletes. However, both universities provide their students with the chance to participate in club and intramural sports.

Additionally, Cornell’s athletics program has a strong focus on Olympic sports, with many of its teams and individual athletes competing at the national and international levels. Wesleyan, on the other hand, has a strong tradition in individual sports such as track and field, cross country, and swimming. Both universities have state-of-the-art facilities, including gyms, fields, and pools, that are available to all students, regardless of their level of athletic ability.

Student Diversity at Cornell vs Wesleyan

Both institutions value diversity and have student body populations represented by students from many different backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities. Cornell has a diverse international student population, as well as a significant number of students from traditionally underrepresented groups. Wesleyan’s student body is also diverse, with students hailing from across the globe and from several socio-economic backgrounds.

However, there are some differences in the ways that Cornell and Wesleyan approach diversity. Cornell has a larger student body overall, which means that there are more opportunities for students to interact with people from different backgrounds.

Happy students walking together.

Additionally, Cornell has a number of programs and initiatives specifically designed to support underrepresented students, such as the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives and the First in Class program for first-generation college students.

Wesleyan, on the other hand, has a smaller student body and a more intimate campus community, which can foster closer relationships between students of different backgrounds. Wesleyan also has a strong commitment to social justice and activism, which is reflected in the curriculum and extracurricular activities offered on campus.


In conclusion, Cornell and Wesleyan are two excellent institutions with their unique strengths and weaknesses. When deciding which between Cornell vs Wesleyan to attend, you should consider factors including location, academic programs offered, admissions requirements, student life, faculty/student ratio, research opportunities, alumni networks, cost of attendance, financial aid, athletics programs, and student diversity.

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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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