Dartmouth vs. Cornell: A Comprehensive Look at Two Elite Universities

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a group of students enjoying social life

Dartmouth vs. Cornell: A Comprehensive Look at Two Elite Universities

With so many options available for higher education, choosing the right university can seem overwhelming. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast Dartmouth vs. Cornell in their academics, student life, sports programs, alumni networks, campus culture, and many other factors to help prospective students make an informed decision.

These two most prestigious universities in the United States, Dartmouth, and Cornell, often find themselves pitted against each other regarding academic excellence and campus culture.

Introduction: Why Compare Dartmouth and Cornell?

Both Dartmouth and Cornell are Ivy League universities that boast exceptional academic programs, world-renowned faculty, substantial research opportunities, and a vibrant student life.

These universities also carry a significant amount of prestige and global recognition, making them a highly sought-after destination for students who want to experience the pinnacle of higher education. In this article, we aim to break down and compare both universities, looking at what each institution has to offer.

While both universities share many similarities, there are also some notable differences between them. For example, Dartmouth is a smaller, more intimate campus with a strong focus on undergraduate education, while Cornell is a larger, more research-oriented institution with a wider range of academic programs.

Additionally, Dartmouth is located in a rural setting in New Hampshire, while Cornell is situated in a more urban environment in upstate New York. These differences can have a significant impact on the student experience and are important factors to consider when choosing between the two universities.

A Brief History of Dartmouth and Cornell

Dartmouth College was founded in 1769 in Hanover, New Hampshire, as an institution primarily dedicated to educating Native American groups. Over time, Dartmouth evolved to become one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, with an undergraduate enrollment of over 4,300 students.

Cornell University, on the other hand, was founded in 1865 in Ithaca, New York, by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White. Cornell is one of the largest and most diverse Ivy League universities, with more than 23,000 students, including undergraduates, graduates, and professional school students.

Despite their differences in founding and size, both Dartmouth and Cornell have a rich history of academic excellence and innovation. Dartmouth was the first college to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree to Native American students, and it was also the first institution to establish a Native American studies program.

Young man looking away while in front of her laptop.

Cornell, on the other hand, was the first university to offer a degree in journalism and was also the first to establish a school of hotel administration.

Today, both Dartmouth and Cornell continue to be leaders in higher education, with a strong commitment to research, community engagement, and diversity.

Dartmouth is known for its strong undergraduate program and its focus on undergraduate research, while Cornell is renowned for its graduate programs and its cutting-edge research in fields such as engineering, agriculture, and computer science.

Location Matters: The Differences in Campus Life

The location of a university can have a considerable impact on its students’ lifestyle. Dartmouth is located in Hanover, which is a small town in rural New Hampshire. With a population of just over 11,000 people, it’s not uncommon for students to feel that campus life is their primary source of entertainment.

In contrast, Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York along the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, making it the largest city in the Finger Lakes region. Ithaca is a city of nearly 31,000, and it has a more urban feel, with many restaurants, shops, and cultural events not far from the campus.

Another factor to consider when it comes to location is the climate. Dartmouth experiences cold winters with heavy snowfall, which can limit outdoor activities and make transportation more difficult. On the other hand, Cornell has a milder climate with less snow, allowing for more outdoor activities and easier transportation during the winter months.

Additionally, the location of a university can also impact the types of internships and job opportunities available to students.

Dartmouth’s location in rural New Hampshire may limit the number of internships and job opportunities available in certain industries, while Cornell’s location in Ithaca, a larger city, may offer more diverse opportunities for students to gain real-world experience in their field of study.

Admissions Process: How Similar or Different are Dartmouth and Cornell?

The admissions process for both Dartmouth and Cornell is highly competitive. Both schools receive tens of thousands of applications each year and are highly selective, with acceptance rates hovering around 10%. Both universities look for students with excellent academic backgrounds, extracurricular achievements, and exceptional test scores.

However, some differences exist in the admissions process, including the fact that Dartmouth is a test-optional college, whereas Cornell requires test scores from either the SAT or ACT.

Another difference between the admissions process at Dartmouth and Cornell is the emphasis placed on essays. While both universities require essays as part of the application, Dartmouth places a greater emphasis on the essay as a way to get to know the applicant beyond their academic achievements.

In contrast, Cornell places more emphasis on the applicant’s academic achievements and extracurricular activities, with the essay serving as a way to supplement the application.

Additionally, Dartmouth and Cornell have different approaches to interviews. Dartmouth offers optional interviews with alumni, which can provide applicants with an opportunity to showcase their personality and interests beyond what is included in their application.

On the other hand, Cornell does not offer interviews as part of the admissions process, except for certain programs such as architecture and art.

Dartmouth vs. Cornell: Curriculum

Both Dartmouth and Cornell are known for their exceptional academic programs and rigorous curriculum. Dartmouth’s liberal arts program includes an undergraduate education in over fifty majors. In contrast, Cornell has well-respected undergraduate and graduate programs in various fields like engineering, business, agriculture, and the arts.

Both universities offer unique academic opportunities ranging from research projects to study abroad programs that provide students with exceptional learning experiences.

Furthermore, Dartmouth’s curriculum emphasizes a strong foundation in the humanities and social sciences, with a focus on critical thinking and writing skills. Students are encouraged to explore a wide range of subjects and to engage in interdisciplinary studies.

On the other hand, Cornell’s curriculum is more specialized, with a greater emphasis on technical and professional training. Students are expected to develop expertise in their chosen field and to apply their knowledge to real-world problems.

Another notable difference between the two universities is their approach to teaching. Dartmouth has a strong tradition of small, discussion-based classes, where students are encouraged to participate actively in the learning process.

In contrast, Cornell’s classes tend to be larger and more lecture-based, with a greater emphasis on independent study and research. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, and students should consider their own learning style and preferences when choosing between the two universities.

Student Life: Comparing the Social Scene and Extracurricular Activities

Female student walking in the hallway.

Due to its rural location, Dartmouth College students may need to put in a little more effort to find their social scene. However, the college has an active Greek life scene, and many clubs and organizations offer community building, social events, and opportunities for students to get involved.

The diversity of student life experiences at Cornell University is more notable, stemming from a much more extensive student body and wider selection of extracurricular activities, ranging from political clubs to robotics teams.

Additionally, both Dartmouth College and Cornell University offer a variety of outdoor recreational activities for students to enjoy. Dartmouth’s location in the scenic Upper Valley region of New Hampshire provides ample opportunities for hiking, skiing, and other outdoor adventures.

Cornell’s location in upstate New York also offers access to outdoor activities, including hiking in the nearby Finger Lakes region and skiing in the nearby mountains. Both schools also have strong athletic programs, with opportunities for students to participate in varsity, club, and intramural sports.

Dartmouth vs. Cornell: Diversity on Campus

Both Dartmouth and Cornell boast diverse student communities, with students coming from different ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, Cornell University generally scores higher for diversity metrics than Dartmouth.

Cornell’s undergraduate student population includes a higher percentage of students of color than Dartmouth, making it a more appealing option for prospective students seeking a diverse campus community.

Despite the differences in diversity metrics, both Dartmouth and Cornell have made efforts to promote inclusivity on their campuses. Dartmouth has implemented programs such as the First-Year Trips program, which aims to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for incoming students.

Cornell has also established initiatives such as the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, which provides resources and support for underrepresented students.

It’s important to note that diversity goes beyond just race and ethnicity. Both Dartmouth and Cornell also have a diverse range of academic programs and extracurricular activities, allowing students to explore their interests and engage with different perspectives.

Ultimately, the decision between Dartmouth and Cornell should be based on a variety of factors, including academic offerings, campus culture, and personal preferences.

Dartmouth vs. Cornell: Sports Programs

Both Dartmouth and Cornell have a robust athletic program, with numerous team sports available to all genders. Dartmouth is a member of the Ivy League athletic conference, while Cornell is part of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC). Historically, both universities have been highly competitive in sports like football, basketball, and lacrosse.

In addition to the traditional team sports, both universities also offer a variety of individual sports and recreational activities. Dartmouth has a strong skiing program, with its own skiway and access to nearby mountains. Cornell has a renowned equestrian program, with a state-of-the-art facility and competitive teams.

Both universities also prioritize the well-being and safety of their student-athletes. They have dedicated athletic trainers and medical staff to provide care and support for injuries and overall health. Additionally, they offer resources for mental health and wellness, recognizing the unique pressures and demands that come with being a student-athlete.

Career Opportunities: Job Placement Rates Compared

Both Dartmouth and Cornell universities offer impressive career services to their students, helping them find internships, job placements, and career-related resources. The career placement rates for both universities are excellent, with many students securing jobs in highly competitive industries such as finance, law, medicine, and engineering.

However, there are some differences in the types of industries that graduates from each university tend to enter. Dartmouth graduates tend to have higher job placement rates in consulting and technology, while Cornell graduates tend to have higher job placement rates in agriculture and hospitality.

This may be due to the different academic programs and resources offered at each university, as well as the geographic location of the schools.

Dartmouth vs. Cornell: Alumni Networks

Two women talking in a table.

Networking is critical in building a successful career, and both universities have a strong alumni network. Dartmouth alumni also take pride in staying connected to their alma mater, and the college offers extensive resources, including an extensive alumni directory, mentorship programs, and professional development courses.

Cornell also has an active and engaged community of alumni who help current students with internships and job placements.

Furthermore, both universities have alumni chapters located in major cities across the country, providing opportunities for alumni to connect and network with each other. These chapters often host events such as happy hours, networking receptions, and professional development workshops.

Additionally, both Dartmouth and Cornell have online platforms where alumni can connect virtually, share job opportunities, and offer career advice to fellow alumni and current students.

Campus Culture and Traditions: What Makes These Universities Unique?

The campus culture and traditions at both universities are an essential part of student life. Dartmouth prides itself on its traditions such as Winter Carnival and the Dartmouth Outing Club.

On the other hand, Cornell is known for its Big Red Hockey games, Slope Day and the Dragon Day Parade. Campus culture can also have a significant impact on students, and both universities differ in student attitudes, social lives, and traditions.

One unique aspect of campus culture at Dartmouth is the emphasis on the outdoors. The college is located in a rural area, and students are encouraged to take advantage of the natural surroundings. The Dartmouth Outing Club, one of the oldest and largest college outing clubs in the country, offers a wide range of outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and kayaking.

This focus on outdoor recreation not only provides students with a break from academic life but also fosters a strong sense of community among students who share a love for the outdoors.

Dartmouth vs. Cornell: Financial Aid and Affordability

Both Dartmouth and Cornell universities are expensive, and for many families, the cost of tuition, room, and board can be a significant financial burden. However, both universities offer robust financial aid programs, including merit-based scholarships and need-based aid.

Additionally, Dartmouth and Cornell are both committed to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of enrolled students, ensuring that no student misses out on high-quality education due to financial constraints.

At Dartmouth, the average need-based scholarship award is $52,000 per year, while at Cornell, the average need-based scholarship award is $47,000 per year. Both universities also offer work-study programs, allowing students to earn money to help cover their expenses while gaining valuable work experience.

It’s important to note that while the cost of attendance at both universities is high, the return on investment can be significant. Graduates of Dartmouth and Cornell have some of the highest average starting salaries in the country, with many going on to successful careers in fields such as finance, technology, and healthcare.

Dartmouth vs. Cornell: Rankings and Reputation

Both Dartmouth and Cornell are Ivy League universities and are highly regarded institutions in terms of reputation and rankings. According to US News & World Report, Dartmouth is ranked 13th for National Liberal Arts Colleges, and Cornell ranks 18th in National Universities.

Both universities are considered highly prestigious, and an education from either institution carries a significant amount of weight in the academic and professional world.

However, there are some differences between the two universities. Dartmouth is a smaller institution with a total undergraduate enrollment of around 4,400 students, while Cornell has a much larger undergraduate population of over 15,000 students. Additionally, Dartmouth has a strong focus on undergraduate education, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1, while Cornell is known for its research and graduate programs.

Conclusion: Which University is Right for You?

Female student typing in her laptop.

Both Dartmouth and Cornell are excellent universities, and the choice between them ultimately comes down to personal preference. Students who prefer a more isolated, rural campus setting may prefer Dartmouth, while those who prefer a more urban, vibrant environment may prefer Cornell.

Both universities offer exceptional educational and career opportunities, so the decision should ultimately be based on factors such as student life, location, and other individual preferences.

At the end of the day, choosing between Dartmouth and Cornell may not be a choice between two completely separate entities but instead a choice between two educational lifestyles, both of which will prepare you excellently for your post-graduation career and academic goals.

It is important to note that both Dartmouth and Cornell have unique academic programs and areas of expertise. For example, Dartmouth is known for its strong liberal arts curriculum and emphasis on undergraduate research, while Cornell is renowned for its top-ranked engineering and business programs.

Prospective students should consider their academic interests and goals when making their decision between these two universities.


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