3 Success Stories from Cornell University Admits

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Aerial view of Cornell University campus

3 Success Stories from Cornell University Admits

Ivy Leagues have developed a reputation for having incredibly competitive admissions processes. The eight prestigious schools that make up this elite group represent some of the best opportunities in higher education. With acceptance rates hovering between 4% and 10%, the Ivies definitely confirm the popular idea that these schools are very selective.

This exclusivity is really pronounced when compared to universities throughout the country. In the United States, the average acceptance rate among registered colleges is about 68%. Despite often being heralded as the easiest Ivy League to get into, Cornell is still significantly more challenging than the average university. Naturally, many people want to hear from Cornell students about how I got into Cornell University.

Female teacher teaching something to a male student.

With some Ivy League schools being 10-times harder to get into than other colleges, many students have a tough time wrapping their heads around the entire college admissions process. Not only does it seem confusing and convoluted, but the selectiveness of these schools can also make it appear simply impossible. Fortunately, there are a number of students who have shared their experience in getting admitted into Cornell University to help people in your position.

Even though Cornell University clearly defines what’s needed to get accepted, these requirements don’t tell the full story. Hearing “how I got into Cornell University” stories is an excellent way to fill in these gaps about what admissions officers are really looking for at Cornell. Here, we’ll take a look at some first-hand accounts and tips from people who have succeeded at what you’re attempting.

How hard is it to get into Cornell University?

Cornell’s motto is a quote taken from one of the university’s founders Ezra Cornell: “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” This saying speaks to Cornell’s desire to remain accessible and open to students who want to achieve an excellent education from one of the best schools in the entire country. Considering that only 11 out of every 100 students who apply to Cornell end up getting accepted, many people wonder how this school is sticking to one of its founding principles.

Students walking in the school hallway.

The easiest Ivy League to get into

With an acceptance rate of 10.6%, Cornell University is significantly more difficult to get into than most colleges in the country. However, students and parents have to understand this admission rate in context. Cornell is one of eight top-tier universities that comprise the Ivy League – a group of schools known for their world-class academic offerings. Within this group, Cornell University actually has the highest acceptance rate.

Female student hanging out in the school grounds.

With some Ivies having acceptance rates as low as 3% to 4%, Cornell is often heralded as the easiest Ivy League to get into. While it’s important to remember that “easy” is relative, Cornell’s acceptance rate of 10.6% would suggest that it’s easier for many students to get into than some of the more selective Ivies such as Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. So, how hard is it to get into Cornell? When compared to most colleges, it’s incredibly challenging. But, in relation to the Ivies, you’ve got a higher chance of getting in.

What kind of students are accepted to Cornell University

While a school’s admission rate will tell you the overall chances of getting in, it doesn’t necessarily paint an accurate picture of your circumstances. Like most colleges, Cornell University takes a wide variety of factors into account when determining if a student gets accepted or not.

One of the most objective – and, therefore, easiest to measure – factors is admissions statistics such as GPA and standardized test scores. These metrics are used by admissions officers to determine how students will fare on collegiate-level work. Understanding how accepted Cornell applicants performed in these areas is a great way to measure your own potential for getting in.

Young woman using a laptop in a desk.

Unfortunately, Cornell University doesn’t release this information. Still, we have some projections which can give applicants a good idea of what they need to aim for in order to increase their chances of getting accepted. It’s estimated that the average GPA of admitted Cornell students is 4.07 on a 4.0 scale. This means you’ll have to earn almost all A’s in your high school courses to be competitive. Taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses or honors classes can help boost your overall GPA.

When it comes to standardized test scores, it’s advisable to reach for the 75th percentile in performance. This would translate to 1540 on the SAT and roughly a 34. Essentially, these scores suggest that applicants admitted into Cornell, on average, score in the top 25% of all students who take the SAT and/or ACT. Of course, having these scores don’t make you an automatic shoo-in, but it certainly sets you up for success.

Does applying to Cornell University’s early decision make a difference?

3 success stories students from accepted to Cornell

Success Story #1

To be quite fair I’m not exactly sure why I got into Cornell; I don’t think anyone really knows why they get accepted or rejected by a school, but I can tell you what my application looked like. I had a 4.0 gpa in high school. My SAT score was maybe around 2200. However, I think it was my extracurriculars that really carried my application. I was the captain of a sports team, heavily involved with local volunteering, and I studied abroad senior year. Many people argued that missing a year of high school would hurt me, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Not only did I grow a lot as a person, but it gave me unique experiences that made me stand out from other applicants. I had never visited Cornell before starting, and I couldn’t do an interview because I was abroad. I did have a quick phone interview but that was mostly me asking questions. I was sent an email by Cornell Engineering a month before admissions day telling me that I was “very likely” to be admitted. Take advantage of all the opportunities you are presented within high school. Find your passion and let it show in your essay. Don’t force yourself to do things you don’t want just for the sake of putting it in your application because you will be wasting your own time and it won’t help you. And don’t be afraid to take a gap year! School is exhausting and you’ll never be too old to start!

  • Lynn Li, studied at Cornell University (2020)

Success Story #2

My dad had visited the campus to conduct some independent research. He was very impressed – and inquired about what financial aid was available for Canadians. Cornell – a that time – awarded Canadians need based financial aid on the same basis as US citizens. (This policy has since been discontinued as the university decided to spread aid for international students more equally. I wrote to President Skorton explaining my disappointment over this change. He did take the time to respond. )

I ended up applying to Cornell Engineering and two other universities in the US Northeast. My twin sister applied to four universities – including Cornell in the College of Arts and Sciences.

I had very strong mathematics an physical science credentials – including the mathematics and physics prizes at my high school. I had placed in 19th out of 26,000 students in the Waterloo math competition. I had a summer internship at Concordia in an engineering lab. I played varsity sports – soccer, football, rugby, wrestling. My math and science SAT/Achievement scores were all 780 or so.

My sister and I both received acceptance letters from Cornell in early January. Once we received the financial aid packages later in the Spring, we both chose Cornell over the alternatives. The aid packages covered about 93% of the tuition for each of us.

I had an offer for a prominent engineering school in up state New York that would have covered all the tuition+ – but I chose Cornell because of its broader focus

  • Joshua Albert, BS Cornell University School of Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell University

Success Story #3

“I think the deciding factor in my acceptance was the amount of time I spent on answering the essay questions on the application. After the initial paring down of applicants by SAT, class rank, etc. The admissions committee is left with a stack of applications of great candidates. If they made it that far, they’re all exceptional. How can they choose? How would you? Let them get to know you personally. The only way to personalize your application is by the essay question. I know they are read, and read carefully. Don’t say what you think they want to hear. Say what you are, from your heart. Make it real and personal. Let the committee know who you are, why you want to go to Cornell and what you would bring to the school and what you would like to take away from the school. Reach out and touch the admissions officer. Make them want to reach out to you.”

Success Story #4

Rumor has it that the legacy “boost” only goes to students who apply early decision. If you are convinced that Cornell is the school for you, that is a great way to improve your chances. Other than that, very good grades and test scores (in the range published online, hopefully on the upper than lower end) and extracurriculars that show a good “fit” with the program to which you are applying. This is college dependent at Cornell. For example, in Ag and Life Sci you apply into a major and they want to see a commitment. In Arts and Sciences this is less important (but it is more competitive). Fit with the college is still important – sign up to receive emails, do an official visit, visit the website, and be ready to write your essays to show your commitment to your field of study and to what makes Cornell unique. If you are a NYS resident applying to the statutory colleges will improve your chances. If you are an international student being able to pay for your education may increase your chances (can’t remember if they are need blind for international?). GOOD LUCK!

Write your own “how I got into Cornell” story

When applying to a prestigious Ivy League school like Cornell, it’s easy to feel confused, lost, and even a little alone. Students and parents both are often unsure about the best way to approach such a daunting task. How do we know?

Well, AdmissionSight has helped countless students get accepted into the university of their dreams. With over a decade of experience, we’ve positioned ourselves as the leading college admission expert for Ivy League schools. In fact, 75% of the students we assist either get accepted into an Ivy League school or Top 10 University.

If you’re wanting to get accepted to Cornell, we know exactly how to make that happen. We’ve spent years understanding and mastering the complex college admissions process. All of our services are uniquely designed to help perfect your application to drastically improve your chances of getting accepted to the university of your choice. If you’re eager to learn more about our services and how you might be able to benefit, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!



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