How to Get into Cornell with Average Grades

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Cornell's academic buildings with a green lush lawn in front

How to Get into Cornell with Average Grades

For students who are looking to enjoy an incredible undergraduate education at one of the most prestigious summer historical and competitive schools in the entire United States, there is little doubt that they are located out schools within the Ivy League. It’s imperative to know how to get into Cornell with average grades!

One such school is Cornell University, as you may be wondering how to get into Cornell with average grades. Well, the truth is that it is incredibly difficult to get into any Ivy League program with average grades in high school. However, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it is impossible.

Here at AdmissionSight, we make it part of our job to answer any question that our high school students have. But we don’t want to just stop there, which is why we’ve gone out of our way to offer some crucial information about ways to get into Cornell University whether you have average grades, average SAT scores, or anything in between.

Cornell University's campus buildings from a distance

So, if you are wondering how difficult it is to get into Cornell, then you’ve come to the right place. Let us break down everything there is for you to know about  how to get into Cornell with average grades!

Cornell’s admission requirements

Much like is the case for the vast majority of colleges and universities in the United States, Cornell does not actually have a set list of admissions requirements.

The reason for this is because the school recognizes that depending on where a specific student went to high school, they may not have the same opportunities at their disposal as other high school students who they are competing against for a spot at the school.

With that being said, if you are curious about how to get into Cornell with average grades, you will absolutely want to at least have the following kinds of courses in your high school curriculum.

  • Four years of English (including continued practice in writing)
  • Four years of mathematics (including calculus for students interested in engineering)
  • Four years of one foreign language
  • At least two years of laboratory science (including physics and chemistry for students interested in engineering)
  • At least two years of history
  • In addition, most candidates have had some study in the visual or performing arts.

On top of that, students that are interested in applying to Cornell are encouraged to take as many advanced courses as possible, such as honors courses, AP courses and IB courses.

The reason why schools like Conrell value these advanced courses so much is because students who are able to succeed in those kinds of classes have a much better chance of succeeding within the rigorous and demanding curricula that are offered at Ivy League schools.

Now that you know that advanced courses are valued highly at Cornell University and other Ivy League programs, you may be wondering what the average grade point average is for students that get in.

This may come as an unpleasant surprise for students with average GPA’s, but the average grade point average for students that are accepted to Cornell currently sits at a highly impressive 4.07. With a 4.7 GPA, Cornell expects the students that it accepts to be at the top of their classes at high school.

More often than not, students will earn straight A’s during their high school years.

However, this does not mean that students who are unable to earn an incredibly high GPA throughout high school should give up on their dreams of attending an Ivy League program outright. There are many ways to get into Cornell University even if they did not earn fantastic grades throughout high school.

Tips to improve Cornell admission chances with average grades

Depending on where you currently are in your high school years, you may have quite a few options when it comes to improving your chances of getting into a fantastic university with average grades.

It is important to keep in mind that not all of these tips will apply to every student, but there is no doubt that they will likely be helpful for a large majority of individuals who are reading this quick breakdown.

Here at AdmissionSight, we consider it an important job to help not only the students that we are working with, but also the students who are simply looking to improve their chances of getting into the schools of their dreams. So, if any of these tips help you improve your chances of getting into a school like Cornell University, then we will consider it a job well done.

Now, let’s get started on the ways that high school students can improve their chances of getting into Ivy League schools such as Cornell with average grades.

Tip No. 1

If you have time, work to improve your GPA

This is probably not the first thing you want to see when you are trying to read about ways on how to get into Cornell University and overcome a poor GPA. However, that does not make this tip any less important or applicable.

The best course of action that a student can do to improve their chances of getting into an Ivy League program or any other highly competitive school is to improve their grade point average. That is of course if it is still possible to do so.

A male student self-studying very hard

If you are a freshman, sophomore, or even a first-semester junior, you have the time necessary to turn your GPA around and make a more compelling case to get into a school like Cornell University.

In fact, there have been cases in which a student with a low GPA early in their high school years can actually make an even stronger case to get into an Ivy League school if they are able to show a clear and sustained improvement within their performances in class.

There are some great ways that students can work to improve their grades, such as:

  • Seeking support from a teacher, peer or tutor to get the help that they need in the classes that they are struggling most in.
  • Taking an easier course load to lighten the stress and demands of their curriculum. While Ivy League schools certainly value seeing advanced courses on a student’s course list, too many advanced courses can end up spelling trouble for even the most intelligent students.
  • Increasing your course load with classes that you are most confident and comfortable in to help you earn many high grades.

Of course, if you are too far along in your high school years to have a major impact on your grade point average, then this option is not really available to you.

However, that does not mean that you are completely out of luck.

Tip No. 2

Earn high standardized test scores

Perhaps the two most important things that any school would consider when looking at a student application are their grades and their standardized test scores. For years, standardized test scores have been seen as a major equalizer for the most intelligent students.

In fact, there was a time where it was believed that standardized test scores were even more important than a student’s GPA. While that sentiment is no longer the case, standardized test scores are still fundamental to the college application process.

In a classroom, student's taking exam

This is especially true for students who, for one reason or another, were unable to earn highly impressive grades throughout high school. If your GPA is several decimal points lower than the average grade point average for high school students that get into a specific school, then you will want your SAT or ACT scores to be that much higher than the average score that students get who attend that university.

In the case of Cornell University, that is going to be incredibly difficult to achieve. The reason for that is because the average SAT score of students that get into Cornell is a 1480 out of the perfect score of 1600.

As for the ACT, the average score for students that get into Cornell is a 34 out of the perfect 36.

So, for students who are determined to get into Cornell, they will have to essentially earn a perfect score on the standardized test that they choose to take.

There are some fantastic ways that students improve their chances of getting a fantastic score. Those include the following:

  • Start preparing for the standardized test of your choice months before the day of the actual exam. Make sure to review commonly made mistakes on the practice exam that you are taking in order to determine where you need to focus most of your attention.
  • Set a target score for what you want to earn on the standardized test of your choice. From there, you can start to make the necessary study schedule to achieve that end.
  • Join a committed study group at your school, sign up or an in person or online standardized test course, or consider finding a professional standardized test tutor to help guide you through the studying and preparation process.

With all this being said, it is also important to remember that many schools have decided to become test optional in recent years. For example, the entire University of California school system decided to go test optional as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The same can be said for the Ivy League schools. In fact, Cornell adopted the test optional policy in April 2020, making it the first school in the Ivy League to waive the SAT and ACT requirements.

“We knew it was the right thing to do and we knew this would ease the minds and diminish stress for prospective students and families, and college- and community-based organization counselors with whom we work closely,” Cornell’s senior director of undergraduate admissions said at the time.

However, students are still highly recommended to take the exam if they are able to do so, and a high score on the exam can still have a highly positive impact on their chances of getting into the school of their dreams.

Tip No. 3

Craft incredible personal essays

One aspect of the college admissions process that has gained serious importance in recent years has been the personal statement and essay section. The reason for this is because this section is seen as the primary opportunity for students to let admissions officers know about who they are as people as well as who they are as students.

In fact, it is believed that the personal essay portion of an application accounts for a massive 25% of the application. That’s 5% more than your grades and coursework. For that reason, any student who is looking to overcome a below average GPA is going to have to craft truly phenomenal personal essays.

A woman with several notebooks in front of her is writing.

There are a lot of tips out there that can help students write the best essay possible, but perhaps the most important tip is this: be true to yourself, write what you know, and seek to let the reader in are who you are as a person, where your passions lie, and where you hope your goals will take you.

Tip No. 4

Get strong letters of recommendation

Another very important aspect of the college application are the letters of recommendation that students must send in along with the rest of their application. At Cornell University, applying high school students are required to send in a total of three recommendation letters.

One of the letters must come from the student’s high school Counselor, and the other two letters must come from 2 separate members of the high school’s faculty.

A female student very focused in writing

This is another very important part of your application to any school, as it gives admissions officers the chance to learn more about who you are as a student and how you operate within your community.

The most important factor that a high school student can do to improve their chances is that they get fantastic letters of recommendation by simply creating valuable and meaningful relationships with the counselors and faculty at their high school.

If you make this one of your many priorities during your high school years, you will end up with many options to choose from in terms of who you want to write your letter.

Beyond that, just make sure that you give your teachers enough heads up in advance so that they can make sure to give your letter the time it deserves. Typically, students will ask their teachers for a letter by the end of their junior year.

Moreover, while we do not advise any student to tell their teachers what to write, there is nothing wrong with sitting down with them and giving them an idea of how you plan to present yourself in any of your applications. That will ensure that the message and approach is consistent throughout.

The importance of this arguably especially applies to students who are working to overcome an average GPA.

Tip No. 5

Be honest about any external circumstances that led to your low GPA

While admissions officers at top schools surely look at grades and standardized test scores to help determine which students they accept into the school, they are also dedicated to letting the right students and people in. What that means is that they are willing to look beyond the numbers to make the right decision.

After all, that’s what the holistic college admissions approach is all about.

For that reason if you have been dealing with difficult external circumstances that you believe led to a dip in near GPA in high school, you should absolutely use a portion of your application to the school to explain those circumstances.

Whether it has to do with circumstances at home, an illness to a family member or close friend, or anything of that nature, colleges will understand the situation and not hold it against you.

As a matter of fact, it has become quite common for students to experience struggles in school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are amongst that group, make it known when you are applying to schools, and you will certainly gain a slight benefit as a result.

We can improve your chances of getting into Cornell

If you are looking on how to get into Cornell with average grades, you are going to need all the help that you can get. That’s where we at AdmissionSight come in. We help students of all kinds achieve their admissions dreams, and we’re proud to say that 75 percent of our students get into either an Ivy League program or a top-10 school elsewhere in the United States.

If you are interested in learning about what we have to offer and why we boast such a high success rate, contact us today for a free consultation!



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