How to Get into Cornell: Admission Requirements and Tips

November 29, 2023
By AdmissionSight

How to Get into Cornell: Admission Requirements and Tips

Cornell University is known for having the highest acceptance rate among Ivy League schools. Getting into Cornell, however, is not a walk in the park. In fact, its admissions process is among the most selective in the United States.

In this article, we’ll discuss the competitive process of getting into Cornell. We’ll dive deep into the essential steps, from understanding what Cornell looks for to mastering the application process. Our goal? To equip you with practical tips and help you craft a compelling Cornell application.

Overview of Cornell

Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White founded Cornell University in 1865. Their dream of creating an institution where “any person can find instruction in any study” has since become the school’s motto and informed the university’s direction and progress.

Located in Ithaca, New York, Cornell’s scenic campus spans over 2,300 acres, offering a blend of natural beauty and architectural marvels. This location is not just a backdrop but an integral part of the Cornell experience, fostering a learning environment that is both intellectually stimulating and serene.

Cornell University

Cornell’s stature in the world of academia is evident in its rankings. In the 2024 edition of Best Colleges by U.S. News, Cornell University is ranked #12 nationally. The QS World University Rankings 2024, on the other hand, places Cornell at #13 in the world. These rankings reflect Cornell’s commitment to excellence in research, education, and innovation.

Moreover, Cornellians embody the university’s ethos of impacting the world positively. Notable alumni include Nobel in Literature laureate Toni Morrison and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel in space, also graduated from Cornell.

Choosing Cornell means becoming part of a legacy of change-makers. At Cornell, you’re not just choosing a place of study; you’re embracing a community that challenges and supports you, preparing you for a world that values innovation, leadership, and social responsibility.

How Hard Is It to Get into Cornell?

Gaining admission to Cornell University is undeniably competitive. As of recent years, Cornell’s acceptance rate has consistently remained below 11%.

Understanding this rate sets the stage for an exploration of what Cornell truly looks for in its prospective students and how you can prepare an application that resonates with their values and expectations.

Cornell’s acceptance rate

Cornell University’s acceptance rate is a significant indicator of the university’s selectivity. In the past few years, the acceptance rate has been decreasing:

Class Acceptance Rate
Class of 2023 10.6%
Class of 2024 11%
Class of 2025 9%
Class of 2026 7.3%
Class of 2027 Officially Undisclosed

For the Class of 2027, Cornell University admitted a total of 4,994 students. The university has not yet revealed the official total number of applications and acceptance rate. From previous admissions data, however, we can estimate a total of around 68,000 applications, bringing the recent acceptance rate to around 7.4%.

This rate reflects the university’s high standards and the intense competition for a limited number of spots.

While the low acceptance rate might seem intimidating, it’s important to understand that it’s not just about academic excellence. Cornell seeks to admit students who will contribute to their community in unique and meaningful ways.

This means that exceptional talents, diverse experiences, and a clear demonstration of personal values can significantly impact your chances of admission.

Factors influencing the acceptance rate

Several key factors contribute to Cornell’s overall acceptance rate:

  • Academic Excellence: Cornell prioritizes high academic achievement, including GPA, standardized test scores, and the rigor of a student’s high school curriculum (like AP, IB, and honors courses).
  • Holistic Student Evaluation: The university evaluates candidates beyond academics, considering extracurricular activities, leadership experiences, and community involvement to assess a student’s overall potential and balance.
  • Diversity and Inclusivity: Diversity in race, ethnicity, geography, socioeconomic background, and experiences is a key factor, reflecting Cornell’s commitment to a varied and dynamic student body.
  • Alignment with Cornell’s Values and Mission: Applicants demonstrating a fit with Cornell’s ethos, including a passion for learning and potential community contribution, often stand out, particularly through essays and recommendations.
  • Supply and Demand: The acceptance rate is also influenced by the number of applications received versus the limited spots available, with increasing application numbers leading to greater competitiveness.
  • Program-Specific Requirements: Different colleges and programs within Cornell have varying levels of competitiveness and distinct criteria, affecting the overall acceptance dynamics.

Young beautiful woman wearing yellow shirt reading a book at home.

Understanding these factors can provide you with a clearer picture of the competitive landscape at Cornell and guide you in preparing a well-rounded and compelling application.

Is Cornell the Easiest Ivy to Get Into?

First, let’s take a look at the latest acceptance rates of Ivy League schools:

Ivy League School Acceptance Rate
Harvard 3.4%
Columbia 3.9%
UPenn 4.07%
Yale 4.35%
Brown 5%
Princeton 5.8%
Dartmouth 6%
Cornell 7.5%

Cornell’s acceptance rate does tend to be higher than the other Ivies, which might lead to the perception that it’s the “easiest” to get into. But it’s important to acknowledge that the term “easiest” can be misleading when discussing Ivy League admissions.

Each Ivy League school has its own unique set of criteria and a highly competitive applicant pool. While a useful indicator, the acceptance rates don’t tell the whole story. Like its peer institutions, Cornell looks for a diverse and highly talented group of students who not only excel academically but also bring unique experiences and perspectives to their community.

It’s also worth considering the different programs and colleges within Cornell, each with its own level of selectivity and specific admission criteria. Some programs may be more competitive than others, affecting the overall perception of Cornell’s admission difficulty.

In short, while Cornell’s acceptance rate might be the highest among Ivy League schools, it still remains one of the most selective universities in the US and in the world. The admission process is rigorous, and success requires a strong academic record, meaningful extracurricular involvement, and a compelling personal narrative.

Cornell Admission Requirements

Navigating the admission process to Cornell University requires an understanding of several key components. As you prepare your application, here’s what you need to know:

  • GPA: Your Grade Point Average (GPA) is a critical indicator of your academic performance. Cornell looks for high GPAs, but also considers the difficulty of your coursework.
  • Standardized Test Scores: Cornell has adopted a test-optional policy for some applicants, allowing you to decide whether to submit SAT or ACT scores. If you choose to submit them, strong scores can bolster your application, but remember, they are one part of a larger picture.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Your activities outside the classroom are vital. Cornell seeks students with a passion for extracurriculars, be it in leadership roles, community service, arts, or sports. These activities highlight your personal interests and commitments.
  • Personal Essays: This is where your voice is heard. Your essays should convey your personality, goals, and reasons for choosing Cornell. They offer a glimpse into who you are beyond your academic record.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Letters from teachers, mentors, or employers provide Cornell with insight into your personal and academic qualities. Choose recommenders who can speak to your strengths and potential.

Cornell’s admission process is designed to evaluate you holistically. It’s about how you, as a whole person, fit into the Cornell community. Each element of your application offers a different perspective on who you are and the potential you bring to the university.

Remember, requirements may vary across Cornell’s different colleges, so tailor your application to align with the specific criteria and expectations of your chosen program.

Cornell GPA and SAT Requirements

When you’re aiming for a spot at Cornell University, understanding the weight of your GPA and SAT scores is crucial. These components play a significant role in your application and here’s why.

Male student studying and writing in the library.

Your GPA is perhaps the most direct indicator of your academic performance over time. Cornell looks at your GPA as a measure of your ability to handle challenging coursework consistently. A high GPA, especially in rigorous classes, signals your readiness for the demanding academic environment at Cornell.

While Cornell has a test-optional policy for some applicants, submitting SAT scores can still be beneficial. High SAT scores can complement your GPA by providing a standardized benchmark of your academic abilities. It’s a way to showcase your strengths in specific areas like critical reading, math, and writing.

Both your GPA and SAT scores (if submitted) are used by Cornell not just to gauge your academic capabilities, but also to assess how well you might perform in a competitive academic setting. They are indicators of your potential to succeed in Cornell’s rigorous intellectual environment.

Cornell GPA Requirements

Cornell University does not officially state an absolute minimum GPA requirement for admission, but latest statistics reveal that the average GPA of admitted students is typically around 4.07 on a weighted scale. This high average underscores the university’s emphasis on academic excellence.

Cornell’s average GPA signifies a student body that has excelled in their high school academics, often taking challenging courses like AP or IB classes. Nationally, this places Cornell admits among the top students in terms of academic performance. It reflects the university’s status as an elite institution with high expectations from its students.

While a high GPA is advantageous, Cornell’s holistic admissions process means that your GPA is just one part of your overall application. It’s also crucial to consider the rigor of your coursework, as Cornell values students who challenge themselves academically.

GPA recommendations

Follow these tips to make your GPA competitive:

  • Strive for a GPA close to or above the average of 4.07. Excelling in the most challenging courses available to you can significantly strengthen your application.
  • Alongside maintaining a high GPA, enroll in advanced courses to demonstrate your ability to succeed in a challenging academic environment.

Can you get into Cornell with a low GPA?

Getting into Cornell University with a low GPA is challenging, but it’s not necessarily impossible. Cornell’s admissions process is holistic, meaning they consider all aspects of your application. Consider these tips:

  • Cornell considers the context of your academic performance. This includes the rigor of your coursework and the opportunities available at your school. If you’ve taken challenging courses or shown an upward trend in grades over time, this can positively influence how your GPA is perceived.
  • If your GPA isn’t your strongest suit, focus on highlighting other areas where you excel. This could be in your extracurricular activities, your personal story, or a unique skill set you possess.
  • Use your essays to provide context for your GPA, if necessary, and to show how your experiences have shaped you. This is your opportunity to connect with the admissions committee on a personal level.
  • Strong letters of recommendation can provide insight into your character, work ethic, and potential, helping to offset a lower GPA.
  • Show your enthusiasm for Cornell and how you see yourself contributing to their community. A clear, genuine interest in the university can sometimes make a difference.

View of a woman writing in a table.

As always, it’s important to present a well-rounded application that showcases your strengths and potential to contribute to the Cornell community.

Cornell SAT Requirements

Cornell University does not have an absolute minimum SAT score requirement, but the SAT scores of admitted students typically fall within a competitive range. The latest statistics reveal:

Average SAT Score 25th Percentile SAT Score 75th Percentile SAT Score
1480 1420 1540

The typical SAT scores of Cornell students indicate a highly competitive applicant pool and align with the university’s reputation for academic excellence. Nationally, these scores place Cornell admits among the top test performers, reflecting the university’s status as an elite institution.

Scoring at or above the 75th percentile (1540) means your SAT score is higher than about 75% of the students admitted, placing you in a very competitive position regarding standardized testing. It suggests that your SAT score will likely be a positive factor in your application.

If your score falls at or above the 25th percentile (1420), it means you’ve outperformed approximately 25% of admitted students in terms of SAT scores. If your score falls below this threshold, it doesn’t automatically disqualify you, but it does mean that your application may need to be stronger in other areas to compensate.

While SAT high scores can enhance your application, remember that Cornell’s admissions process is holistic. Scores are one factor among many that are considered, including your academic record, extracurricular achievements, and personal essays.

SAT recommendations

To boost your chances of getting into Cornell, consider the following SAT tips:

  • Strive to achieve an SAT score within or above the 75th percentile (1540 or higher). This score range puts you in a competitive position among applicants.
  • Invest time in preparing for the SAT. Utilize study guides, practice tests, and, if possible, SAT preparation courses.
  • Taking the SAT more than once can be beneficial. Many students improve their scores on a second or third attempt.
  • Identify areas where you can improve and concentrate your study efforts on these topics.

Cornell ACT Requirements

Cornell University does not set an absolute minimum ACT score for admissions. However, understanding the typical ACT scores of admitted students can provide valuable context for applicants. The most recent statistics indicate:

Average ACT Score 25th Percentile ACT Score 75th Percentile ACT Score
34 32 35

These figures reflect the competitive nature of Cornell’s applicant pool in terms of standardized testing. Nationally, these scores place Cornell admits among the top-performing students, reflecting the university’s status as a prestigious academic institution.

A score at or above the 25th percentile (32) means you’ve scored higher than the lowest quarter of admitted students, while a score at or above the 75th percentile (35) places you above the majority of admitted students.

Gaining a SAT score of 35 will give you a competitive edge. If you score below 32, you won’t be disqualified, but you will need to strengthen other parts of your application.

Writing the answer on the sheets

A strong ACT score can enhance your application, but it’s essential to remember that Cornell evaluates applicants holistically. This means that other aspects of your application, such as your GPA, extracurricular activities, personal essays, and letters of recommendation, are also critically important.

ACT recommendations

Follow these tips:

  • Aim for an ACT score at or above the 75th percentile (35 or higher).
  • Prepare thoroughly for the ACT, using practice tests and study materials to improve your performance across all sections.
  • If feasible, consider taking the ACT more than once. Many students find their scores improve on subsequent attempts.
  • Identify the sections where you can improve the most and concentrate your preparation efforts on these areas.

Is Cornell Test-Optional?

Since April 2020, Cornell University has not required first-year applicants to submit SAT or ACT exam scores. Currently, this test-optional policy has been extended for Fall 2024 undergraduate applicants.

Here’s what the policy means for you:

  • If you have strong SAT or ACT scores, you can choose to submit them as part of your application. However, if you’re unable to take these tests or believe your scores do not reflect your true academic abilities, you can opt not to include them.
  • With the test-optional policy, other components of your application, like your GPA, extracurricular activities, personal essays, and letters of recommendation, become even more significant. It’s crucial to ensure these elements strongly convey your abilities and potential.

Cornell’s decision to adopt a test-optional policy reflects a broader trend in higher education recognizing the difficulties students may face in accessing standardized testing opportunities.

The policy also acknowledges that standardized test scores may not always fully represent a student’s academic abilities or potential. By going test-optional, Cornell levels the playing field, offering students from all backgrounds an equal chance to showcase their qualifications and interest in Cornell.

What Does Cornell Look for in Students?

When you’re aiming for a place at Cornell University, it’s essential to understand that they’re looking for more than just academic achievers. Sure, strong grades and test scores matter, but Cornell digs deeper.

Cornell wants students who are intellectually vibrant, character-strong, actively involved, and clear about why Cornell is their chosen destination.

Let’s discuss the qualities one by one:

1. Intellectual potential

Cornell seeks students who display a burning passion for learning. This means you’re not just chasing grades; you’re genuinely curious and excited about delving into new knowledge areas. Your application should highlight how you’ve embraced academic challenges, showcasing your engagement in rigorous coursework or any in-depth research projects.

It’s also beneficial to illustrate your creative thinking capabilities. If you’ve applied your knowledge innovatively, maybe in a science fair, a unique class project, or starting a club, this is your chance to shine. Cornell values students who bring fresh, out-of-the-box ideas to the table.

2. Character

But it’s not all about academics. Your character plays a pivotal role. Cornell is on the lookout for students who demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges and who conduct themselves with integrity. Share stories or experiences that highlight these traits, perhaps in your personal essay or through your recommenders.

View of a woman smiling at the camera.

Equally important is your ability to work collaboratively and empathize with others. In a diverse environment like Cornell, the ability to understand and respect different viewpoints is crucial. Illustrate times when you’ve successfully worked in teams or navigated complex group dynamics.

3. Involvement

Your extracurricular activities can also make a big difference. Cornell values students who show leadership and have made a tangible impact, whether in their school, local community, or beyond. Detail your involvement in various activities, but focus on quality over quantity. It’s more about the depth of your commitment and the impact you’ve made.

Also, don’t hesitate to showcase your diverse interests. Cornell appreciates students who bring a rich array of passions to their campus.

4. Your Reasons for Choosing Cornell

Finally, it’s vital to articulate why Cornell is the right fit for you. This goes beyond its prestigious name. What specific programs, opportunities, or aspects of campus life draw you to Cornell? And importantly, how do you see yourself contributing to the Cornell community? This is your opportunity to align your goals and values with what Cornell offers, demonstrating a mutual fit.

In essence, Cornell is searching for well-rounded individuals who bring a unique blend of intellectual prowess, strong character, active involvement, and a clear vision of their place in the Cornell community. Your application should paint a holistic picture of who you are, beyond just a transcript and test scores.

Cornell Application Tips

If you’ve set your sights on Cornell University but aren’t sure where to begin, you’re in the right place. To help give you a leg up on the competition, we’ve put together these tips that can help you increase your chances of getting accepted into Cornell.

1. Maintain a high GPA.

Your GPA serves as a clear indicator of your academic abilities and work ethic. A high GPA, especially in a rigorous curriculum, demonstrates your readiness to handle the academic challenges at Cornell.

Your GPA is a metric that admissions officers use to gauge your potential for success in a rigorous academic environment.

Specific tips:

  • Prioritize your coursework. Stay organized and focused on your academic responsibilities. Use planners, apps, or other organizational tools to keep track of assignments, tests, and deadlines. Time management is key to balancing your coursework and maintaining high grades.
  • Seek help when needed. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you’re struggling with a subject. Utilize resources like tutoring, study groups, or office hours with teachers. Understanding concepts thoroughly and seeking assistance promptly can prevent falling behind.
  • Challenge yourself appropriately. Enroll in advanced courses (like AP, IB, or honors classes) where you can realistically excel. These courses demonstrate your willingness to push yourself academically, but be careful not to overload yourself to the point where your grades may suffer.
  • Stay consistent. Consistency is crucial in maintaining a high GPA. Work steadily throughout the year, and avoid the pitfalls of cramming or procrastination. Regular study habits and consistent effort can lead to a strong academic record.

2. Pursue meaningful extracurricular activities.

Extracurricular activities offer a glimpse into who you are outside the classroom and demonstrate your interests, skills, and contributions to your community. Cornell values applicants who show leadership, initiative, and a commitment to impacting their surroundings positively.

Group of students talking in a table.

Well-chosen extracurriculars can complement your academic achievements and help you stand out as a well-rounded candidate.

Specific tips:

  • Follow your passions. Engage in activities that genuinely interest you, rather than what you think might look good on a resume. Authentic passion shines through and is more likely to lead to meaningful involvement and achievements.
  • Seek leadership roles. Where possible, take on leadership roles in your extracurricular activities. Leadership experience demonstrates your ability to manage responsibilities, work in a team, and make a positive impact.
  • Show commitment and growth. Stick with your activities for an extended period to show commitment. Progressing in a role or in skill level over time can illustrate your dedication and ability to grow.
  • Keep it balanced and diverse. While depth in a few activities is valuable, having a balance of diverse interests can also be beneficial. It shows that you’re a well-rounded individual with a variety of skills and interests.

3. Write excellent essays.

Your essays are your opportunity to speak directly to the admissions committee, to share your story, your aspirations, and your fit with Cornell. A well-written essay can distinguish you from other applicants by showcasing your unique personality, perspective, and motivation.

Specific tips:

  • Start early and plan your approach. Give yourself ample time to brainstorm, draft, and revise your essays. Start by carefully reading the essay prompts and plan your response to align closely with what the question is asking. Organizing your thoughts and ideas beforehand can lead to a more coherent and impactful essay.
  • Be authentic and personal. Your essays should reflect your true self. Avoid clichés and don’t try to guess what the admissions committee wants to hear. Share genuine experiences and insights that have shaped you. Authenticity resonates more than a perfectly polished but impersonal response.
  • Show, don’t just tell. Use specific examples and anecdotes to illustrate your points. Instead of simply stating that you’re passionate about a subject or an activity, describe an experience that demonstrates this passion. This approach brings your story to life and makes it more memorable.
  • Proofread and revise. A well-written essay is free from grammatical errors and typos. After writing your essay, take a break and then come back to it with fresh eyes for editing. It’s also helpful to have someone else review your essay – they can offer valuable feedback on clarity, flow, and impact.

4. Find compelling letters of recommendation.

Letters of recommendation provide the admissions committee with an external perspective on your academic abilities, character, and potential. Good letters can bring depth to your application, offering insights into who you are as a person and a student, beyond grades and test scores.

Specific tips:

  • Choose recommenders who know you well. Select teachers, mentors, or supervisors who have worked closely with you and can speak to your strengths and accomplishments. It’s better to have a letter from someone who knows you deeply than a more superficial letter from someone with a notable title.
  • Provide context to your recommenders. Help your recommenders by providing them with a summary of your academic and extracurricular achievements, as well as your goals and aspirations. This information can guide them in writing a more personalized and compelling letter.
  • Request letters early. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for recommendations. Give your recommenders plenty of time to write a thoughtful letter. A rushed letter is rarely as compelling as one that’s been well thought out.
  • Follow up and say thank you. After your recommenders agree to write a letter, follow up with them if necessary, and always express your gratitude. A simple thank-you note goes a long way in showing your appreciation for their time and effort.

A student talking to a teacher about pros and cons of gap year

5. Prepare early.

Starting your Cornell application process early gives you ample time to carefully craft each component of your application, from essays to gathering recommendations.

Early preparation reduces last-minute stress and allows you to present the best version of yourself. It also demonstrates your serious intent and commitment to applying to a prestigious institution like Cornell.

Specific tips:

  • Research and plan. Begin by researching Cornell’s specific requirements and deadlines. Create a timeline that includes all important dates and deadlines, such as when to start your essays, request recommendations, and submit applications.
  • Draft essays in advance. Start working on your essays well before the deadlines. This allows you time to brainstorm, draft, receive feedback, and revise. A thoughtful and well-edited essay can significantly enhance your application.
  • Prepare for standardized tests early. If you plan to submit SAT or ACT scores, start preparing for these tests well in advance. This gives you time to retake them if necessary and to submit the best possible scores.
  • Cultivate relationships for recommendations. Build and maintain strong relationships with teachers and mentors early on. When it’s time to request recommendations, these individuals will have a better understanding of your character and achievements.

6. Speak with alumni.

Cornell alumni can offer first-hand experience and advice on how to strengthen your application. They can also provide a realistic view of student life at Cornell, helping you determine if it’s the right fit for you. Engaging with alumni can deepen your understanding of Cornell’s culture and values, which can then be reflected in your application.

Specific tips:

  • Seek out alumni networks. Utilize your school’s alumni network, local community groups, or online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with Cornell alumni. Attend college fairs or informational sessions where alumni might be present.
  • Prepare your questions. Before speaking with alumni, prepare specific questions. Ask about their experiences at Cornell, what they believe made their application successful, and any tips they have for prospective students.
  • Discuss campus life and academics. Inquire about their experiences with campus life, academic programs, and opportunities at Cornell. This can give you a clearer picture of what to expect and how you might fit into the university.
  • Ask for application advice. Alumni can offer practical advice on the application process. While they can’t influence admissions decisions, their insights on what Cornell values in students can be extremely helpful.

7. Apply Early Decision.

Applying Early Decision (ED) to Cornell can be a strategic move for students who are certain that Cornell is their top choice. This decision demonstrates to the admissions committee your clear commitment and strong desire to attend Cornell.

ED applicants often face slightly different odds than regular decision applicants, as this pool is typically smaller and can show a higher level of interest in the university.

Worried looking woman reading a letter.

Specific tips:

  • Understand the commitment. Be aware that Early Decision is binding. If accepted, you are committed to attending Cornell and must withdraw applications to other schools. Ensure Cornell is undoubtedly your first choice.
  • Complete your application sooner. ED deadlines are earlier than regular decision deadlines. Plan to complete all parts of your application, including essays, standardized tests, and recommendations, well in advance of the ED deadline.
  • Demonstrate your fit with Cornell. In your application, specifically articulate why Cornell is the right school for you. This could be its academic programs, campus culture, or specific opportunities that align with your goals and interests.
  • Understand your financial situation. Since ED decisions are binding, it’s important to discuss with your family whether Cornell is a feasible option financially, as you will be making the commitment before receiving financial aid offers from other institutions.

Specific Areas that Can Boost Your Cornell Application

To strengthen your application to Cornell University, it’s crucial to enhance both your academic and extracurricular profiles. Engaging in specific activities and programs can significantly elevate your application by showcasing your skills, interests, and commitment to personal growth.


Engaging in research projects can demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and ability to delve deeply into subjects.

  • Summer Science Program (SSP): SSP is a renowned program focusing on advanced study and research in areas like astronomy, biochemistry, or astrophysics. Your participation in SSP can significantly boost your application to Cornell by showing your commitment to in-depth scientific research and your ability to engage with complex scientific concepts.
  • Simons Summer Research Program: This program offers you the chance to conduct hands-on research in science, math, or engineering at the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics. Engaging in this program demonstrates your initiative in pursuing research opportunities and your capability to contribute to scientific advancements, qualities highly valued by Cornell.


Academic competitions can highlight your expertise and passion in specific subject areas.

  • Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF): ISEF is a prestigious global science competition that allows you to present original research. Excelling in ISEF can bolster your Cornell application by showcasing your ability to conduct high-level research and present it on an international platform.
  • American Mathematics Competitions (AMC): Participating and scoring well in AMC competitions displays your strong mathematical skills and problem-solving abilities. Success in these competitions can enhance your academic profile for Cornell, indicating your proficiency in critical thinking and analytical skills.

Summer programs

Summer programs can provide exposure to college-level coursework and academic interests.

  • Cornell University Summer College: By taking pre-college courses at Cornell’s Summer College, you gain exposure to college-level academics in various fields. This experience not only prepares you for the academic rigor of university life but also demonstrates your keen interest in and familiarity with Cornell’s academic environment.
  • Research Science Institute (RSI): RSI allows you to combine coursework in scientific theory with practical research experience. Participating in RSI is an excellent way to show Cornell your strong foundation in STEM and your readiness to engage in university-level research.


Internships in fields of interest can provide practical experience and a deeper understanding of certain academic disciplines.

A woman smiling at the camera in an office.

  • NASA High School Internship: This internship provides hands-on experience in science and engineering research. Participating in this program can significantly enhance your Cornell application by showing your practical experience in these fields, indicating a strong foundation for pursuing a STEM-related major.
  • Smithsonian Internships: Engaging in Smithsonian Internships offers you a broad exposure to various disciplines, from history to science. These internships can strengthen your application to Cornell by demonstrating your diverse academic interests and your ability to apply learning in real-world contexts.


Participation in arts-related activities can showcase your creativity and dedication to cultural pursuits.

  • National YoungArts Foundation: By participating in the National YoungArts Foundation, which recognizes excellence in visual, literary, design, and performing arts, you can demonstrate your creative talents and dedication to the arts. Success in this prestigious program can enhance your Cornell application by showcasing your artistic abilities and commitment to cultural engagement.
  • Interlochen Arts Camp: Engaging in the Interlochen Arts Camp, a renowned summer program offering training and performance opportunities in music, theater, dance, visual arts, and creative writing, allows you to develop and showcase your artistic skills. Participation in this program can strengthen your application to Cornell by highlighting your artistic talent and dedication to continuous learning in the arts.


Active involvement in sports can demonstrate teamwork, discipline, and commitment.

  • AAU (Amateur Athletic Union): Participating in the AAU, which offers competitive opportunities in various sports, allows you to demonstrate your athletic skills, teamwork, and discipline. Your involvement and achievements in AAU sports can boost your application to Cornell by showing your commitment to excellence and teamwork in athletics.
  • Junior Olympics: Competing in the Junior Olympics showcases your dedication and excellence in sports. This prestigious event can enhance your Cornell application by demonstrating your high-level athletic abilities and commitment to pursuing goals, both essential qualities for a well-rounded student.

School clubs

Leadership or active involvement in school clubs can reflect your leadership skills and interests.

  • Model United Nations (MUN): Involvement in MUN enhances your understanding of global issues and develops your public speaking and diplomacy skills. Active participation in MUN can strengthen your application to Cornell by showcasing your leadership abilities and engagement in global affairs.
  • DECA or FBLA: Participating in business-focused clubs like DECA or FBLA demonstrates your interest and skills in business, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Your active involvement in these clubs can enhance your application to Cornell by showing your initiative, leadership skills, and interest in the business world.

Community service

Community service initiatives can reflect your empathy, social awareness, and commitment to making a positive impact.

  • Key Club or Interact Club: These clubs offer numerous opportunities for community service, allowing you to demonstrate your commitment to social causes. Active participation in Key Club or Interact Club can strengthen your Cornell application by highlighting your empathy, social awareness, and dedication to making a positive impact.
  • Local Nonprofit Volunteer Programs: Regular volunteering at local nonprofits shows a sustained commitment to community service and social responsibility. This kind of involvement can enhance your application to Cornell by demonstrating your dedication to helping others and contributing to your community.

By actively engaging in these academic and extracurricular activities, you can create a well-rounded and impressive profile that aligns with Cornell University’s standards and values.

Cornell Application Requirements

As you prepare to apply to Cornell University, understanding and meticulously preparing each component of the application is crucial. Here’s a breakdown of the mandatory and optional requirements for your application, along with helpful tips for each.


Mandatory requirements

  • Common Application: Submit the online Common Application, which is the primary form for your application details. Start your application early and thoroughly review all sections to ensure accuracy and completeness​​.
  • Application Fee or Fee Waiver: Pay the $80 nonrefundable application fee, or submit a fee waiver if the application fee presents a financial hardship. Explore the different fee waiver options available and apply early to avoid last-minute issues​​.
  • High School Transcript: Official transcripts must include grades from 9th through 11th grade and list in-progress 12th-grade courses. Ensure your transcript reflects your academic rigor and achievements accurately. For Early Decision applicants, including first marking period grades can be advantageous​​.
  • Counselor Recommendation: This is a letter from your school counselor, college counselor, principal, or headmaster, highlighting your accomplishments within your high school context. Choose a recommender who knows you well and can provide detailed insights into your academic and personal growth​​.
  • School Report: Submitted by your counselor or designated school official, this form is part of the Common Application. Remind your counselor or official about this requirement well in advance of the deadline​​.
  • Teacher Evaluations: You need two recommendations from teachers, focusing on your academic strengths and contributions in the classroom. Select teachers who have taught you recently in core academic subjects and can speak specifically to your abilities and contributions​​.
  • Mid-year Report Transcript: Your counselor or designated school official should submit your mid-year grades from 12th grade. Maintain strong academic performance throughout your senior year, as these grades play a crucial role in the review process.
  • Cornell Writing Supplement: This is an essential part of your application, unique to each college and school at Cornell. Tailor your writing supplement to reflect your interest and fit with the specific Cornell college or school you are applying to​​.

Optional requirements

  • Standardized Testing: Cornell has suspended the SAT/ACT testing requirement for 2023 and 2024 applicants. However, you may choose to self-report AP, IB, or AICE exam scores. If you have strong standardized test scores or relevant AP/IB/AICE exams, including them can add depth to your academic profile, even though they are optional​​.
  • Alumni Meetings: These are optional, informal conversations with a Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador. Use this opportunity to gain insights about the university and demonstrate your interest in Cornell​​.

Other requirements (for specific programs)

  • Supplemental Materials: These are required for certain programs like Architecture, Art, Design and Environmental Analysis, Fashion Design and Management, and Landscape Architecture. An optional musical recording supplement is available for Music applicants. These materials are crucial in showcasing your specific talents and fit for the program.

How to Apply to Cornell

Applying to Cornell University involves careful planning, attention to detail, and patience. Each phase of the application process is crucial in presenting a strong case for your admission.

1. Preparation

Begin by researching Cornell’s programs, identifying your interests, and understanding the application requirements.

Create a timeline for your application process, including deadlines for standardized tests, if you plan to take them.

Focus on maintaining a strong GPA, engaging in meaningful extracurricular activities, and building relationships with potential recommenders.

2. Gathering application materials

Collect all necessary documents, including your high school transcript, standardized test scores (if applicable), and letters of recommendation.

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Begin drafting your essays, especially the Cornell Writing Supplement, ensuring they align with the specific college or program you are applying to.

3. Submitting your application

Complete your Common Application and Cornell Writing Supplement. Carefully review all sections for accuracy and completeness.

Pay the application fee or submit a fee waiver request, if necessary. Ensure all components, including your school report and teacher evaluations, are submitted before the deadline.

4. Post-submission

After submitting your application, check your email and Cornell’s application portal regularly for updates or requests for additional information.

Submit your mid-year grades as soon as they are available. Consider requesting an optional alumni meeting to learn more about Cornell and demonstrate further interest.

5. Awaiting results

While waiting for a decision, continue to excel academically and stay involved in your extracurricular activities. Be prepared to respond promptly to any additional requests from Cornell’s admissions office.

Finally, wait patiently for your admission decision, which will be communicated through the application portal.

Scholarships and Financial Aid at Cornell

Cornell University offers various grants and scholarships specifically for undergraduate students, but it’s important to note that all grant aid at Cornell is need-based. This means there are no merit-based awards or athletic scholarships. The amount of gift aid you can receive isn’t fixed; it varies based on each student’s financial need.

If you receive outside scholarships, they will replace the loan or work components of your aid package, but won’t reduce the parent contribution.

To be eligible for federal grants, completing the FAFSA financial aid form is essential. This form helps determine your eligibility for different types of federal aid. It’s a key step in ensuring you receive the financial support you need to attend Cornell​.

Cornell Regular Decision vs Early Decision

When considering your application to Cornell University, you have two primary options: Early Decision and Regular Decision.

Early Decision is binding, meaning if you’re accepted, you must withdraw all other college applications and commit to Cornell. This option is best if Cornell is undoubtedly your first choice.

Regular Decision, on the other hand, is non-binding. It allows you the flexibility to consider various college options and make a decision without the immediate commitment required by Early Decision.

Choosing between these options depends on your level of certainty about Cornell being your top choice and your readiness to commit early in the application process.

Cornell Application Deadlines

When planning your application to Cornell University, it’s important to keep track of the key deadlines:

  • Early Decision: The application deadline is November 1, with supporting materials due by November 15.
  • Regular Decision: The deadline for applications and supporting materials is January 2.

Meeting these deadlines is crucial for your application to be considered timely and complete.


Applying to Cornell is highly competitive. With a holistic review process, Cornell seeks students who not only excel academically but also demonstrate intellectual curiosity, character, involvement, and a clear understanding of their fit with the university.


Balancing your academic achievements with meaningful extracurricular involvement, while clearly articulating your reasons for choosing Cornell, is crucial. Remember, while the process is competitive, your unique story and experiences can make your application stand out.

In short, approach each part of the application thoughtfully to present the best version of yourself.

We can help you figure out how to get into Cornell

Getting into Cornell University might seem like rocket science to students and parents who haven’t had much experience in the college admissions process. And even though Cornell has a higher acceptance rate than some other Ivies, it’s still a challenging feat.

Fortunately, working with a qualified and reputable college admissions counselor can help work wonders for your chances of getting accepted. AdmissionSight has spent years perfecting its services to guide students in the right direction towards gaining admittance into some of the top schools in the country.

We can help you with every step of the process from selecting your classes and extracurriculars in high school to writing your college supplemental essays. Our services are custom-tailored to make sure we’re playing to your strengths and personal interests.

AdmissionSight has a proven track record of supporting students just like you in their pursuit of the Ivy League. And you know what? We’ve been incredibly successful, and our team would love to add your name to our growing list of successful students.

Feel free to contact us today for a free consultation to learn more about our services and how they can benefit you.


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