Middlebury vs. Cornell: A Comprehensive Analysis

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of a female student holding her things.

Middlebury vs. Cornell: A Comprehensive Analysis

Choosing between colleges is never an easy task, especially when it comes to two prestigious institutions like Middlebury and Cornell. While both are among the top schools in the United States, each has its unique features that might make one stand out over the other. In this comprehensive analysis, we’ll explore all the factors that contribute to making a decision about attending Middlebury vs. Cornell.

Location and Campus Overview: Middlebury vs. Cornell

Let’s start with the basics – campus location and overview. Middlebury College is located in a small town in Vermont, while Cornell University is situated in Ithaca, New York. Middlebury’s campus is spread over 350 acres and is like a small, private village with green open spaces, pristine gardens, and historic architecture. In contrast, Cornell covers a whopping 2,300 acres with a mix of urban and rural settings.

front view of Cornell University surrounded by trees

Both campuses have an inviting atmosphere with well-maintained grounds and picturesque views. Middlebury, however, has the advantage of being more confined, allowing for a tight-knit community. Cornell, on the other hand, has the benefit of a larger student body with more extensive resources.

Another notable difference between the two campuses is their proximity to major cities. Middlebury is located in a rural area, with the nearest city being Burlington, Vermont, which is about an hour’s drive away. In contrast, Cornell is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, with easy access to cities like Syracuse and Rochester. This proximity to urban areas provides Cornell students with more opportunities for internships, networking, and cultural experiences outside of campus.

Admission Statistics: How Do They Compare?

Admission statistics are essential when considering applying to a college. Both Middlebury and Cornell have highly selective admissions processes. For the class of 2025, Middlebury had an acceptance rate of 24.3%, while Cornell had an acceptance rate of 10.6%. This shows that Cornell is more competitive to gain admission into than Middlebury.

When it comes to standardized test scores, Middlebury requires SAT or ACT scores, while Cornell now offers a test-optional admissions process, meaning applicants do not have to submit test scores for undergraduate programs.

Another important factor to consider when comparing admission statistics is the demographic makeup of the student body. Middlebury has a student body that is 44% students of color, while Cornell’s student body is 37% students of color. Additionally, Middlebury has a higher percentage of international students, with 10% of the student body coming from outside the United States, compared to Cornell’s 5%.

Academic Programs Offered: A Comparative Study

Both offer a broad range of academic programs across various fields of study. Middlebury is renowned for its Language Schools, which offer immersive language learning experiences. Meanwhile, Cornell is known for its robust engineering, business, and hospitality programs, among others.

View of a man writing on his table.

Additionally, Middlebury has a strong reputation for environmental studies, sciences, and sustainability, which are integrated throughout its programs. Comparatively, Cornell’s natural sciences, life sciences, and veterinary programs are some of the best in the country.

It is worth noting that Middlebury also offers unique programs such as its Bread Loaf School of English, which focuses on literature and writing, and its School in Russia, which provides students with the opportunity to study Russian language and culture in Moscow. On the other hand, Cornell offers a highly regarded program in urban and regional planning, as well as a prestigious law school.

Faculty and Student Ratio: A Comprehensive Analysis

The student to faculty ratio is an important indicator of academic quality and personalized attention. Middlebury has a low student to faculty ratio of 8:1, ensuring that students receive individual attention from their professors. Cornell, in comparison, has a student to faculty ratio of 9:1, which is still impressive considering its large student population.

Both have distinguished faculty members who are experts in their fields. Middlebury, however, stands out for its exceptional teaching faculty, many of whom have won awards for their classroom instruction.

Furthermore, Middlebury’s commitment to small class sizes allows for more interactive and engaging classroom discussions. With an average class size of 15 students, Middlebury students have ample opportunities to participate in class and receive personalized feedback from their professors. This approach to education fosters a strong sense of community and intellectual curiosity among students, which is reflected in the college’s high retention and graduation rates.

Research Opportunities at Middlebury vs. Cornell

Research is an integral part of a student’s college experience, and both Middlebury and Cornell offer unparalleled opportunities for students to engage in research. Cornell is a member of the prestigious Ivy League, providing students with access to cutting-edge research facilities and renowned researchers. However, Middlebury’s focus on undergraduate research enables students to work closely with faculty members in a more intimate setting.

At Middlebury, the College’s undergraduate research endeavors are supported by multiple institutes and centers, while Cornell operates world-renowned research institutions such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell Center for Materials Research, and Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source. Both institutions are dedicated to advancing knowledge in many fields through rigorous research.

Additionally, Middlebury and Cornell offer various research opportunities for students to explore their interests and gain hands-on experience. Middlebury’s summer research program provides students with funding and resources to conduct research projects over the summer, while Cornell’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program offers students the chance to work on cutting-edge research projects with faculty members and graduate students.

Student Life and Campus Culture: A Comparative Study

College is not all about academics. Student life and campus culture are critical components that shape a student’s college experience. Both Middlebury and Cornell have vibrant campus cultures with lots of student activities, clubs, and events.

Group of students talking while staring at the screen.

At Middlebury, students can involve themselves in over 150 student organizations, athletics programs, community service work, and study abroad opportunities. Alternatively, Cornell offers over 1000 student organizations and a wide variety of events such as concerts, lectures, and athletics.

Moreover, Middlebury has a strong focus on sustainability and environmentalism, with initiatives such as a student-run organic farm and a commitment to carbon neutrality. On the other hand, Cornell has a rich history of activism and social justice, with student-led movements and protests that have brought about significant change on campus and beyond.

Additionally, Middlebury has a close-knit community with small class sizes and a low student-to-faculty ratio, allowing for more personalized attention and mentorship opportunities. In contrast, Cornell is a larger institution with a diverse student body and a wide range of academic programs, providing students with a more expansive and interdisciplinary education.

Athletics Programs at Middlebury vs. Cornell

For those interested in intercollegiate athletics, Middlebury and Cornell both offer robust programs with opportunities for student-athletes to compete at the highest level. Middlebury is a member of NCAA Division III and competes in various sports, including skiing, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and more.

Cornell, in contrast, is an NCAA Division I school and is a member of the Ivy League Conference. The university has a storied athletic program, with teams winning multiple championships across many sports. Cornell’s most popular sports include ice hockey, wrestling, lacrosse, football, and basketball.

Aside from intercollegiate athletics, both Middlebury and Cornell offer a variety of intramural and club sports for students who want to stay active and compete in a more casual setting. Middlebury has over 30 club sports, including ultimate frisbee, rugby, and equestrian, while Cornell has over 60 club sports, including fencing, quidditch, and water polo.

Additionally, Middlebury and Cornell both prioritize the academic success of their student-athletes. Middlebury has a high graduation rate for its student-athletes, and Cornell has a dedicated academic support program for its athletes, providing tutoring, study halls, and academic advising to ensure they excel both on and off the field.

Career Prospects for Graduates: A Comparative Analysis

Graduates of both institutions are highly sought after by various employers across different industries. Middlebury College is well-known for its excellent career preparation programs, including resume building, interviewing skills, and job search strategies.

Cornell, on the other hand, has an extensive alumni network consisting of over 250,000 members who have found success in many fields. Cornell’s career services include advising, internship placement, and job fairs, all of which help students with their career goals.

It is worth noting that while both Middlebury and Cornell offer strong career services, the industries in which their graduates find success differ. Middlebury graduates tend to excel in fields such as education, environmental studies, and international relations, while Cornell graduates often find success in finance, technology, and engineering. However, both institutions provide their students with the necessary skills and resources to succeed in their chosen career paths.

Alumni Network Comparison: Middlebury vs. Cornell

Both Middlebury and Cornell have impressive alumni networks, with graduates working in various industries worldwide. Middlebury has produced many notable alumni, including politicians and business leaders. Similarly, Cornell’s alumni include renowned scientists, entrepreneurs, and leaders in many fields.

With over 60,000 alumni worldwide, Middlebury has a devoted network that passionately supports and engages with their alma mater. Cornell’s alumni network is even more extensive, with its alumni residing in over 170 countries and in nearly every industry imaginable.

However, Middlebury’s alumni network is known for its tight-knit community and strong connections between alumni. The college hosts numerous events and programs throughout the year to bring alumni together and foster a sense of camaraderie. In contrast, Cornell’s vast alumni network can sometimes feel overwhelming and difficult to navigate.

Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid Comparison between Middlebury vs. Cornell

One of the crucial factors in deciding which college to attend is the cost of attendance and the financial aid packages available. Middlebury and Cornell both have reputations for being expensive, with Middlebury’s cost of attendance being $77,048, and Cornell’s being around $78,000.

International students participating in a class

Thankfully, both schools provide financial aid packages to help students cover their tuition and expenses. Middlebury offers need-based financial aid, while Cornell has need-based and merit-based scholarships and grants.

It is important to note that the cost of attendance may vary depending on the student’s individual circumstances, such as their housing and meal plan choices. Additionally, both Middlebury and Cornell offer work-study programs, which allow students to earn money to help cover their expenses while gaining valuable work experience.

Furthermore, Middlebury and Cornell have resources available to help students navigate the financial aid process and understand their options. Students can meet with financial aid advisors and attend workshops to learn about budgeting, loan repayment, and other financial topics.

Sustainability Initiatives and Environmental Impact Comparison

Both institutions pride themselves on adopting sustainable practices and reducing their environmental impact. Middlebury has implemented various initiatives to ensure they use renewable energy and reduce their carbon footprint. The College has also banned bottled water, implemented a composting program, and encourages the use of public transportation.

Sustainability is also a primary focus at Cornell. The university is committed to advancing sustainability through its Green Revolving Fund, which provides funding for sustainability projects on campus. Additionally, Cornell has various student-run organizations dedicated to promoting sustainability, such as the Sustainability Hub and the Sustainable Living Center.

Furthermore, Middlebury has a student-led organization called the Environmental Council, which works to promote sustainability on campus and in the surrounding community. The council organizes events and initiatives such as Earth Week, which includes activities such as tree planting, waste reduction, and energy conservation. Middlebury also has a farm that provides fresh produce to the dining halls and local community, promoting sustainable agriculture practices.

International Student Experience at Middlebury vs. Cornell

International students are a significant part of the student bodies at both Middlebury and Cornell. Middlebury offers various international programs that integrate international experiences into its curriculum, such as its study abroad programs and the Middlebury School of the Environment.

Cornell also provides numerous international programs, such as an international business diploma, a Global Health Program, and collaborations with various universities worldwide. Additionally, the university has a large community of international students that make up around 10% of its undergraduate population.

Both Middlebury and Cornell have dedicated resources to support international students. Middlebury has an International Student and Scholar Services office that provides assistance with visa and immigration issues, as well as cultural adjustment and academic support. Cornell has a similar office called the Office of Global Learning, which offers resources such as English language support, cultural programming, and assistance with practical matters like housing and transportation. These resources help international students feel more at home and succeed academically in their new environment.

Diversity and Inclusion on Campus: A Comparative Study

Diversity and inclusion are integral aspects of student life on campus. Both Middlebury and Cornell have pledged to uphold these values. Middlebury has various initiatives and programs dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion on campus, such as the CPE (Cross-Cultural Community Care and Education) and the Solidarity Task Force.

Cornell also has programs dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion, such as the Cornell Abroad Diversity Fellowship and the Asian & Asian American Center. The university also has a Diversity Alumni Programs Office that maintains connections to Cornell’s diverse communities.

Furthermore, both Middlebury and Cornell have student-led organizations that actively work towards creating a more inclusive campus environment. Middlebury has the Alliance for Inclusive Middlebury, which focuses on promoting diversity and inclusion through education and advocacy. Cornell has the Diversity and Inclusion Business Advisory Council, which works to create a more diverse and inclusive business community on campus.

Notable Achievements and Accolades of Middlebury and Cornell

Both are highly regarded for their academic achievements, faculty research, and successful alumni. Middlebury has received top rankings in various categories, including #5 in Best National Liberal Arts Colleges by US News & World Report in 2022. Additionally, it has produced several Rhodes Scholars, Fulbright Scholars, and Pulitzer Prize winners.

Four students walking away from the campus.

Cornell’s reputation as one of the top research institutions in the world precedes itself, having produced many Nobel Laureates, Fields Medal recipients, and Pulitzer Prize winners. Additionally, Cornell consistently ranks highly in many categories, including #18 in Best National Universities by US News & World Report.

Furthermore, Middlebury has a strong commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. The college has implemented various initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint, including the installation of solar panels and the use of geothermal energy. Middlebury has also been recognized for its efforts, receiving a STARS Gold rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

On the other hand, Cornell has a rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship. The university has produced many successful entrepreneurs and startup companies, including Dropbox and Warby Parker. Cornell also has a strong focus on interdisciplinary research, with its many colleges and schools collaborating on projects in fields such as engineering, agriculture, and medicine.

The Future of Higher Education: Insights from Middlebury vs. Cornell

With the constantly evolving nature of higher education, Middlebury and Cornell have unique perspectives on the future of education. Middlebury has already embraced the future, introducing blending learning to its curriculum that allows students to attend classes in person and online simultaneously.

Cornell has also embraced new technologies and learning opportunities, with a strong push towards hybrid learning models. Additionally, the university is expanding its digital learning opportunities, including its online courses and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Both are dedicated to adapting and evolving to provide students with the best education possible, which is crucial in a world of rapid change.

Furthermore, both Middlebury and Cornell are investing in research and development to explore new ways of teaching and learning. Middlebury has established a Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research, which focuses on innovative teaching practices and the integration of technology in the classroom. Similarly, Cornell has established the Cornell Center for Teaching Innovation, which provides resources and support for faculty to enhance their teaching methods and incorporate new technologies.

These initiatives demonstrate the commitment of both institutions to stay at the forefront of higher education and provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world.


Choosing between Middlebury and Cornell can be a challenging decision. Both institutions offer exceptional opportunities in academics, research, extra-curricular activities, and career prospects. Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and the unique features that each institution offers.

This comparison has allowed us to explore all the different elements that contribute to making a decision about attending Middlebury or Cornell. Our analysis has been comprehensive and informative, enabling readers to make an informed decision about their future academic pursuits.

It is important to note that while Middlebury and Cornell are both highly respected institutions, they have different strengths and weaknesses. Middlebury is known for its strong programs in the humanities and social sciences, as well as its emphasis on environmental sustainability. Cornell, on the other hand, is renowned for its programs in engineering, agriculture, and business.


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