Top Cornell Application Mistake to Avoid at All Costs

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of Cornell University's tower and building on a sunny day.

Top Cornell Application Mistake to Avoid at All Costs

When it comes to getting into one of the eight Ivy League schools, high school students who are both committed and intelligent need to do everything within their power to improve their chances.

Without a doubt, even students who have application resumes that are filled with impressive accomplishments, great class grades, and amazing standardized test scores can find it difficult to get into schools like Cornell.

If you are looking to learn about Cornell application mistakes that you absolutely want to avoid, then you have come to the right place. The truth is that one of the most important things that any high school student can do to improve their chances of getting into any top school is to give the actual application itself the attention and time that it needs to be its very best.

After all, in a process in which admissions officers are trying to learn everything they can about a specific student in order to decide whether or not that student would be a good fit at their school, the application is without a doubt quite important!

At AdmissionSight, we make it our top priority to help the students that we work with getting into the top schools of their choice. Whether those choices are Ivy League programs like Cornell, Yale, or Dartmouth, top-10 schools elsewhere in the country, big public universities, or specialized liberal art schools.

A big part of making sure that the entire application process goes smoothly is knowing what to do – and what not to do – at every step. That is why we thought it would be a smart idea to dive deeply into how to avoid making a single mistake on the Cornell application that could turn you from a top choice to a student that may be sitting right on the bubble.

But before we get into the 7 crucial mistakes that any student looking to get into Cornell should avoid and what they should do instead, we thought that it would be a smart idea to break down some of the basic facts and numbers related to Cornell admissions.

Let’s get started!

Cornell admissions basics

Cornell is one of the eight schools that make up the Ivy League. The ivies are widely considered to be amongst the most competitive and prestigious schools in not only the United States but the entire world.

Every single application cycle, tens of thousands of students apply to the Ivy League schools with the hopes of becoming one of the newest members of the incredibly proud, passionate, and exclusive club.

Though Cornell is widely considered to be one of the more accessible schools within the Ivy League, we want to make sure that you know that it is still truly one of the hardest schools to get into in the entire United States. Taking a look at some of the details related to what a typical student that gets into Cornell looks like will give you a very good sense of that fact.

Average GPA for students accepted to Cornell

Arguably the best place to start for any student to get a good idea of how hard it is to get into Cornell is to look at the average grade point average for high school students that apply to Cornell and end up getting in! The reason why this is a good place to start, primarily, is because the GPA is widely considered to be the most important singular aspect of any given student’s application.

However, it is important to keep in mind that a great GPA alone is not going to be enough for a student to get the outcome that they want when applying to Cornell, or any top school for that matter!

At Cornell, the average GPA for high school students that get in is an incredible 4.07. Given the fact that a straight-A GPA is a 4.0, you probably are already starting to grasp at just how impressive a student truly has to be to get into Cornell.

Another good way for students to get an idea of how selective Cornell is is to look at the average standardized test scores that students that end up getting into Cornell earn. It is true that- at the moment – many top schools across the United States, including Cornell, have adopted a test optional policy in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it is also true that students that are applying to these schools are still taking exams and sending in highly impressive scores. Moreover, it is likely that schools like Cornell will ultimately reinstate a test-required policy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to come under greater control across the world.

All that aside, these average scores offer you just another insight into the kinds of students that are getting into schools like Cornell.

For the ACT, the average score of students that are accepted into Cornell is 34 out of the perfect score of 36.

For the SAT, the average score of students that are accepted into Cornell is 1480 out of the perfect score of 1600.

So, as you see, the average standardized test scores of students that get into Cornell are just about as impressive as the average GPA. Overall, these three averages paint a vivid picture of the kinds of students that get into this school. They have to perform at the highest level throughout high school if they want to simply be at the average numbers that students who get into the school earn.

Entrance sign to Cornell University on a wall rock.

Typically, students that get into Cornell are going to be at the very top of their high school classes in terms of performance. They are often leaders both within and outside of the classroom and are very driven when it comes to succeeding now as students, and as professionals in the future.

Cornell acceptance rate

When it comes to admissions basics at Cornell, there is one number that we think is crucial any student at Cornell knows. That number is the acceptance rate. Of course, this number represents the percentage of students that actually get into the school each year.

While the acceptance rate does vary from year to year, top schools like Cornell have consistently seen a slight downtrend in terms of the acceptance rate over the last decade or so.

At Cornell, the current acceptance rate hovers at 10.9 percent currently. While this acceptance rate is certainly quite a bit higher than the acceptance rates at other ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, it still puts Cornell amongst the most competitive and selective schools in the world!

So! Now that we know about the very basic facts and numbers related to admissions at Cornell, we thought that it would be a good idea to start breaking down the top Cornell application mistakes to avoid if you have this school at the very top of your list of dream schools.

Let’s get into it.

Top Cornell application mistakes to avoid

Mistake No. 1 – Not inserting personal details into your application

Depending on how far along you currently are in your application journey, you may or may not know just how important it is to find a way to help your application – and your story – stick out from the rest of the pack.

Remember that admissions officers are looking over many applications each day, and likely thousands of applications each application cycle. For that reason, making sure that your application is not one that they simply gloss over or do not get drawn in by can be seen as a major mistake.

A woman looking at her laptop feeling worried.

In some ways, you can think of your college application as a great story, or perhaps as a stellar business pitch. If you – as a writer or a businessperson – fail to draw your reader or potential customer in, how can you expect them to finish your book or buy your product?

The very same principle can be applied to your application to Cornell. So for that reason, keeping everything surface level, and not getting into the deep truth of who you are and why you want to go to Cornell would be a major mistake.

What to do instead

Before you get started on your application, it is important for you to really sit down and think about how to answer the important kinds of questions that admissions officers will ask themselves.

Who are you? What makes you tick? What excites you? What do you want to accomplish during your undergraduate education? What do you want to accomplish in your personal and professional life? And why do you think going to Cornell will play a key role in allowing yourself to achieve all those goals and become the very best version of yourself?

Finding ways to ask and answer those questions can play a major role in making sure that you are maximizing the opportunity that comes with completing your Cornell application.

Mistake No. 2 – Not proving your leadership ability

One thing that leading schools like Cornell love is leaders. After all, some of the most influential figures in the worlds of business, politics, art, science, and more come out of the Ivy League community. To maintain that tradition, admissions officers at every Ivy League school make a real point to identify the young leaders that are applying to their school every year.

Group of students in the library with their group leader discussing the task.

For that reason, it would be a major mistake on Cornell’s application to not figure out ways to show that you were a leader within your high school community in and outside of the classroom. Leaving details that support that would not only hurt your chances of getting into the school but would also lead admissions officers with an unfinished picture of who you are as a student and a person.

What to do instead

Whether you made a point to become a leader in the classroom itself, a leader in school clubs, teams or groups, or a leader within your community outside of school, you need to make that clear on your application. One of the best ways that students can earn leadership roles in high school is through their extracurricular activities.

This includes anything from getting involved in school plays to playing sports, to becoming a member of an academic competition team. Ideally, students choose a relatively small number (typically three to five) of extracurriculars to get involved in and then commit to them throughout their high school years.

This will not only give you a chance to explore your passions deeply but will also offer you the opportunity to earn roles of leadership and importance by your junior or senior years of high school. From there, all you have to do to prove your own leadership qualities is write about those activities, what you got out of them, and what you achieved within them.

Mistake No. 3 – Not getting familiar with the school that you are applying to

Don’t be a stranger! You may feel that it could be seen as inappropriate or overly desperate to reach out to a school that you plan on applying to, but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, top schools like Cornell truly love to see when potential students are making an effort to get involved with the school early on.

After all, these schools depend heavily on their passionate and committed alumni community for many things. Not only do alumni who go on to achieve great things improve the notoriety and prestige of the school, but many of the school’s most generous benefactors are men and women who once were students at the school.

In front, two students are having a discussion while another two students are in the background.

Moreover, the Ivy League is devoted to maintaining its customs and prestige, and the schools within the Ivy League love to find students who are interested in becoming a part of that.

So, being too timid to reach out to a school like Cornell or feeling like it might be a bit too forward can leave you missing out on a truly valuable application opportunity.

What to do instead

One of the very best ways to show interest in a school is to essentially make sure that your application is not the first time that anyone within Cornell has heard your name. Basically, becoming a part of the community unofficially before you are able to do so officially. You can do this by applying to and attending summer programs on the university’s campus.

This will allow you to get familiar with what it is like on the school’s campus. It will also allow you to meet with current faculty and students. You can also take part in the school’s interview process.

An interview process will actually take place during the application process. This will allow you to speak directly with a member of the school’s alumni community.

They will ask you questions, and you – of course – can ask them questions about the school. If you are truly serious about attending Cornell, taking advantage of the optional interview should really be considered a no-brainer.

Mistake No. 4 – Not asking you personal essays

Truth be told, one of the most important aspects of any student’s application to Cornell is the way that they approach the personal essay section of their application. In fact, now that standardized tests are optional, many people believe that the second most important aspect of any student’s application is their answers to the personal essay questions.

Though many of these answers are quite short – typically a few hundred words each – that does not mean that writing them is a task that should be taken lightly. This is, without a doubt, your best chance to give the admissions officers looking at your application the chance to get to know who you really are.

A student holding a pencil writing on paper.

Simply answering these questions with the first answer that comes to mind, and not going over them with a fine-tooth comb to look out for any errors or ways to improve them once they are written would be one of the worst Cornell application mistakes that you could make.

What to do instead

Cornell application mistakes include writing common personal essays so it needs the care and importance that they deserve! Really spend time coming up with the best possible answers to each specific question before you even begin writing.

Think about what you want an admissions officer to really know about you and find out ways to get that information across all while telling an entertaining and engrossing story.

Without a doubt, this is a hard task. And Cornell is looking for students who can take on this hard task and shine because of it! Start coming up with your essay answers as early as possible and give yourself the time you need to review, edit and improve!

Get more Cornell admission advice

Well, there you have it! At AdmissionSight, we make it our number one goal to make sure that every student who is interested in getting into schools like Cornell, Harvard or Stanford has the best chances possible. That’s why 75 percent of the students that we work with get into either an Ivy League or otherwise top-10 school in the country. If you are interested in what else we have to offer our students, contact us for a free consultation today!



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