What are the Chances of Getting into Cornell University?

July 4, 2021
By AdmissionSight

What are the Chances of Getting into Cornell University?

Tucked away in the beautiful, expansive Finger Lakes region of New York, Cornell University is one of the most sought-after Ivy League universities. Every year, tens of thousands of high schoolers from across the country and the globe compete for limited positions at this world-class university. And with top-tier academic offerings, dedicated faculty members, and a stunning campus, it’s no wonder so many students want to make Cornell their home for the next four years. If you’re eager to secure a spot in the incoming freshman class, you probably have a lot of questions regarding the application process. So, what are the chances of getting into Cornell university?

Pathway in a school surrounded by old buildings.

The Ivy Leagues are known for being highly competitive. Although Cornell is no exception to this rule, it actually has one of the highest acceptance rates out of the other seven schools in the group. This has earned Cornell the title of the easiest Ivy League to get into.

As with many things related to the college admissions process, it’s not as easy as it might first appear. Cornell is still a highly competitive school that requires a tremendous amount of effort, excellent planning, relentless commitment, and a nearly pristine application. But it’s definitely possible!

Here, we’ll take a deeper look at the chances of getting into Cornell University, what admissions officers seek in applicants, and some tips for improving your application. Ready? Let’s dive into it!

What is the Cornell University acceptance rate?

The most common metric used by students to gauge the difficulty of a university is the acceptance rate. This equation simply divides the number of accepted students by the total number of people who applied. For the Class of 2025, Cornell received over 67,000 applications. Of these tens of thousands of applicants, only 5,863 were admitted to the freshman class. This places the acceptance rate at Cornell University at roughly 9%. To put this number into perspective, for every 100 high schoolers that apply to Cornell, only nine get accepted.

Clearly, Cornell University earns its reputation as an Ivy League school for its high selectivity. The average acceptance rate among private colleges throughout the United States is just over 50%. This number increases to 68% when considering the admission rate of all colleges in the country.

While this comparison makes getting into Cornell seem like an impossible feat, it’s important to put these high-level universities within the proper context. It’s understandable that prestigious schools such as Cornell will be more restrictive in who they accept due to the sheer number of students who want to attend. Among its peers, Cornell University actually has a higher acceptance rate.

When compared to other Ivy League universities, Cornell regularly is at the bottom of the list in terms of restrictive admission rates. For example, the next two Ivies following Cornell in terms of high acceptance rate were Dartmouth and UPenn which have acceptance rates of 6.17% and 5.68%, respectively.

To really put Cornell’s admission rate into context, let’s look at the toughest Ivies to get into. Columbia and Harvard both have acceptance rates below 4%! As we’ve mentioned before, Cornell is sometimes thought of as the easiest of the Ivies to get into. Although it’s not quite that simple, it can give applicants some added confidence knowing that Cornell accepts more students proportionally than any other Ivy League school.

What is the Cornell early decision acceptance rate?

Cornell University, like many colleges, offers more than one admission timeline. Candidates can submit their applications on the standard date or during an early decision. Unfortunately, not many students know about this option. Even those that do might not understand the advantages of the alternative.

The obvious downside is that you’ll have to prepare your application earlier than normal. However, the tremendous upside to an early decision is the higher acceptance rate. Yes, you heard that right! Universities typically have higher acceptance rates during early admissions than their standard application timelines.

Autumn view in a university campus.

For the Class of 2024, Cornell University received 6,615 early decision applications. Out of this total number, 1,576 candidates were accepted. That translates to an acceptance rate of 23.8% which is even a 7% increase from the prior year! When you compare that to Cornell’s overall acceptance rate of roughly 9%, it’s an obvious advantage to apply during early decisions.

The obvious follow-up question is: why doesn’t everybody take advantage of early decision? In reality, most students simply don’t realize it’s an option. As mentioned earlier, even when hearing about early admission, few applicants know that the acceptance rate is higher.

However, it’s also important to note that early decision is binding at Cornell. This means that students accepted during the early admission timeline have to withdraw their applications at other universities and submit an enrollment deposit to the Cornell admissions office by the beginning of January. Don’t worry if you’re not accepted during early decision as your application can get slated for regular decision.

Cornell University Admission Requirements

GPA Requirements

Many universities have a GPA minimum requirement for applicants. When students see their scores anywhere above this limit, there’s an instant sigh of relief. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these requirements represent the bare minimum of what’s required to even have your application considered without getting thrown away immediately.

In order to really stand out from the crowd and secure a spot at the school of your dreams, you need to exceed the minimum GPA. The good news about Cornell is that it doesn’t have a GPA cutoff, meaning any student’s application will be considered regardless of their GPA.

Still, this doesn’t keep admissions officers from instantly disregarding your application when the GPA isn’t up to snuff. But how can you compare what GPA you need to attend Cornell without having a minimum requirement? That’s where GPA averages can help. Looking at the performance of accepted applicants can tell you what kind of students are successfully getting admitted.

This is true for all academic performance metrics including GPA and standardized test scores. The current average GPA for admitted Cornell applicants is around 4.07 on a standard 4.0 scale. Clearly, you’ll need to be close to straight As in your classes.

To boost your GPA, we advise taking AP courses or honors classes. This also demonstrates to admissions officers that collegiate-level material isn’t an issue to you. It’s important for high schoolers to start paying attention to their GPA as soon as possible. That’s why academic planning is such an important component of college preparation.

If you’re currently in your junior or senior year, it’ll be thought to correct your GPA if it falls below this average. This will require better performance in other areas of your application such as on the SAT or ACT. By compensating in other areas for weakness in your GPA, you can successfully compete against other applicants.

SAT Score

Most universities including Cornell will claim not to have an SAT cut-off score. In other words, they claim not to have a minimum requirement on this standardized test. In reality, there’s a hidden minimum that’s determined by the average score of excepted applicants. In lieu of a true cut-off score, applicants need something against which to measure their own performance.

Since your ultimate goal is to get accepted into Cornell, it only makes sense to use the performance of successful applicants as your litmus test. The SAT makes it easy to compare your performance against those of other students due to the objectivity and standardization of the exam. The average SAT score for Cornell admits is 1480 on the standard 1600-point scale.

The 25th percentile score is 1420 while the 75th percentile score is 1540. In other terms, scoring below 1420 will place you under the average score. On the other hand, scoring 1540 or above will help you stand out as above average.

For an even better understanding of how you should perform on the SAT, it’s helpful to see how successful Cornell applicants scored on each portion of the exam. Keep in mind that the SAT split into two separate portions. You have the reading and writing section and the math section.

Here is how the individual and composite scores are broken down for Cornell admits.

Section 25th Percentile Average (Mean) 75th Percentile
Composite 1420 1480 1540
Reading + Writing 680 720 760
Math 720 760 800

Subject Tests

In addition to the standard SAT, the college board offers 20 subject tests. These tests come in five different subject areas including science mathematics languages history and English. In the past, Cornell required specific SAT subject tests for some of its colleges. However, it was never a general requirement for the university.

Recently, however, many colleges have done away with the SAT subject tests. In fact, the College Board even announced that these additional exams wouldn’t even be available moving beyond 2021. As a result, students won’t need to take these exams in order to apply to Cornell moving forward.

ACT Score

Similar to the SAT, Cornell university doesn’t have an official ACT cut-off score. As we mentioned before however, it’s still important for students to compare their test results with those of previously accepted Cornell applicants. So, what ACT score do you need to aim for?

Well, the average score on this standardized test for Cornell admits is an impressive 34 out of 36. The 75th percentile score is 35 and the 25th percentile score is 32. Receiving a score beneath the 25th percentile is a sure-fire way to keep your application from getting noticed. In order to catch the attention of admissions officers, you should strive to score 35 or above.

Tips for Getting into Cornell

Cornell admission requirements cover much more than academic performance. While these components are critical to the application process, you’ll also need to focus on other areas to really stand out as a qualified candidate. After all, Cornell takes what’s known as a holistic approach to its admissions process.

This simply means that admissions officers look at a wide variety of factors when handpicking worthwhile candidates. Here are some other areas of your application that should receive attention if you want to increase your chances of getting into Cornell University.

1. Extracurricular Activities

The importance of academic performance is sometimes overestimated by students. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the significance of non-academic factors is underestimated by those looking to get into Cornell. In reality, admissions officers are interested to see how you spend your time outside of normal school hours.

Two students in a bench holding their gadgets.Extracurriculars are an excellent way to have your application stand out and increase your chances of getting into Cornell University. It’s advisable to stick with one or two extracurriculars instead of spreading yourself too thin amongst many. Being active in activities outside of school shows initiative and community participation – two factors admissions officers love to see.

2. Summer Programs

What do you have planned for the summer? If it’s nothing related to school, you’re definitely not alone. However, there are opportunities to improve your standing with the Ivy Leagues even outside of the school year. In particular, summer programs are an excellent way to illustrate your willingness to pursue your academic interest and enhance your skills in the field which in turn increase your chances of getting into Cornell university

For example, if you were planning to study science, you could attend the well-known Summer Science Program. College admissions officers will take notice of students going out of their way to continue their studies outside of regular school. It shows determination and proactivity.

3. Letters of Recommendation

Like many universities, Cornell‘s admissions officers request the applicants submit letters of recommendation. The purpose of these letters is to give universities insight into how others in your academic life view you. You’ll have plenty to say about yourself on your application and in your essays.

Admissions officers at Cornell also want to hear what impact you’ve had in the classroom. As a result, it’s imperative that students ask teachers with whom they’ve developed a close relationship. This ensures that the letter of recommendation comes off as genuine, authentic, and personable.

4. Academic Planning

Now that you understand the academic requirements for getting into Cornell University, the next thing you need to determine is how to achieve those goals. It’s not enough to simply hope for the scores by trying your best in school. Instead, you need a clear plan beforehand. This is the importance of academic planning.

Young female highlighting in her notebook.

It’s the process of choosing which courses you need to take in high school during which years. It also involves determining the exact scores you need in those classes and on the standardized tests you take. It’s through this preparation and planning that you can greatly improve your chances of reaching the academic requirements of getting into Cornell.

5. College Essays

Every year, admissions officers at Cornell University send out a new series of essay prompts. All applicants have to respond to these essays in order to complete their applications. While the rest of the application is designed to understand your academic performance in more detail, these essay prompts offer you an opportunity to review more about who you are, what motivates you, what you want to study, and what goals you have. Nailing these essays is essential to stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of getting into Cornell University.

Improve your chances of getting into Cornell University

Looking for a hand getting into Cornell University? AdmissionSight is here to help! We’ve spent the past decade perfecting our college entrance services to help students just like you secure a spot in some of the best schools in the country, including Cornell.

But don’t just take our word for it. Over three-quarters of our students have gotten accepted into the Ivy League or Top 10 universities. How are our services so effective? Well, we know the ins and outs of the college admissions process intimately. All of our services are specifically designed to help perfect your application, making it impossible for admissions officers to overlook your name.

We understand just how daunting the admission process is for high schoolers, especially when applying to a prestigious school like Cornell. That’s why our services cover all aspects of collegiate preparation and application completion.

Whether you need a hand choosing the right courses and extracurricular for high school or you need a hand preparing your application, we’ve got you covered. We’ll custom-tailor our services to help solve your academic goals. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation. You’ll have all of your questions answered about our services and how you can benefit.

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