What Does Cornell Look for in admission?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a female masters student being interviewed

What Does Cornell Look for in Prospective Students?

If you are considering applying to Cornell University, you might wonder what the admissions committee looks for in prospective students. While there is no magic formula for acceptance, there are certain criteria that Cornell values when reviewing applications. This article provides a comprehensive overview of what Cornell looks for in prospective students.

The Importance of Academic Performance in Cornell’s Admissions Process

One of the most critical factors that Cornell considers is your academic performance. This includes your high school GPA, the rigor of your course load, and your performance on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. Cornell is highly selective and looks for students with academic excellence and a drive for intellectual curiosity.

If you are learning What Does Cornell Look for, taking a challenging academic course load throughout high school and maintaining a high GPA is essential. While test scores are not the only factor considered in your application, they are still important in demonstrating your academic ability. It is recommended that you prepare extensively for these tests and submit scores that are competitive with other applicants.

Group of students sitting on their table.

In addition to academic performance, Cornell also values extracurricular activities and community involvement. Admissions officers look for well-rounded students who have demonstrated leadership skills, a commitment to service, and a passion for their interests outside the classroom. Your application must showcase your involvement in clubs, sports, volunteer work, and other activities.

Extracurricular Activities That Catch Cornell’s Attention

In addition to academic performance, Cornell values well-rounded students with a passion for learning inside and outside the classroom. This means that leadership roles, volunteer work, sports, and other extracurricular activities can significantly impact your chances of acceptance. Cornell looks for students who have made significant contributions to their communities and have demonstrated leadership potential.

When applying to Cornell, highlight your involvement in extracurricular activities. Consider showcasing your leadership roles, awards, and achievements, demonstrating your passion for learning, giving back, and teamwork.

One extracurricular activity that can catch Cornell’s attention is research. If you have participated in research projects, especially those related to your intended major, highlight them in your application. Cornell is a research-focused institution, and they value students with an interest and aptitude for research.

Another extracurricular activity that can impress Cornell is entrepreneurship. If you have started your own business or have been involved in a startup, this can demonstrate your creativity, innovation, and leadership skills. Cornell has a strong entrepreneurship program, and they are always looking for students who have the potential to become successful entrepreneurs.

How to Stand Out in Your Cornell Application Essay

Your application essay is your opportunity to showcase who you are as a person beyond your academic performance and extracurricular activities. Cornell looks for unique and authentic voices that can speak to their experiences and demonstrate their potential to contribute positively to the community.

When writing your essay, it is essential to be sincere and genuine. Be sure to convey your enthusiasm and interest in your desired major and demonstrate how Cornell’s resources and opportunities align with your goals. Additionally, consider showcasing your unique background and perspectives that make you stand out from other applicants.

a high school student studying

One way to showcase your unique background and perspectives is to share a personal story that has shaped your values and beliefs. This could be a challenging experience you overcame, a cultural tradition that influenced you, or a community service project you are passionate about. By sharing your personal story, you can demonstrate your resilience, empathy, and leadership skills, which Cornell highly values.

The Role of Standardized Tests in Cornell Admissions

As previously mentioned, standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT are important to the admissions process. However, Cornell takes a holistic approach to evaluating applications and does not have a minimum test score requirement. Instead, they consider many factors, including academic performance, extracurricular activities, application essays, and letters of recommendation.

If you do not perform as well as you hoped on standardized tests, do not worry. You can still demonstrate your academic potential and fit for Cornell through other parts of your application. Additionally, Cornell is one of many universities that have adopted test-optional policies, meaning applicants can choose whether to submit test scores.

It is important to note that while standardized tests are not the only factor considered in the admissions process, they can still play a significant role in demonstrating your academic abilities. If you choose to submit test scores, it is recommended that you take the tests multiple times to improve your scores. Cornell also accepts self-reported test scores, saving you money on official score reports. However, if you choose not to submit test scores, it is important to ensure that the other parts of your application are strong and showcase your potential as a student at Cornell.

Demonstrating Leadership Skills in Your Cornell Application

Cornell values students who have the potential to be leaders. This means they look for applicants who have demonstrated leadership skills through extracurricular activities, work experience, and community involvement. When applying to Cornell, think about how you have demonstrated leadership in the past and how you can continue to do so during your time in college.

You can showcase your leadership skills in several ways, including through your application essays, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities. Consider taking on leadership roles in clubs, teams, or volunteer organizations to demonstrate your potential to be a leader.

Another way to demonstrate your leadership skills is by taking the initiative and creating your projects or events. This could be starting a new club or organization, organizing a fundraiser for a cause you are passionate about, or leading a community service project. These types of initiatives show that you are not only a leader but also someone who takes action and makes things happen.

Remembering leadership doesn’t always mean being in charge or having a formal title is important. You can also demonstrate leadership by being a team player, collaborating with others, and helping to create a positive and inclusive environment. Cornell highly values these qualities and can set you apart from other applicants.

Tips for Navigating the Cornell Interview Process

If you are offered an interview as part of your application to Cornell, take advantage of this opportunity to showcase your personality and interest in the college. The interview is a chance for you to demonstrate your fit for the school and learn more about what Cornell offers.

During the interview, be authentic, enthusiastic, and prepared. Think about why you want to attend Cornell and what makes you unique as a candidate. Be sure to research the college and come prepared with thoughtful questions about the school’s resources, community, and opportunities.

It’s important to dress appropriately for the interview. Dress in business casual attire to show that you take the interview seriously and are professional. Additionally, arrive early to the interview location to allow time for unexpected delays such as traffic or difficulty finding the location.

After the interview, be sure to send a thank-you note to your interviewer. This is a great opportunity to reiterate your interest in the school and thank the interviewer for their time and consideration. It’s also a chance to address any questions or concerns that may have come up during the interview.

Understanding the Importance of Demonstrated Interest in Cornell Admissions

Cornell values students who have a genuine interest in attending the school. Demonstrating interest means that you have taken the time to research the college, attend information sessions and college fairs, and engage with the admissions office.

There are many ways to demonstrate an interest in Cornell, including campus visits, attending virtual events, emailing the admissions office with questions, and following the college on social media. Stay engaged with the college throughout the application process and demonstrate your enthusiasm for attending Cornell.

One important reason demonstrated interest is so important in Cornell admissions is that it shows the admissions committee that you are serious about attending the school. This can be especially important if you are applying to a highly competitive program or major, as it can help you stand out from other applicants.

a sociologist interviewing a couple

Additionally, demonstrating interest can also help you learn more about the school and determine if it is the right fit for you. By attending information sessions, speaking with current students, and engaging with the admissions office, you can better understand the school’s culture, academic programs, and extracurricular opportunities.

What Cornell Looks for in Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are an essential part of your application to Cornell. You should choose recommenders who can speak to your academic ability, character, and potential for success at Cornell. Ideally, your recommenders should be teachers or counselors who have worked with you closely and can provide specific examples of your achievements and strengths.

When selecting recommenders, choose individuals who know you well and can provide insightful and meaningful recommendations. Provide them with a list of your accomplishments and goals so they can write a detailed and personalized recommendation letter.

It is important to note that Cornell values diversity and encourages applicants to seek recommendations from individuals who can speak to their unique experiences and perspectives. This can include mentors, coaches, or community leaders who have worked with you outside the classroom.

Additionally, Cornell understands that not all applicants can access traditional recommenders, such as teachers or counselors. In these cases, applicants can consider seeking recommendations from employers, research supervisors, or other professionals who can speak to their skills and potential for success at Cornell.

How to Highlight Your Unique Qualities and Experiences for a Successful Cornell Application

Cornell values diversity and seeks students with unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. When applying to Cornell, think about what makes you stand out as a candidate. You should highlight your accomplishments, skills, and experiences that make you a unique and compelling applicant.

Consider differentiating yourself through extracurricular activities, academic pursuits, and personal experiences. Remember to emphasize how your unique qualities and experiences align with Cornell’s core values and contribute positively to the college community.

One way to showcase your unique qualities and experiences is through your essays. Use your essays to tell a story about a significant experience or challenge you have faced and how it has shaped you. This will give the admissions committee a deeper understanding of who you are and what you can bring to the Cornell community.

The Role of Diversity and Inclusion in Cornell’s Admissions Process

Cornell is committed to diversity and inclusion and strives to create a welcoming and supportive community for all students. When reviewing applications, Cornell looks for students who share this commitment and demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Smiling students looking at something on a laptop.

When applying to Cornell, consider how you have promoted diversity and inclusion in your community, and think about how you can continue to do so at Cornell. Be sure to highlight your experiences and perspectives that contribute to the diversity of the college community.

One way that Cornell promotes diversity and inclusion is through its various student organizations and clubs. These groups provide opportunities for students to connect with others with similar backgrounds or interests and to learn from one another’s experiences. Additionally, Cornell offers a range of resources and support services to help students from diverse backgrounds succeed academically and socially.

It is important to note that diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords at Cornell but integral values woven into the university’s fabric. By prioritizing these values in its admissions process, Cornell can create a vibrant and inclusive community that benefits all students, regardless of their background or identity.

Understanding the Transfer Admission Process at Cornell

If you are considering transferring to Cornell from another college or university, you should understand the transfer admissions process. Cornell considers many factors, including your academic performance in college, extracurricular activities, and personal experiences.

When applying as a transfer student, demonstrate your potential to succeed at Cornell. This means highlighting your academic ability and involvement in extracurricular activities and demonstrating how Cornell’s resources and opportunities align with your academic and personal goals.

It is important to note that Cornell has limited spots available for transfer students each year. Therefore, submitting a strong application showcasing your unique qualities and experiences is crucial. Additionally, Cornell offers transfer students the opportunity to participate in a transfer mentor program, which pairs incoming transfer students with current Cornell students to help ease the transition to the university.

Furthermore, Cornell has specific requirements for transfer applicants, including completing a certain number of college credits and specific coursework. It is important to carefully review these requirements and ensure that you meet them before applying. Cornell also offers transfer credit evaluations to determine which credits will transfer and count towards your degree at Cornell.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to Cornell University

When applying to Cornell, there are several common mistakes that applicants should avoid. These include submitting a sloppy or incomplete application, failing to demonstrate interest or fit for the college, and not showcasing your unique qualities and experiences.

Be sure to carefully review your application before submitting it and demonstrate your enthusiasm for attending Cornell. Additionally, be authentic and genuine in your application, highlight your unique qualities and experiences, and follow all of the application guidelines.

Another common mistake to avoid when applying to Cornell is not taking advantage of the resources available to you. Cornell offers a variety of resources for prospective students, such as campus tours, information sessions, and meetings with admissions counselors. These resources can help you gain a better understanding of the college and its culture and can also help you make a stronger case for why you are a good fit for Cornell.

The Benefits of Early Decision and Early Action Applications for Prospective Students

If you are committed to attending Cornell, consider applying through the Early Decision or Early Action programs. These programs can increase your chances of acceptance while demonstrating your commitment and interest in the college.

By applying early, you have a higher likelihood of being admitted, and you will receive your admissions decision earlier than regular decision applicants. Additionally, early applicants are typically more competitive than regular decision applicants, meaning you may have a better chance of acceptance.

3 female student hanging out at the

Another benefit of applying early is avoiding the stress and uncertainty of waiting for a decision. If accepted through Early Decision, you can relax and enjoy the rest of your senior year without worrying about college applications. Early Action applicants also receive their decisions earlier, which can help with planning and decision-making.

Furthermore, applying early can also give you an advantage regarding financial aid and scholarships. Many colleges have limited funds for financial aid and scholarships, and applying early can increase your chances of receiving these resources. This can be especially important for students who need financial assistance to attend college.

Important Dates and Deadlines for Prospective Students Applying to Cornell

If you are considering applying to Cornell, it is essential to be aware of the important dates and deadlines for the application process. This includes the deadline for submitting your application, the deadline for submitting standardized test scores, and the dates for campus visits and interviews.

Be sure to prepare in advance and keep track of all application deadlines to ensure your application is considered. Additionally, consider visiting the campus, attending virtual events, and engaging with the admissions office to demonstrate your interest in attending Cornell.

It is also important to note that Cornell offers a variety of application options, including Early Decision, Regular Decision, and Transfer applications. Early Decision applications are due in November, while Regular Decision applications are due in January. Transfer application deadlines vary depending on the specific program and college.

Furthermore, Cornell offers a need-blind admissions policy for U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens, meaning that a student’s financial need is not considered during the admissions process. However, international students are not eligible for need-blind admissions and must demonstrate their ability to pay for their education.


In summary, in learning What Does Cornell Look for, Cornell emphasizes academic excellence, well-roundedness, leadership potential, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. By highlighting your unique qualities and experiences, demonstrating your passion for learning, and showcasing your potential contributions to the college community, you can increase your chances of being accepted to and thriving at Cornell University.

Furthermore, Cornell offers a wide range of resources and opportunities for students to pursue their academic and personal interests. From research opportunities to study abroad programs, Cornell encourages students to explore their passions and broaden their horizons. Additionally, the university has a strong alumni network that provides valuable connections and support for students and graduates.

Lastly, Cornell is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive community for all students. The university has various initiatives and programs to promote diversity and equity, such as the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives and the Diversity and Inclusion Business Advisory Council. By being a part of this community, students can learn from and engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, preparing them for success in a global society.




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