What Is the Average ACT Score at Cornell?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a building inside Cornell University

What Is the Average ACT Score at Cornell?

For students who are interested in going to one of the most prestigious and competitive schools in the United States, there is a pretty good chance that Cornell University is somewhere near the top of their list.

After all, Cornell is one of the eight schools that make up the highly prestigious Ivy League. These schools are known for being very hard to get into and offering students with incredible opportunities both during and after their undergrad education.

But what is the average ACT score at Cornell?

At AdmissionSight, we know just how crucial it is for students who are interested in applying to and getting into top schools to know the answers to these kinds of questions. In fact, we firmly believe that having a general knowledge about admissions expectations and trends is a truly crucial tool for any high school student to have.

front view of Cornell University surrounded by trees

So, if you are planning on applying to Cornell and do not yet know about the Cornell average ACT, Cornell requirements and the Cornell University acceptance rate, then there is no doubt that you have come to the right place.

Let’s break all that down and more together!

Cornell average ACT score

While there is a lot of important information that we want to break down, we feel it is only right to start off by answering the question that most of you are probably here for anyways. As you most likely already know, the ACT is one of the two standardized tests that students in the United States have taken for decades. The other popular test of course being the SAT.

Two students talking in a table.

When it comes to finding out what the average ACT score is at Cornell, it is pretty easy information to find out. After all, top schools that demand the most out of students that apply actually like giving out this kind of information because the difficulty to get into a school like Cornell actually improves its reputation and prestige.

Thanks to that, we know that the average ACT score composite at Cornell is a 34 out of the perfect score of 36! That alone should give anyone reading this a really good idea of just how demanding the admissions expectations at Cornell are.

Truly, the Cornell average ACT is just about as high as average ACTs get for any university across the United States. While some schools may boast an average of 35, we have not come across a single school that boasts a perfect score average of 36. Still, you can be sure that there are many students that do end up getting into Cornell that do earn a perfect ACT score of 36. In fact, it’s even possible that some students who get that perfect score end up not getting in! That is truly how hard it is to get into a school like this.

So, you now know the answer to the question, “What is the average ACT score at Cornell?” With all this being said, AdmissionSight knows that it is important for high school students these days to know the current goings on in the university admissions landscape. For that reason, we know it is really crucial to know that ACT or SAT scores are actually not a requirement for students who want to apply to and attend Cornell.

The reason for that, as you may have guessed, is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Here is what Cornell’s official undergraduate admissions site has to say about the current status of standardized test score reporting in regard to undergrad admissions:

“The SARS-COV-2 pandemic emergency has led to many SAT and ACT administration cancellations. Due to this extraordinary circumstance, students seeking to enroll at Cornell University beginning in August 2022 can submit their applications without including the results from ACT or SAT exams. This will be true for both the Early Decision and Regular Decision rounds of review.

“For All Applicants to Current and Future Terms: Please do not feel you need to take exams unless you are able to take the exam locally near your home and you feel safe in doing so. As a reminder, we will evaluate your application without standardized testing. For your health and safety, please always adhere to your local, state, and national COVID-19 guidelines.

“For those who have taken, or who can take, ACT and SAT exams

“Cornell overall has not planned to adopt a test-optional admission policy permanently. As appears to be true at test-optional colleges and universities, we anticipate that many students who will have had reasonable and uninterrupted opportunities to take the ACT and/or SAT during 2020-2021 administrations will continue to submit results, and those results will continue to demonstrate preparation for college-level work.

“Students who have taken a test, or even more than one test, but would still prefer not to submit those results, can make that choice.”

This message directly from the school tells us some really important things about the current situations at Cornell. First off, it is most important to know that if you are unable to take either the ACT or SAT while also making sure that you are not putting your health, or the health of anyone in your family at risk, you should absolutely not take the exam. After all, the test optional policy has been implemented specifically to make sure that no student feels a pressure to take either exam when they otherwise would not amidst the ongoing pandemic.

With that being said, if you are able to take the ACT or SAT safely, AdmissionSight highly advocates for it. The reason for this is quite simple when you think about it. Essentially, the entire goal that you will be looking to achieve when you apply to top schools like Cornell is to prove to the admissions officers at that school that you are capable of dealing with the highly demanding and rigorous curriculum that is offered at the school.

That is why having a very high GPA is one of the most important Cornell requirements to get in. Admissions officers do not want to set young men and women up for failure by accepting them to a school that they are not ready for academically. That is another reason why standardized test scores have been required for the vast majority of school applications for the last several decades.

So, with this new test optional policy comes a new opportunity for students who are determined to get into schools like Cornell. Of course, just to say again. If you feel that taking either the SAT or ACT would put yourself or someone in your family at risk, do NOT take them.

However, if you feel that you can do so safely, you can give yourself another bit of proof to the admissions officers at Cornell that you are up to the task of not only attending the school, but excelling there. Think about it this way. If you have the exact same GPA as another applying student, similar accomplishments, similar extracurriculars, letters of recommendations and personal essays, but only you have a high ACT score connected to your application, who do you think the admissions office is more likely to choose?

While you obviously cannot guarantee that it would be you, simply logic does point in your direction.

One final thing about the new test optional policy at Cornell. The school does indeed make it clear that the school will “consider with increased scrutiny their other application documents, looking for different evidence of excellent academic preparation.”

Those other documents include:

  • challenging courses and excellent grades in each secondary school (high school) context. Note: there will be no negative interpretation for schools and students who have had only pass/fail or similar grading options during this current term;
  • evidence of commitment and effort to pursuing other challenging learning experiences;
  • results from other kinds of secondary, college-preparatory, and university-qualifying testing where available and verifiable;
  • care, craft, and authenticity in their writing submissions;
  • and wherever practical and available, details, insight, and analysis from secondary school counselors and teachers.

Cornell University acceptance rate

So, now that you know all that there is to know about the Cornell University typical ACT score as well as how the school is approaching standardized tests currently, you may also be curious about the overall acceptance rate at the school.

While acceptance rates do change year to year, there is a fairly consistent percentage of students that end up getting in every application cycle. At current, the acceptance rate at Cornell is hovering right around 12.5 percent! While that actually – believe it or not – makes Cornell one of the less selective schools in the Ivy League, it still puts it at the top of the highest echelon of schools in terms of selectiveness in the United States.  Last year, the school received a total of 47,038 applicants. It marked the largest application pool in the entire Ivy League by just under 7,000 applications!

If you are curious about the other numbers related to the Cornell University acceptance rate, as well as how Cornell’s numbers compares to the other seven schools in the Ivy League, take a look at this very informational table below:

Table with information of different universities.Tip to improve your chances of getting into Cornell

So! Now that you have a better understanding of what kind of ACT score students will want to aim for if they are interested in getting into Cornell, you may be curious about some of the most useful tips and strategies that students have used in recent years to improve their chances of getting into this fabulous school!

Cornell Chimes at the Cornell campus

While it is important to keep in mind that when it comes to schools that are selective and competitive, there is simply no way to guarantee yourself a spot at the school. However, with some careful planning and strategizing, you can certainly improve the likelihood that you end up beating the odds of the Cornell acceptance rate and getting in.

Let’s get started!

Apply via early admission

If you take a closer look at the table above you will see that there are actually two acceptance rates connected to the admissions statistics at Cornell. That 12.5 percent acceptance rate that we discussed previously is the overall acceptance rate.

However, there is another acceptance rate, and that acceptance rate is for students that apply via early admission. As you see on the table, the students that go into Cornell who applied via early admissions was 25.6 percent! That’s over a quarter of the total pool of early admit students.

Early admission comes in two overall forms – Early Action and Early Decision. While they come with somewhat different rules and regulations, the basic idea is that students are applying early to get a chance to express their strong interest in a specific school and find out the result of your application months early.

When it comes to Cornell particularly, you have to be sure that it really is your top option if you do want to apply via early admission. The reason for this is because Early Decision at Cornell is binding. That means that if you do end up getting in, you will have to withdraw your applications from all the other schools you have applied to and enroll at Cornell.  So, it is a great option for you, but only if you will be more than happy to enroll at Cornell in the event that you get in. Just something to keep in mind.

Let them know if you are a legacy student

There is absolutely no doubt that the Ivy League values its history and legacy. After all, many of the schools in the Ivy League date too well before the beginning of the United States. For that reason, it should come as no surprise that the school highly values students who are part of a legacy at Cornell.

To put it simply a legacy student is a student whose parent or other family member attended the same school. When it comes to the Ivy League schools, students get a fairly large boost when they make it clear that they are legacy students.

There is a reason why this came after the first tip to boost your application at Cornell, however. In fact, students will only get a legacy boost if they decide to apply in Cornell’s Early Decision program.

All together, legacy students at Cornell make up about 25 percent of the school’s total student body. With that information alone, it can be safely assumed that the acceptance rate for legacy students is well above that 12.5 percent acceptance rate that we saw at the school in the most recent application cycle.

Craft fantastic personal essays

There is little doubt that the personal essay section of the application process in this country has gained a lot of importance in recent years. In fact, now that the ACT and SAT are optional, there are a lot of schools that consider personal essays from a student to be the second most important factor in a student’s application behind only their grade point average.

An unidentified female student writing her personal growth essay

Considering the fact that a high school grade point average takes four years of school to compile, it should be clear just how much of an impact you can make with your personal essays in a relatively short amount of time.

Before you start writing out your essays, make sure that you are taking the time and making the effort necessary to come up with topics that truly show the admissions officer who you are as a person beyond just your grades, test scores and extracurriculars. You also want to be extra careful to make sure that you are answering the questions that they are asking of you.

It may seem crazy, but you would be shocked by how many students we work with who offer us their first drafts of their essays do very little to answer – or even address – the question that was provided to them by the university. This is of course paramount to doing as best you can on your essay.

Finally, make sure that you are giving yourself the time that you need to review, edit and improve your personal essays before you finally send them in. This will give you the best chance at making sure that they are helping your cause as much as possible.

We can help you beat the Cornell University ACT score

If you are planning on taking the ACT and would like some help to improve your score to get into Cornell, AdmissionSight can help. Contact us today to learn about our tutoring program and to get a free consultation on how we approach the important job of admissions consulting.


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