Cornell University Admission Counselors

A Guide to the Cornell Admissions Process - Essays, Interviews & Deadlines

What is Cornell Looking For?

Ezra Cornell founded the institution to foster an environment “where any person can find instruction in any study.”

Given the amazing size and breadth of offerings at this Ivy League institution, it is understandable that selectivity at Cornell varies greatly based on the undergraduate school in question that an applicant chooses to apply to at Cornell.

Unlike the other Ivies, Cornell:

  • Has no numerical rating system
  • Invites faculty to evaluate candidates
  • Selectivity varies based on which of the 7 undergraduate schools one applies to
  • Has New York State contract colleges or schools, like CALS and ILR and Human Ecology, that reserve a certain percentage of their class for New York State residents
  • Looks more for fit to a particular school or college

Cornell rates every applicant in two separate areas:

  1. Academic Rating
  2. Personal Rating
Cornell University Admissions Counselor

Academic rating

An applicant with the Highest Academic Rating at Cornell would have these credentials:

  • Top 1-2% of high school class
  • Most challenging courseload of AP courses
  • SAT/ACT scores in the 99th percentile
  • Glowing letters of recommendation indicating that student is best out of applicants from past several years from his/her high school
  • An intense love of learning, as evidenced by academic research outside the classroom with a college professor leading to publication in a journal
  • Potential to be a leader in the academic field in the future

An applicant with a Good Academic Rating (but not highest) at Cornell would have these credentials:

  • Top 5% of high school class
  • Most challenging courseload of AP courses
  • SAT/ACT scores above the 95th percentile
  • Strong but unexceptional letters of recommendation
  • Lacking the intense love of learning of other students, with some independent reading outside the classroom but no published research with a college professor
  • Driven to achieve by competition more so than by a true love of learning

Personal rating

Examples of applicants with the Highest Personal Rating at Cornell would be:

  • Published author
  • Intel STS Finalist (top 40 in-country)
  • Olympic medalist
  • Soloist at Carnegie Hall
  • US Math Olympiad Qualifier (USAMO)
  • Awards at the national level
  • Patent-pending (without parental involvement)

Examples of applicants with a Good Personal Rating (but not highest) at Cornell would be:

  • Awards at a regional level
  • Significant commitment at a high level to a few activities
  • Student Body President
  • All-State Orchestra
  • Captain of a varsity sports team
  • Nationally ranked debater
  • Well-rounded and involved but not the most passionate about anything

At Cornell, selectivity varies by school.

The endowed schools at Cornell are: College of Arts & Sciences, College of Engineering, School of Hotel Administration, and the College of Architecture, Art & Planning.

The New York State Contract Schools are: College of Agriculture & Life Sciences (CALS), College of Human Ecology, and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR).

The most selective schools at Cornell for admissions are:

  • Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Architecture, Art & Planning

Less selective schools at Cornell are (but still selective):

  • College of Agriculture & Life Sciences (CALS)
  • College of Human Ecology
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR)
  • School of Hotel Administration

Consider applying to a New York State Contract School at Cornell if your numbers are not high enough for Arts & Sciences or for Engineering, or if you are a New York State resident. Often, common majors can be found in multiple schools, such as biology in both the College of Arts & Sciences and in CALS.

Acceptance Rates

What is Cornell's current acceptance rate? 

7.3% for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.

What is Solomon Admissions' success rate to Cornell?

40.4% for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.

For the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, we had a 40.4% acceptance rate to Cornell. Solomon Admissions provided an advantage factor of 5.5X for our clients. You can see more of our acceptance rates here.

Approaching the Cornell Supplemental Essays

Research the mission of the individual school at Cornell that you are applying to and emphasize fit with your background in the Cornell supplemental essays. We give extensive tips on what each individual school at Cornell looks for. In the Cornell supplemental essay, make sure to research specific professors you want to conduct undergraduate research with, as well as specific classes you want to take and clubs you would like to participate in.

What's that famous JFK quote?  “Ask not what your college can do for you, ask what you can do for your college.” :-).

Cornell wants to know what you have to offer them (they know what they can offer you and don't need 30,000 applicants repeating what Cornell already knows).

Questions to keep in mind when writing the Cornell supplemental essay:

  • How does your background fit uniquely with the mission of the particular school you are applying to at Cornell?
  • How will you contribute to campus academically? By conducting undergraduate research? By contributing to the intellectual discourse on campus?
  • How will you contribute to the social life on campus? By founding a club? By becoming active in a student group?

"Act as if." Act as if you go there and show them that you fit in perfectly and would contribute to academic life (undergraduate research and intellectual discourse), social life (starting an organization on campus that relates to your high school passions), and most importantly, show them that you have personality and are an interesting person with esoteric hobbies.

For more information about the Cornell University application process, contact us using the information below.