How To Get Into Cornell: Strategies To Make the Cut

22/12/202320 minute read
How To Get Into Cornell: Strategies To Make the Cut

As one of the top universities in the US, getting into Cornell requires more than just a wishful thinking. It calls for strategic planning, dedication, and a comprehensive understanding of what the admissions committee is looking for.

In this blog post, we'll explore what Cornell is looking for, and how to maximize your chances of getting in. Most importantly, we’ll provide you with valuable insights on how to enhance your prospects of admission.

How hard is it to get into Cornell?

With its prestigious reputation and competitive applicant pool, Cornell holds high standards for admission. As of 2022, Cornell's overall acceptance rate is around 6.9%, making it one of the most highly selective universities to get into.

Cornell University Overall Admission Statistics
Number of First-Year ApplicationsAccepted StudentsAcceptance Rate
Class of 202444,8703,9208.7%
Class of 202558,3639,01715%
Class of 202671,0004,9086.9%
Class of 2027Withheld4,994NA

Acceptance rates can vary across different colleges and programs within Cornell. Some programs, such as the College of Engineering, have even lower acceptance rates due to their high demand.

To have a strong chance of getting into Cornell, you should aim for academic excellence. This includes maintaining a high GPA and taking challenging courses that align with your intended field of study.

Holistic factors like extracurricular involvement, essays, letters of recommendation, and demonstrated passion and achievements in your chosen field are equally important.

What is Cornell looking for?

1. A Well-Rounded Profile

Cornell University values students who display a well-rounded set of skills, interests, and achievements. They want to see the whole package—the academic achiever, the passionate artist, the dedicated athlete, the community volunteer.

As you prepare your application, emphasize your diverse talents and experiences. Showcase how you've balanced your academics with extracurricular activities and community engagement.

This holistic approach helps Cornell identify students who can contribute to their vibrant campus community in multiple ways.

2. Academic Excellence

Cornell is renowned for its academic rigor and intellectual curiosity, so it comes as no surprise that they seek students who are enthusiastic about learning.

To get into Cornell, demonstrate your passion for knowledge, your thirst for intellectual challenges, and your dedication to academic excellence in your application.

Highlight any research projects, internships, or independent studies you've pursued to deepen your understanding in your areas of interest. Showcasing your academic achievements and potential will greatly enhance your chances of admission.

3. Unique Perspectives

Cornell celebrates diversity in all its forms. They actively seek students who can bring unique perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to their campus community.

Your personal essay is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your individuality and how your diverse background has shaped your worldview. Share your personal stories, cultural heritage, or any obstacles you've overcome to demonstrate your resilience and growth.

Remember, it's your unique voice that sets you apart, so embrace it!

4. Demonstrated Leadership and Initiative

Cornell values individuals who exhibit strong leadership skills and take initiative to make a positive impact. Admissions officers want to see evidence of your ability to lead, inspire, and effect change in your school, community, or beyond.

Highlight any leadership roles you've held, whether it's captaining a sports team, founding a club, or organizing a community service project. Share stories that illustrate your ability to work collaboratively, motivate others, and create meaningful change.

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What do you need to get into Cornell?

High GPA and Coursework

Your academic performance, as reflected in your GPA (Grade Point Average), is an important factor in Cornell's admissions process. The average high school GPA of a student admitted to Cornell is 3.9.

While the minimum GPA requirement depends on the faculty, aiming for a strong academic record is crucial.

Take advanced courses, honors classes, and AP or IB courses whenever possible, particularly in subjects related to your intended major.

Strive for consistent high grades, as they showcase your dedication and ability to handle the academic demands of Cornell.


The essays you submit to Cornell provide a unique opportunity to showcase your personality, experiences, and aspirations.

These essays allow the admissions committee to understand you beyond your academic achievements.

Craft your essays thoughtfully, using them to express your passions, personal growth, and how Cornell aligns with your goals. Be authentic, honest, and reflective. Use vivid examples and stories to bring your experiences to life. Don't be afraid to let your true self shine through!

Standardized Tests (SATs and ACTs)

Cornell remains test-optional for applicants as of 2024, but a high score on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT play a role in Cornell's admissions process.

While there's no specific cutoff score, aim to achieve scores that are competitive with the admitted students' range.

Prepare diligently by familiarizing yourself with the test format, taking practice exams, and utilizing available resources.

If you believe your test scores don't accurately reflect your abilities, remember that Cornell welcomes self-reporting, and you can provide additional context or showcase other strengths in your application.

Standardized Test Scores for Cornell Class of 2025
25th Percentile50th Percentile75th Percentile

Source: Cornell Class Profile 2021

Extracurricular Activities

At Cornell, they're not just looking for bookworms. They want to see that you're actively engaged in extracurricular activities that reflect your interests and demonstrate your ability to balance academics and outside pursuits.

Participate in clubs, sports teams, community service projects, or any other activities that you're passionate about. Aim for depth and leadership within a few activities rather than spreading yourself too thin.

Highlight any unique experiences or achievements that set you apart and showcase your personal growth and impact.

Recommendation Letters

Strong recommendation letters can provide valuable insights into your character, abilities, and potential. Choose recommenders who know you well and can speak to your strengths, both academically and personally.

This could be a teacher, mentor, coach, or employer. Foster strong relationships with these individuals and give them ample time to craft thoughtful letters on your behalf. Share your goals and aspirations

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How to increase your chances of getting into Cornell?

1. Apply Early

Cornell offers an Early Decision application option.

Take advantage of Early Decision and apply to Cornell early. Early Action applications are non-binding but offer you a higher chance of acceptance.

While Cornell did not release its most recent admission statistics for early decision, most universities have a higher acceptance rate for their early decision or early action rounds.

Applying early has several benefits:

  • It helps reduce competition. The early application pool is typically smaller than the regular decision pool, which can increase your chances of acceptance.
  • The admissions committee has more time to review each application in the early pool, which can result in a more thorough and nuanced review of your application.
  • It shows the admissions committee that Cornell is your top choice and that you are committed to attending if accepted. This can help to demonstrate your level of interest and enthusiasm for the university.
  • Applying early can help you receive your admissions decision sooner. This can help reduce the stress and uncertainty of the admissions process and allow you to plan for the future more effectively.

It is important to note that applying early does not guarantee admission but can significantly improve your chances of acceptance.

2. Take Rigorous Courses & Score Well

Cornell is looking for students who have excelled academically and challenged themselves by taking rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.

It's important to maintain high grades throughout high school and to take advantage of opportunities for academic enrichment. Each college at Cornell requires different high school courses, so make sure you check the admissions requirements page for the college you’re interested in.

Helpful resources

  • If you want to add rigorous coursework to your academic profile, consider taking some Online AP Courses at Crimson Global Academy.
  • If you’re struggling to reach a high GPA, consider taking Online Tutoring with Cornell graduates who can help you reach your maximum academic potential.
  • Enroll in a pre-college summer program to help you get a head start on your college education.
  • We also have free eBooks that can help you ace your academics in the link below.

3. Submit your SAT/ACT Scores

While SAT/ACT tests are optional at Cornell, about 40% of enrolling students submitted their SAT scores, and about 19% of students submitted their ACT scores.

There are several benefits to submitting your scores, even if they have a test-optional policy.

  • Demonstrates your academic abilities: Submitting strong SAT or ACT scores can demonstrate your intellectual abilities and provide admissions officers with additional evidence of your potential to succeed in college-level coursework.
  • Strengthens your application: If you have strong SAT or ACT scores, submitting them can improve your overall application and make you a more competitive candidate for admission.
  • Demonstrates your commitment: Submitting your test scores, even if it's optional, can demonstrate your commitment to the admissions process and your interest in attending the college or university.

Helpful resources

4. Demonstrate leadership and community involvement

Cornell values students who have demonstrated leadership skills and have made a positive impact in their communities.

Participate in extracurricular activities, volunteer in your community, and seek leadership positions to showcase your ability to make a difference.

Helpful resources

5. Write a strong personal essay

Cornell receives thousands of applications yearly, and your college essay is the perfect way to help you stand out to college admissions officers.

A strong and unique essay can differentiate you from applicants with similar academic profiles. Think outside the box, find ways to integrate your passions, and show your unique personality and perspectives.

Cornell’s supplemental essays have two required prompts and one optional. We recommend you answer all three to stand the best chance.

Ensure you display the following in your Cornell essays:

  • Provides insight into your personality: A well-written college essay can give admissions officers a glimpse into your personality, interests, and experiences that may not be evident from the rest of your application. This can help to make you a more memorable and compelling candidate.
  • Demonstrates your writing skills: A strong college essay can showcase your writing skills and provide evidence of your ability to communicate effectively. This is important because strong writing skills are highly valued in college coursework.
  • Highlights your unique qualities: A strong college essay can highlight your unique qualities and experiences that make you stand out from other applicants. This demonstrates your potential to contribute to the campus community and positively impact your future career.
  • Shows your commitment to Cornell: A well-crafted college essay can demonstrate your genuine interest in attending Cornell and your understanding of what makes it a good fit for you.

Helpful resources

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Life After Cornell

With a Cornell education under your belt, you would’ve acquired not only knowledge but also valuable skills, connections, and experiences that will shape your future.

The Cornell alumni network, renowned for its vast reach and support, will continue to be a valuable resource as you navigate the professional world. The interdisciplinary education you received at Cornell has equipped you with adaptability, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities that are highly sought after in today's rapidly changing global landscape.

As you embark on this new chapter, remember to stay curious, continue learning, and seize opportunities with confidence. Life after Cornell is yours to shape, and the possibilities are truly limitless.

Here are some Cornell’s notable alumni:

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
  • Toni Morrison: Renowned novelist, essayist, and Nobel laureate in Literature
  • Bill Nye: Science communicator, television host, and mechanical engineer
  • Janet Reno: First woman to serve as the United States Attorney General.
  • E.B. White: American writer.
  • Robert F. Smith: Prominent businessman and philanthropist
  • Mae Jemison: Accomplished astronaut, physician, and engineer.
  • Bill Maher: Comedian, political commentator, and television host.

If you want additional support and guidance on your journey to getting into a top Ivy League school, book a free consultation with our experienced college counselors who can provide you with personalized advice and support.

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