About Cornell University
Location: Ithaca, NY
Undergraduate Population: 15,735
Most Popular Majors: Agricultural Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, Business, Environment & Sustainability
Motto: I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study. -Ezra Cornell
Asian/ Asian American 23.3%
Black/African American 7.3%
Native American less than 1%
Although it’s a private Ivy-league school, Cornell has its roots in education for the public good. The school was founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, two New York State Senators. The New York State Legislature approved a land grant for the institution, and Ezra Cornell offered his farm in Ithaca as the site for the university. Ezra Cornell, it should be noted, was an early pioneer of the telegraph and the founder of Western Union. In 1883, Cornell University became one of the first colleges to use electricity, lighting campus buildings and grounds with a water-powered dynamo. Water is prominent in Cornell’s famous landscape; the campus features multiple cascading waterfalls and overlooks Cayuga Lake.
Notable Cornell Alumni include US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, canonical American writer Kurt Vonnegut, pioneering photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Amié, and journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin.
- Each year around St. Patrick’s Day, Cornell Hosts Dragon Day. First-year architecture students create an enormous dragon and parade it across the campus while wearing outrageous costumes. Once the dragon makes its way to the Arts Quad, it is ceremonially slain.
- Slope Day is an annual ritual to celebrate the last day of classes. The Cornell community gathers on Libe Slope to enjoy live music, food, raffles, and general springtime merrymaking.
- Cornell is home to eight undergraduate schools and colleges: the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS); the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning; the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS); the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business; the College of Engineering; the College of Human Ecology; the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy; and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Each school has its own nearly autonomous admissions criteria and academic programs.
- The College of Arts and Sciences is home to about 30% of Cornell undergraduates, making it the university’s most-enrolled college.
- Cornell is one of only a few private land-grant universities in the US; several of its undergraduate schools (including the College of Human Ecology, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and CALS) are supported by the State University of New York (SUNY) system.
- In addition to its Ithaca campus, Cornell also hosts campuses, facilities, and labs in Qatar, Puerto Rico, and Rome. Cornell’s medical school, Weill Cornell, is located in New York City.
Average GPA: not reported
Test Scores (mid-50% range): 1470-1550 SAT/33-35 ACT
Admit Rate: 7.25%
The following schools at Cornell are test-blind:
- College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
- College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
- Cornell SC Johnson College of Business – Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration
The following schools at Cornell are test-optional:
- College of Arts & Sciences
- College of Engineering
- College of Human Ecology
- Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy
- School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Offers Early Admissions? Yes–Early Decision
College of Arts and Sciences
(Optional) Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person…any study” founding vision. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College. (Max. 650 words)
This question is asking you to make a case for why you’d be a great fit for Cornell. The college prides itself on its history of offering a world-class education in a dazzling array of fields. Combining areas of study in unique interdisciplinary ways is also a hallmark of a Cornell education. This prompt is your opportunity to go all-out with your intellectual enthusiasm! The word count is long–the same length as your main essay–but you still want to make every word count. Don’t shy away from going into detail about the fields of study you’re most passionate about. Discuss projects you’ve been involved in, your most significant accomplishments, and your (realistic, specific) dreams for the future. Importantly, link your background to the departments and programs at Cornell’s CAS that you want to be a part of. Talk about how those programs will facilitate you realizing your goals. Make sure to also be explicit about what you will contribute to your chosen program at CAS–what do you bring to the table that makes you just right for Cornell?
The essay prompts for the other seven undergraduate colleges at Cornell (below) ask you to go into detail about your academic interests, and articulate how a Cornell education will help you reach your goals; many of them follow the “why this college?” essay format. Tips on how to approach prompts such as these can be found here.
Brooks School of Public Policy
Why are you drawn to studying public policy? Drawing on your experiences, tell us about why you are interested in your chosen major and how attending the Brooks School will help you achieve your life goals. (Max. 650 words)
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Required: Why are you drawn to studying the major you have selected? Please discuss how your interests and related experiences have influenced your choice. Specifically, how will an education from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals? (Max. 650 words)
Optional (1): At Cornell CALS, we aim to leave the world better than we found it, so we seek out those who are not simply driven to master their discipline, but who are also passionate about doing so to serve the public good. Please elaborate on an activity or experience you have had that made an impact on a community that is important to you. We encourage you to think about community broadly – this could include family, school, or local and global communities. (Max. 300 words)
Optional (2): The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is dedicated to the exploration of the agricultural, life, environmental, and social sciences and welcomes students with interests that span a wide variety of disciplines. Given our agricultural history and commitment to educating the next generation of agriculturalists, please share if you have a background in agriculture or are interested in pursuing a career in agriculture, regardless of your intended major. (300-word limit)
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
(Optional) What is your “thing”? What energizes you or engages you so deeply that you lose track of time? Everyone has different passions, obsessions, quirks, inspirations. What are yours? (Max. 650 words)
This essay prompt is slightly different in that it asks you, quite broadly, to talk not just about your academic interests, but about your enthusiasm as a person. Note that the prompt does not ask you to discuss your interest in Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning! When approaching this question, follow the prompt and focus on your genuine, authentic passions. Connecting those passions to your goals in the fields of architecture, art, and urban planning is a great idea.
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
(Optional) What kind of a business student are you? Using your personal, academic, or volunteer/work experiences, describe the topics or issues that you care about and why they are important to you. Your response should convey how your interests align with the school to which you are applying within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management or the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration). (Max. 650 words)
College of Engineering
How do your interests directly connect with Cornell Engineering? If you have an intended major, what draws you to that department at Cornell Engineering? If you are unsure what specific engineering field you would like to study, describe how your general interest in engineering most directly connects with Cornell Engineering. It may be helpful to concentrate on one or two things that you are most excited about. (Max. 250 words)
Choose either Question A or Question B.
Question A: Describe an engineering problem that impacts your local community. This could be your school, neighborhood, town, region, or a group you identify with. Describe one to three things you might do as an engineer to solve the problem.(Max. 250 words)
Question B: Diversity in all forms is intrinsic to excellence in engineering. Engineering the best solutions to complex problems is often achieved by drawing from the diverse ingenuity of people from different backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity and/or the inclusion of the Cornell Engineering community? What is the unique voice you would bring to the Cornell Engineering community? (Max. 250 words)
College of Human Ecology
How has your decision to apply to the College of Human Ecology been influenced by your related experiences? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future? (Max. 650 words)
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Using your personal, academic, or volunteer/work experiences, describe the topics or issues that you care about and why they are important to you. Your response should show us that your interests align with the ILR School. (Max 650 words)