how to get into cornell; collegadvisor.com image: a photo of cornell university arts quad.

How to get into Cornell – General Information

Cornell University is a private research university located in Ithaca, New York. The student body of the University at large is just over 24,000, with approximately 15,000 undergraduate students. U.S. News ranks Cornell as #17 in National Universities, and Cornell ranks as #11 on Forbes’ list of Private Colleges. 

What we’ll cover in this How to Get Into Cornell Guide:

  • Cornell GPA requirements
  • Optimal Cornell SAT scores
  • Cornell application deadline
  • Details on Cornell Early Decision 
  • Acing the Cornell interview
  • Writing the Cornell supplemental essays
  • Cornell class of 2025 statistics, and more. 

When thinking about how to get into Cornell, you should make sure each part of your application — your GPA, test scores, Cornell interview, and Cornell supplemental essays — is top-notch. This means keeping your GPA high, studying well in advance to ensure strong Cornell SAT scores or ACT scores, and building up your extracurriculars. To boost your chances, you should start strategizing for the application process well before the Cornell application deadline. 

Figuring out how to get into Cornell takes strategy. We can help. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former Admissions Officers) includes Cornell graduates. Want to maximize your Cornell admissions odds? Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272. 

How can I get into Cornell?

Understanding the Cornell GPA requirements, the Cornell acceptance rate, and the Cornell supplemental essays is important when planning how to get into Cornell. However, there is no magic formula to get into Cornell or any school. This guide will help you navigate the admissions process and stand out in a competitive applicant pool. 

The first step to figuring out how to get into Cornell is to find your place with the University. Can you envision yourself taking advantage of all the opportunities within your major? Researching with a renowned professor? Taking your education global through one of Cornell’s study abroad programs? Your “How to get into Cornell” research starts with learning as much as you can about the University. Take an in-person or virtual tour, investigate your intended major, and talk with current students or alumni if possible. 

Finding your fit at Cornell will help you achieve one of the most important goals of your application: authenticity. It sounds cliché, but being yourself is the key element of your strategy for how to get into Cornell. When crafting your application, strive to show Cornell admissions how you would succeed on campus and beyond. If you feel that the University is the perfect fit for you, consider applying to Cornell Early Decision.

For more information on how to get into Cornell, check out our page with Cornell overall grade, statistics, tuition cost, and more. 

How hard is it to get into Cornell University?

As an Ivy League university with a single-digit acceptance rate, Cornell is a very selective school. It will be considered a reach school for nearly all applicants, regardless of your “how to get into Cornell” strategy. The number of students applying to Cornell has continued to rise, so keep your grades high and submit high Cornell SAT scores to get an advantage. 

By the numbers, gaining a spot in the next class at Cornell is competitive. 

  • 8.7% of applicants were admitted to the Cornell class of 2025, which set a record for the lowest acceptance rate in recent years.
  • 84.2% of applicants for the Cornell class of 2025 ranked in the top 10% of their high school graduating class.

For the Cornell class of 2025, Cornell SAT scores were not required for admission, though they were considered if submitted. The middle 50% range for Cornell SAT scores was 1450-1560; the middle 50% range for ACT composite was 33-35. Read more about Cornell’s standardized testing policy here, but don’t focus too much on average Cornell SAT scores. They make up only one—currently optional—piece of the quantitative side of your application. You have many ways to improve your application!  

What is the average GPA for Cornell University?

The University does not publish Cornell GPA requirements for Cornell Early Decision or Regular Decision. However, this data point would not change your strategy for how to get into Cornell. You can assume that the unofficial Cornell GPA requirements are that you are in the top 10% of your class and have a GPA of at least 4.0. These are not official Cornell GPA requirements or GPA cutoffs, but they are excellent goals to strengthen your application.

When evaluating your academic profile, Cornell looks for students who strive for and reach their fullest potential. It’s important to note that even without Cornell GPA requirements, your GPA is considered within the context of your high school. This means that if your high school offers many AP courses, you should challenge yourself with a difficult course load—while still balancing it so you succeed. For advice on applying when you don’t feel that you meet the assumed Cornell GPA requirements, read this article.

What does the Cornell University application include?

It seems like common sense, but the first step when planning how to get into Cornell is to add it to your Common Application. From there, you will be able to select your Cornell application deadline, either Cornell Early Decision (November 1) or Regular Decision (January 2). This will depend on how committed you are to attending if admitted, as Cornell Early Decision is binding. 

Here is the checklist of everything you must submit by your Cornell application deadline:

  • Secondary school report
  • Counselor recommendation
  • Two teacher evaluations
  • Midyear report
  • Transcript
  • Application fee or waiver
  • Cornell supplemental essays

Optional elements:

  • Cornell interview
  • Cornell design supplement (read more about per school requirements here)
  • Your Cornell SAT scores or ACT scores

Complete or request these materials well before the Cornell application deadline, especially if you are applying to Cornell Early Decision. For more information on how to ace the Common App, click here

What extracurriculars do I need for Cornell?

The Cornell class of 2025, and all students at Cornell, were admitted based on their potential and ability to excel. Cornell’s motto is “any person, any study,” which shows that they seek students from a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, and interests. So, when determining how to get into Cornell, focus on extracurriculars that let you explore your passions and demonstrate leadership. 

Think of yourself as one slice of the Cornell pie. Cornell doesn’t want everyone to be everything. The University admits students who are deeply involved with a few key activities that they’re passionate about. So, focus on being “well-angled” rather than “well-rounded” when strategizing for how to get into Cornell. Watch this webinar to learn more about developing breadth and depth in your extracurriculars. Tailoring your candidate profile to align with your major can help give you an edge, regardless of the assumed Cornell GPA requirements or Cornell SAT scores. 

What is the acceptance rate for Cornell University?

The acceptance rate varies based on the Cornell application deadline that you choose. The Cornell Early Decision rate for the past 3 years has averaged around 24%, significantly higher than the regular Cornell application deadline. The regular acceptance rate for Cornell is 8.7%. With such a low acceptance rate, if you’re sure Cornell is the school for you, it may be worth applying Cornell Early Decision in order to boost your chances of admission. 

Certainly, you should present the strongest application possible, no matter which Cornell application deadline you choose. Tens of thousands of qualified students applied for a spot in the Cornell class of 2025. However, don’t let this number, the Cornell SAT scores, or the assumed Cornell GPA requirements discourage you from applying. Above all, you should focus on crafting a strong candidate profile to impress admissions officers. So, keep reading to learn more about how to get into Cornell by acing your Cornell interview and writing strong Cornell supplemental essays!

Want to learn more about acceptance rates? Check out our expert guide.

Does Cornell require personal interviews?

Participating in a Cornell interview is an optional (but recommended) part of your “how to get into Cornell” plan. Only students applying for an Architecture major will have a required Cornell interview, while all other applicants will have a more informal Cornell interview conversation that does not impact the admissions process. 

Not everyone has the opportunity to complete a Cornell interview due to time and geography. However, the Cornell interview is an excellent opportunity to get your questions answered and learn more about the school. Above all, keep in mind that the Cornell interview is not a stressful experience. You should also not be concerned if you are not contacted about one. 

How important are essays for Cornell?

Your Cornell supplemental essays are an opportunity to show your knowledge of Cornell and your experience in your intended field of study. Remember that being authentic in your Cornell supplemental essays is a key element of your “how to get into Cornell” strategy. All members of the Cornell class of 2025 wrote their own unique and effective Cornell supplemental essays, and you can too! 

Since you must respond to the Cornell supplemental essays based on your major, a big part of applying to Cornell is deciding what you will study. It is tricky to transfer undergraduate colleges once admitted, so choose wisely based on assumed Cornell GPA requirements, average Cornell SAT scores, and your ability to demonstrate a track record of interest in the field. For more guidance on choosing your major for your applications, read this article.

All applicants must respond to one of the following Cornell supplemental essays: 

Arts & Sciences

College of Architecture, Art, and Planning: 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?

College of Arts and Sciences: 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.

Science & Engineering

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: 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?

College of Engineering: Applicants must write responses to two of the three essay options. They may choose which two prompts they write about—their choice. Each response is limited to a maximum of 200 words. 

  • Engineering is inherently collaborative. What does collaboration mean to you? What strengths do you bring to the collaborative process?
  • For you, what makes Cornell Engineering special? Why do you want to attend Cornell Engineering?
  • Diversity in all definitional forms is intrinsic to excellence in engineering. Indeed, devising the best-engineered solutions to complex problems is often achieved by drawing from the diverse ingenuity of people from broadly different backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity and inclusion of the Cornell Engineering community? What is the unique voice you would bring to the Cornell Engineering community?

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?

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.

Business

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: 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(s) to which you are applying within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and/or the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration).

For more guidance on how to answer each of the Cornell supplemental essays, read this essay guide.

How does Cornell University review applications?

Cornell admission is highly selective—as shown by the record-breaking Cornell class of 2025 acceptance rate. The admissions office reviews applications for both the Cornell Early Decision and Regular Decision rounds. The University aims to evaluate your fit with the Cornell culture and philosophy. In doing so, they look for the following things: 

  1. Intellectual potential
  2. Character
  3. Involvement
  4. Reasons for choosing Cornell

The following data shows the relative importance of admissions factors from the Common Data Set 2020-2021 for the Cornell class of 2025.

how to get into Cornell; collegadvisor.com image: Cornell application review factors.

Will Cornell review my social media accounts?

While thinking about how to get into Cornell, you may worry about how your social media presence might affect your admissions odds. Cornell receives tens of thousands of applications each year, so readers usually don’t have the time to look at your accounts.

However, you shouldn’t post offensive or irresponsible content on social media regardless. Even beyond the college application process, you should be using social media responsibly. So, our final recommendation is to play it safe. Cornell likely won’t read your Twitter or check your Instagram, but there’s always an outside chance.

Is Cornell University the school for me?

This is one of the most important questions you should ask yourself, even before you begin researching how to get into Cornell. Yes, assumed Cornell GPA requirements, average Cornell SAT scores, the Cornell acceptance rate, and the Cornell supplemental essays should be at the front of your mind. However, you should also think about your own fit with the university when determining how to get into Cornell. 

To sum up, in addition to your Cornell interview, you should also visit campus or take a virtual tour, watch a Q&A panel with current students, read an article about student life, and check the Cornell news.  Doing research on the school will help you decide whether to apply to Cornell Early Decision or Regular Decision, and it will aid you in crafting your “how to get into Cornell” strategy. Above all, you want to make sure Cornell is a fit for you just as much as you want to show you are a fit for Cornell. 

Additional tips to get into Cornell:

In addition to tips on applying from the Cornell website, below are some of our tips:

Start early

Leave yourself plenty of time to meet all of the requirements by the Cornell application deadline you choose. This is especially important if you select Cornell Early Decision. You’ll need to be able to complete the Cornell supplemental essays and send in your Cornell SAT scores, if you choose to do so, ahead of your Cornell application deadline. 

Take advantage of all opportunities to shine

If offered a Cornell interview, take it! Spend time crafting genuine and original Cornell supplemental essays. Especially if you are worried about not meeting the assumed Cornell GPA requirements, these qualitative aspects of your application can help you stand out. 

Don’t focus too much on numbers

While assumed Cornell GPA requirements and Cornell SAT scores matter to some extent, they are not the most important factor in your application process. The Cornell admissions process is more holistic than numbers-based, as evidenced by the lack of official Cornell GPA requirements and optional Cornell SAT scores and ACT scores. Don’t be intimidated by the low acceptance rate for the Cornell class of 2025, either! Just focus on creating a strong “how to get into Cornell” plan and presenting the best application possible.


This guide was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ’22. If you want to know how to get into Cornell, we’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Cornell graduates. Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.