Total Undergraduate Enrollment: 15,182
Institutional Type: Private
Curricular Flexibility: Somewhat Flexible
Academic Rating: 5
Applied Economics and Management
Industrial and Labor Relations
1. Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts
1. American Express
1. New York City
2. San Francisco
4. Washington, DC
5. Los Angeles
College Scorecard (Early Career): $77,200 EOP
(Early Career): $79,800
PayScale (Mid-Career): $128,200
By a wide margin, Cornell boasts the largest undergraduate enrollment of any school in the Ivy League at almost 15,000 students, roughly 5,000 more than the next largest school, the University of Pennsylvania. Located in Ithaca, a certifiable college town in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, Cornell’s campus is a seemingly endless 745 acres, and that is not including the adjacent Botanic Gardens owned by the university. A diverse array of academicprograms includes ninety majors and 125 minors spread across the university’s seven schools/colleges: the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; College of Architecture, Art and Planning; College of Arts and Sciences; SC Johnson College of Business; College of Engineering; College of Human Ecology; and School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
Most degrees conferred last year were in engineering (17 percent), business (14 percent), agriculture (12 percent), computer science (11 percent), and the social sciences (9 percent). Required courses within the College of Arts & Sciences include two first-year writing seminars, mastery of a foreign language, and ten distributional requirements. While that sounds like a substantial number of mandated classes, the school does allow certain courses to simultaneously fill more than one distributional requirement.
Classes are a bit larger at Cornell than at many other elite institutions. Still, 57 percent of sections have fewer than twenty students. Introductory courses sometimes take place in larger lecture halls, so 18 percent of courses have an enrollment of more than forty students. Undergraduates do give their professors generally high marks: 93 percent report being satisfied with the instruction they have received, 71 percent report participating in class discussions, 48 percent report completing a thesis/research project, and 62 percent plan on or already have conducted research with a faculty member. Members of Big Red can choose from study abroad opportunities in more than forty countries, and roughly one-third participate.
The SC Johnson College of Business houses two undergraduate schools, both of which have phenomenal reputations. The Cornell School of Hotel Administration is one of the finest such programs in the world, and the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management cracks most lists of the top 10 business programs in the United States. The School of Engineering offers fourteen areas of specialization and is held in high regard by employers and prestigious graduate schools.
Ithaca has as much Upstate New York natural splendor as you can handle, from Lake Cayuga to parks to the many breathtaking ravines and gorges. Yet, thanks to frigid weather and the absence of a major metropolis nearby, campus itself and the nearby neighborhoods are where the action is. With a roughly 25 percent participation rate across the fifty- five fraternity and sorority chapters on campus, Greek life dominates much of the social scene. Freshmen are required to live in university housing, although a substantial 48 percent of undergrads live off campus. Student-run organizations can be found for almost anything your mind can fathom. Over 1,000 clubs are active. The Cornell Concert works to bring major acts to campus that suit a variety of tastes from Bob Dylan to Kesha. The university also succeeds in luring a fair share of impressive guest speakers to campus each year. The Cornell Daily Sun, founded in 1880, is one of the finest student papers in the country, and the dining hall cuisine and libraries (Hogwarts-esque Uris in particular) receive high marks. Athletics feature eighteen men’s and nineteen women’s teams competing against NCAA Division I competition as well as countless club and intramural opportunities.
The Career Services Department has fifty-two full-time staff members, excluding office assistants, who are spread across the various colleges within the university. Those individuals serve as career counselors, internship co-op coordinators, recruiting coordinators, and graduate school advisors in specific disciplines. The 280:1 student-to-advisor ratio is better than average compared to other schools featured in this guide. Among large universities, Cornell’s level of support is unparalleled.
Career fairs at Cornell are two-day affairs involving hundreds of Fortune 500, government, and non-profit employers. In recent years the fall University Career Fair Days have drawn over 6,000 students and 260 employers. Of last year's Class, 16 percent found their jobs through on-campus recruiting, 5 percent through career fairs, and 17 percent through an internship or volunteer experience. In an average year, students make over 16,000 advising appointments, and more than 15,000 students attend programs and presentations. Over 500 students take advantage of jobshadowing opportunities offered during winter and spring breaks. Most importantly, 90 percent of students have completed, or plan to complete, an internship/practicum.
Breaking down the graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences, the largest school at Cornell, 63 percent entered the workforce, 27 percent entered graduate school, 6 percent pursued other endeavors such as travel or volunteer work, and the remaining 4 percent were still seeking employment six months after receiving their diplomas. The top sectors attracting campus-wide graduates last year were financial services (21 percent), consulting (15 percent), technology (14 percent), and health care services (5 percent). Starting salary data varies greatly across schools as well as by major. For example, the average Dyson graduate earns $74,000 while the average College of Agriculture and Life Sciences graduate starts at $60k. College of Engineering students enjoy an average starting salary of $82,000 with a heavy representation at Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs. Across all schools the median starting salary was a healthy $66,000.
Of the students from A&S going on to graduate school, 22 percent were pursuing advanced engineering degrees, 9 percent JDs, and 9 percent MDs. Popular destinations included staying at Cornell (especially computer science majors), other Ivies, Stanford, MIT, universities in the UC system, or abroad at Oxford, Cambridge, University of Toronto, or University of St. Andrews. Harvard was the No. 1 destination for biology majors, and Stanford attracted the highest number of chemistry graduates. The ten most frequently attended law schools by Big Red alumni include Columbia, UCLA, Penn, Harvard, and Yale. Those entering medical school typically stay nearby as every one of the ten most popular medical schools is located within the states of New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania.
• “I like that when it’s nice, it’s really nice. During the one to two months when it’s warm while we’re up there it’s really nice and you can go swimming and stuff like that.”
• “It’s a smaller city because you can figure out if you like being in a smaller city or if you want a bigger city.” [There are about 30,000 people in Ithaca.]
• “It’s in the finger lakes region, which is beautiful and you have the gorges and everything.”
• “They have great food downtown.”
• “It does snow a lot. There’s a lot of distance between the classes and it’s hard walking to class in weather like that.”
• “Getting there is a little tricky. Ithaca airport is more expensive and the next option would be Syracuse which is a pretty far bus ride away. When I travel and fly into Syracuse, it’s a full day of travel, which is not desirable.”
• “The big hills. There are a lot of hills and that’s annoying.”
• “Great college network. There are a lot of alumni who will help you out when you graduate.”
• “There are a lot of very diverse classes. I’m taking a class in beermaking next year, and those cool classes are not at the expense of getting an education.”
• “It’s a beautiful place. The Gorges are gorgeous.”
• “The large, diverse student body. You miss out on the tight-knit environment where everybody knows everybody, but it gives you the chance to meet so many people.”
• “The professors are world renowned, they’ve done so many amazing things, and are still involved with a lot of research. There are a lot of research opportunities to get involved in.”
• “It is a very challenging academic environment and sometimes it becomes something that is overly stressful, overly exhausting, and mentally draining. All your tests end up being in the same week so you have to figure out how to study for each of them when you only have a day or two between each test. If you’re not up for that challenge, I would say that’s the biggest concern. People can get very frustrated with academics.”
• “Traveling there is expensive and a little bit difficult.”
• “If you can’t stand the idea of feeling isolated on a college campus or in a certain place. I know a lot of people do feel that way sometimes.”
• “It’s very far from a big city.”
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