How to Get Into Cornell: 5 Expert Tips

Getting into Cornell University is a goal for many aspiring students. As one of the Ivy League institutions, Cornell is known for its academic excellence, diverse programs, and vibrant campus life. While the admissions process is competitive, there are several key factors that can increase your chances of being accepted. Here are some essential steps to help you navigate the path to Cornell:

A. Research Cornell's Admission Requirements: 

Researching Cornell's admission requirements is an essential step in the college application process. Understanding what the university expects from applicants can help you tailor your academic and extracurricular pursuits to align with their criteria. Here are some key points to consider when researching Cornell's admission requirements:

1. College-Specific Requirements: Cornell is comprised of several undergraduate colleges, each with its own set of admission requirements. These colleges include the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Engineering, School of Hotel Administration, and more. It's crucial to identify the specific college or program you're interested in and review their admission requirements. Visit the official Cornell University website or contact the admissions office to obtain accurate and up-to-date information.

2. Standardized Tests: Cornell requires either the SAT or ACT scores from applicants. Check the admissions website for the average scores of admitted students to gauge the competitiveness of your scores. Additionally, some Cornell colleges may recommend or require SAT Subject Tests. If you plan to apply to a specific college or program within Cornell, be aware of any additional test requirements.

3. GPA and Class Rank: Cornell considers your high school academic performance, including your GPA and class rank. While there is no specific GPA or class rank requirement stated, it's important to maintain strong grades and strive for academic excellence. Aim to take challenging courses and perform well in them to demonstrate your preparedness for rigorous college-level work.

4. Recommended High School Coursework: Cornell may recommend or require specific high school coursework for admission consideration. For example, engineering programs might require a strong foundation in math and science courses. Review the recommended coursework for your intended college or program and make sure you have taken or plan to take the necessary classes.

5. Extracurricular Involvement: While not explicitly stated as an admission requirement, Cornell values students who actively engage in extracurricular activities and demonstrate leadership potential. Research the types of extracurricular activities that Cornell values and consider participating in those that align with your interests and strengths. Show a commitment to your chosen activities and highlight any notable achievements or contributions.

6. Additional Requirements: Some Cornell colleges or programs may have additional requirements, such as portfolios, auditions, or interviews. If you're applying to a program that has supplementary materials or requires an interview, ensure that you understand and fulfill those requirements. Review the specific instructions and deadlines provided by the college or program.

Remember that admission requirements can vary between colleges and programs within Cornell, so it's crucial to research the requirements specific to your intended field of study. Keep track of deadlines, reach out to the admissions office if you have any questions, and ensure that you meet all the necessary criteria when submitting your application. Thoroughly understanding Cornell's admission requirements will help you prepare a strong application that showcases your qualifications and increases your chances of acceptance.

B. Demonstrate Leadership and Involvement: 

Demonstrating leadership and involvement is a crucial aspect of the Cornell University application process. Admissions officers at Cornell value applicants who have actively participated in extracurricular activities and have shown leadership potential. Here are some key points to consider when it comes to showcasing your leadership and involvement:

1. Leadership Roles: Seek leadership positions within your chosen extracurricular activities. Take on responsibilities that demonstrate your ability to lead and make an impact. This could include serving as a club officer, team captain, event organizer, or committee member. Leadership roles highlight your ability to take initiative, work collaboratively, and inspire others.

2. Community Engagement: Engage with your local community through volunteer work or community service projects. Look for opportunities to make a positive impact, whether it's through tutoring, mentoring, fundraising, or participating in service trips. Active involvement in community initiatives shows your commitment to making a difference and contributes to your personal growth.

3. Personal Projects or Initiatives: If you have undertaken personal projects or initiatives that highlight your leadership skills, be sure to showcase them in your application. This could include starting a club, organizing a community event, or launching a project that addresses a specific issue or interest. These experiences demonstrate your ability to take initiative, think critically, and make a positive impact.

4. Summer Programs and Internships: Take advantage of summer programs, internships, or research opportunities that align with your academic and career interests. Participating in these experiences not only enhances your knowledge and skills but also demonstrates your commitment to personal and intellectual growth. Highlight any notable achievements or contributions during these experiences.

5. Honors and Awards: If you have received any honors, awards, or recognition for your leadership or involvement, make sure to include them in your application. This could be academic honors, leadership awards, or community service recognition. These accolades validate your efforts and showcase your dedication and excellence.

When highlighting your leadership and involvement, it's essential to provide specific examples and accomplishments. Use your application essays, recommendation letters, and activity list to showcase the impact you have made and the skills you have developed through your leadership experiences. Demonstrate how your involvement has shaped your character, provided you with valuable experiences, and contributed to your personal and academic growth.

Remember that quality of involvement is more important than quantity. Admissions officers value sustained commitment and depth of involvement over superficial engagement in numerous activities. Select activities that genuinely interest you, align with your goals, and allow you to make meaningful contributions. By showcasing your leadership and involvement, you can demonstrate your potential to contribute to the Cornell community and enhance your chances of being admitted to the university.

C. Write an Exceptional Personal Statement:

When applying to Cornell, writing an exceptional personal statement is a crucial step in showcasing your unique qualities and experiences. Here are some tips to help you craft an outstanding personal statement:

1. Reflect on Your Motivation: Begin by reflecting on what motivates you to pursue your chosen field of study and why Cornell is the right fit for your academic and career goals. Share your passion and enthusiasm, and demonstrate a genuine interest in the specific program or major you're applying to.

2. Tell Your Story: Use your personal statement as an opportunity to tell your story and provide insights into your background, experiences, and values. Highlight significant moments or challenges that have shaped your character, and explain how they have influenced your academic and personal growth.

3. Show Alignment with Cornell's Values: Research Cornell's mission, values, and academic programs to understand the university's priorities and what they are looking for in applicants. Align your personal statement with these values and demonstrate how your goals and aspirations align with what Cornell has to offer.

4. Be Specific and Authentic: Avoid general statements and clichés. Instead, provide specific examples and anecdotes that illustrate your experiences, skills, and achievements. Show, don't just tell, how your unique perspectives and talents will contribute to the Cornell community.

5. Demonstrate Critical Thinking and Intellectual Curiosity: Cornell is known for its rigorous academic environment, so it's important to showcase your ability to think critically and engage with complex ideas. Discuss your intellectual curiosity, academic achievements, research interests, or any innovative projects you have been involved in.

6. Edit and Proofread: Take the time to review, edit, and proofread your personal statement thoroughly. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and clarity of expression. Consider seeking feedback from teachers, mentors, or family members to ensure your statement is polished and effectively communicates your ideas.

Remember, your personal statement is an opportunity to make a strong impression on the admissions committee and stand out among other applicants. Be authentic, passionate, and reflective in your writing, and use it as a tool to demonstrate why you are a perfect fit for Cornell University.

D. Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation:

Securing strong letters of recommendation is an important aspect of the Cornell application process. Here's how you can go about obtaining impactful recommendations:

1. Choose the Right Recommenders: Select individuals who know you well and can speak to your academic abilities, personal qualities, and potential for success at Cornell. Ideal recommenders include teachers, mentors, advisors, or employers who have interacted with you in an academic or professional setting.

2. Build Relationships: Cultivate strong relationships with your recommenders by actively engaging in class discussions, participating in extracurricular activities, seeking their guidance, and demonstrating your commitment to academic excellence. The better your recommenders know you, the more compelling their recommendations will be.

3. Provide Relevant Information: When requesting a letter of recommendation, provide your recommenders with relevant information about your academic pursuits, extracurricular involvement, leadership roles, research projects, or any other notable achievements. This will help them understand your strengths and accomplishments, allowing them to write a more comprehensive and tailored recommendation.

4. Discuss Your Goals and Interests: Schedule a meeting with your recommenders to discuss your academic and career goals, as well as your interest in Cornell. By sharing your aspirations, you can help them understand why Cornell is the right fit for you and what qualities they should highlight in their letters.

5. Provide Supporting Materials: Offer your recommenders additional materials that can supplement their understanding of your abilities. This may include your resume, academic transcripts, writing samples, or any other relevant documentation that showcases your accomplishments and experiences.

6. Set Clear Deadlines: Ensure that you provide your recommenders with clear deadlines for submitting their letters. It's advisable to provide them with ample time, typically at least four to six weeks before the application deadline. This allows them to craft thoughtful and well-structured recommendations without feeling rushed.

7. Follow Up and Express Gratitude: Once your recommenders have submitted their letters, express your gratitude by sending them a thank-you note or email. It's also a good idea to keep them informed of your application status and outcomes, as they will appreciate knowing how their recommendation contributed to your success.

Remember, strong letters of recommendation can provide valuable insights into your character, abilities, and potential as a student. Selecting the right recommenders and actively engaging with them throughout the process will help ensure that their letters showcase your strengths and support your application to Cornell University.

E. Prepare for Interviews (if applicable):

Preparing for interviews, if applicable to the Cornell application process, is crucial to showcase your qualifications and demonstrate your fit for the university. Here are some steps to help you effectively prepare for interviews:

1. Understand the Interview Format: Familiarize yourself with the interview format used by Cornell. Some applicants may be invited for in-person interviews, while others may have virtual interviews conducted via video conferencing platforms. Understanding the format will help you plan accordingly.

2. Research Cornell's Interview Policies: Check Cornell's official website or contact the admissions office to gather information about their interview policies. Determine whether interviews are required, recommended, or offered on a selective basis. This will help you understand the weightage of interviews in the overall evaluation process.

3. Review Common Interview Questions: Prepare for a variety of interview questions that may be asked. Research common college interview questions and practice formulating thoughtful and articulate responses. Focus on highlighting your strengths, experiences, academic achievements, extracurricular involvements, and goals.

4. Reflect on Your Application: Review your application materials, including your personal statement, resume, and any supplementary essays or documents you submitted. Take note of key experiences, accomplishments, and passions that you would like to emphasize during the interview.

5. Conduct Thorough Research: Familiarize yourself with Cornell's programs, departments, faculty, campus culture, and unique opportunities. Research recent developments, notable initiatives, and any specific aspects that align with your academic and personal interests. This will help you showcase your genuine enthusiasm for Cornell.

6. Practice Interviewing: Conduct mock interviews with friends, family members, or mentors to simulate the interview experience. Practice answering common questions, develop concise and engaging responses, and work on your body language and presentation skills. Solicit feedback to improve your performance.

7. Prepare Questions for the Interviewer: Prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer. This demonstrates your interest in Cornell and allows you to gather valuable insights about the university. Questions about specific programs, research opportunities, campus resources, or student life can showcase your enthusiasm and engagement.

8. Dress Professionally and Make a Good Impression: Dress appropriately for the interview, whether it's in-person or virtual. Make sure your attire is professional and reflects your seriousness about the interview. Pay attention to your body language, maintain eye contact, and project confidence and enthusiasm.

9. Be Authentic and Engaging: During the interview, be yourself and let your genuine personality shine through. Showcase your enthusiasm for learning, your intellectual curiosity, and your ability to contribute to the Cornell community. Engage in a thoughtful dialogue with the interviewer, and listen attentively to their questions and remarks.

10. Follow Up with a Thank-You Note: After the interview, send a thank-you note or email to express your appreciation for the opportunity to interview. This is an excellent way to leave a positive impression and demonstrate your professionalism and gratitude.


Remember, the admissions process is holistic, and Cornell looks for well-rounded students who will thrive academically, contribute to the campus community, and make a positive impact. Put your best foot forward, showcase your unique strengths and experiences, and demonstrate your genuine interest in Cornell. With careful preparation and dedication, you can increase your chances of being admitted to this prestigious institution.