Cornell’s Admissions Process

Cornell Admissions, Admission to Cornell, Cornell University Admission

Let’s take a look at Cornell’s admissions process (photo credit: Sach1tb).

Curious what happens to your application once you submit it to Cornell University? Let’s satiate that curiosity once and for all. When an applicant first submits their application to Cornell, it’s sent to the school within Cornell to which the student applied (e.g., College of Arts & Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Human Ecology, College of Engineering, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, and SC Johnson College of Business). After an initial review, about 80% of applications are sent on to the next admissions checkpoint. So, essentially, students whose grades and scores preclude their admission — irrespective of the rest of their applications — are filtered out on the first review. A student, for example, with a 950 SAT score isn’t going to make it through the first review, not even if that student would have the potential to star on Cornell’s football team. Sorry, football players.

Cornell University’s Gatekeeping Process

First Review

As reports Meredith Liu and Anne Snabes in a piece for “The Cornell Daily Sun” entitled “A Look Inside How Cornell Accepts Its Students,” “About 80 percent, or over 40,000 of the applicants, will be chosen to proceed to the next step. Only after the applicant has successfully passed the academic review, the admissions staff will consider other components of his or her application — such as recommendation letters and extracurricular activities, [interim vice provost for enrollment Pamela] Tan said. In the first review, the admissions staff of each college acts as gatekeepers by looking at the applicants’ academic performances to determine whether the student will do well at Cornell. This assessment relies on all scores and grades submitted by the students, but will place the heaviest weight on their high school records. Those who make it to the next step are not the ones ‘that have E’s and F’s on their transcript,’ Tan said. ‘Even if you are an outstanding student who’s a great fit for Cornell and have wonderful extracurricular activities …  there’s not much I can say about you.'”

Next Reviews

After that first review, Cornell’s admissions officers will then review the applications in their entirety — including activities, essays (e.g., Personal Statement, Why Cornell essay), letters of recommendation, etc. — to determine if the students would be the right fit not only for Cornell but for the individual school within Cornell to which they’re applying. Of the seven undergraduate colleges within Cornell, five of these schools invite faculty members to be part of this next step in the gatekeeping process. SC Johnson College of Business’ Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management as well as the College of Engineering do not invite members of the faculty to be part of this process.

In many ways, Cornell’s admissions process mirrors that of most highly selective colleges. While it’s a bit different that Cornell, the largest of the Ivy League schools, doesn’t have a review in a centralized admissions office — because applications are reviewed by the specific undergraduate colleges within the larger Cornell — the process is otherwise more or less the same as that of each of the other Ivy League institutions. There’s an initial review followed by more comprehensive reviews conducted by typically two admissions officers. If there’s any debate between the two readers, the application goes to committee where the student’s fate will be decided.

Have a question about either phase of Cornell’s admissions process? Let us know your question by posting it below. We look forward to hearing from you.


You are permitted to use (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.


Tags: , , , ,


  • JPC says:

    Accepting an appliation fee from someone whose “grades and scores” render them inelligble ab initio seems to be borderling fraud, if not worse. No need for a fee if the app does not get read.

  • Al says:

    Do you know what exactly the cutoffs are? If you have a 3.5 unweighted GPA, but you have a strong first semester of senior year and A’s in dual-enrollment classes, will you still make it to the second round?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *