The Ivy Coach Daily

March 10, 2023

Cornell’s Admissions Process

This is an aerial view of Cornell University's campus on a clear day.
Let’s take a look at Cornell’s admissions process (photo credit: Sach1tb).

Originally Published on November 24, 2018:

Are you wondering 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, a school that has seen a surge in applications since the pandemic, it goes directly to the school within Cornell to which the student applied since Cornell has a decentralized admissions process.

The Colleges Within Cornell University

The undergraduate schools within the broader Cornell University include:

How Does Cornell Review Applications? A Gatekeeping Process

First Review

After an initial review, deemed the First Review at Cornell, about 80% of applications are forwarded to the subsequent 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 with a 950 SAT score, for example, will not make it through the First Review — not even if that student has the potential to star on Cornell’s football team.

As Meredith Liu and Anne Snabes report in a piece for The Cornell Daily Sun that goes inside Cornell’s admissions process, “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.”

During the First Review, admissions staff members at each school within Cornell will analyze students’ high school records, including the rigor of their coursework, grades, and test scores (if they submitted scores under Cornell’s test-optional admissions policy which has been extended through 2023-2024). Their academic records must pass muster to move on to the subsequent reviews.

Next, More Comprehensive 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, and more to determine if the students would be the right fit not only for Cornell but for the individual school within Cornell to which they’ve applied.

Of the nine undergraduate colleges within Cornell, most invite faculty members to be part of this next step in the gatekeeping process. The SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Engineering are exceptions, not inviting faculty members to be part of this process.

Cornell’s Admissions Process Is Similar to Other Ivies

Cornell’s admissions process mirrors most highly selective universities in many ways. While, unlike the other Ivy League schools, Cornell, the largest of the Ivies, doesn’t have a review in a centralized admissions office, beyond this difference, the process is quite similar.

An Initial Review is conducted, followed by more Comprehensive Reviews performed typically by two admissions officers. If there’s any debate between the two readers, like at each of the seven other Ivy League schools, the application goes to a committee to decide the student’s fate.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Cornell Admission

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to Cornell, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, and we’ll write back with information on our college counseling services.

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