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Get Admitted To Your Dream University – Cornell

Cornell University

Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, Cornell University is a private Ivy League and statutory land-grant research university based in Ithaca, New York. Cornell’s founding principle states that, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” Cornell was founded with the intention to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge – from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied.

Cornell Mission

Learning. Discovery. Engagement.

Cornell is a private, Ivy League university and the land-grant university for New York state. Cornell’s mission is to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge, to educate the next generation of global citizens, and to promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community. Cornell also aims, through public service, to enhance the lives and livelihoods of students, the people of New York and others around the world.

Cornell ranks these factors “very important”

  • Rigor of high school coursework
  • GPA
  • Test scores
  • Recommendation letters
  • Essays
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Talent/abilities
  • Personal characteristics

Cornell considers class rank to be “important”.

How to Improve your Chances of Getting into Cornell

1. Achieve a high GPA while taking the most challenging classes available

It’s extremely important for Cornell applicants to not only possess outstanding grades but for those grades to come in challenging courses. International students accepted to a top 10 school like Cornell typically complete between 5 to 8 advanced courses in high school. Advanced Placement or AP exams are conducted by the College Board (same global body that conducts SAT) every year in a wide variety of college-level subjects ranging from Calculus and Computer Science to Art History and English Composition. The main aim of AP exams is to test your ability and acumen to measure up to the rigors of undergraduate curriculum in US and other global universities. Typically, international students appear for AP exams at the beginning of their grade 12. Students interested in Engineering usually appear for Calculus, Physics, Computer Science or Chemistry. Students interested in Business Studies usually appear for Calculus, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Statistics. Students interested in Medicine usually appear for Biology, Psychology, Chemistry and Environmental Science.

Another reason why Cornell applicants need great grades is that selective schools use a tool called the ‘Academic Index’ to filter out their enormous number of applicants. At its most basic, the Academic Index is a distillation of a student’s academic performance (grades and test scores) into a single number. This is a single score that represents the strength of your GPA, test scores, and class rank (if your school ranks). Highly selective universities use this (or a similar) metric to filter out students that don’t meet their academic standards.

2. Aim for a 1560 SAT or a 35+ ACT

The middle 50% of Cornell’s class of 2025 earned SAT scores between 1450 and 1560 or an ACT score of 33 and 35+. Any score in the middle 50% is good, however, the higher the score, the better your odds of admission. Cornell super scores the standardized test scores and evaluates the highest test scores in each section across test dates.

3. Explore your favourite subjects via Research Papers

One common factor that we have noted in the resumes of students admitted to the Ivy Leagues and other top colleges is the prevalence of research work while still in high school. In this article we explain how and why exposure to research helps students and the key steps in planning and writing high quality research papers.

There are three main reasons, as to why research papers help students stand out. A high-quality research paper shows that you have the energy and the initiative to go beyond what is taught in the class and apply it to real life problems. It shows that your interest in the subject extends beyond the questions provided at the end of the chapter. Secondly, you learn the discipline of not rushing intuitively to the likely answer, instead using a deliberate process in which you are guided by the data. Lastly, in working with a skilled professor or mentor you learn how to organize your thoughts better, ask the right questions and try to answer those questions in the best way possible subject to the constraints. A good work product provides an insight into your mind, thought process and way of working.

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4. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “niche”)

For selective institutions like Cornell extracurricular activities can play a larger role in admission decisions. Up to 25% of an admissions decision can be determined by a student’s activities outside of the classroom. While it’s true that there is no such thing as a bad extracurricular activity, some extracurricular activities are more impressive than others.

Admissions officers evaluate extracurriculars with one being the most exceptional and four being the most common. For example:

  • Tier 1 activities are rare and demonstrate exceptional achievement or leadership at a national or international level. Some examples are, 1) Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, a national prize awarded to top 20 pre-collegiate musicians, 2) Regeneron Science Talent Award, one of the most prestigious opportunities for high school students to present original scientific research in the USA, 3) World Robot Olympiad, a global competition where youngsters (13 to 19 years age) from different countries participate, 4) International Mathematical Olympiad, a math competition for pre- university students, 5) International Science Olympiads in various areas of the formal sciences, natural sciences and social sciences.
  • Tier 2 extracurriculars show high levels of achievement and leadership but aren’t quite as rare as activities found in Tier 1 (they’re more of state-level achievements). These include making an all-state selection in athletics, serving as student body president, or being selected for a prestigious state-wide summer program like governor’s school.
  • Tier 3 extracurricular activities are great for showing an applicant’s interest outside of the classroom but don’t have the cachet of higher-tiered extracurriculars. These activities are smaller leadership roles and achievements that often appear on applications. These include being captain of a sports team or holding a lesser officer position in a club.
  • Tier 4 extracurriculars are the least impressive and most common activities seen by admissions officers. These activities include playing a sport or instrument, participating in a club but not holding a leadership position, and volunteering.

5. Write engaging essays

Essays are the best way to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Cornell requires all applicants to submit one essay and one question answer prompt as part of its application.

Research the university and the faculty of the department you are planning to join. Explain in your essay how your values tie with the expectations of the university and how you expect to utilize the knowledge to make the world a better place.

Also research the extra-curricular activities and the clubs at Cornell and how you will spend your time outside the classroom. Some of the popular clubs at Cornell are:

  • Economics Society: The Economics Society brings together students who want to learn more about the growing and always changing economy.
  • Glee Club: The Glee Club is meant to bring students together that want to learn more about the art of music and sing it in a group.
  • Archery Club: At this club students will learn about the art and practices of shooting a bow and arrow.
  • Rock & Roll Club: This club allows students to share their love for rock & roll music. Students will be able to learn about rock & roll and some of its most famous musicians.

There are different extracurricular activities and clubs present in the campus. There is something for everyone. And best of all everyone is invited. Students could take up different activities or join a sorority. Joining a sport or activity helps students meet other like-minded people who share common interests with them. It is a good way to make friends.

6. Recommendation Letters

Letters of recommendation (LoR) help paint a complete picture of who you are in front of the admission officers. Like any good painter, you want to be in control of your whole application. It is important to ensure that you are approaching teachers, mentors etc. that know you well. The LoR provides an insight into your personality, behaviors and work ethic and are crucial to your application.

Cornell requires you to send recommendations from

  • Teachers – Required 2, Optional 1
  • High School Counsellor – Required
  • Other Evaluations – Optional 3 (Example: Art teacher, Clergy, Coach, College Access Counselor, Employer, Family Member, Peer etc.)

You should approach your high school teachers several months in advance. Requesting a letter of recommendation from a teacher is a big ask—they’re busy and don’t get paid to write recommendations. Make it easy for your recommenders by giving them plenty of time, providing them with as much relevant information as possible.

7. Apply Early Action/Early Decision

Cornell’s Early decision is binding which means that if you’re admitted to Cornell, you are required to withdraw any applications you’ve sent to other schools . So make sure that Cornell is your first choice.

The primary criterion for admission to Cornell is academic excellence. Cornell values students who are committed, dedicated, passionate, have potential to succeed and those students with a genuine interest in expanding their intellectual horizon. Following the guidelines above will help you present your best self to Cornell University and maximize your admission chances.

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About the Author: 

Shubhi Joshi is an Editor at Scholarly. She has a B.A. in English and a M.A. from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology. She has an interest in history and current affairs. An avid blogger, Shubhi loves to write about higher education and self-improvement.

Scholarly helps ambitious international students locate the right universities and courses to pursue their education. We provide college credit courses and research papers to students that want to learn more and differentiate themselves. We help students develop and present their best version to their dream university. Our recommendations are based on the student’s field of interest, academic performance, financial resources and career plans. We provide test preparation classes from the best teachers to help improve scores and thus the prospects for admission. We also assist students with their visa and loan applications to reduce the anxiety associated with international education.

For additional questions about international education, choice of majors, university selection or admission strategies please visit the Questions section of our website.

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