What Cornell Looks For

Whether you're a first-year or transfer applicant, there’s no magic formula that guarantees you will (or won’t) get into Cornell. Yes, what you may have heard is true: Admission to Cornell is highly selective, with approximately 10% of applicants admitted each year.

Access and affordability are extremely important to us, as are diversity and inclusion. Our admission process is highly individualized, and we spend lots of time evaluating whether you’ll be a good fit for the culture and philosophy of our university. The result is an incredibly rich mix of students, which is one of the best things about Cornell.

So what do we look for?

Your Intellectual Potential
Have you challenged yourself with the highest-level courses? How have you demonstrated your passion for learning?

Your Character
Honesty. Open-mindedness. Initiative. Empathy. Your values are important to Cornell. Do your application essays and recommendations reflect your strongest personal attributes?

Your Involvement
Extracurricular activities. Community involvement. Workplace experience. Leadership. What special talents or interests have you developed?

Your Reasons for Choosing Us
Whether you’ve decided on a major or not, how do you plan on taking advantage of the exceptional learning environment at Cornell? Why is it the right place for you?

Cornell fully supports equality of opportunity. No one is denied admission because of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.


Students also frequently ask us what we are looking for in the application essays they submit. Here are tips to consider:

Tip #1: Give careful thought to the questions asked, but don’t try to write the answers that you think we want to hear; give us the answers that tell us about you.

Tip #2: In your essay, help us understand your thoughts and feelings about something that is important to you. We are interested in the topic you choose, how you develop your idea, and how well you express yourself.