How to Get Into Cornell: ACT and SAT Scores, GPA, and More

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Simply put, “Ithaca is Gorges”. Some people, however, are put off by Cornell’s location…However, once you’ve arrived in Ithaca, there’s almost everything that you could ever need…In terms of non-commerical aspects of Ithaca, there are many different state parks within a few miles of campus, all with beautiful scenery (including waterfalls!), recreation areas, and more. In addition, there are two gorges that run through campus that you’ll cross multiple times a day! Everything in Ithaca is beautiful – especially on campus. Ithaca is a great city for a college campus – and if there’s any doubt in your mind about whether or not you’ll fall in love with it, take a trip to Cornell and find out for yourself.

bweintraub, AdmitSee.

If studying on the East Coast at one of the most elite academic institutions in the United States appeals to you, then Cornell may just be the university for you.

Cornell University, founded in 1865, is one of eight Ivy League schools (along with Brown University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University) known for prestigious academics and beautiful, historic, ivy-covered campuses.

This year, Cornell was ranked #17 of all the national universities, and is considered one of the most selective schools in the world.

You’ll have to be a very impressive candidate to get accepted into Cornell, but with the right combination of very high grades, very high test scores, and participation in impressive extracurricular activities, you may just stand a chance.

Before we jump into a super thorough explanation of exactly how to get into Cornell, let’s take a look at some quick Cornell admissions statistics:

Cornell SAT scores (average composite score of admitted students)
1470 on a 1600 scale
Cornell ACT scores (average composite score of admitted students)33 out of 36
Cornell GPA (average of admitted students)
4.05 on a 4.0 scale
Cornell acceptance Rate10.3% for the class of 2023

So as you can see, getting into Cornell will be quite the feat, but it can definitely be done if you’ve got the academic chops–so let’s explore exactly how to get into Cornell. Here’s more information on Cornell’s undergraduate admission requirements as found on their website for your reference.

More About Cornell SAT Scores

There are a few key things to know about Cornell SAT scores before trying to decide where to aim score-wise.

      1) If you take the SAT, Cornell does not require that you complete the SAT essay portion.
      2) Cornell has an “all scores” reporting policy, which means you must provide scores for every time you sit for the SAT.

Now before you panic, know that Cornell will not take the average of all of your scores, but instead will consider the highest scores in each subject in their decision-making process.

That said, it’s still important to be mindful of how many times you take the SAT. As a rule of thumb, then, a sweet spot to aim for is taking the SAT up to but not more than six times. Up to six attempts show dedication to getting a competitive score while more attempts than that may reflect poorly on you.

    3) Each individual school at Cornell has its own requirements for SAT subject test scores, so make sure to be mindful that your scores qualify for the specific program you’re applying to. Here’s more very helpful information about Cornell SAT subject test requirements by school.

Now, back to what you actually need to get on your SAT to be a competitive candidate. As mentioned above, the average SAT score of students admitted to Cornell is a 1480 on a 1600 scale.

If you want a better idea of how good a chance you stand to get in based on your SAT scores, the percentiles shake out like this:

  • The 25th percentile for Cornell SAT scores is 1390
  • The 75th percentile for Cornell SAT scores is 1550

What does this mean exactly? That if you score at or below a 1470, you’ll fall below the SAT average of accepted applicants. On the other hand, if you score a 1570 or higher, you’ll be above average, and stand a much greater chance of getting accepted.

It can also be helpful to know the percentiles for the individual SAT sections, especially if you’re looking to improve in a particular subject.

SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile

So if you want the SAT scores to get into Cornell, better get to studying! Our article on getting the perfect SAT score can be a good place to start for some tips.

More About Cornell ACT Scores

The first thing to keep in mind about taking the ACT is that while Cornell doesn’t require both the ACT and the SAT, ACT scores may not fulfill specific departmental requirements. So make sure to check with the specific school you are applying to make sure the ACT suffices if you don’t intend to also take the SAT.

And unlike the SAT’s scoring system, if you take the ACT, you get to choose which scores you send, so Cornell admissions will only see your highest ones.

This means you can take the ACT as many times as you want until you get a highly competitive score that you’re happy with–and no one will ever know how many tries it took.

The average composite ACT score is 32 and the percentiles are as follows:

  • The 25th percentile for Cornell ACT scores is 31
  • The 75th percentile for Cornell ACT scores is 34
  • This means that a 30 or below will put you below average compared to the scores of other accepted applicants while a 34 or higher will put you above average. So if you want a very, very good chance of getting in, it would behoove you to get a 34 or higher on your ACT.

    Keep in mind that Cornell also takes ACT superscores into consideration, so you may want to consider taking the test multiple times!

    Cornell Acceptance Rate

    According to the Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell’s admission rate for the class of 2023 is 10.3%

    This makes Cornell University an extremely selective college, so you’ll have to have some serious academic chops to get in!

    More About Cornell GPA Average

    Historically, the average GPA of students admitted to Cornell lingers around 4.0, with this year’s average at 4.04.

    What this means is that you’ll almost certainly have to be earning straight As in high school.

    Also keep in mind that not all high schools calculate GPA the same way; most use a weighted scale out of 4.0, but some use a 5.0 scale.

    This mostly affects how AP, IB, and honors classes are weighted, and the good news is that high performance in these types of courses typically reflects well on your GPA and on your drive and academic prowess in general.

    So the long and the short of it is that you’ll have to be at the top of your class if you want a fighting chance of getting into Cornell, and the heavier and more challenging your course load, the better.

    Oh, and it’s also worthwhile to note that from your junior year on, it’s really difficult to change your GPA significantly, so if you think Cornell is the right fit for you, you’ll have to keep your eye on the prize starting early in your high school career!

    Cornell Freshman Profile

    The good news about Cornell is that while admission is highly competitive, the pool of accepted students is increasingly diverse. According to the above mentioned article on the class of 2023, “Nearly 55 percent of this year’s admitted students are “students of color” — underrepresented minorities or Asian Americans — a new record for Cornell.”

    This is a great article on Cornell’s incoming class of 2023, but here are some quick facts:

    Of the admitted freshman for the class of 2023:

  • 55% are women
  • 48.4% identify as students of color
  • 13.4% are first‐generation college students
  • We’re thrilled to hear about the trajectory of greater diversity at Cornell, and according to Shawn Felton, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, “The new undergraduate students arriving on campus this fall are extraordinary in every possible way…They have tremendous talent and ability, and their dreams are bold and limitless. We look forward to supporting their unique individual journeys.”

    Cornell Other Admissions Requirements and Information

    Here’s a thorough overview of Cornell University’s undergraduate admissions requirements, an applicant checklist, and freshman application instructions.

    If you’re looking for a short and sweet list of exactly what you’ll need to apply to Cornell, here it is:

  • A Common Application or Universal College Application
  • A school report (provided by your counselor) and a counselor recommendation
  • Two teacher evaluations
  • A Mid-year report stating when your mid-year grades are available
  • And $80 application fee or fee waiver
  • Your official high school transcript
  • Cornell University Writing Supplement (on what you intend to study)
  • Standardized test scores
  • Be advised that as mentioned earlier, individual colleges at Cornell require specific SAT subject test scores. Likewise, several programs including art and architecture require portfolios, so make sure to check in with whichever department you’re applying to.

    And in case you’re considering making the move to Cornell from another school, here’s more information on the admissions requirements for transferring to Cornell.

    Cornell FAQs

    Does Cornell have early decision applications?

    Yes. Here’s a great overview of applying early decision to Cornell, but a couple of things to keep in mind about applying early decision:

  • Your early decision application is due November 1
  • Early decision is binding, meaning you must withdraw other applications if you’re admitted
  • If you are rejected for early decision, you may not apply for regular decision
  • Does Cornell use the Common App?

    Yes, Cornell uses the Common App, short for the Common Application.

    The most critical part of the common app is the common app essay, so here’s an ultimate guide writing a great common app essay!

    There are also some super helpful FAQs about applying to Cornell with the Common App.

    Is Cornell need-blind?

    Yes, Cornell is need-blind, meaning that your ability to pay for tuition is not taken into consideration when reviewing your application.

    To learn more about financing your education through both need-based grants and merit-based scholarships, visit Cornell’s financial aid department.

    Does Cornell interview?

    According to Cornell admissions, “Though Cornell offers applicants the opportunity to meet with Cornell alumni admissions ambassadors, formal interviews are not required, nor offered, for any other undergraduate programs.”

    How to Get Into Cornell University

    So as you can see, Cornell University is super challenging, but certainly not impossible, to get into.

    This is an awesome articulation of exactly what Cornell looks for in a student, including intellectual potential, your character, and your involvement in your school and community.

    To best showcase these aspects in your application, Mike M. with Transizion can help you out:

    “The two most important parts of your application to Cornell are your essay and your recommendations. These are where admissions staff will get a clearer picture of your actual identity. Your essay shows them how you view yourself, and the recommendations reveal how others look at you. A poorly written essay can override virtually every other factor in your application, so take the time to write about something meaningful to you that gives a deep and thoughtful picture of your potential for affecting the world around you.

    For recommendations, choose a teacher or authority figure in your life who will be able to help articulate your interests. Mr. Steve the woodshop teacher might be a great guy, but if you’re going to study psychology, he might not be the best choice. However, if you’re going to be an engineer, his opinion might have some real value. Focus your application on your core educational interests, and the admissions officer reviewing it will see that come through.”

    In a nutshell, to get into Cornell you’ll want to:

  • Earn at least a 1500 on your SAT or a 32 on your ACT
  • Have at a 4.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale), reflecting high grades in challenging classes
  • Participate in plenty of extracurricular activities, particularly in leadership roles
  • Write a very strong, unique, and compelling admissions essay
  • Since standardized test scores are such a significant part of your application, remember to start studying as early as possible to leave yourself time for re-takes! Check out this 1-week SAT free trial as well as a great 1-week ACT free trial to get you started!

    Best of luck and happy studying!

    Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

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    • Nadyja Von Ebers

      Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. Nadyja holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has taught English and at the high school and college levels for twelve years. She has a decade of experience teaching preparation for the AP exams, the SAT, and the ACT, among other tests. Additionally, Nadyja has worked as an academic advisor at college level and considers herself an expert in all things related to college-prep. She’s applied her college expertise to posts such as UCLA Admissions: The SAT Scores, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get in and A Family Guide to College Admissions. Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she's not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean. You can connect with her on LinkedIn!

    By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!