Is Cornell Ivy League? Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

When considering where to go to college, the question of whether or not to attend an Ivy League school is at the top of many students’ minds.

Ivy League schools are renowned for providing an exceptional education to undergrads as well as graduate students. Attending an Ivy League institution is not only prestigious, it also comes with benefits like a low student-to-faculty ratio, well-funded libraries, research facilities, and the opportunity to work closely with renowned professors.

Cornell University, located in upstate New York in the small city of Ithaca, is widely known for its academic excellence, diverse student body, and sky-high standing when it comes to U.S. college rankings. 

Apart from the school’s scholastics merits, Cornell boasts a sublime lakeside setting in the Northeast of the United States where students can enjoy spectacular nature alongside quirky restaurants, coffee shops, and other local businesses in this buzzing college town. Ithaca also offers convenient access to major hubs on the East Coast: New York City and Philadelphia can be reached by car in around four hours, and Boston is just another hour’s drive on top of that.

With all these great benefits, one big question still remains: Is Cornell an Ivy League school?


Is Cornell an Ivy League School?

Is Cornell University an Ivy League School?
photo via Wikimedia Commons

Yes! Cornell is an Ivy League school. It is one of the eight private research universities that make up the Ivy League, along with Brown, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania.

The Ivy League represents some of the oldest institutions in the United States, with most of the Ivy League schools dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Interestingly, Cornell wasn’t founded until just after the American Civil War in 1865, more than a century later than most of its Ivy League peers. 

Other than this, however, the history of Cornell is very similar to the school’s fellow Ivy League institutions. Cornell was home to some of the first intercollegiate athletic leagues, including basketball, rowing and wrestling. After World War II, Cornell joined its fellow Ivies in signing the Ivy Group Agreement that would set the foundation for the schools’ rising commitment to not just outstanding athletics, but elite academics.

In more recent history, students are likely to know Cornell for its reputation as a private research university that provides an exceptional combination of educational quality and breadth that’s hard to beat. The school is home to numerous colleges and schools, offering more than 100 different areas of study. 

This expansive range of academic opportunities brings in a diverse contingent of students and faculty, all seeking to learn and excel their chosen area of study. Whether students choose to study at the Undergraduate College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, or the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, preparing students to improve lives and become future leaders is part and parcel for Cornell University. 


Cornell University: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

Major publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Niche, and Washington Monthly all cite Cornell as a top choice across multiple rankings for undergrad and graduate study – as should be expected from an Ivy League Institution.

Cornell is ranked the #18 Best National University in the United States in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 edition, making it one of the most highly rated schools in the nation. While cost can sometimes be a concern for students considering applying to an Ivy League school, Cornell is also ranked by U.S. News as #25 in Best Value Schools. 

With so many program options within the university, it won’t come as a surprise that Cornell is in the top 10 list for many areas of study, including #9 in the nation for Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs, #7 for Business Programs and #2 for Biological/Agricultural studies.

Niche, meanwhile, gives Cornell an overall score of “A+”. Getting down to the more granular scoring on the Niche report card, it’s clear where Cornell stands out: Academics and Diversity also get an “A+”, as do Professors, Student Life and Value. Looking at key rankings within the various areas of study at Cornell, Niche rates the university as #1 in Best Colleges for Agricultural Sciences in America and #1 for Best Big Colleges in America. It’s ranked as #2 in Best Colleges for Information Technology in America, a popular field that’s only becoming even more in demand by employers. Niche also reports that graduating students from Cornell can expect to earn an average salary of $64,800 per year.

The most recent edition of Washington Monthly’s National University Rankings puts Cornell at #25 in the nation, with the university taking the #14 slot nationally for research. Cornell’s high ranking for research by Washington Monthly points to the school’s strong funding, faculty and PhD awards: all of which will be a particular attraction to students with an interest in science and engineering, or those looking to pursue a post-graduate career path that takes them into academia.


What the Admissions Committee Is Looking for

With strong rankings and a coveted place amongst the Ivy League, it’s little wonder that Cornell is exceptionally competitive in its acceptance rates. The school takes just 11% of those who apply, which means students have just over a one in 10 chance of being accepted. This number stands in stark contrast to national college acceptance rates, which hover at around 68%.

However, there’s no reason to be discouraged; indeed, Cornell isn’t just looking for one kind of student to join its ranks. In fact, diversity has a vital role in Cornell’s history as a university; the institution prides itself on inclusion and multiculturalism, making it a point to invite all kinds of students to apply.

On its university admissions page, Cornell explains what the school is looking for when evaluating prospective students: someone with intellectual potential, strong character, community engagement, and general suitability to the learning environment at Cornell. Of course, test scores also play a role. Most students who get accepted to Cornell will have an SAT score averaging 1400-1560 and an ACT score around 32-35. The average GPA of a high school student who receives an admission offer to Cornell is estimated at 3.9 on a 4.0 grading scale. 

How to Get Into Cornell

Students hoping to get into Cornell, or any Ivy League university, can greatly improve their chances by getting a high SAT or ACT score. While there are no hard and fast guarantees when it comes to taking the SATs, the importance of prior preparation including a structured study plan and practice tests can’t be understated. This is even more true for students with their eye on Cornell or indeed any competitive Ivy League college.

Beyond academics alone, the selective admissions panel at a school like Cornell will also be looking for well-rounded candidates who can demonstrate interests and engagement outside the classroom. This might be in the form of extracurricular activities like speech, debate, drama, or a sport: in fact, Cornell is the alma mater to over 120 Olympians. More recently, in April 2021, three former members of the Cornell rowing team were chosen to join US Rowing Olympic selection camps.

Examples of service within a local community are also highly regarded by college admissions teams. Volunteering with a local food bank or animal shelter shows the admissions committee a track record of empathy and maturity that can potentially set an applicant apart from the crowd.

Finally, don’t forget about the essay portion of the application. Cornell is looking for students who give careful thought to the questions asked, but without just saying what they think the school wants to hear. It’s beneficial to choose a topic you’re interested in and that’s specifically meaningful to you, which will support how you develop and express the best version of yourself in the essay. 


Recap: Cornell Is an Ivy League School

With its elite academic history spanning back more than a century, a world-class faculty committed to inquiry and innovation, and an extraordinary community of scholars, Cornell certainly earns its reputation as an Ivy League school. Students who attend Cornell can expect an environment that’s rigorous yet collaborative, encouraging academic exploration and real-world problem solving with all the resources and support of one of the country’s best schools.

Moreover, being an Ivy League graduate from a school like Cornell gives students the chance to be surrounded by other pupils who share their drive for education and success. Many graduates from an Ivy League school find that the connections they make while in university are critical to building a professional network that will stay with them long into the future.

From former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to acclaimed author Toni Morrison, to the American engineer William Sanford Nye better known as “Bill Nye the Science Guy”: Cornell’s world-famous alumni are just one more reason that this is a shining example of an Ivy League school.

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