Princeton Vs Cornell – Which School Is Better?

Located only four hours apart, Cornell and Princeton are two of the nation’s best and oldest private schools. 

Cornell is situated in Ithaca, New York, a small city in New York’s Finger Lakes region known for its natural beauty and whimsical commercial area. 

Ithaca and Princeton, New Jersey, maintain a population of around 30,000 residents, making for a relatively intimate social scene.

While Ithaca’s vibe is more eclectic, Princeton falls on the cosmopolitan side. Students can take a free transit shuttle to go shopping for basic needs, while many Ithaca students will opt to walk or ride their bikes.

Students at either school can expect an ideal student-to-faculty ratio (4:1 at Princeton and 9:1 at Cornell). Many students who graduated from these colleges moved on to earn some of the most prestigious accolades in the world. 

Cornell, for example, enrolled Nobel Prize writer Toni Morrison, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the founders of and

While Cornell serves as home to 50 Nobel laureates, Princeton is not far behind at 40. The school’s award winners include economics professor Paul Krugman, former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, and physicist Richard Feynman.

It’s a match-up between the Princeton Tigers and the Cornell Big Red Bears! Continue reading to learn each school’s admission requirements, acceptance rates and rankings, and other important factors to consider when deciding which school is best suited to launch your future! 

Princeton Vs. Cornell – Academic Requirements for Admission

Cornell University
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Baker Tower, Cornell University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Before applying to Princeton or Cornell, high school students should ensure they meet the minimum requirements for admission. Both institutions require four units in English Language Arts and four units of mathematics. 

While Princeton requires four credits in a foreign language, Cornell only stipulates three credits. Princeton applicants should earn a minimum of two credits in history (Cornell does not indicate a history requirement). 

Cornell requires three units in the sciences, and Princeton requires only two laboratory science credits. 

The application process for Princeton and Cornell is mostly similar. Cornell requires submission via the Common Application, while Princeton allows students to select from three options: the Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the QuestBridge application.

Candidates can apply for early or regular decision, and Cornell stipulates that students apply to a particular college, like the College of Engineering or the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 

From that point, both schools require the following items: a School Report, a Mid-Year School Report, a transcript, a recommendation from a guidance counselor, and two letters of recommendation from teachers (ideally those who teach higher-level core classes).

Remember that standardized test scores and English language proficiency results are optional. There is no stated benefit to submitting scores, and both schools emphasize that students will in no way be penalized for deciding not to share their scores.

There are several additional ways to make your application stand out from your peers. The Princeton Supplement and Cornell Supplement ask students to respond to several questions that center on their academic interests, community contributions, and personal interests. 

Students applying to specific programs in the performing arts, fine arts, and architecture fields can submit a portfolio that includes diverse examples of their best work. This portfolio is optional at Princeton, while some of Cornell’s majors require submission from candidates.

Princeton Vs. Cornell – Ranking, Acceptance Rates, and More

Let’s set the record straight: getting into an Ivy League school is challenging! All Ivy League institutions maintain acceptance rates of under 10%, making them among the most competitive universities in the nation. 

Within that cohort, Princeton and Cornell are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Princeton is the third most competitive school in the Ivy League, while Cornell is the least competitive. 

The Cornell class of 2025 witnessed an 8.7% acceptance rate compared to Princeton’s class at 4.4%

Both schools field tens of thousands of applicants, though Cornell’s admissions team received almost double the number of Princeton’s (67,380 versus 37,601). Cornell may receive more applications due to their reputation as one of the “easiest” Ivies to get into, even though its acceptance rate is less than 10%.

Princeton and Cornell are currently operating under a testing-optional admissions policy – students are not required to submit their SAT or ACT scores. 

The reported scores for those enrolled students who did choose to submit them are impressive. Let’s examine the middle 50% of students at both schools.

On the ACT composite, Princeton admits scored between 32 and 35, while Cornell admits scored between 33 and 35. 

For the SAT Math section, Princeton students scored between 740 and 800, while Cornell students scored between 750 and 800. 

When looking at the SAT Evidence-based Reading & Writing component, Princeton students scored 710-770 while their Cornell counterparts achieved 700-760.

Both institutions stress a strong GPA as a critical factor in gaining acceptance. 61% of Princeton students in the incoming class of 2021/2022 had a 4.0 GPA, and 84.2% of Cornell first-year students ranked in the top 10% of their high school graduating classes.

Unsurprisingly, both schools receive acclaim on the nation’s most recognized rankings lists. While Princeton has a higher overall ranking as #1 National University and #3 in Best Undergraduate Teaching from sources like U.S. News, Cornell’s high rankings are in more specialized fields. 

For example, Cornell’s School of Hospital Administration has been ranked #1 in the world, and they are the only Ivy League institution to achieve a platinum rating (the highest award possible) from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Deciding Whether to Attend Princeton or Cornell

Princeton University
Smallbones, Italian Renaissance Princeton, NJ, CC0 1.0

When comparing colleges with excellent reputations and faculty members, the decision to attend one over the other may come down to the environment and financial aid availability.

When analyzing in-state versus out-of-state populations, 33% of Cornell’s students hail from New York (in-state), and 17% of Princeton’s students are from New Jersey (in-state). In-state students, perhaps, have a stronger chance of gaining acceptance to Cornell than at Princeton, only one state over.

Financial aid is also an important consideration when deciding where to attend college. Cornell’s endowment witnessed a 42% increase in the fiscal year of 2021 – the most significant increase in over 30 years! 

The surge raised Cornell’s endowment to $10 billion, though Princeton dwarfs it at $37.7 billion. Both endowments are sizable compared to other American universities, allowing for more financial aid packages, research funding, and more.

Regarding the quality of education, both are premier research institutions. Some schools have programs that the other doesn’t. For example, Princeton is the only Ivy League school that does not have an attached medical school, so if you plan to go to medicine, it is obvious to choose Cornell over Princeton. Princeton also does not have a law school.

RECAP – Which Is the Better School, Princeton or Cornell?

It is impossible to determine the better school between Princeton and Cornell. What students should really consider is which school is best suited to their desired lifestyle, career aspirations, and learning environment.

When it comes to degrees conferred, the schools do show some disparity. At Princeton, the most popular programs are (in order): Computer Science, Economics, and Public and International Studies. 

One can see here why the admissions requirement of two social studies credits comes into play, as the second and third most popular majors are within the social studies realm. 

Cornell students, on the other hand, seem to display a more substantial interest in the sciences. In order of popularity, Cornell confers the most degrees in Computer and Information Sciences, Engineering, and Biological and Biomedical Sciences. 

Once again, we see where Cornell’s stronger emphasis on sciences comes into play during the admissions process, as these degrees are all competitive.

Both schools have a reputation for being the “first” in many categories. Cornell was the first to establish a four-year school of hospital administration, a degree in journalism, and a degree in veterinary medicine. They were also the first college to endow American history and literature professorships.

Princeton University was the first college to initiate an intercollegiate football team, a permanent eating club, and the first university to eliminate student loans in financial aid (substituting them with grants, instead).

Cornell is likely your best bet if you’re looking for a diverse environment in a charming college town with an emphasis on the liberal arts. Should you desire a faster-paced climate with greater options for financial aid in a school investing significantly in the sciences, choose Princeton. Either way, you won’t be let down!

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