How to get into Cornell as a UK student

Studying at a prestigious university like Cornell is a dream for many students around the world. The most important thing to remember is that there is no reason why you shouldn’t aim for a private Ivy League like Cornell. Here, at The Profs, we’ve helped many students to get into top-tier US universities. Our team has plenty of experience in university admissions so if anyone has the know-how, it’s us.

As a UK student, you may wonder about the specific steps and strategies to boost your chances of gaining admission to Cornell University. Well, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we guide you through the process and provide valuable tips on how to make your application stand out to Cornell. 

If you’re in need of bespoke guidance, just reach out to our expert US admissions team. 95% of our students get into their first and second-choice universities. 

Don’t forget to check out our main article on getting into US universities as a UK student.


What are Cornell’s entry requirements?

The University of Cornell typically expects students to have a 3.5 GPA which is equivalent to 90% or a B+. Cornell accepts UK qualifications like A levels and IB. 

Cornell is a competitive and prestigious university, so generally speaking, you want to ensure that your academic track record is as impressive as possible so that you can stand out amongst your peers. 

You can check specific requirements for your discipline here.

Beyond demonstrating academic excellence, there are a number of other factors that will determine the success of your application. All of these will be broken down in this article.

What is Cornell’s acceptance rate?

Cornell’s acceptance rate for international students

Cornell released statistics for its class of 2023 admissions. There were 49,114 applicants. 5,330 of them were admitted, and 11.1% of those were international students. The estimated student population for 2023 enrolling fall freshmen comes to 3,218.

Cornell’s acceptance rates per course

It’s also worth noting how much Cornell’s acceptance rates can vary between colleges. Check out the table below:

Agricultural & Life Sciences6,290892
Architecture, Art & Planning1,857176
Arts & Sciences29,9741,827
Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy1,203118
Dyson School (Applied Economics and Management)4,992239
Nolan (Hotel Administration)1,118200
Human Ecology3,220357
Industrial and Labour Relations1,096214

Do I have to apply for a student visa?

You’ll be glad to know that you need only deal with this step once/if you are admitted to Cornell. Hence, applying for a student visa is not part of the application process. You need only do so if you receive an offer and accept it. Please note that you will need your admission letter from Cornell University.

About the student visa

There are generally two visa categories for studying in the United States: the F-1 student visa and the J-1 student visa. Both require full-time personal study in the US.

Most admitted full-time international students at Cornell are eligible for the F-1 visa. Only some students are eligible for the J-1 student visa. Check out the table below:

F-1 Student VisaJ-1 Student Visa
All students who have accepted offers to study a course full-time, on-campus are eligible for the F-1 visa.Students eligible for the J-1 student visa must be receiving 50% of their tuition funding from a government agency, official scholarship or an employer (student or personal loans do not qualify) OR they must have a government scholarship (hence the government requires that they use the J-1 visa) OR their visa must be sponsored by an agency such as Fulbright, USAID, or AMIDEAST.

Please note: Students who are eligible for both the F-1 student visa and the J-1 student visa must indicate which visa category they wish to use. 

If you need more information on US visas, check out this page.

5 tips to get into Cornell University

Before embarking on the application journey, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research and prepare yourself for the rigorous admission process. Here are some key steps to follow:

1. Build your foundation blocks

Before you get to the point of filling out your application, you need to be prepared. Have you got an appropriate profile? Are you a suitable candidate? If you’re unsure, consider the factors below. 

The earlier you get started on your Cornell application, the more time you have to check off the following pointers!

Get to know Cornell’s requirements:

First things first, familiarise yourself with Cornell’s admission criteria, including academic requirements. As previously mentioned, you should be aiming for high B’s at a minimum in your A levels (or equivalent) for your best possible chance at receiving an offer. Calculate your current grades and predicted grades and convert them into a GPA to ensure that it is at least 3.5, but preferably it will be higher.

Have you got a strong academic profile?

As has been mentioned, focus on achieving excellent grades throughout your high school (secondary school) years. Even consider improving any weak GCSE grades, especially if they are in your chosen discipline or in Maths or English.

Take challenging courses that demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and passion for learning. Ensure that your subject combinations complement your chosen course at Cornell. If not, pursue related activities and projects outside of school.

Consider taking the SAT or ACT

Since 2020, Cornell has not required its undergraduate applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. 

Some of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges do not even offer the option to submit standardised test scores:

  • Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • Architecture, Art, and Planning
  • The Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

The majority of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges give students the option to submit their SAT and ACT scores but it is not a requirement:

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Human Ecology
  • Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy
  • The School of Industrial and Labor Relations

Whilst submitting your standardised test scores is not mandatory, if you have the opportunity to, you should consider doing so. Completing these tests and submitting high scores could certainly boost your application and prove your academic aptitude. If you want to stand out amongst your peers, this could be how.

If you want to impress Cornell, you should aim for 1470-1550 in the SAT, and 33-35 in the ACT. 

Unsure whether you should take a test or worried that you might not achieve a decent grade? Contact our admissions team for further advice, or our talented SAT and ACT tutors for expert help. We even have articles on how to prepare for the SAT and ACT.

Note: Cornell changed its requirements on standardised tests following the outbreak of COVID-19. Consequently, their rules may change again. So, keep up to date with the information available and check your course page on Cornell’s website.

Consider taking the GRE/GMAT

Cornell does not accept the GRE/GMAT as part of their undergraduate application process. 

They may advise candidates to complete this test to strengthen their postgraduate application, depending on their specific course.

This is totally optional, however, submitting a GRE of 168-170 or a GMAT score of 690-760 could really maximise your chances of obtaining an offer. This is especially the case if you are applying for a quantitative degree.

Unsure whether you should take the GRE/GMAT or worried that you might not achieve a decent score? Contact our admissions team for further advice, or our talented GRE and GMAT tutors for expert help. We even have articles on how to prepare for the GRE and GMAT.

Say yes to extracurricular activities:

Do not underestimate extracurricular activities, especially if you intend to apply to a US university! 

Participate actively in extracurricular activities that align with your discipline or demonstrate relevant skills and showcase your leadership, teamwork, and passion. Consider pursuing internships, volunteering, or joining clubs and organisations related to your intended field of study. It’s also a good idea to get work experience that’s related to your interests. 

Cornell’s ethos specifically mentions public and community service. Hence, your mission statement should align with theirs. Cornell values students who demonstrate an interest in helping others as well as the ability to be proactive and take initiative. Something you might have dismissed as unimportant, like volunteering as a marshall for your local leisure centre, could be helpful in conveying these qualities. 

Cornell also values leadership, so any experience you have with leadership should definitely be mentioned in your application. 

Other important skills to Cornell that you should demonstrate include collaboration and innovation, hence mentioning that you play in a sports team or write short stories could boost your application.

Always check the application page and entry requirements specific to your chosen course as there might be helpful suggestions or examples on there that spark your interest or inspire you. 

Whilst it’s ideal for your extracurriculars and work experience to be as relevant to your discipline as possible, they are still valuable if not. Unlike UK universities, US universities tend to value seemingly irrelevant activities and student jobs because US applications are more personal and focused on applicants’ individual character and experiences. 

So, mention anything that you are proud of, have achieved, that you feel has been a large part of your life, or shaped you to be who you are. Just be sure that you write with purpose.

Watch out for deadlines

Note down your deadlines in advance so that you can work towards an organised timeline of goals. Again, the earlier you start preparing, the better. Be sure not to miss any deadlines or find yourself rushing at the last moment. The best way to do this is by checking the deadline for your chosen course on Cornell’s website for your intended year of admission.

Cornell has two deadlines for UK applicants: ‘first-year early decision’ in November and ‘first-year regular decision’ in January. 

  • Regular decision refers to the standard deadline for submitting your application to US universities. You may apply to as many universities as you choose by this deadline. Cornell will notify you of their decision in early April.
  • Early decision refers to an early deadline that allows you to pursue your favourite university earlier than the others. If you choose this route, you can receive a decision by mid-December. 

There is no guaranteed advantage or disadvantage to either of the above routes of application. However, Cornell might interpret your early application to mean that they are your top choice and as a result, might favour your application. But you should also consider the standard of your peers in each cycle as you will be competing against them.

Cornell also has a transfer application option which international students are eligible for.

You can check on the deadlines for UK applicants here.

Does Cornell offer scholarships?

Yes, Cornell University offers scholarships and grants. Cornell’s scholarships are wholly need-based, rather than based on merit or sports. When you apply for financial aid (through CSS) you will automatically be considered for these funds, there is no separate process. So, unlike with Harvard University, you will not need to complete separate scholarship applications to your university application, with earlier deadlines, and compete for funds.You can read up on financial support services here.

If Cornell does not offer you sufficient financial aid, you might explore other affordable options. For instance, you could study for a semester or a year at Cornell as part of an undergraduate course in the UK. Cornell has strong ties with Imperial College London; it also has links with King’s College London, Queen Mary University, UCL (University College London), and the University of Edinburgh. So, you could enrol in an undergraduate course at one of these universities with a US study abroad option. Check out this page for further information. 

Please note: There is a $80 application fee to apply to Cornell but you can request an application fee waiver, as discussed here

2. Craft your application

Once you have laid the foundation, it’s time to focus on creating a compelling application that highlights your unique strengths and experiences. 

First, Cornell requires all its applicants (including those from the UK) to apply via the Common Application. Hence, UCAS is not used as is the norm for undergraduate applications to UK universities. As an undergraduate applicant, you will not be able to apply to Cornell directly.

Next, prepare the following aspects:

  • Choose the right course for you. Research the specific programme or field of study that you are interested in and ensure it aligns with your academic and career goals. Check out all the courses available at Cornell here.
  • Gather your academic transcripts, standardised test scores and any extra materials.
  • Collect your school report (counsellor letter of recommendation) and two teacher evaluations. Cornell recommends that at least two of the three required letters of recommendation are completed by someone unrelated to you.
  • Complete your university essay question (statement of purpose).
  • Complete your college- and school-specific essay questions (this will be a question or questions regarding your chosen college/discipline).

Further details of Cornell’s application requirements can be found here.

Don’t underestimate your letters of recommendation:

It goes without saying that you should select teachers who know you and can vouch for you. You want them to convince Cornell that you’re an exceptional student who aligns well with your chosen course and Cornell itself. 

You also want your referee to boast for you: what are your achievements and talents, and how do your extracurriculars demonstrate your drive and/or leadership skills?

It’s ideal if your referee teaches your chosen subject or something related to it, but the most important thing is that they know you well and can speak in depth about your academic aptitude, personality, and potential. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have any teachers who know you well enough, it’s not too late to build this bond. Ask your teachers to grab coffee at break time or to meet with them over lunch. Get to know your referees so that they can get to know you!

Invest time in this step as it’s not to be overlooked. Cornell takes your references very seriously and cares a lot about who you are as a person. 

If there are things you’d like your referees to mention, then tell them about these things and politely ask them to reference them for you e.g. achievements and goals.

Make it personal:

In the US, your personal statement is referred to as a ‘statement of purpose’. It’s also different from a personal statement, which is very specific and academically focused. 

In the UK, our statements are supposed to demonstrate why we are the perfect student for X course and a good student. In the US, that matters too but the discussion is more broad. The statement of purpose is supposed to be an introduction, where Cornell meets you, the real you. Show who you are as a person and why you deserve to be at Cornell. 

Craft a well-written and authentic personal statement that showcases your personality, motivations, and aspirations. Mention your future ambitions and highlight your achievements and wins. You should especially not shy away from personal factors that are relevant to who you are and your experiences. 

Cornell wants to know if you would be a good member of their institution and what you offer them. They value characteristics like honesty and empathy, so try to demonstrate these in your statement. Use this opportunity to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and how you can contribute to the Cornell community.

Prepare for the hot seat

Cornell also asks that applicants select a supplementary writing task to their statement of purpose on the common app application. Cornell calls these ‘college-and school-specific essay questions’. This section has a specific question or questions revolving around your chosen discipline. This part is closer aligned with the UK’s personal statement.

Here, you must demonstrate why you are the best candidate for your chosen subject at Cornell. Why are you suited to the overarching discipline mentioned? How would you fit in with the college, school and/or department relevant to your course of study?

Do your research and get specific. Show off your wider reading. What niche interests do you have that go beyond your school’s syllabus? Have you already self-studied some modules from your chosen course? Can you mention readings that none of your peers will? What research has your department completed and why are you fascinated by it? 

For this section, you must know your stuff. Cornell specifically states that it expects students to know their chosen course, faculty, and facilities at the schools they wish to attend. Better yet, if they can name modules and/or explain how their degree will help them meet their career goals.

Don’t tell Cornell about your passion, demonstrate it. Highlight any research, projects or clubs that you participated in relevant to your degree. It is even better if you can reference any closely related achievements. 

This section of the application process must remain grounded in and focused on your discipline. Your subject must be the constant topic of conversation. 

Cornell provides more information about their writing tasks here.

You can check out our previous article on personal statements which can offer some helpful tips for this step, however, as the guidelines and goals are different for both of Cornell’s writing tasks, we recommend chatting with our US admissions team. We can match you with expert coaches who specialise in US university admissions, we also have professionals on our team who have graduated from Cornell! 

Worried about your writing skills, or fretting over what to say? We know how to help! Here, at The Profs, we have excellent writing tutors with plenty of experience who can help you craft a compelling body of work. If you need any assistance, just reach out.

3. Stand out from the crowd

Cornell is incredibly competitive, hence the students who apply there are of very high calibre. Meaning, it is tough to stand out. A polished academic track record and glowing references are a must, but they’re not enough as many of your peers will also have this. You need to offer more.

As previously mentioned, highlight your extracurriculars and/or work experience. But try to go beyond this. Anything that colours who you are as a person, or shows tenacity or heart could help you to stand out. Think, how are you different?

Identify unique experiences, perspectives, or talents that set you apart from other applicants. If you could do with a little more to mention, consider pursuing independent research, starting a meaningful initiative, or engaging in impactful community service.

This is why it’s great to start thinking about your application as early as possible. If you’re in year 11 or 12 you have time to focus on what you have accomplished and think about what aspects of yourself you’d like to highlight or develop. Remember, this doesn’t have to be at school or even during term time. 

Showcase your achievements:

The advice for the personal statement in the UK typically encourages students not to mention ALL their achievements. For the personal statement, the aim is precision and your constant topic should be your chosen course, thus it’s recommended that you only mention achievements relevant to it. 

However, US universities want to hear about all your achievements. Cornell loves to see that you managed to balance getting a grade 8 in the violin and trumpet whilst maintaining straight A’s and getting a gold in the Duke of Edinburgh! So, highlight your academic accomplishments, awards, research projects, or significant contributions to your community.

Create a comprehensive CV that reflects your experiences and achievements and then split this into two groups: related to your degree (this can go in your subject-specific questions section) and unrelated (this can go in your statement of purpose).

Does Cornell conduct interviews?

Interviews are not part of Cornell’s undergraduate application process. On the one hand, this is great because it means you don’t need to worry about preparing for an extra step in the application process. You get to avoid interview practice and nerves. 

On the other hand, you don’t get the chance to impress Cornell with your communication skills and charisma or make a personal connection with them. 

All-in-all, not having the opportunity to perform well in an interview means that your online application needs to be polished to perfection. It is crucial that your grades, written components, and references are of the best possible quality because you will not have the chance to win anyone over in person. 

Want to ensure that your application has no weak areas? Put your absolute best foot forward by speaking to our expert US admissions team who can assess your application and improve it. Your academic future is not something to leave to chance.

Please note: You can request an informational meeting with an alumni admissions ambassador in your local area. This will be a purely informal conversation with the sole purpose of allowing you to ask any questions about Cornell so it will not contribute to your application. However, it could be a good opportunity to learn, as well as network and connect with Cornell alumni.

4. Connect with Cornell:

It’s important that you connect with Cornell. Your application should not appear generic and the best way to do that is to build a bond with Cornell itself. 

You can do this by:

  • Attending information sessions, webinars, or virtual tours offered by Cornell to gain firsthand knowledge about the university.
  • Reaching out to current students or alumni to learn more about their experiences and seek advice.
  • Attending open days and virtual days – see here for more information.
  • Researching your course and department at Cornell: what research do they carry out, what achievements and awards have they received, and what activities do they get involved with on campus or within the student community?
  • Researching what societies and sports Cornell offers so that you can plan (and demonstrate) intentions to get involved.
  • Researching the opportunities and vibe in Ithaca, New York (New York state, not New York City). You might also want to check out North America in general.
  • Reaching out to people by calling/emailing your department (or during the open days or via LinkedIn) to network and ask questions. If this goes well, you might even have some names that you can note down in your application, or should you need any help.

Following the steps above will boost the quality of your application as you will be able to demonstrate alignment with Cornell University. However, these steps should also serve you in your quest to be sure that Cornell is a good fit for you.

Please note that it’s important to refer to the official Cornell University website for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

5. Seek our guidance:

Consider working with one of our experienced US university admissions tutors who can offer you bespoke guidance, an application review, and help polish your essays. 

We have a track record of success in applying to top-tier universities like Cornell, Harvard, and Oxbridge. In fact, 95% of our students receive offers to their first and second-choice universities. If Cornell is your dream, take every step to make it happen and reach out to our expert team.

How we can help

Gaining admission to Cornell University as a UK student requires dedication, hard work, and careful preparation. By seeking guidance from our experienced and accomplished admissions team, you can maximise your chances of achieving your dream of studying at Cornell. 

We offer a talented team of tutors, including specialists in:

We are here for every step of the process. Call us for a Cornell application review and a bespoke plan of action. There’s no reason you shouldn’t succeed! Just reach out to join our winning team.


How much does it cost to study at Cornell?

The average cost is estimated to be $29,011 after average financial aid (financial aid is calculated based on your household income and other need-based factors). The average cost before financial aid comes to $80,287. For international students, the cost is estimated at $65,204. More information for international students can be found here.

Don’t be intimidated by finances. Check out Cornell’s financial aid page.

What are the admission requirements for UK students applying to Cornell University?

UK students applying to Cornell University need to meet the general admission requirements, which include having a 3.5 GPA at minimum, having excellent letters of recommendation, and submitting impressive written works. It’s also important to demonstrate strong extracurricular involvement and a genuine passion for your chosen field of study. Read this article for further information or reach out to our expert US admissions team for help.

Does Cornell University require international students to submit English language proficiency test scores?

Yes, Cornell University requires international students whose native language is not English to submit English language proficiency test scores. You can complete tests like the TOEFL or IELTS to prove your English language proficiency. More information regarding this step is available on Cornell’s international applicant page.

You could be exempt from this if you have attended high school in a country where English is an official language for four years prior to your application. Other exemptions may also apply.

Are there any specific scholarships or financial aid options available for UK students at Cornell University?

Yes, Cornell University offers various scholarships and financial aid options for both domestic and international students. UK students can explore need-based scholarships, which are also available for international students. It’s important to review the university’s financial aid website and contact the Office of Financial Aid for detailed information and application procedures.

Are there any specific tips for UK students to enhance their chances of getting admitted to Cornell University?

To enhance their chances of admission to Cornell University, UK students should focus on academic excellence, engage in extracurricular activities that align with their interests, showcase leadership skills, and demonstrate a genuine passion for their chosen field of study. It’s also important to thoroughly research the university’s programmes, connect with current students or alumni, and seek guidance from college counsellors or educational consultants. Read this article for further information and/or contact our expert US admissions team for guidance.