Brown vs. Cornell: Which College is Right for You?

Renowned internationally for offering some of the top programs for a wide variety of disciplines, Brown University and Cornell University are two members of the Ivy League with prestigious reputations and rigorous academics. 

 

Brown’s list of esteemed alumni includes John Krasinski, Ira Glass, and Emma Watson, and Cornell’s includes Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Bill Nye, and Jane Brody.

 

If you’re deciding between Brown vs. Cornell, you have a tough choice to make. In this post, we’ll go over their similarities and differences, to help you figure out which is best for you.

 

Learn more about Brown and Cornell and see your chances of acceptance.

 

Cornell vs. Brown: A Quick Overview

 

Cornell Brown
Location Ithaca Providence, RI
Campus Type Rural Urban
Undergraduate Enrollment 15,043 7,160
Acceptance Rate 11% 6.9%
U.S. News Ranking 17 14
Middle 50% SAT 1470-1560  1440-1550
Middle 50% ACT 32-34 33-35
Sticker Price $72,468 $76,604
Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need? Need-blind

No-loan for families with incomes < $60k

Meets 100% of demonstrated need

Need-blind

No-loan for families with income < $100k

Meets 100% of demonstrated need

 

Brown vs. Cornell: A Closer Look

Location and Weather

 

Cornell is located in picturesque Ithaca in upstate New York. It’s an idyllic college town, home to Ithaca College in addition to Cornell. You’ll be hard-pressed to find residents who aren’t at least in some way affiliated with one of these schools. The beautiful gorges, lakes, foliage, and hiking trails are some of the main draws of the area. 

 

Despite being a rural town, Ithaca has a lot to offer. Along with nature-related activities, there are plenty of restaurants, museums, inns, and more. Just be aware of the extremely cold and snowy winters!

 

Brown, meanwhile, is situated in Providence. Though small, it’s a city nonetheless, offering plenty to do, from watching plays at one of the many theaters to skating at the downtown rink to taking advantage of the myriad cuisines. Boston is only an hour away by train, so you can take a quick day — or even afternoon — trip to the bigger city.

 

In the summers, you can see WaterFire, a series of events in which the rivers in Downtown Providence are set ablaze and people flock to Waterplace Park to enjoy arts and cultural festivals.

 

Providence is located in Southern New England, so you’ll experience snowy winters, though they’re not as bitterly cold as the ones in Ithaca.

 

Size

 

Cornell is much larger than Brown, with 15,182 undergraduate students and 6,284 graduate students to Brown’s 7,160 undergraduates and more than 2,600 graduate students. 

 

Meanwhile, the class sizes are a bit smaller at Brown, too: the student to faculty ratio is 6:1 and 69% of classes have fewer than 20 students, while Cornell’s student to faculty ratio is 9:1 and close to 57% of classes have fewer than 20 students.

 

Academics

 

One of Brown’s claims to fame is its open curriculum, which enables students to explore different courses without any core requirements, although they may still have concentration requirements. There are more than 80 concentrations available, along with special programs like the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME), in which students complete their undergraduate education and medical school in eight years — the only combined BS/MD program in the Ivy League.

 

Another option is the five-year Brown/RISD Dual Degree program, in which students can study and receive degrees in both the arts and academics from Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design.

 

Cornell is unique in that it consists of seven separate colleges:

 

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Architecture, Art and Planning
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Human Ecology
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations 

 

Students apply directly to their college of choice, rather than for general admission to the university, and some colleges are more selective than others. There are also separate requirements within each school, along with university-wide general requirements, such as physical education and passing a swim test. 

 

Notable programs at Cornell include hotel administration, human ecology, engineering, and architecture. 

 

Housing

 

First-year students are required to live on campus at Brown, and all students must spend at least six semesters living on campus in sum. All residences are intended to build community. There are themed program houses where students live with like-minded peers with similar interests. Seventy-four percent of all undergraduates live on campus.

 

In contrast, only about 46% of Cornellians live on campus. Although housing is guaranteed for first-year students, they are not required to take advantage of it. Many students, particularly upperclassmen, choose to live off-campus in apartments nearby instead.

 

Financial aid

 

Both Brown and Cornell are need-blind and meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all students. Brown eliminated loans in financial aid packages for families with annual incomes of under $100,000, while Cornell is no-loan for families earning under $60,000.

 

Brown’s sticker price is $76,604, and Cornell’s is $72,468. Neither school offers merit scholarships — this is true of all the members of the Ivy League.

 

Sports and Extracurriculars

 

The Brown Bears and Cornell Big Red are members of the Ivy League and NCAA Division I. Greek life plays a much larger role at Cornell than at Brown, but there’s plenty to do off the field and outside of fraternities and sororities at both schools.

 

At Cornell, consider the Food Micro Minutes Podcast, Archery Club, or Kung Fu — along with numerous other activities. Brown’s more than 400 student organizations include IMPROVidence, Storytellers Fellowship, and Volunteer for Veterans.

 

About 500 students at Cornell and 450 students at Brown study abroad each year, exploring locations like Spain, Tanzania, England, Japan, and Ecuador.

 

Culture and Diversity

 

Here are Brown’s diversity statistics from 2018:

 

Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
White 61.9%
Asian 22.7%
Hispanic or Latino 12.9%
Black or African American 10.8%
American Indian or Alaska Native 1.8%
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.5%

 

Cornell’s statistics are:

 

Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
White 35.9%
Asian 14.8%
Hispanic or Latino 10.2%
Black or African American 5.06%
Two or More Races 3.53%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0.291%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders 0.104%

 

Both institutions are committed to diversity and supporting LGBTQ+ students, offering plenty of initiatives and programs for these members of their communities.

 

How to Decide Between Brown vs. Cornell

 

Deciding between Brown and Cornell is a difficult choice since both schools offer amazing opportunities, and graduates of each institution go on to having successful careers. However, there are some notable differences.

 

Consider attending Brown if:

 

  • You’d like to explore many different interests without having to complete strict requirements
  • You don’t want to be tied down to a specific program yet
  • You prefer a city vibe with lots going on, but without feeling overwhelming
  • You want a smaller student body

 

Cornell is the better choice if:

 

  • You’re fairly clear on your general area of interest (you can change majors within your specific school, but transferring between schools is a little more difficult)
  • You prefer a more structured approach to your education
  • You love nature and a rural community
  • You like that lost-in-the-crowd feel and want to get to know many other students

 

No matter which school is your choice, you’re facing some stiff competition. Both Brown and Cornell are highly selective. Find out your chances of admission with our free chancing engine, which will estimate your odds of admission to over 500 colleges. Create your free CollegeVine account to get started.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.