Lily Fang
16 Admissions Stories

3 Cornell University Accepted Student Profiles

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What’s Covered:

 

Cornell is a highly-selective and prestigious school in the Ivy League. Located in Ithaca, New York, the university has eight undergraduate colleges ranging from engineering to human ecology. 

 

If you’re a Cornell hopeful, you may be wondering what it takes to get accepted. In this post, we’ll share three accepted student profiles to give you a sense of what Cornell is looking for.

 

How Hard Is it to Get Into Cornell?

 

Cornell’s acceptance rate for the class of 2025 was 10.7%. Keep in mind that the acceptance rates vary a lot by school, however. While Cornell is considered one of the “easiest” Ivy Leagues to get into based on its overall acceptance rate, its College of Arts & Sciences had a 7.1% acceptance rate in 2021, making it on-par with many of the other Ivies. You can see the specific admissions rates by year and school on the Cornell website. Here are the 2021 acceptance rates:

 

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: 12.3%

College of Architecture, Art, and Planning: 9.7%

College of Arts and Sciences: 7.1%

Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management: 5.4%

College of Engineering: 8.0%

School of Hotel Administration: 19.2%

College of Human Ecology: 17.0%

ILR School: 17.2%

 

Accepted students generally have stellar academics. The middle 50% SAT score was 1420-1530 and the middle 50% ACT score was 32-35. Eighty-four percent of students graduated in the top 10% of their class. 

 

Student 1 

 

Demographics and Context

 

Class year: Graduated high school in 2020. Cornell Class of 2024.
Major: Policy Analysis and Management (College of Human Ecology)
Application timeline: Early Decision


Gender: Female
Race/Ethnicity: White
Nationality: American
Special circumstances: Dual-parent and sibling legacy. I also did a summer program at Cornell the summer before my senior year, where I got an A+ in a class that went on my Cornell transcript. This likely helped my application by showing both my demonstrated interest and ability to handle the rigor of Cornell courses.

 

Academics

 

Unweighted GPA: 4.27
Number of AP/IB courses: 8 AP classes 

 

My school didn’t allow us to take APs until Junior year, and even then, we were restricted to 3 APs Junior year and 5 APs Senior year, so I took the maximum number of classes my school allowed.

 

AP/IB Courses taken each year

Freshman

Sophomore

Junior

Senior

N/A

N/A

AP US History

AP Biology

   

AP English Language and Culture

AP English Literature

   

AP Chemistry

AP Spanish Language and Culture

     

AP Statistics

     

AP Calculus AB


Number of honors courses: 9 honors classes

 

Freshman

Sophomore

Junior

Senior

Honors Geometry

Honors Algebra II

Honors Pre-Calc

N/A

Honors Spanish 2

Honors Spanish 3

Honors Spanish 4

 
 

Honors Chemistry

Honors Contemporary Issues

 
   

College Chorus

 

 

SAT/ACT Score: 

 

ACT Composite – 35

  • English – 35 
  • Reading – 35
  • Math – 34
  • Science – 34 
  • Writing – 10 
 

I didn’t take the SAT, but I got a 1500 on the PSAT.


Superscore: Cornell superscores, but since I only had one test, this didn’t apply.

 

Awards and Honors

 

1. National Merit Semifinalist (12)

  • Awarded to top 1% scorers on the PSAT by state.

 

2. University of Rochester Young Leaders Book Award (11)

  • Awarded to students with strong leadership in their school and community, high grades in challenging courses, and extensive involvement in extracurricular activities.

 

3. Premio de Plata National Spanish Exam (9, 10, 11)

  • Awarded to students who scored in the 85th to 94th percentile nationally.

 

4. Summa Cum Laude National Latin Exam (9)

  • Awarded to students who were top scorers nationally.

 

5. AP Scholar (11)

  • Granted to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP exams.

 

Extracurriculars

 

Note: Admissions officers evaluate extracurriculars using the four-tier system, with Tier 1 referring to the rarest, most impressive activities, and Tier 4 referring to the most common. In-between, there are subtiers to distinguish between activities even further. Find out your extracurricular tiers with our free chancing engine.

 

Model United Nations (9-12), Tier 2a

  • Member (3 years), Secretary General (1 year)
  • Lead 70+ member Model UN team to success by running weekly meetings, mentoring students, and organizing four annual trips. 3x award winner.

 

DECA (10-12), Tier 2a

  • Member (1 year), President (2 years)
  • Run weekly meetings with 30+ members, organize biannual trips, coach students to win awards. Won first place in regional competition.

 

School Marketplace (9-12), Tier 2a

  • Sales associate (2 years), CFO (1 year), CEO (1 year)
  • Manage day-to-day operations of the school store, including scheduling, product planning, staff meetings, and planning marketing strategies. 

 

Class Officer (9-12), Tier 2c

  • Organize and plan class fundraisers and trips, design class products, and communicate to class about events or school news. Raised $7500+ for class.

 

Guiding Eyes for the Blind (9-12), Tier 3c

  • Puppy Home Socializer (4 years)
  • Socialized 15+ pairs of seven-week old Labrador puppies in my home to prepare them for future guide dog training.

 

High School Theater (9-12), Tier 2c

  • Actor in fall dramas and spring musicals. Attend after-school rehearsals for acting, singing, and dancing. Mentor for underclassmen.

 

School Newspaper (10-12), Tier 2c

  • News writer (2 years), Arts and Entertainment writer (1 year), Arts and Entertainment editor (1 year)
  • Manage team of seven writers, assign and edit articles, sit on 12-member editorial board. News writer for two years.

 

A cappella club (9, 11), Tier 2b

  • Alto singer (1 year), Co-president (1 year)
  • Led rehearsals, selected songs, taught music, and organized performances for a 12-person a cappella group.

 

JV Volleyball (9-10), Tier 4a

  • Outside player (2 years)
  • Starting outside hitter for the JV team. Scorekeeper for varsity home games.

 

Volunteer Camp Counselor (11), Tier 4a

  • Volunteer at a local camp for underprivileged children. Played with and read to kids, supervised lunch, swimming, and outdoor activities.

 

Essays

 

Common App: I chose to answer the 7th prompt of the Common App that allows you to share an essay on any topic of your choice. I felt like none of the Common App prompts really spoke to me, so I chose to write an essay on a random topic that better allowed me to express my personality. 

 

“The table is set, the food is prepared, and my mind is racing as the doorbell rings. What will I ask? What will they say? Three distinct voices are speaking over each other outside and I pray I haven’t made a mistake.

 

“If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be?” We all know the classic icebreaker, but now my dinner party is actually happening. I open the door and welcome Cleopatra, Otto von Bismarck, and Walt Disney inside.

 

I start the night with the effortlessly regal Cleopatra. I’m fascinated by her historical time period—filled with unparalleled intellectual curiosity and growth—all under her brilliant leadership. Her description of the library at Alexandria mesmerizes me, and I imagine having access to such a magnificent temple of knowledge. As we talk, I realize we both love to engross ourselves in intellectual thought. Whether in the Egyptian marketplace or the high school cafeteria, we surround ourselves with insightful people who feed our intellectual curiosity. I have regular debates with my friends on topics ranging from political candidates and alternatives to traditional teaching methods, to something as trivial as where to get the best chicken tenders. I’m constantly gaining new perspectives and insight when I engage in these intellectual exchanges. Cleopatra praises my love of learning, telling me to never stop expanding my horizons.

 

I excitedly look at Otto von Bismarck, who commands the dining room like a war cabinet. He tells me stories of tricking the French to strike first during war and creating the first social security program. I begin to understand why I’ve always admired him. Bismarck was more than a skilled military general—he was the embodiment of a great leader because he was dedicated to his cause: improving the lives of his fellow Germans. I explain that I too try to be a role model and help others. My younger peers look up to me and approach me for help as a mentor and a friend. I advise them on how to pass difficult classes by explaining challenging concepts or providing friendly encouragement. During school clubs, I take younger students under my wing, sharing my tips and tricks for conferences and competitions. When they run up to me, filled with joy, after passing a test or winning an award, I always beam with pride as they give me a giant high-five and thank me for my help. As our conversation winds down, Bismarck pats my shoulder and tells me I possess the makings of a great leader.

 

Finally, I turn to my last guest, busy doodling on a napkin. I thank Walt Disney for giving me the happiest moments of my life. Whether I was channeling my inner mermaid or magic carpet-riding princess, or bopping my head to the infectious tune of It’s A Small World, he’s never failed to put a smile on my face. We bond over our love of entertaining others with our wild imaginations. I explain to Walt how acting is my way to let my imagination run free as I immerse myself in another world and create backstories for characters only I will ever get to know. Countless song lyrics, storylines, or show-stopping musicals are hidden in my head, but I rarely share them, fearing that my imagination might seem childish to others. Yet Walt never had that fear; he shared the fanciful worlds he dreamt up, spreading joy to millions. He encourages me to do the same, so that I too can share the gift of laughter and happiness with those around me.

 

As the courses came and went, the lively conversation never ceased. Eventually, our plates were empty, our stomachs were full, and I had to say goodbye to my guests. Throughout the night, I recognized myself in each of these historical figures, and now their stories, wisdom, and guidance will continue to influence me for the rest of my life.” 

 

Cornell Supplement: Cornell only required one supplemental essay that’s specific to the school you apply to. The Human Ecology supplement was “How have your experiences influenced you to apply to the College of Human Ecology? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future?” 

 

“My Model United Nations mentor used to scribble tornadoes on the border of his paper during resolution presentations. “This is the worst part about committee,” he confided in me, and, as it was my first committee, I believed him. The excitement of the debates had come to a lull and I thought there was nothing left to learn. As monotone voices droned on about their proposed solutions, I followed his lead and covered my notepad in tornadoes of every shape and size until my notes were indecipherable underneath all the chaos. 

 

To this day, I’ve never sat in a Model UN committee without scribbling tornadoes on my paper as an homage to my first experience. However, as far as I’m concerned my mentor had it all wrong: resolution writing is where the excitement begins. Yes, I love the adrenaline rush I get when I address the entire committee. Standing in front of my peers, embodying the persona of a world leader, and commanding the attention of a room will never fail to excite me. But, without question, my favorite part about Model UN is physically making change, and that happens during resolution writing.

 

Writing policy is my opportunity to turn words into action. By compiling ideas discussed during committee and organizing them into working papers, I can detail specific plans for nations to follow. This is not a quick process; compiling solutions, reworking ideas, and brainstorming more specific action plans can take days. My mentor drew tornadoes to pass the time during this “boring” period of committee. I, on the other hand, see the possibilities swirling around me like a giant tornado for me to tame, which I find exhilarating. It’s also a collaborative experience; I work with my allies to exchange solutions and arrive at the most advantageous ones together. The time crunch of assembling and rewriting working papers is even more exciting than delivering speeches since I am actively improving communities—albeit in a fake setting—and formulating ideas I can use in the future to improve real communities.

 

While I love the thrill of writing policy in a controlled committee environment, I’m eager to learn how to make an impact in the real world. The College of Human Ecology’s Policy Analysis and Management major will teach me how to effectively analyze policy in order to construct the best possible solutions. The focus on a holistic education with classes in a wide array of topics is very appealing to me as I have not yet decided on a specific field to concentrate on. PAM will provide me with the foundation and tools to create policy, while the open curriculum will give me the freedom to explore a variety of subjects that will help me determine the areas I would like to pursue.

 

The access to research facilities, programs, and brilliant faculty that Cornell offers would ensure that my education continues outside of the classroom. The first-hand exposure in Cornell’s numerous centers like the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs or the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research would further enrich my Human Ecology education. I also look forward to working with the nation’s top policy makers, and PAM’s partnership with the Cornell in Washington program would be a great opportunity to gain a hands-on education in my desired field of work.

 

What began with small scribbles of tornadoes to pass the time in committee became a passion for creating solutions to address global chaotic challenges. Participating in Model UN and writing resolutions has whet my appetite to the field of public policy. I want to change the world for the better, and with the interdisciplinary education about social challenges and policy that the Policy Analysis and Management major provides I will be able to expand my personal interest and skills to benefit the world.” 

 

Rec Letters

 

I asked my APUSH teacher and AP Chemistry teacher for letters of recommendation. I chose my APUSH teacher because that was my favorite class I took Junior year. I put in the most effort for APUSH and I felt I showed my true intellectual engagement and capabilities in that class. The teacher was new that year, but over the course of the year I got to know him very well and I felt like he could encapsulate my passion for learning in his letter.

 

My AP Chemistry teacher also taught my Honors Chemistry class Sophomore year, so I knew her very well after spending two years with her. Because chemistry was not my favorite subject, and I did struggle in it at times, I chose her to write about my character when I’m faced with challenges. I also experienced major academic growth not just in AP Chemistry, but from the beginning of Sophomore year to the end of Junior year, and I felt like she would be able to capture that growth in her letter. 

 

Interview

 

I had an alumni interview after I submitted my application that was very casual. It was more of a chance for me to ask my interviewer questions about Cornell than for her to learn about me. I think the interview went well, although it was clear it was not important to my admission decision since the interviewer brought her 6 year old daughter with her who kept interrupting our interview. However, still being personable and professional in this casual setting could have only helped my application. 

 

Tips for Applicants

 

Cornell is unique because of the different undergraduate schools that you directly apply to. It’s important that you actually research each of the different schools and the specific majors within them since some schools might offer majors that surprise you. Even if you don’t know what specific major you want, your profile (classes, extracurriculars, interests, etc) should ideally align with the offerings and values of your chosen school. You can always transfer schools once you get in, but you shouldn’t apply to one school because you think it will be easier to get into if you aren’t interested in that school’s offerings.

 

Student 2

 

Demographics and Context

 

Class year: Cornell Class of 2021
Major: Policy Analysis and Management (College of Human Ecology)
Application timeline: Regular Decision


Gender: Woman
Race/Ethnicity: Haitian and Nigerian
Nationality: American
Special circumstances: First-generation, low-income, single-parent household

 

Academics

 

Unweighted GPA: Mostly As and Bs
Number of AP/IB courses: 3

 

AP/IB Courses taken each year

Freshman

Sophomore

Junior

Senior

N/A

N/A

AP Gov

AP Bio

     

AP Calc AB

 

Number of honors courses: 3, all math/science


ACT Score: 33
Number of times taken: 2

 

Awards and Honors

 

US Presidential Award for Academic Excellence (12)

  • 3.5/4 or 90/100 GPA requirement as well as a minimum score on state tests, or recommendation from a teacher at your school

 

Extracurriculars

 

Note: Admissions officers evaluate extracurriculars using the four-tier system, with Tier 1 referring to the rarest, most impressive activities, and Tier 4 referring to the most common. In-between, there are subtiers to distinguish between activities even further. Find out your extracurricular tiers with our free chancing engine.

 

Student Ambassador/Tour Guide (10-12) – Tier 2c

  • Led guided tours for prospective students
  • Participated in phonebanks to prospective students to invite them to see the school

 

Library Advisory Board Member  (11-12) – Tier 2c

  • Helped plan events at the library including Murder Mystery Night and Night at the Library
  • Worked shifts as a student librarian after school

 

Baking Club President (12) – Tier 2c

  • Led baking club meetings of 50+ students and organized bake sales for concession stands at athletic games and as fundraisers for other causes

 

Lacrosse (9-11) – Tier 4a

 

Rowing (11-12) – Tier 4a

 

Peer Tutor (9) – Tier 4a

  • Tutored students in math at our lower school

 

Model UN (11-12) – Tier 4a

  • Participant

 

Essays

 

I answered the first Common App essay about sharing your personal story: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 

 

In this essay, I discussed how coming from a rural town in Pennsylvania and being raised by a single parent shaped me as a person and as a student. The theme of my essay was running a race, and I talked about milestones in my life that got me to be applying to college against many odds.

 

I also wrote a supplement for the College of Human Ecology at Cornell: How has your decision to apply to the College of Human Ecology been influenced by your related experiences? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future? 

 

When I was applying to college, I was still pre-med and applied as a Human Biology, Health and Society major. My essay discusses why this unique major appealed to me in a way that regular biology majors didn’t. I wanted to study medicine, but I wanted my biology knowledge to be accompanied by health and the impacts society and socioeconomic status have on health and the field of medicine.

 

Rec Letters

 

I asked my AP Bio teacher and my English teacher with whom I had a great relationship; he was my advisor/mentor throughout high school.

 

Interview

 

I was offered an alumni interview and I thought it went well. Cornell has a regional alumni interview system, so the person who interviewed me was familiar with my small high school. He even knew other students from my school who had gone to Cornell, which was cool.

 

Tips for Applicants

 

My tip would be to research Cornell’s eight undergraduate colleges and decide which one appeals to you the most and where you feel you’d have the best fit. When you apply to Cornell, you have to apply to a specific college, so it’s worth your while to really spend time deciding what school would be best for you. 

 

Student 3

 

Demographics and context

 

Class year: Graduated Cornell in 2021

Major: Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR School)

Application timeline: Regular Decision

 

Gender: Female

Race/Ethnicity: White

Nationality: American

Special circumstances: None

 

Academics

 

Unweighted GPA: 3.9

Number of AP/IB courses: 5

 

AP/IB Courses taken each year

Freshman

Sophomore

Junior

Senior

AP English Language

AP European History

AP US History

AP Spanish

     

AP Calc AB

 

Number of Honors Courses: 2

 

SAT/ACT Score: 32

Superscore: 32

Number of times taken: 2

 

Awards and Honors

 

State Student Leader for Legislative Policy and Change

  • Chosen to lead a group of high school students to meet with legislators and discuss policy issues within my state at a yearly conference.

 

Schoolwide Leadership Award

  • 2 students per year received this award, and I was chosen as one of them. This schoolwide award was given to a student who showed leadership in school organizations and in the classroom. 

 

Daughters of the American Revolution Finalist

  • Nominated by administrators of my high school to represent my school as a DAR finalist for a scholarship. 

 

Scholastic Art Award

  • Received a scholastic award for a design I created in my art class.

 

English Award

  • Nominated by my teacher as an outstanding student in my English class.

 

History Award

  • Nominated by my teacher as an outstanding student in my History class.

 

Speech Awards

  • Awards for various extemporaneous speech competitions across my state.

 

Extracurriculars

 

Note: Admissions officers evaluate extracurriculars using the four-tier system, with Tier 1 referring to the rarest, most impressive activities, and Tier 4 referring to the most common. In-between, there are subtiers to distinguish between activities even further. Find out your extracurricular tiers with our free chancing engine.

 

State Student Leader for Legislative Policy and Change (10-12) Tier 1c

  • Chosen to lead fellow high school students to discuss policy initiatives with legislators at the state level. During the year, I organized a yearly conference where elected representatives would speak with students about issues within their communities, and students would propose recommendations on how to help. Students would also learn the basics of civic engagement.

 

Speech Captain (9-12) Tier 2a

  • Led a team of 12 students and prepared them for various speech events such as impromptu speaking, poetry and prose, and storytelling.
  • Attended competitions across the state, including the State Championships
  • Organized weekly mock speech tournaments and helped younger students learn the basics of speech
  • Provided one-on-one tutoring for new members and helped them develop their interests within the club

 

Museum Historian (9-12) Tier 4a

  • Led tours at a local museum at the weekends
  • Conducted extensive training on the museum and artifacts within the museum as well as how to give tours

 

Lacrosse Team (9-12) Tier 4a

  • Member of high school’s JV lacrosse team. 

 

Camp Counselor (9-12) Tier 3c

  • Worked as a camp counselor for children during the summer
  • Responsible for organizing craft times and developing engaging events for participants 

 

Essays

 

My Common App essay and my school specific essay discussed my interest in bridging perspectives between urban and rural high schoolers. Through my experience leading a conference on policy and change within my state, I learned various perspectives on political issues from people my own age. My Common App essay described my surprise when I realized how different these opinions were, despite the fact that all participants were my same age. My Cornell specific essay tied this experience with the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and discussed how an education that investigated the labor market would help me understand all perspectives. I also mentioned how I would want to take my education and return to my home state to work in government.

 

Rec Letters

 

I asked my AP US History teacher as well as my Honors Chemistry teacher for letters of recommendation. I excelled in AP US and had a great relationship with my teacher. I was a student who actively participated in class and always tried my best. 

 

In my Honors Chemistry class, however, I struggled a lot at the beginning of the year. I met with my teacher often to discuss confusing concepts, but I always maintained a good attitude in the class. I asked him for a letter as I believed that his letter would show that I persevered through a difficult class.

 

Interview

 

I was selected for an interview with an alumni of Cornell ILR. My interviewer initially told me that our conversation had no impact on admissions, but after our call he said that he would write to admissions telling them that I would be a good fit for the ILR program. He asked me questions about ILR and why I was interested, so I was glad that I had done sufficient research on the school before my interview. I talked about how I wanted to learn more about the division between rural and urban economic, political, and labor perspectives. I felt good about the interview because I felt like my fit with Cornell’s program was clear in my responses.

 

Tips for Applicants 

 

  • Cornell is a unique school because admissions takes students who fit really well into a specific program. I didn’t have an outstanding GPA, ACT score, or course load, but I was able to tell my story through my essays. Because of this, it was clear that I would be a good fit for ILR. 
  • If you are offered an interview, you should definitely take it. The interview can be a great way to make a personal connection with a Cornell student or alum, and allows you to tell your story. 
  • Cornell has so many unique programs and colleges. Because of this, you are bound to find your perfect fit. When you apply to Cornell, make sure you apply to the college that matches your interests the best rather than focusing on what college may be the “easiest” to get into.

 

What Are Your Chances at Cornell?

 

While Cornell is a super selective school, your personal chances of acceptance may actually be higher or lower, depending on your profile. For example, if your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars are better than those of the average accepted student, you may have more favorable chances than the listed admissions rate.

 

To better understand your chances, we recommend using our free admissions calculator. Using your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance, and give you tips on improving your profile.

 

You can also search for best-fit schools based on your chances, and on other factors like size, location, majors and more. This tool will make it a lot easier to create a strategy for your college application process!

Lily Fang
Content Manager

Short Bio
Lily Fang is the Content Manager at CollegeVine and an alum of Amherst College. In her spare time, she trains for marathons and blogs about travel, running, and sustainability.

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