Cornell has accepted 14 percent of students who applied to enroll in the Class of 2020.

Cornell has accepted 14 percent of students who applied to enroll in the Class of 2020.

April 4, 2016

Cornell’s Class of 2020 Chosen From Record Number of Applicants

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This year the University received the highest number of applications in its history.

This year the University received the highest number of applications in its history.

Cornell has accepted 14 percent of 44,966 applicants to the incoming Class of 2020, after receiving the the highest numbers of applications in the school’s history. For the second consecutive year, a record number of accepted students identify as underrepresented minorities, the University announced today.

Only 6,277 students were admitted to the Class of 2020, and all were alerted by 5 p.m. this evening. Another 4,572 students were placed on Cornell’s wait list, according to the University.

Students admitted to the Class of 2020 represent the evolution of Cornell’s demographics, as 1,718 students — or 27 percent of the admitted freshman class — self-identify as minorities. Approximately 49 percent of the Class of 2020 is composed of students of color, including both underrepresented minorities and Asian-Americans, the University said.

Cornell’s Class of 2020 hails from all 50 United States, in addition to Washington D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Admitted students also currently reside in 85 countries from around the globe. Over 10 percent of admitted students are international and in citizenship status, the student body represents over 100 countries outside of the United States.

Almost 700 admitted students are the first in their family to attend college, according to the University.  The proportion of women enrolled at Cornell also increases to 54.7 percent of students within the Class of 2020.

“This year’s exceptionally large application pool produced a remarkable class of scholars,” said Jason Locke, associate vice provost for enrollment. “From our first-generation students to ROTC candidates and student athletes, the Class of 2020 is incredibly talented.”

Those accepted to the incoming freshman class boasted a median SAT I Critical Reading score of 730 — the same as last year — but the SAT I Math score increased from 750 to 760, according to the University.

Locke said the Class of 2020 will be “slightly larger” than previous classes, with the University aiming for a yield of 3,275 freshman enrolled this fall, up from 3,182 last year. Students have until May 1 to determine whether they will accept the University’s offer of admission.

The University also predicts that over 60 additional freshman will enroll in Cornell in January of 2017, as the second class of students participates in the First-Year Spring Admissions program, which was established in 2015. These students have also been notified of their admissions status, according to the University.

“Each year, the admitted class raises the bar on what it means to be outstanding, and just when I think we cannot push further with our goals to broaden and diversify the incoming class, it happens,” said Shawn Felton, director of undergraduate admissions.

The admissions office anticipates that 1,800 prospective students will visit campus during “Cornell Days” from April 14-25 as they contemplate their decision. The University will also host over 400 underrepresented minority students on campus during “Diversity Hosting Month,” forum April 8-27.

  • A bit high?

    Unfortunately, acceptance rate is one of the main factors that top prospective students look at when deciding where to enroll. Haven’t bothered to check, but I believe all the top 15 schools are now at or below 10%, including Cornell’s peer schools that had higher rates 5-10 years ago (Northwestern, Vanderbilt, etc.) A bit disappointing to see that Cornell had ~2000 more applications than 2 years ago, and yet the acceptance rate stayed the same. While other schools like Penn and Duke are doing all sorts of things – like accepting over half their class ED – to lower it to boost their yield and cross-admit numbers, it’s surprising to see that Cornell’s admins haven’t started playing the game yet. I understand that Cornell is a bigger school with a slightly different mission, but if you don’t play the admissions game, there will most likely be repercussions 10-20 years down the line when our yield, rankings, etc. drops and we keep losing the best of the best to other schools.

    • CornellAlum

      On what planet do we live where a 14% admissions rate is considered “a bit high?” Give me a break. I never understood the logic of a college celebrating or boasting about the number of students it could turn away (“Look how many 18-year-olds’ dreams we can crush!) Universities, especially schools like Cornell, aren’t private clubs. They’re engines of discovery, knowledge creation, social mobility, and broad public impact. Get your social validation elsewhere.

      • A bit high

        You don’t understand how high school students’ minds work do you? The top students want validation for busting their asses for 4 years. What gives them that validation? A school’s ranking, acceptance rate, etc. It doesn’t matter how you feel about this, that is exactly how a good portion of top students end up choosing which school to go to. That matters because those same “superficial” top students end up becoming alumni who end up determining the future of the school.

        “Universities, especially schools like Cornell, aren’t private clubs. They’re engines of discovery, knowledge creation, social mobility, and broad public impact.”

        Why don’t you give ME a break? This statement is so cringe-inducing. Cornell should just give free education to everyone and accept everyone who applies then right? There’s a reason why even Harvard isn’t just resting on its laurels and saying “Harvard is Harvard”. It’s doing everything it can to compete with Stanford because it realizes that it’s falling behind in STEM, which could spell trouble down the line.

        The effects aren’t immediate. It may take several decades to become apparent, but this “Cornell is perfectly fine and won’t indulge in superficial games” is exactly the type of mindset that will impact the school’s competitiveness.

        Anyway, guys like you will never see things the other way (I guess you could throw that back at me?), so I won’t be replying to this thread anymore. I should probably get back to more productive things.

  • Big Red Bear

    Cornell receives the most applications and has the largest class size of the top 15 schools. If Cornell admitted the same percentage of its class through early decision as Penn (an incredible 55%), Cornell’s admit rate would drop to almost 11%.

    • Before we cast the first stone…

      And if we got as many ED applicants as Penn we’d have a whopping 18% more ED applicants than we do now. And if we accepted the same percentage of our ED applicants as Penn, our ED acceptance rate would be 4.2 percentage points lower than it is now. Penn can fill it’s class almost 3 times with ED applications. We can’t even fill our entering class 1.5 times with our ED applicant pool. When we get as many comparably qualified students declaring Cornell as their unequivocal first choice then I hope we DO start taking 55% of our class early. Until then, we need to broaden the strength and quality of our ED applicants and start recruiting high school students with higher GPAs and SATs. We’re losing to Penn by almost every metric (percent of students in the top 10% of their graduating class, SAT scores, valedictorians, admissions rate, yield rate– even when you discount their early decision yield their regular decision yield is still superior to ours). Before we start implying that Penn is doing something we could easily start doing and it would have the exact same results, let’s look at where we’re struggling and try to improve in the same ways they have. It wasn’t that long ago that Penn was the runt of the Ivy League along with Brown.

  • Big Red Bear

    Before we cast, do you work for the Penn Admissions Department? You appear a little sensitive about Penn enrolling 55% of its class ED…

    • Before we cast the first stone…

      No, just a proud Cornell grad who’s tired of seeing schools like Penn, Brown, Columbia and Dartmouth ranked above us and who’s even MORE tired of hearing the same excuses over and over and over again, year after year. “Oh, Penn takes half it’s class early. Columbia gets lots of apps because it’s in NYC. Brown and Dartmouth are ranked higher because they’re smaller so they can take fewer applicants.” All I see are 4 schools who have taken advantage of their unique qualities to lower their admit rates. Penn gets the most ED applicants in the ivy league so they use ED more heavily. Columbia is in a huge, desirable city (though it’s nowhere near the fun part of it) so they constantly act like they’re in the heart of all the action and attract applicantions from anyone who has ever thought about being in New York at some point in their lives. At some point I think we have to look at what we’re not doing right if we’re going to improve before we start judging other schools for their admissions strategies. There’s no singular way to fill a freshman class or advertise our school. We don’t have to be beholden to ‘what everyone else is doing’ and straying from that path seems more intelligent than it does disingenuous if it would work for us. Why don’t we have a higher percentage of students from the top 10% of their HS class? Why do we have the lowest SAT scores in the ivy league? Why is everyone’s first response ‘well that’s not what we’re about!” Every university is ‘about’ that stuff! Let’s just get it together

  • Big Red Bear

    Before we cast, do you work for the Penn Admissions Department? A little sensitive that Penn admits 55% of its class through ED?

  • Jason

    Guys, calm down.

    With the increasing importance of STEM, especially computer science , Cornell is now
    a far better choice for some students then Dartmouth, Penn, Brown and even Yale.
    The job placement for our computer science grads is excellent.

    Cornell should keep strengthening its programs in engineering, comp sci, physics and math. That will pay off big time going forward.

    • Jiazhen

      Besides, its nice campus is something no school can compete with or take away 🙂

    • Freedom8

      Quite right. One of my relative(a Legacy of Cornell M,E.) will apply E.D. to Cornell CS.

    • Engineering ’87

      If cornell is a far better choice than why are students still picking Penn and Yale over cornell in droves? If anything you hear a lot more about students picking Penn Engineering over Cornell these days– something you would have been laughed out of the room for suggesting back in the day.

      • My relative ( a Legacy of Cornell, ME)applied E.D. to College of Engineering(intended major CS) at Cornell and accepted. CS at Cornell is the best in Ivy League.

  • Big Red Bear

    Cornell’s higher admit rate is due to its larger class size and its relatively lower use of ED compared to some peer schools. Cornell received the most applications of the top 15 schools, and I believe also had the largest absolute increase in applications this year (an increase of over 3,000). Cornell’s standardized test scores are not materially different than Penn, Dartmouth, or Brown. The median SAT’s for those accepted for the class of 2020 rose to a record 1490.

    • Before we cast the first stone

      We have a “relatively lower us of ED compared to some peer schools” because we already take the largest percentage of our ED applicants. With a 27.4% acceptance rate for ED applicants we literally can’t afford to rely more heavily on ED because we’ll then be even more out of step with the other Ivy ED acceptance rates which are in the low 20%s. And yes, our SAT scores ARE materially different. With middle 50th percentile scores of 650-750CR and 680-780 Math, we’re lagging. Compare that to Penn and Brown. Penn’s 690-780 CR and 710-800 Math scores puts them much closer to HYP scores than to ours. Only 8% of accepted students at Brown had SAT CR reading scores lower than 650, whereas 25% of our entering class has a score below 650. It’s frustrating that the administration does not take more serious steps to bring our numbers from acceptance rate to SAT scores more in line with those schools that are purportedly our peers.

  • jmartin

    Cornell is an outstanding school in every way, but until you can move Ithica to Boston, Manhattan or Philly, you will never lure those students for whom studying in a city has great allure.

    • Mstrauss

      and until you can spell Ithaca correctly…

  • blackwidow

    pinning my hopes on the emergence of cornell tech and strong financial support from the school’s alumni base

    • Before we cast the first stone…

      Agreed. This is exactly the innovation I want to see! Sometimes it feels like the administration is just going with the flow. We’re not going to beat schools like Harvard and Yale by playing their game. Schools like Penn and Columbia play to their unique strengths– they’re doing what works for them. We need to do this more often!

      • Barnard2020

        I have a friend who chose Cornell engineering for the computer science program, and while she applied ED, she probably could have considered other Ivies, so cheer up! haha

  • Big Red Bear

    Before we cast, you doth protest too much. Are the numbers truly that different?
    Penn ED acceptance rate 23%
    Cornell ED rate 27%
    2015 Penn SAT verbal range 680 – 760
    math 700 790
    ACT 31 – 34
    2015 Cornell verbal 650 – 750
    math. 680 – 780
    ACT. 30 – 34

    • Before we cast the first stone…

      I quoted those same statistics and already indicated that yes, the numbers are truly that different. Penn is taking 23% of a larger pool of ED applicants while we’re taking 27% of a smaller ED applicant pool. They can fill their class almost three times with ED applicants and we can’t even fill ours twice. If we took a similar percentage of our class ED we’d have an ED admissions rate of over 35% compared to Penn’s 23% ED acceptance rate. That’s not a good look for us. And yes, those SAT differences are pretty huge at this level. I’m not sure where you’re getting your numbers from but I’m getting mine from the official sources:
      CR: 650-750 M:680-780
      CR: 690-780 M: 710-800
      And, again, Brown’s numbers are also better than ours:
      When the bottom 25% of our class has received SAT scores comparable to the bottom 8% of Brown’s, I think we’ve got a problem. Refusing to acknowledge that problem doesn’t make it go away, it just leads to our continued inability to compete for the best students.

      • Big Red Bear

        Penn’s Common Data Set numbers are the numbers I used above. I also used Cornell’s Common Data Set numbers. Perhaps you should ask Penn why they report two different sets of numbers. What’s also puzzling is in Penn’s Common Data set numbers, they claim only 58% submitted SATs and 42% ACTs. Not a student reported both. For Cornell, 75% submitted SATs and 45% ACTs – thus 20% reported both. Is Penn reporting only the higher (SAT or ACT), but not both, to show higher numbers?

  • Big Red Bear

    Probably should have included above the total number of applications…
    Penn 38,918
    Cornell 44,966.

  • Different Perspective

    I think Cornell’s real problem is being spread too thin and indulging every obscure niche. We need to accept lots of students to pay for all these buildings and programs, hurting the admit rate. But, many individual programs are ranked behind their peers primarily because they’re very small compared to every other top 10 program. Look at Cornell vs MIT in engineering. Courses and research are very similar, even academic stats differences are splitting hairs last I checked. We’re just so much smaller, so we can’t do as much within a given area of engineering or physics or related fields. It’s hard to be the Caltech (best of the best with small programs) without picking a few areas to specialize in and ignoring everything else. Most ivy league schools are a joke in engineering (compared to where their students could have gone) and don’t have a hotel school, ILR, human ecology, Ag-related programs, or even an undergraduate business school.

  • Old Alum

    My impression was that the admissions rate was high, but the matriculation rate was lower (I may be mis-reading the article). My understanding was that Cornell had a higher admissions rate, because it lost accepted applicants to Harvard, Yale, Princeton & Stanford.

    • Engineering ’87

      That was true maybe in the 70s and 80s. Now we’re losing kids to places like Duke, Columbia, UPenn, and Northwestern regularly. We would be lucky if our only (or even our main) competition was Harvard and Yale.

  • Alumnus from midwest

    The Admissions office is out of control. The student to faculty ratio is out of line with the other Ivy Schools. Last figure I saw it was double the other schools.

    Not too many years ago the maximum enrollment was set a 13,050. However, it has continued to rise.

    The yield rate is about 50%, compared to 60-65 to 80-85% for Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. One way to increase the yield over the longer term is to become even more selective.

    • Old Alum

      So at 50% yield, that gives Cornell a 7% matriculation rate. Harvard had a 5.2% acceptance rate this year, and if your “yield” number is accurate, that gives them a 4.4% matriculation rate. A recent study (that is not public) noted that Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford & MIT lose applicants to each other as a general rule. Harvard and Yale are also admitting more undergrads than ever in their history (with Yale having a plan to bring in more). Between increasing applications from international students, inclusiveness and diversity goals, and massive endowments, this top 4-5 tier group is likely to outdo Cornell for the foreseeable future. It will be hard to buck the Ivy “safety school” image for those concerned about it.

      • blackwidow

        i think cornell can definitely afford to increase its ED acceptance rate slightly. That seems to be one straightforward way improve its yield.

      • Math

        We have to accept more and more students because we keep adding more and more stuff we can’t afford, diluting all of the core programs. We can’t do it all and be the best. Nobody can.

  • Leland

    The New York Times reported this week that Stanford lowered its admit rate a whopping five percent from last year. They anticipate that alumni donation will make up for the reduction in class size.

  • Parent

    I think the problem Cornell has is bragging about it’s high rate of people of color or those who identify as minority and those that are first generation. Every year they boast how high these numbers are so obviously they are admitting student to boost these numbers instead of admitting the brightest students. My son and a friend were both waitlisted this year even though they have some perfect and some near perfect test scores (35 ACT, 800 subject tests, 800 SAT sections), and top GPA’s and are ranked number 1 and 2 in their school. They both have taken about 18 AP classes with almost all 5’s on them. They both have great leadership EC’s but unfortunately do not fit a demographic the school is trying to Brag about. My son is not a first generation college student because I went to community collage and worked to pay my way those college and took out student loans to finish at a state university. Because of my hard work and not the laziness of my friends that did not go to college my son does not get the added boost of being a first generation student. The state school that my son and friend will probably attend has produced almost twice the number of Rhodes Scholars then Cornell has ever produced. If Cornell really wants to increase it’s reputation then it needs to take a look at who it is admitting You are turning down students who will increase your average test scores and GPA’s and who want to attend the school because they feel it has a better engineering program than the other Ivy’s. Unfortunately these students will eventually stop applying all together because they will realize that they have no chance if they don’t fill some kind of demographic that you are looking for. Your admissions seems to be more of social experiment than actually looking for the brightest most talented students to accept.

  • Helpful Alum

    Wow….I read through nearly all of the comments. I have been following Cornell admissions cycles for 20 years, so here is some perspective:

    (1). Human Ecology did admit 60% of their class Early Decision back in perhaps 2004 or so. The Admissions Director is the same person then as now. Why not call him up and ask him why he didn’t continue to do this in subsequent years?

    (2) There was also a year (perhaps also 10+ years ago now) when Arts & Sciences turned down some 60-64 students with perfect SAT scores. Cornell is looking for well-rounded students not necessarily those who test well.

    (3) The reason Cornell doesn’t take more applicants Early Decision is because they have consistently discovered over the years that URM (Under Represented Minorities) mostly apply during the regular admissions cycle. Additionally, URM do not apply equally to Cornell as to other Ivy League universities in large cities.

    (4) Unlike their competition, the University has emphasized since it’s founding that it provides a significant socioeconomic equalizer through its platform. There is rightfully a high interest in finding the ‘diamonds in the rough’ which can be defined multiple ways (including ways mentioned above).

    (5) I personally believe the Common App process is a curse on the institutions that accept it. The only reason Cornell reluctantly agreed to join the CA was to increase its yield. Cornell was one of the last schools to join and if you look at the impact on total applications you will see that they soared from about 18,000 to 45,000 over the last 10-12 years. This makes us look better in the rankings (because we reject more people) but it puts a crushing load on the Admissions staff each year which is (almost) always underresourced. I would much rather Cornell only receive applications from people who make an extra effort to apply rather than those who tick an extra box and pay their fee. Yes, there is an extra essay requirement but I still maintain that the Common App makes it easier to apply to more schools. If the Common App limited applicants to 8 schools, I believe this would inject some sanity into this annual process.

    (6) In response to Math: Cornell for some years now doesn’t build buildings or start new programs unless they are substantially/fully endowed up front — so your comment does not apply.

    (7) In response to Alumnus From Midwest: My entering class had over 4,200 students at the start. Class sizes dropped when the new residence halls came online on West Campus. Off the top of my head (and so I could be mistaken), the new West Campus can accommodate probably 600 fewer students then it could in the 1990s.

    (8) The Cornell College of Business construct will help us compete more successfully against the likes of Penn and Harvard. Give it two or three cycles to show results.

  • ddon

    I graduated from Cornell in 1987. Cornell admits too many students. For the class of 2020, they admitted more than 6000 students and then they put several more thousand students on a wait list! I realize that about 50% of those students will actually enroll, but we still make too many offers. What the heck is going on? How is it that the number of applications keep going up but the percentage of those who actually are admitted hardly goes down? I understand that a lot of students choose to attend universities in urban areas and that Cornell may often not be some students’ first choice when they apply to Ivy League schools, but now it seems to be easier to get into Cornell than it is to get into many highly selective non-Ivy League schools such as Northwestern, U of Chicago, and Washington U. I know Cornell admits more students to each undergraduate class, but something is not right when applications keep increasing but the numbers being admitted are not decreasing. We need a new vision, when it comes to undergraduate admissions!

  • Gregory

    If Cornell Admissions figures were based on the number of Applications / Test Scores / Admits / Yield just in the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Engineering, the numbers would be much closer to the other IVYS, Stanford, etc – and our ranking would definitely be higher.. The average scores and yield are far more competitive in Arts & Sciences and Engineering and in line with the other IVYs. The other cornell colleges have an admission criteria that allows for more reliance on non traditional factors. It is good for those colleges and the students they seek, but bad for common data, on which US News heavily relies. Ezra Cornell’s mission is intact. It just hurts the modern day rankings.

    • reality

      I mean.. that’s just not true. You can look up the stats here :
      It seems like the Arts & Sciences admit rate is totally in line with the others (about 14.7%)
      It’s kind of annoying how people want to act like Arts and Sciences is a totally separate world from human ecology, CALS, etc.

      • reality

        Whereas the other ivys have admit rates ranging from 5-10%

  • Pingback: Cornell’s Class of 2020 Chosen From Record Number of Applicants – The Cornell Daily Sun – Freshman Issue()

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