Considering Cornell Engineering

The Right Fit
Cornell Engineering is a dynamic, inclusive community of problem solvers and innovators. While there is no magic formula for admission into our program, we look for applicants who are well-prepared for the rigor of Cornell academics and will bring something unique to our community. As we assemble the incoming class of Cornell Engineers, we seek students strong in math and science with wide-ranging personal backgrounds and interests, who are creative, empathetic and desire to make positive, substantive changes in the world. We encourage you to consider: What do you bring to Cornell Engineering?

How to Prepare in High School

The curriculum at Cornell Engineering is demanding, and we want to make sure our students are prepared for the challenge. We look for students who have increasingly challenged themselves in high school while maintaining a strong GPA. We have math and science requirements to ensure you will enter our program prepared for the core curriculum. You are also required to take either the SAT or ACT in addition to two SAT II subject tests (one in math and one in science). Plan ahead—you should complete your testing requirements by the time you apply. Admissions counselors will look at your coursework, grades and test scores to determine whether you are ready for Cornell Engineering.

Required Coursework

Cornell Engineering requires the completion of the following math and sciences classes prior to high school graduation. A unit is equivalent to one academic year of study.

  • 4 units of mathematics, including 1 of calculus
  • 1 unit of physics (taking physics in the latter part of your high school career is beneficial as you will be required to take one semester of physics in your first year at Cornell)
  • 1 unit of chemistry

The following courses are recommended but not required:

  • computer science
  • 1 unit of biology

Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Dual Enrollment Classes

If your school offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses or has an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, we encourage you to take advantage of these classes. If you are successful in these courses, you are likely to be successful at Cornell Engineering. We will award credit for certain AP and IB classes based on your exam results.

Increasingly, high schools partner with local colleges to offer dual enrollment courses (courses taught at the high school but are awarded college credit). This is another opportunity for you to challenge yourself although Cornell Engineering will not award credit for these classes.

Some enterprising students take courses at their local colleges and universities as non-matriculating students in order to broaden their academic experience and gain insight into the college experience. Cornell Engineering will consider awarding credit for courses taken at local colleges if the classes are part of our required curriculum. Credit evaluation for these classes happens only after you have been accepted and matriculated into Cornell Engineering.

Standardized Testing—Plan Ahead

All applicants must take: 

  • the ACT or SAT. One is not better than the other; take the one with which you feel the most comfortable. We do not require specific or minimum test scores to be admitted.
  • two (2) SAT subject tests — 1 math and 1 science. The math subject test can be Math 1 or Math 2; they are given equal weight and we do not have a preference. The science subject test should be in physics, chemistry, or biology. ACT scores, AP exams, IB scores or other standardized tests cannot be used to replace the SAT subject test requirement.

International applicants must take the TOEFL or IELTS. This testing requirement will be waived, however, if a student achieves a score of 670 or higher on the Critical Reading section of the OLD SAT 1 exam, a NEW SAT Reading Test score of at least 35, or for students who have been in the U.S. (or other nations where English is the primary language spoken) for at least 4 years. Please note that Cornell does NOT waive the TOEFL/IELTS test requirement for students who have attended an English-speaking school in a non-English speaking country. You can request a TOEFL waiver.

All standardized testing must be completed by the time of application. The latest test date for ED applicants is October and for RD applicants it is December.

High School Information

We know no two high schools are the same, and your ability to take advanced courses may be limited by the school you attend. Worry not—our counselors are familiar with the schools in their assigned regions. Additionally, each school provides a school profile explaining what courses are offered, any limits on the number of advanced classes you can take, and information about grading. We assess your work within the context of your high school and the resources available to you.

Extracurricular Activities

Engagement outside of the classroom is just as important as your performance in school. On your application, your involvement in extracurricular activities acquaints us with your passions and your ability to balance work and play—it give us a clearer picture of who you are. There is no right or wrong activity. Do what you love. Pursue what is interesting to you. Our students represent an unlimited breadth of interests—building rockets and robots, bagpipe playing, teaching Sanskrit, championship logrolling, managing theater companies and more! If you are genuine in your pursuits, your sincerity and originality will shine through on your application.

Homeschool Students

Each year a small percentage of applications come from homeschooled students. In order to understand the depth and variety of the homeschool experience, and if an official high school transcript is unavailable, we require the following information for all four years prior to entering college:

  • English: list of books (including all textbooks and other anthologies) you have read each year; how many papers and how long (indicate which are creative and which are expository writing); any research papers (list titles and length of each).
  • Social Studies: list of textbooks and books you have read each year; how many papers (topics listed) and how long; independent research projects (titles and lengths).
  • Foreign Language: list of textbooks you have read each year; list of projects and/or papers; descriptions and dates of visits to other countries.
  • Science: textbooks you have used each year (description of topics covered if you did not use a textbook or only used part of the book); list of experiments and/or field trips; any projects or research done (titles and time spent).
  • Mathematics: textbooks (covering which topics) you have used each year; any independent projects (titles and time spent).

In addition, you should submit scores from any standardized examinations (state, SAT, ACT, AP) and any transcripts from any college courses you may have taken. You should also send information on independent projects, laboratory experiences, research projects, etc.

Transfer Students

Are you currently attending another institution of higher education? If you have graduated from high school and have earned twelve or more credits, or have matriculated, at a college or university then are considered a transfer student. We encourage you to review our transfer pages, which will guide you through the classes required and application process for transferring to Cornell Engineering.


College choice is, of course, more than a matter of rankings and statistics. You must ask yourself, “Where could I be happy for the next four-years?” Whenever possible, try to visit the schools that you are considering. The College of Engineering's visit season, when we offer engineering-specific information sessions, runs from the beginning of June through the end of October. During September and October, we offer student-led tours of the Engineering facilities, and prospective students may also sit in on select classes. For more information and to plan your visit, go to Visit Cornell.

Explore our Website

We understand not everyone can visit, so there is a wealth of information available on our website. We invite you to spend some time exploring.

Next Steps: Applying

Interesting Cornell Engineering Statistics

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U.S. News and World Report Rankings of Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (Schools with doctorates)
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first-year applications were received in 2017
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of the incoming first-year class are women
Engineering student Alex '18

I have been on multiple project teams, in multiple research labs, and held an internship at a top aerospace company. However when I think about my time at Cornell what stand out to me are the people that I've had the opportunity to meet and befriend. Those people have helped me grow and succeed as a student and engineer.

— Alex '18