Woman studying outside of Gates Hall.

First-Year Applicants

We hope you will consider applying to the College of Engineering at Cornell University. Each year approximately 780 first-year students from the U.S. and abroad join our world-renowned program. We encourage you to review the information here on the requirements for applying to Cornell Engineering.

Information for First-Year Undergraduate Applicants

Individuals with a high school diploma or GED who have earned fewer than 12 college credits may apply as a first-year applicant. If you have earned 12 or more credits at another accredited college or university since graduating from high school, you must apply to Cornell Engineering as a transfer student.

Dates and Deadlines

Early Decision

Early decision (ED) is an option for applicants who have a clear preference for one institution. You apply to only one institution as an ED applicant. When applying ED, the applicant is making a binding commitment to that institution and, if admitted, must enroll at that school unless the financial aid package is not considered adequate by the family. While pursuing ED admission at Cornell, you may apply to other non-binding institutions but not to those with a binding ED process. If you are accepted to Cornell through ED, you must promptly withdraw any application(s) you have submitted to other schools and cannot submit additional applications to any other institution. For a student who has a definite first-choice college, applying ED has many benefits:

  • a higher rate of admission relative to the regular decision pool;
  • reduced stress by cutting the time spent waiting for a decision;
  • saved time and expense of submitting multiple applications;
  • once accepted, more time to prepare for college.

Students and parents can use the College Board's Pros and Cons of Applying to College Early to weigh their options.

  • ED application deadline: November 1
  • ED financial aid application for international students deadline: November 1
  • ED financial aid application for U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens deadline: November 21
  • ED quarter-year report due: Thanksgiving
  • ED admissions decisions released: Mid-December

Regular Decision

  • Application deadline: January 2
  • Financial aid application for international students deadline: January 2
  • Financial aid application for U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens deadline: February 15
  • Mid-year report due: Mid-February
  • Admissions decisions released: Early April

Curriculum Requirements

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
  • 1 unit of chemistry

The following courses are recommended but not required:

  • computer science
  • 1 unit of biology

Application Requirements

  • A Completed Application through the Common Application or the Universal College Application.
  • $80 Application Fee or Fee Waiver. To request a fee waiver, follow the instructions on the application. 
  • Cornell College of Engineering Supplemental Essay. This writing component is essential to your application. We want you to express your interest in engineering and Cornell Engineering specifically.
    • Tell us about your interest in engineering or what you hope to achieve with a degree in engineering. Describe what appeals to you about Cornell Engineering and how it specifically relates to your engineering interest or aspirations. (650 word limit)
  • Two (2) Teacher Recommendations. We require at least one be from a math or science teacher, and if you are an international or ESL student, one from an English teacher. Give your teachers at least one month to write the letters, and be sure they know you and your work well.
  • Secondary School Reports. This includes your guidance counselor recommendation, school profile, and official transcript. These items are submitted by your guidance counselor.
  • Mid-Year Report. We strongly recommend that students provide a current senior-year grade report. For early decision, this is a quarter-year report. For regular decision, this is a mid-year report. If you are admitted to Cornell Engineering, you will need to submit your final grade report.

Standardized Testing Requirements

In response to the impact of COVID-19 on the SAT and ACT test administrations, Cornell University has made the SAT and ACT tests fully optional for the 2020-2021 admission cycle. Additionally, the SAT Subject Tests are not required and will not be considered during the 2020-2021 admission cycle. Please read the following statement regarding Cornell's change in standardized test policy.

Update on SAT/ACT Review Changes Due to COVID-19

Applicants to Cornell University seeking to enroll in the Class of 2025 can submit their applications without including the results from ACT or SAT exams. This will be true for both the Early Decision and Regular Decision rounds of review. We intend this as relief for applicants this year who we anticipate will not have had enough opportunities to prepare for and to take either exam since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.
 
Test results will remain for many Cornell applicants one valuable indicator of preparation for college-level work. For those applicants for the Class of 2025 who can’t plan for, take, and submit exams, evaluators at Cornell during the 2020-2021 application review season will consider with much greater scrutiny their other application documents with a particular focus on finding other evidence of excellent academic preparation, including:

  • evidence of rigorous courses and grades in their secondary school (high school) context;
  • evidence of a commitment to pursuing other challenging and equivalent learning experiences;
  • results from other kinds of secondary, college-preparatory, and university-qualifying testing where available and verifiable;
  • care, craft, and authenticity in writing submissions;
  • and wherever practical and available, details, insight and analysis from secondary school counselors and teachers.

It is likely that many applicants who will choose to apply without test results might be asked after review has begun for additional evidence of continuing preparation, including grade reports from current senior year enrollment when that can be made available in time for Cornell admission review.
 
We want to be transparent that Cornell overall is not adopting a “test-optional admission” policy in general, nor permanently. As is true of all or almost-all “test optional” admissions practices, we understand that many students will continue to take tests and submit their results. Consequently, many students who have had, or will have reasonable and uninterrupted opportunities to take the ACT and/or SAT administrations during 2020 should plan to do so. In Cornell’s review during the 2020-2021 application cycle, results from the ACT or SAT might still be a meaningful differentiator in particular for students who:

  • live near or attend a school that will be open, and where testing will be offered, or who live near a testing center that will be offering more testing seats or dates than they did in 2019; and
  • have not experienced COVID-19-related personal economic hardship (i.e. lost income for one or more of their household providers) or serious illness or death among close family members.

Neither of these two criteria can be pre-defined in absolute terms. Our intent is to partner with applicants and their advocates to ensure that our interpretation of individual applicants’ circumstances is reasonable and well-informed.

The College of Engineering will apply stronger scrutiny to non-testing elements during the upcoming review year for all applicants, whether or not they submit test results, but will also include a review of test results we receive.

This emergency 2020 guidance does not intend to suggest conviction at Cornell that ACT or SAT examination results can’t continue to help us to predict college success. This is instead a one-year relief for students who had been assembling a distinguished record of achievement until the COVID-19 disruption started in their country, region, or school, and who continue to seek the higher education opportunities toward which those efforts had been directed.

Online Testing
Cornell is unable to analyze at this time proposals from ACT and the College Board for offering expanded at-home and other online testing during 2020. While we affirm each of the test-makers’ qualifications, research, and intentions, this method of testing has been accelerated; it will be unproven and can’t yet be validated as an indicator of college success during the upcoming cycle. Also, though we again credit the efforts the agencies will undertake, it seems likely due to differences in access to technology and timing that some potential applicants will have less access to these online testing opportunities than others. Applicants who might choose to undertake any of these options during the months between September and December should submit the results if they believe them to be an accurate reflection of their preparation.

English Language Proficiency Testing Requirements

International applicants must take the TOEFL or IELTS. The recommended minimum scores are:

  • TOEFL: 100 (Internet-based exam) and 600 (paper exam)
  • IELTS: 7

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we understand that this is a difficult and uncertain time for many students around the world applying to colleges and universities. Cornell University will work closely with affected international applicants on a case-by case basis and do all that we can to assist and support applicants regarding the submission of all required admissions application materials and information.

If you need to satisfy the English Language Proficiency Requirement and cannot submit the TOEFL or IELTS, Cornell Engineering will accept the Duolingo English Test (DET) results in lieu of the TOEFL or IELTS from applicants to satisfy submission requirements. You can learn more about the Duolingo English Test here: https://englishtest.duolingo.com/. The recommended minimum test score for the Duolingo test is 120.

Have more questions?

See the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below.

Cornell Engineering Admissions Statistics*

Class of 2023

Applications Submitted: 12,306
Class Size: 766
Early Decision Enrollment: 49.5%
Women Enrollment: 52.9%
Men Enrollment: 47.1%
Under-represented Minorities: 23.2%
Descendants of Cornell Alumni: 15.9%

Average Test Scores for Admitted Students

Sat Combined Mid-50% Range (new SAT only): 1480–1550

  • SAT Math Mid-50% Range: 770–800
  • SAT Verbal Mid-50% Range: 700–760

ACT Composite Mid-50% Range: 33–35

  • ACT Math Mid-50% Range: 34–35
  • ACT Science Mid-50% Range: 33–36

*Data taken from PeopleSoft Frozen File on July 12, 2019

Engineering student Natasa '18

My time at Cornell has been essential to my growth as an academic and a person. In classes, I've both learned theory and applied it through the numerous projects I've completed in my computer science classes. These experiences gave me the qualifications to work at amazing research institutions such as the National Institutes of Health and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In terms of personal growth, I've become more aware and understanding of opinions and experiences different than my own. Cornell is home to people from many walks of life, and hearing various life stories always inspires me to adjust the way I act to become a little bit of a better person everyday.

— Natasa '18

Frequently Asked Questions

Application Process

Can I apply to more than one college at Cornell University?

Do I have to apply to a particular major?  If so, what if I change my mind later?

How important are my SAT/ACT scores for my application?

How can I check on the status of my application?

If I need to mail application materials to Cornell, where do I send them?

If I already have an undergraduate degree, may I apply as a first-year student to obtain a second bachelor's degree?

Are admissions interviews required?

How do you evaluate applicants who are home-schooled?

Early Decision (ED)

What happens if I'm not admitted during early decision?

Can I apply early decision if I am applying for financial aid? What happens if I'm admitted and my family can't afford to pay for my Cornell education?

High School Coursework and Credit

What is the minimum high school GPA required to be admitted to the College of Engineering as a freshman?

If calculus is not offered at my high school, will this hurt my chances of being admitted?

Is AP level coursework in the fields of math and science needed in order to apply?

Which is more important, AP Physics 1 & 2 or AP Physics C?

Does the College of Engineering offer credit for AP, IB, and A-level scores?

Will the College of Engineering offer transfer credit for college classes taken during high school?

Application Process

Can I apply to more than one college at Cornell University?

  • Cornell University only allows applicants to apply to one of the seven undergraduate colleges and schools.

Do I have to apply to a particular major?  If so, what if I change my mind later?

  • No, you do not apply to a particular major; you apply to the college. When you apply to the College of Engineering, you can indicate an intended major if you wish. You do not officially select your major until the second semester of your sophomore year. It is not uncommon for students to change their minds about what area of engineering they'd like to specialize in.

How important are my SAT/ACT scores for my application?

  • The admissions officers review applications holistically, which means everything is taken into consideration. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SAT and ACT tests are fully optional for the 2020-2021 admission cycle. If you do not submit SAT/ACT scores, your application will be reviewed with the same consideration as those applying with scores. If you do submit SAT/ACT scores, they will be considered as part of your application, but they are never used as the sole factor in a student's application. Your essays, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and academic record are all important to your application. The College of Engineering will apply stronger scrutiny to non-testing elements during the upcoming review year for all applicants, whether or not they submit test results.

How can I check on the status of my application?

  • When we receive your application and application fee (or fee waiver request), we will email you with the information you need to establish an online application status account. This may take up to two weeks at peak processing times. Receiving your ApplicantID and PIN via email is your confirmation that we have received your application. Using this secure site, you will be able to track your application materials and update your email address as necessary.

If I need to mail application materials to Cornell, where do I send them? 

  • Students are required to submit their Common or Universal Application electronically. We strongly encourage you to upload supplemental materials using your application status portal. If you supplemental material cannot be uploaded electronically, items can be mailed to the below address if necessary.
  •  
  • Please include full name, application ID#, and birthdate on all correspondence.

    Cornell University Application Processing Center
    East Hill Plaza
    349 Pine Tree Road
    Ithaca, NY 14850-2899

If I already have an undergraduate degree, may I apply as a first-year student to obtain a second bachelor's degree?

  • No, Cornell Engineering does not enroll students for a second bachelor's degree. Individuals who already hold an undergraduate degree need to apply for a graduate degree program.

Are admissions interviews required?

  • No, interviews are not required for Engineering. However, an applicant may be offered an opportunity to meet with a Cornell alum once his/her application has been submitted. Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN) members may contact prospective students in their local area to see if they would like to meet. The meetings are purely optional, but provide candidates with a chance to learn more about Cornell from an alum's perspective. If you are unable to meet with a CAAAN member or there is no one available in your area it will not adversely impact your chance of admission.

How do you evaluate applicants who are home-schooled?

  • In order to understand and appreciate the depth and variety of the homeschool experience, the admissions selection committee requires 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).
  • We ask that applicants provide an official high school transcript if available. In addition, you should submit scores from an standardized examinations (state, SATs, ACTs, APs), and any transcripts from any college courses you may have taken. You should also send information on independent projects, laboratory experiences, research projects, etc.

Early Decision (ED)

What happens if I'm not admitted during Early Decision?

  • Students who are not admitted during the Early Decision period may be deferred to Regular Decision or denied admission altogether. Deferrals to Regular Decision are only granted to a small number of students who are in serious contention for a spot in the class. Unfortunately, if a student is denied in Early Decision, he/she cannot re-apply to  any of the seven undergraduate colleges/schools at Cornell University.

Can I apply Early Decision if I am applying for financial aid? What happens if I'm admitted and my family can't afford to pay for my Cornell education?

  • You can still apply Early Decision if you are applying for financial aid. Make sure to follow the financial aid application deadlines and submit all the required forms as outlined on the Financial Aid website. When you receive your financial aid package, we expect you to work with the Financial Aid Office to make any necessary adjustments to your package. If both sides have done as much as possible and your family is still unable to afford Cornell, we will release you from your Early Decision agreement.

High School Coursework and Credit

What is the minimum high school GPA required to be admitted to the College of Engineering as a freshman?

  • Admitted students are usually those who have excelled in their studies, particularly in math and sciences, and who have grades that are generally in the A range. Most of the students admitted into the College fall within the top 10% of their high school graduating class. When considering a student's GPA, we look at the rigor of the high school curriculum, whether the GPA is weighted or un-weighted, and whether the student has taken challenging courses if they are offered at their school.

If calculus is not offered at my high school, will this hurt my chances of being admitted?

  • Calculus is extremely important given the engineering common curriculum, which includes several calculus courses during the first two years at Cornell. Cornell Engineering requires one year (or one high school unit) of calculus as a component of the engineering application because our engineering curriculum is fundamentally driven by facility in calculus. Any applicant choosing to apply to Cornell Engineering without meeting this requirement would be placed at a substantial disadvantage relative to the engineering applicant pool. This is important to factor in during the college search process. Rare exceptions can be made, but may require the admitted student to come to Cornell during the summer before his/her freshman fall semester to take a college-level calculus class. If it is possible for you to gain calculus experience during your senior year at a local or community college, it will be in your best interest to do so.

Is AP level coursework in the fields of math and science needed in order to apply?

  • AP level coursework is not required as long as candidates receive one full unit of the required subjects (calculus, chemistry, physics, and biology) during their high school years. AP level courses are rigorous and having access to this level of coursework can strengthen candidates' opportunities for admission and potential to succeed academically in the engineering curriculum.

Which is more important, AP Physics 1 & 2 or AP Physics C?

  • No appreciable distinction is made between AP Physics 1 & 2 and AP Physics C other than AP credit is only awarded for a score of 5 on the AP Physics C test. More important is that students have exposure to at least one high level physics class in high school, and students are challenging themselves in the curricular environment that is available to them. Because physics is critically important to many fields of engineering, we prefer that students' most recent exposure to physics occur in their junior and/or senior year.

Does the College of Engineering offer credit for AP, IB, and A-level scores? 

  • The College of Engineering routinely offers credit for appropriately high scores on Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate Higher Level (IB), and General Certificate of Education (A-level) examinations. We will award credit for certain AP and IB classes based on your exam results. You can also earn credit by taking a Cornell Advanced Standing Exam (CASE) during the fall orientation period.

Will the College of Engineering offer transfer credit for college classes taken during high school? 

  • Transfer credit for college courses taken before high school graduation may be awarded if  the following criteria are met:
  • Students must have received at least a grade of C (not C–) in the course, and the subject matter must be applicable to the Engineering curriculum at Cornell.

  • The Engineering Registrar’s office must receive a signed statement from the high school guidance office certifying that the course was not used to fulfill high school graduation credit.

  • The course must have been taught on a college campus, by college faculty and attended by college students.

  • An official transcript must be received by the Engineering Registrar.

  • If these criteria are met, Cornell faculty will review the course description and award transfer credit if the course is equal in scope and rigor to a corresponding course in the Engineering curriculum.

    Students may also earn credit by taking Cornell Advanced Standing Exam(s) during the fall orientation period. CASE exam performance will demonstrate understanding of key subject areas (i.e. calculus, physics, chemistry, and biology) within the framework of the Cornell Engineering curriculum. While these exams are voluntary, they help place students in the appropriate coursework level.