Frequently Asked Questions

We realize you probably have lots of questions and we have lots of answers. Please take some time to see if we have the answer to your question below!

Topics include:

High School Coursework and Credit

What Classes Should I Take in High School?

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
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 and physics) 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.

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.
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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.

Application Process

 

What Are the Application Requirements for the College of Engineering?
  • A Completed Application through the Common 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 what excites you most about Cornell Engineering and/or studying engineering at Cornell University. How do you see yourself becoming a part of the Cornell Engineering community?(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

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 no longer required. Please read the following statement regarding Cornell’s change in standardized test policy.

If you are considering or planning to take the SAT or ACT for the first time or to repeat testing again this year (2020), please do not feel you need to do this unless you are able to take the exam locally near your home and you feel safe in doing so. As a reminder, we will evaluate your application without standardized testing. For your health and safety, please always adhere to your local and state COVID-19 guidelines.

The full statement regarding Cornell’s change in standardized test policy for the 2020-21 admissions cycle is available online.

May 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 happens if I change my mind?

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?

Cornell University has suspended the SAT/ACT requirement for 2021 applicants.

SAT Subject Tests are not required or expected for admission to Cornell University.

How can I check 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 your 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 nor are they offered 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

 

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.

International Students

 

Who is Considered an International Student?

We define international applicants as students who are not U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, do not have refugee/asylee status, or who are undocumented residents without DACA status. U.S. undocumented residents with DACA status are considered domestic students. U.S. citizens who are living abroad or applicants who have dual U.S. citizenship are not considered international students.

As an International Applicant, Do I Need to Take an English Language Proficiency test?

Our international applicants follow the same application process as our first-year applicants and transfer applicants. As an international applicant, if English is not your first language, you must take either the TOEFL or IELTS exam.All Cornell students must have a strong command of the English language to be successful in their engagement in their university studies. If English is not your native language or if you have not attended high school in a country where English is an official language for the four years prior to your planned enrollment at Cornell, you may be asked to submit results from one of the following English language proficiency examinations listed below. We will consider and accept dozens of examinations and other qualifications from around the world in meeting the English Language Proficiency requirement.

How do I know if I need to take an English language proficiency (ELP) test?

You do not need to take an ELP test if:

  • English is your native language; or
  • You received a score of at least 35 on the SAT Reading Test OR a score of 30 or higher on both the ACT Reading and English sections.
  • You have studied your most recent four years in a high school, college of university in the U.S. or other nations where English is the official language.

Please note that Cornell does not waive the ELP test requirement for students who have attended an English-speaking school in a non-English speaking country.

The following submissions and examinations that meet this requirement include, but are not limited to, the following:

May I apply as an international student during early decision?

Yes, an increasing portion of the College of Engineering’s early decision pool are international applicants.

May I apply for financial aid as an international applicant?

Yes, but it is limited. Cornell University provides need-based financial aid on a limited basis to a selected number of admitted international students who have applied for financial aid. For international applicants and undocumented applicants without DACA status, we are need-aware for admissions.

We do not offer merit, athletic or talent-based aid to students. Students who are admitted and demonstrate financial need will receive a financial aid package that meets 100% of their demonstrated need (Cornell University does not provide partial financial aid awards). For further information on applying for aid as an international student, please visit the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment.

I want to enroll at Cornell but I am still waiting to hear from my scholarship committee. What should I do?

Please email the Engineering Admissions Office at engr_admissions@cornell.edu to let us know of your special circumstance. Include your full name, address, and when you expect to hear from the scholarship committee. Deposit extensions are granted on a case-by-case basis.

I have been admitted to Cornell Engineering but my country requires military service, what should I do?

Admitted first-year students who are required to complete military service can apply for a 1 or 2 year deferral of their enrollment. Please note that a deferral is not formally granted until the Cornell Bursar’s Office has received the enrollment deposit of $400 for a 1-year deferral or $800 for a 2-year deferral.

When will I receive my I-20 Form?

In order to receive an I-20, students must: be accepted to Cornell, submit their $400 required acceptance deposit, and document their ability to meet the cost of attendance by submitting the Declaration of Finances form. Visa documentation and approval will take time so please submit your Declaration of Finances form when you send your acceptance deposit. For more information, see the United States Government’s Visa website and Cornell’s International Services.

Financial Aid

 

What advice do you have for someone applying for financial aid?

Submit your financial aid application materials by the deadlines. This allows our Financial Aid officers and counselors the time they need to fully and completely review your application for aid, and it allows your family to fully consider the financial aid package offered to you when making a decision about where to attend for the fall. The Office of Financial Aid has all of the forms and deadlines you need to submit a financial aid application.

What happens if I'm admitted via Early Decision and my family can't afford to pay for my Cornell education?

When you receive your financial aid package, you will work with Cornell’s Financial Aid Office to work out the details of your aid package. On the rare occasion that your aid package does not meet your family’s need, you will be released from your Early Decision agreement, and free to apply to other institutions.

If I receive financial aid as a new student, am I guaranteed financial aid during my entire time at Cornell?

No. All financial aid recipients must reapply for financial aid each year. If you are eligible for financial aid and your family’s financial situation remains constant, you can expect a consistent financial aid package from year to year, both in terms of what you can expect in the aid award and the amount that you and your family will be expected to contribute. Some factors may affect the way your need is calculated (and thus change your award), such as changes in income, number of people in the household, or the number of children who are full-time undergraduate students.

Does Cornell offer merit aid or athletic scholarships?

No. Cornell’s (and all Ivy League institutions) financial aid is need-based. Cornell University offers financial aid solely on the basis of demonstrated financial need. We do not offer merit awards for academic, athletic, musical, or other talents. We do have selective programs, such as the Cornell Commitment programs, that recognize, reward, and encourage further development of a select group of students who exemplify Cornell’s commitment to academic excellence, work and service, research and discovery, and leadership and learning, and in so doing, enrich their experience at Cornell and beyond. Cornell Engineering also has the Jacobs Scholars and the McMullen Scholars which recognize selected students for their potential as future engineers. All Cornell Engineering applicants are automatically considered for these programs. There is a need-based component offered with the programs.