Admission to Cornell College

Admission to Cornell College is competitive. The courses and degree programs offered by Cornell College are intended for students who have been well prepared at the secondary school level, have obvious motivation and a desire to learn, and have the ability and potential to complete a carefully planned degree program and graduate from Cornell College.

Cornell is a member of the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC). As such, it adheres to NACAC's Statement of Principles of Good Practice.

Admission Procedures

Candidates for freshman admission should follow the procedures indicated below in Steps 1, 2, and 3. Applicants for transfer admission should send an official transcript from every institution in which they have been enrolled in addition to completing Steps 1 and 2. International students should submit an official English translation of any school document written in any other language. Students who are unsure as to which admission process best represents them should contact the Admission Office to discuss their situations personally. Once an applicant's file is complete, the credentials will be reviewed according to his or her application plan–Early Decision, Early Action, or Regular Decision. The College's Admission Committee considers an applicant's academic achievement and performance, standardized tests as appropriate, the essay, leadership, strength of character, as well as other qualities apparent in the application.

Course Recommendations

Cornell College evaluates admission applicants' academic performance within an assessment of their college preparatory curriculum. This type of informed evaluation has proven to be the best indicator of students' probability for academic success at Cornell. The Admission Committee encourages prospective students to challenge themselves academically. The most competitive applicants for admission will have performed well in the best college preparatory courses available to them, whether honors, advanced placement (AP), or international baccalaureate (IB) courses, or concurrent enrollment courses taken in conjunction with local colleges or universities. The Admission Committee recommends your secondary school program include:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3 or more years of mathematics
  • 3 or more years of science
  • 3 or more years of social studies
  • 2 or more years of foreign language

Students who do not satisfy the high school course recommendations as described, but who are otherwise well qualified, may be admitted after individual review of their applications.

Step 1. Application for Admission
An application for freshman admission should be filed as far in advance of the proposed entrance date as possible, preferably during the first semester of the senior year in high school and not later than February 1. Applications received after February 1 will be considered on a space-available basis.

Transfer applications are accepted as long as space is available, but applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible, as space for transfer students is limited.

Step 2. Transcript of High School Record
The applicant's high school counselor must send to Cornell College a transcript of the applicant's academic record and a school recommendation. Transcripts are to be sent directly to the College by school officials on an appropriate form regularly used by the high school. Admission is granted on the basis of the candidate's record for the first six or seven semesters of high school. Remaining secondary school courses must be completed satisfactorily and a final transcript furnished after high school graduation.

A recommendation completed by a designated school official, typically the college counselor, is required. Though a teacher recommendation is not required, an applicant may elect to submit one to two additional letters of recommendation from teachers.

Step 3. Standardized Test Scores
All candidates for freshman admission are required to take either the American College Test (ACT) or the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) administered by the College Entrance Examination Board. While the ACT essay is optional, you are encouraged to take this portion of the exam. The SAT Subject Tests are also optional.

Interviews and Campus Visits

Whenever possible, each candidate for admission should have a personal interview with a member of the Admissions staff. This may be arranged on Cornell's campus or at a designated off-campus site. The Admissions Office is open each weekday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Saturdays by appointment from 9 a.m. until noon. During the summer (June, July, August) offices are closed on Saturday. Since many prospective students and parents visit the Cornell campus each year, appointments for interviews should be made at least one week in advance of the date of a campus visit.

Admission by Transfer

Students applying for the fall semester as transfers should have all required application materials postmarked by March 1; for the spring semester, by December 1. A statement of good standing at the institution last attended must be included along with official transcripts. Students not in good standing at other colleges should not apply to Cornell. Notification of the admission decision is made on a rolling basis. Students offered admission are asked to reserve their space by May 1. Applications arriving after March 1 are considered on a space-available basis.

College credits presented by transfer students will be evaluated in terms of the institutions represented, the quality of the work, and the relationship of the subject matter to the Cornell curriculum (see Credit by Transfer). The equivalent of 16 course credits (64 semester hours or 96 quarter hours) is the maximum credit granted for coursework completed at a junior or community college.

International Admission

International students seeking admission to Cornell College should obtain application materials from the Admissions Office. Applicants will need to provide evidence of English language proficiency, satisfactory completion of secondary schooling, and sufficient financial support. Applicants are required to submit a TOEFL, IELTS, or STEP score but may substitute either the SAT or ACT.

The Admissions Office and Office of Intercultural Life assist international students in matters related to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and their F-1 visa status. Official forms and current information are available from those offices.

International students with the legal status of aliens, including those students with the non-immigrant status of either F or B, must maintain their legal status in order to be permitted to continue to enroll in courses at Cornell College. International students must be enrolled as full-time students (eight terms per year). Students who are in the process of changing status must have received approval, or reasonable assurance of obtaining approval, before enrolling in courses at Cornell. The burden of proof rests with the student. Reasonable proof of filing may include a statement from INS that the forms are being processed or a registered mail receipt showing that INS has received the forms. If an application for reinstatement of status is denied by INS, the College may terminate the student's enrollment at any time. The Director of Intercultural Life is the Designated School Official authorized to act on behalf of Cornell in immigration matters.

In cooperation with the Dean of Students Office and the Business and Registrar's Offices, staff in the Office of Intercultural Life advise and assist international students in communications with home governments and educational and sponsoring agencies. They also assist with other personal and academic concerns when requested.

Advanced Standing

Cornell offers the opportunity for admission with advanced standing or admission with exemption from certain course requirements (see Exemption or Advanced Placement. Students should consult their high school counselor for information about the Advanced Placement tests offered by the College Entrance Examination Board or contact the Educational Testing Service, Box 592, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, or on the World Wide Web at The Cornell Registrar can answer questions about these and other possibilities for advanced standing, such as the International Baccalaureate.

Advanced Standing for Veterans

Veterans qualifying for the Certificate of Eligibility for Educational Benefits issued by the Veterans Administration may receive advanced standing for:

  • college work completed under sponsorship of one of the armed services (accepted for credit on the same basis as other college or university credits transferred to Cornell);
  • studies completed in service schools (evaluated in accordance with the "Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Forces," prepared by the American Council on Education);
  • achievement or advanced placement examinations (see Exemption, Advanced Placement, and Credit by Examination); or
  • College-level work completed at recognized foreign universities (if adequate description and confirmation are presented).

Non-Matriculated Student

Persons wishing to take a limited amount of college work may be registered as non-matriculated students but may at any time apply for admission to a degree program (see also "Continuing Education").

Continuing Education

Persons who have completed a bachelor's degree are eligible for admission as Continuing Education students. Former Cornell students who have not completed a bachelor's degree may return to Cornell as a readmitted student (see Index. Readmission). Persons who do not have a degree and do not plan to pursue a degree or certification may take up to four courses under the Continuing Education Program.

Continuing Education students have the option of enrolling either full- or part-time and as degree or non-degree candidates. Degree candidates have a choice of three baccalaureate programs (see Index. Degree Programs). Students may take courses to enrich themselves, to earn transferable credits for admission to graduate programs, for teacher certification, completion of a second major or minor, or on a trial basis to decide whether they wish to matriculate as degree candidates.

Cornell's unique One Course At A Time calendar makes it possible for students to enroll in the College at any time during the academic year and to choose the months of the year during which they can study.

The Admission Office coordinates the admission of Continuing Education students. The Continuing Education Program offers reduced tuition in lieu of other Cornell financial aid. Continuing Education students may apply for Stafford Loans or may use Veterans' Administration or Vocational Rehabilitation benefits toward the reduced tuition. All financial aid to Continuing Education students must come from sources outside the College and will be applied toward the entire year's charges before refunds are made. Students not receiving financial aid may elect to pay for courses one at a time with payment due prior to the beginning of each course. Non-degree students may take up to four course credits at Cornell at the reduced tuition rate.

Continuing Education students may use the facilities and support services of the College and are subject to the same academic regulations and procedures that apply to other Cornell students. The chief exceptions are that Continuing Education students may take as many terms off during the academic year as they wish, do not receive the ninth term free, and are not eligible to live in College housing.

Students who have received a baccalaureate degree from Cornell College and who wish to obtain another major must:

  1. Complete the major requirements, including any resident and/or upper-division requirements, for the second major; and
  2. Maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.00 at Cornell College.

Students who hold a baccalaureate degree from another regionally accredited college or university, and who wish to obtain another baccalaureate degree must:

  1. Meet admission requirements;
  2. Complete at least eight term credits in Cornell College campus-based programs, including any general college requirements which were not completed for the first baccalaureate degree (see Index. General Requirements for Degree Programs);
  3. Complete the major requirements, including resident and/or upper-division requirements, for the second degree; and
  4. Maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.00 at Cornell College in order to graduate.

Post Secondary Enrollment Options Act (PSEO) for Mount Vernon and Lisbon High School Students

This program provides an opportunity for students from Mount Vernon and Lisbon high schools to enroll in classes at Cornell during the spring semester of their senior year. Students eligible to apply will:

  1. Have completed their high school graduation requirements, or
  2. Attained an articulation agreement at their high school whereby courses successfully completed at the college will complete their high school graduation requirements.

Students admitted to this program will do so under the State of Iowa’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options Act. Admission to the program will be competitive. During the trial period of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years, participation in this program will be capped at four students per spring semester.

Application process:

Submit application materials by Nov. 1, including:

  • Graded writing sample;
  • Official high school transcripts with SAT or ACT score;
  • Nomination letter from a high school teacher or counselor.

Complete interview with a Cornell Admission staff member.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Academic credentials should be comparable to at least the average profile of a Cornell student: for example, a GPA of 3.5, an ACT of 26, and ranked in the top 20 percent of their graduating class; and
  • High school graduation requirements must be satisfied through college prep course work.

 Registration and Credit:

  • High school students would be expected to enroll for a minimum of three courses in Terms 6-9  during spring 2012 or Terms 5-8 during spring 2013;
  • High school students will register for courses after current Cornell students complete the registration process;
  • Pre-requisites may limit course availability, including courses designated as FW (writing requirement courses); and
  • Students will receive Cornell College credit and may receive credit from their high school towards graduation under articulation agreements developed with their respective high schools.

Additional Details:

PSEO students enrolled in this program:

  • Will be supported through:
    • An orientation meeting;
    • Academic support available to college students;
    • Potential provision of a student mentor in their course;
    • Assistance from our Coordinator of Academic Support & Advising.
  • Must adhere to all regulations found in the Compass student handbook (student conduct expectations and procedures included).
  • Cannot take any adjunct courses (500 and 700 level courses). 
  • Are prohibited from joining or participating in activities of student organizations, clubs, intramurals and athletics.
  • Are welcome to attend college-sponsored events that are open to the public.
  • Can purchase a seven-meal plan for use in The Commons dining facilities.
  • Upon successful completion of courses (Grade “C” or higher), high school students will have the option to make an enrollment deposit to Cornell by May 1 as a full-time, degree-seeking student for the following year. These students will be given first consideration for academic scholarships which Cornell has reserved for its top local applicants.

Enrollment Reservation

Students must confirm an offer of admission, after having been notified of their acceptance, by paying a non-refundable $300 deposit to reserve residence hall space and a place in the entering class. This deposit is due by May 1, which is the national Candidates' Reply Date.