How to Transfer to Cornell

We recently wrote a blog post on transferring into an Ivy League school and Cornell was a very clear outlier. When looking at the transfer acceptance rate chart from the post linked above, you might think “I want to go to a better school, Cornell is an Ivy, I’m going to apply there!” But in the grand scheme of things, an acceptance rate below 20% is not high. It’s only high when compared to the rest of the Ivy League schools. And it turns out there’s a reason for that figure, explained below:

If you apply to Cornell and are rejected, you might receive what’s called a transfer option letter. It’s up to Cornell’s admissions office who gets these letters and they’re sent out shortly after you find out you didn’t get in. Should you receive one, you don’t have to do anything special at the time. Stick it in your back pocket and circle back six months later should you so desire to transfer. Students that receive transfer option letters are encouraged to reapply as a sophomore after a full year of classes at another university. You can find more information about the transfer option (and its requirements) on Cornell’s website.  

So where does that leave those students that didn’t initially apply to Cornell but want to transfer there? It’s hard to say. We called Cornell’s admission office and they said that a vast majority of transfer applications they receive are from students applying for a second time. They said it ranges from year to year. But some years 80% of the students accepted received a transfer option letter.

You might be reading this and feel as if your dreams have just been crushed if you didn’t receive a transfer option letter. But we think it’s better to approach transferring, especially into an Ivy League, with realistic expectations. It’s not an easy process.

For anyone applying to transfer to Cornell, you should have specific reasons as to why Cornell is the only place for you to further your academic goals. You can’t just apply to Cornell to be an English major. It has to be incredibly specific. Look into specific programs, classes, professors, and extracurricular activities that align with your goals. You should also have a list of reasons why your current school isn’t cutting it. (But your transfer application should not focus on what your current school doesn’t offer.) Instead, write a story that showcases your interests and weave details about Cornell throughout. Research is your best friend here.

Now, you might be wondering why Cornell has transfer option letters. We were too. We asked Cornell and they talked us in circles. Our best guess is that they push admitting certain students with certain grades so that their recorded numbers for the year can be higher. In other words, our guess is they give students with the lower grades and scores a transfer option letter so that the grades and scores don’t disrupt Cornell’s stats.  

Want help figuring out where to transfer? We’ll help you through every step of the process.