Cornell University was founded in 1865 by a telegraph pioneer and an accomplished scholar and writer. This partnership of business acumen and intellectual excellence resulted in a university that has consistently set educational standards and achieved many academic ‘firsts.’ Cornell was the first university to teach a course in American history, the first to establish professorships in American Literature and American Studies, the first American university to teach modern Far Eastern languages, and the first to establish a university press. It was even the first to allow undergraduates to check books out of the university library.
Cornell is unique among Ivy League schools in having been founded as a state land-grant university. This has given Cornell University a unique vision of itself as a private institution with a public mission, and formed the basis of a lasting commitment to social engagement and the public good.
Cornell is a large and diverse university, with highly autonomous schools and colleges. Everything from administrative procedures to admissions rates to institutional culture can differ significantly from one program to another. Prospective students should look closely at the school or program they are thinking of applying to, and not just at the university as a whole.
Cornell University is located in Ithaca, in upstate New York. This is a rural area of woods and lakes renowned for its natural beauty and popular with weekend vacationers from New York City. Ithaca is a quintessential example of an American college town – small, close-knit, surprisingly cultured and rather liberal, with film houses, galleries, vegetarian restaurants (including the famous Moosewood Restaurant), and, in recent years, social experiments such as a local currency and a cooperative health care system. The University and the city offer what is probably the most family-friendly environment in the Ivy League – a factor that can make Cornell an especially attractive choice for graduate and Ph.D. students.
Geographical isolation is a fact of life for Cornell students. The nearest large cities are Syracuse and Binghamton, each about an hour away by car. New York City is approximately 250 miles away. Tough winters are a reality of life – if you don’t like snow, you’ll probably have a hard time getting through winter in upstate New York. However, long winters and physical remoteness are offset by Cornell’s rich social and cultural life.
Cornell University has over 1,000 student organizations, and one of the largest intramural sports programs in the U.S. This offers students many opportunities to explore and develop their interests, as well as chances to gain the kind of organizational and leadership experience that help round out a resume.