Is Cornell Ivy League?

The youngest of the eight colleges by a century, Cornell University was the last institution to join the Ivy League.
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Anne Dennon covers higher education trends, policy, and student issues for BestColleges. She has an MA in English literature and a background in research strategy and service journalism....
Published on November 20, 2023
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Margaret Weinhold is an associate editor for BestColleges, where she focuses on core content. She is passionate about increasing visibility and accessibility around higher education. Margaret holds a BA in English from the University of Virginia....
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  • Established in the late 19th century, Cornell University was the final college to join the Ivy League.
  • The school is unique among both Ivies and private colleges, with government land grants and multiple campuses.
  • Cornell's academic strength is concentrated in STEM, where it outranks its Ivy League peers.
  • Of the eight Ivies, Cornell is the most expensive — but the easiest to get into.

Despite its connotation of academic excellence, the Ivy League actually refers to an athletic conference. The Northeastern Conference of eight colleges — Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, and Cornell — play one another in 33 sports.

But well beyond athletics, the Ivy League represents the upper echelon in U.S. higher education — and the oldest. Except for Cornell University, all the "Ivies" were founded before the American Revolution.

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Is Cornell an Ivy League School?

Cornell is an Ivy League school, but it is the outlier.

The list of Public Ivies and Ivy equivalents keeps growing, with universities like Stanford and MIT developing prestige even greater than the Ivies'. But the list of Ivy League schools is finalized. Cornell University, opened in 1868, was the last school to join its hallowed ranks.

Cornell is not only the youngest Ivy League college by nearly a century — it's also set apart both geographically and structurally. Cornell is in central New York; the other schools form a line along the Atlantic seaboard. Cornell is both private and public, with in-state programs and government grants, while the other schools are entirely private.

Six Facts About Cornell University

  • The Ithaca campus is majority undergrad: Many prestigious colleges both in and out of the Ivy League have an older student demographic, with majority grad students. At Cornell, there are about twice as many undergraduates.
  • Cornell is one of the biggest Ivies: Alongside Columbia, Harvard, and Penn, Cornell is one of the larger Ivy League schools with a total student enrollment of over 20,000.
  • High admissions rate ... for an Ivy: The extremely selective 7% admissions rate at Cornell is nevertheless higher than most Ivy League institutions, as well as Stanford and MIT.
  • Cornell is one of the five Ivies with law schools: Cornell's professional schools include law, medicine, business, and engineering.
  • Cornell shares a medical campus with Columbia in NYC: The upstate New York college shares a medical teaching hospital with Columbia University in Manhattan.
  • Cornell operates the first U.S. medical school outside of the U.S.: The same pre-med and medical school curriculum that is taught in the New York City campus has been taught in Qatar since 2002.

How Does Cornell Compare to the Other Ivies?

Like the Ivies...

  • Nearly 1 Billion Dollar Endowment: Cornell University is the third wealthiest college in the U.S., behind only Harvard and Stanford — which also makes it one of the wealthiest in the world.
  • Powerful Alumni Network: The New York college carries weight on the East Coast and across the world. Like many prestigious mid-Atlantic universities, Cornell operates an upscale alumni club in New York City.
  • Associated With Important Names: Ivy League colleges count dozens of Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur geniuses, Rhodes scholars, and world leaders among their ranks. Cornell lays claim to over 60 Nobel laureates, 4 Turing Award winners, and a Fields medalist.

Unlike other Ivies...

  • Not Exclusively Private: Cornell is partly public. Four Cornell colleges (agriculture, ecology, industrial and labor relations, and veterinary medicine) are public for New York state residents. The school also participates in government land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant programs and is the only private university to do so.
  • Significant Greek Presence: The fraternity and sorority system at Cornell draws crowds, rather than storied Ivy League supper clubs. The Ithaca campus hosts 70 chapters that involve 33% of male and 24% of female undergraduates. The nation's first African American fraternity was founded at Cornell at the turn of the century.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cornell University

Is Cornell a good school?

Cornell University is one of the most prestigious colleges in the world, with laureled faculty and alumni and a powerful research presence. For student academics, Cornell excels in computer science and engineering. Outside of STEM, however, Cornell hasn't dominated the top spots in college rankings like Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Penn, Brown, and Columbia.

How does Cornell compare to other New York universities?

New York is the only state with two Ivy League colleges — Cornell and Columbia. The universities share teaching hospitals in New York City, but only Columbia is based there. Cornell's campus lies five hours upstate, in Ithaca.

While Cornell and Columbia share academic culture, Cornell's suburban setting is more akin to the state's SUNY public system.

Is it worth it to go to Cornell University?

Like all selective universities, Cornell boasts a strong alumni network and big earning potential for grads. That said, Cornell is not considered one of the best value Ivy League schools, as its tuition is the most expensive. Cornell may be most worth it for STEM majors: The university is known for producing Ph.D.-bound engineers. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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