Cornell University: Expanded virtual outreach draws diverse Class of 2026

In its third application cycle shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cornell has again attracted record interest, admitting a talented and diverse Class of 2026 from a broader range of places than ever before.

Shawn Felton, the university’s executive director of undergraduate admissions, said the increased interest and range is due to better online access to Cornell’s story, ethos and resources, a silver lining of the pandemic.

“We’ve had extraordinary attendance at our online events, often reaching thousands of students at a single event. More than not, those students are coming from more broadly and widely diverse places, schools and spaces than we would have ever been able to occupy without virtual components as part of our engagement efforts,” Felton said. “This expanded audience, due to greater access, speaks to the founding of the university – the diversity of person, practice and thought – that makes us who we are.”

The admitted class bears out this diversity in many areas including student interests, experiences, background and geography.

Cornell admitted 4,908 students to the Class of 2026, including early decision admission candidates. Admitted students hail from all 50 U.S. states plus Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Guam; American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as 85 countries. Admitted students are citizens of 115 countries outside the United States.

The proportion of admitted students who self-identified as underrepresented minorities was 32.7%, with 57.7% self-identifying as students of color. Of those admitted, 19.9%, or 978 students, will be first-generation college students.

“This remarkable class excelled in high school despite shifting instructional modes and many activities constrained to online,” said Jonathon Burdick, vice provost for enrollment. “Their collective resilience, perception and extra energy will continue transforming Cornell.”

Students were notified of their acceptance on March 31, the official notification date for Ivy League schools. They have until May 2 to accept Cornell’s offer.

Cornell has recently reaffirmed its commitment to providing need-based financial aid, Burdick said, and financial aid staff are ready to assist newly admitted and enrolling students.

“Students are arriving along with a renewed Cornell commitment to supporting ‘any person’ with the financial support they need, including a $500 million fundraising campaign for undergraduate financial aid,” said Burdick.

Again this year, Cornell will focus on connecting with admitted students virtually, allowing all admitted students the opportunity to learn more. Online engagement with admitted students will continue throughout April, with an emphasis on connecting prospective and current students through CUontheHill, an online social hub where admitted students can talk with current students, as well as alumni, faculty and staff.

“Our admitted students know a lot of the hard and fast facts at this point,” Felton said. “What they want now are the intangibles, the feelings, the emotions. They want to know and better understand those things that make Cornell special to our current students.”

“We can’t wait to share our experiences with the Class of 2026 through CUontheHill so they can get to know more about the Cornell culture,” said Winston Liu ’23, a member of the Big Red Ambassadors, a student group that engages with prospective students at Cornell. “Admitted student programming is one of the most exciting events that Big Red Ambassadors get to partake in.”

For the first time since the pandemic started, a few on-campus events will be offered for admitted regular decision students. On April 16 and 23, students will be able to tour campus, hear from Cornell leaders, and ask questions of current Cornell students. These events will be livestreamed and available via archive so all admitted students and their families can benefit from the advice and exchange of information. Visitor Relations continues to offer live or prerecorded virtual tours online, and students can explore resources on the Virtual Visit and the Welcome to Cornell websites, all without the barriers of travel.

Felton said last year an increase in applications to Cornell corresponded to an increase in the percentage of admitted students who accepted Cornell’s offer – despite the fact that most admits were not able to visit and experience the campus.

“It just goes to show you that more students were able to find and use many different modes and ways to engage with us, talk with us, learn about us, and imagine themselves here,” Felton said. “We’ve done a lot of work to make those online experiences meaningful. And we look forward to meeting and engaging with this amazing newly admitted class.”

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