Accepted Class of 2025 impresses during ‘a year like no other’
By Joe Wilensky
Cornell’s admitted class of 2025 – a class that applied to college during an unprecedented year interrupted by pandemic-related closures and quarantines – is an impressive one and its composition has set new levels of diversity for the university.
“This has been a year like no other,” said Shawn Felton, executive director of undergraduate admissions for Cornell. “The lives of our applicants – and their experiences as high-school students – have changed. As a result, the way we reviewed applications also changed. It was especially important to be flexible this year; understanding and empathy have been key considerations for us.”
Cornell admitted 5,836 students to the Class of 2025, including early decision admission candidates.
The university continues to attract a diverse and inclusive student body. The proportion of admitted students who self-identify as underrepresented minorities increased to 34.2% from 33.7% last year, and 59.3% self-identify as students of color. That number has increased steadily over the past five years, enrollment officials said, from 52.5% in 2017 and 57.2% last year.
Of those admitted 1,163 will be first-generation college students – another increase over last year’s 844, Felton said.
Admitted members of the Class of 2025 come from 49 U.S. states (only Wyoming is not represented) plus Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, as well as 87 countries outside the United States. Based on citizenship, admitted students represent 113 countries.
The undergraduate admissions selection process was completed on April 6, the official notification date for Ivy League schools.
“In a process that can be time-consuming and daunting on both sides in any year, pandemic conditions tested everyone,” said Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment. “I’m astonished and want to recognize how much our applicants, their counselors and families, and our application readers persisted and even sometimes thrived through the uncertainties.”
Financial aid packages in the works
Given the challenges many families have experienced in the past year, Burdick stressed that the university’s commitment to providing need-based financial aid is stronger than ever.
“Cornell’s bottom line in offering financial aid is that every student has to get what they need,” he said, adding that patience will be key as the university continues to work through the pandemic’s disruptions to finalize aid packages. Cornell will update students on aid status via email, and “if along the way we have to extend deadlines and reconsider information, that will happen,” he said.
A second year of virtual recruitment
Though campus remains officially closed to visitors and tours because of the pandemic, administrators have planned engagement and interactive online communities, robust outreach and recruitment to connect prospective Cornellians to current students.
“We will celebrate, albeit differently, with our newly admitted students throughout April,” Felton said. Admitted students have received a special invitation to join CUontheHill, a virtual engagement hub, where they can chat with and learn from current students, alumni, faculty and staff. Additional online, virtual, social media and texting events are planned, he added, to further connect admitted students to the university.
“I think especially during COVID, students are feeling extremely isolated and it can be incredibly hard to make any kind of social connection,” said Crystal Tang ’21, a Cornell Engineering student and one of the Big Red Ambassadors – current students who engage with and connect prospective students with Cornell. “In previous years, we were less reliant on virtual means of connection with incoming students. But as everything has shifted to being virtual, platforms like CUontheHill are becoming increasingly important for incoming students to check that they are truly a good match for Cornell,” she said.
Dave Sandoval ’99 remembers when he made the decision to attend Cornell. “It was one of the most important and best decisions of my life,” said Sandoval, who is a leader for the Cornell Latino Alumni Association and CUontheHill liaison. “And I can also remember the uncertainty, the questions and even the struggles when I first arrived. CUontheHill allows me to tell my story to the next generation of Cornell students – helping, guiding and inspiring potential incoming students to help make this crucial decision.”
Jahnay Bryan ’23 said: “Being able to interact with Cornell students ultimately led to my final decision to choose Cornell; I saw myself in the students who greeted me and answered my questions.” The CUontheHill platform is important “as a means to build connections virtually, ask questions and confirm that Cornell is indeed a place for you, [finding] many people that remind you of yourself,” she said.
In addition to CUontheHill, the Welcome to Cornell website, designed for newly admitted students and their families, includes important information about student and residential life, housing, dining, athletics, financial aid and more. Undergraduate Admissions has a Virtual Visit page that includes student blogs and more information about academics. And Visitor Relations offers live and pre-recorded virtual campus tours.
“Being able to connect with current Cornell students in the first few days after your acceptance letter arrives can be the final push you need to accept your position,” said Brittany Beckwith ’22, who connects with diverse admitted students as a diversity outreach and recruitment intern within Undergraduate Admissions. “I know that even with all of the information I read in pamphlets and online, and YouTube videos I watched, having real discussions with current students – whether in person or virtually – really eased the last big concerns I had about attending an Ivy League (school) so far from home.”
Admitted students have until May 3 to accept Cornell’s offer.
Burdick added that he hopes that by summer, more students will be able to visit campus, depending on public safety guidelines, and that the fall semester will be closer to the typical in-person Cornell experience; more answers will become known over the coming months.
“Most signs show that the fall term at Cornell will be the ‘new normal,’” Burdick said, “meaning it will start and end as planned, and the way students live and work will feel more like pre-pandemic semesters.”