Cornell vs. Johns Hopkins for Engineering

We finally received our financial aid from Cornell and now have to decide whether or not to switch from JHU, where kid had committed while he waited for the FA determination. Cornell is more expensive but has a better reputation and more classes in Materials Science, kid’s prospective major.

Below are the pros and cons, as I see them. Wondering whether there is anything I’m missing.


  • Kid prefers the larger, less urban campus
  • More classes in subject he’s interested in (Materials Science)
  • Better engineering reputation, in general (he’s not interested in BME)
  • Better CS reputation
  • He feels like he will find his people more easily, partly because of the school size but also because there are more athletes
  • Its an ivy and, post graduation, there are alumni benefits to being an ivy grad
  • Overall administration seems disorganized (based on this financial aid issue and what we’ve heard from other parents)
  • Approximately $20k more per year than JHU (this includes $7500 of loans); upon graduation he would owe around $30k (edited to correct numbers)
  • Unlikely he can play a varsity sport since Cornell is top tier D1 in the sports he plays
  • He was incredibly excited to receive a likely letter (non-athletic) and was ready to commit on the spot; however, the lack of FA responsiveness from Cornell has really discouraged him and tarnished their image in his eyes


  • He has a spot on one of the D3 teams and the coach has been good about communication. Even though the team hasn’t done that well recently, he’s looking forward to being part of a team.
  • It’s a great school, overall
  • No loans required, FA is generous and parent contribution is well within my budget
  • He is worried about fit, particularly since there are so many kids focused on pre-med
  • Not as many classes in Materials Science and professor’s research interests are not really aligned with kid’s interests
  • Campus is relatively small and kid really hates urban cities
  • Alumni network doesn’t seem that strong (relative to Cornell)

So, given the above - is Cornell worth the difference in price??

It really depends on your ability to afford. Cornell is the better choice, but JHU is solid and a lot cheaper. I would probably select Cornell, but you will hear from many people on CC who feel differently.

1 Like

That is really more of a grad school concern than a undergraduate.

Since in everything else, they are peer schools, I would take the opportunity to play my sport in college + 80k.


Agreed - stick with Hopkins. If he loves his sport and wants to continue, why would you take that away.

You say Cornell is better - hmmmmm - he’s not going to have a shortage of opportunity coming from Hopkins…and frankly, even a school ranked #100 with that major, not a top 10 school.

So he’s got a name that’s incredible and his life will be enhanced through sports - I don’t see why you would switch.


This seems like a major fit issue, even at the lower price and with D3 sports.

Under a normal timeline you would have been able to appeal Cornell’s decision; I believe they will automatically match FA from Ivy + schools. Maybe it is worth showing them the JHU numbers?

We’ve already appealed, these are the final numbers. They don’t include JHU in their “+” for matching financial aid (I asked.)

1 Like

I’m curious as to why you think Cornell is the better choice…anything specific?

I almost always vote “follow the money”- esp for UG & engineering & doubly so for what are in essence peer schools.


=> That the FinAid people were slow/disorganized is not relevant to the student experience
=> Your son actively prefers 2 important variables: the lived environment and the nature of the program.

Against that is the sport question: I don’t know your son’s sport, but there is probably a non-varsity team that he could play on. I don’t know your son or how he will evolve in college, but I do know quite a few people who were only recruited for schools they didn’t want to go to, so they chose their college for the college, and discovered that inter- and intra- mural teams gave them all that they wanted from continuing their sport. Just something to consider.

$40K in total debt is a lot- roughly a car payment for 10 years- but a MatSci degree from Cornell will put him in line for jobs that will pay him more than enough to be able to afford it.

On balance, if he were my kid I would let him follow his heart on this one. It’s a tough major, whether he goes to Cornell or JHU- being where you are happy makes a difference.


Nothing overly scientific - ivy + preferences listed.

I would definitely vote for Cornell campus vs JHU surroundings…

1 Like

Honestly if the cost is $40k more at Cornell your son should stick with JHU. Johns Hopkins is a fantastic school that is on equal levels of prestige with Cornell, if not better. The engineering programs are amazing and more close-knit than at Cornell (meaning better connections with students/professors and better access to research). Finally if your son is passionate about continuing sports he should accept his spot on the D3 team versus possibly not playing any competitive sports. You get all those amazing benefits at Johns Hopkins, plus the cost is $40k less. I think Johns Hopkins is the right move.


He cannot borrow that much without a cosigner. Since a significantly less expensive option without loans is available, a college that requires cosigned loans is of diminished desirability.

As a non-pre-med not in a pre-med-popular major (biology or biomedical engineering), he may find the college experience at JHU to be less of the highly competitive environment that JHU has a reputation for (due to all of the pre-meds).

Given that he hates urban cities and prefers a larger campus, why did he apply to JHU in the first place? There are certainly schools of comparable stature whose locations are not so urban.

Cornell is $80k more not $40k more ($40k from parents and $40k in loans). I’d say Hopkins since Cornell is a financial stretch.

I haven’t been to B-more in a while, but the area where Hopkins is located was not too dense. It was sort of suburban but not quite, it wasn’t surrounded by skyscrapers or anything like that. He will have teammates as instant athletic buddies.


He applied to a variety of schools in a variety of locations (21 in all). Money was a significant consideration. Of the schools where he was accepted, JHU and Lehigh gave the best packages, Bucknell and the revised Cornell were the next best. He narrowed it down to Cornell and JHU while were waiting for the Cornell information to come back and then, because Cornell’s FA was so delayed, he accepted the spot at JHU.

I mis-calculated the loans - it’s actually $3500 (Federal) and $4000 (Gardner) for a total of $7500 per year. Both are interest free until 6 months after graduation and neither requires a co-signer. So, he’d owe $30k upon graduation.

Overall I think that Cornell and JHU are equals, but Cornell is a better fit for your son in every area but cost.

It all boils down to whether he likes it $30k more than JHU (he’ll pay off those loans), and if you are ok forking over the other $40k.

Thanks. I see that it was a process, and it seems that the process is still unfolding.

So, he narrowed down his choices and was prepared to go to JHU over Lehigh and Bucknell, two schools in less “urban” locations, unless he received good news from Cornell. Unfortunately he has received sorta good news but not great news from Cornell, leaving the decision in limbo because Cornell is close to where you want it to be but not quite there.

Your original question was whether you had overlooked anything, and I would say you have not. The only thing I would question is whether Cornell does in fact have more courses in his area of interest than JHU does. As I counted them in the respective catalogues, the two schools seem to have about the same number of courses in materials science, BUT the Cornell courses in a number of cases seem to have more specific names while a handful of the JHU materials science courses were simply called “Design Team”, or “Design Team Leader”, or “Senior Design Team Research”. What does any of that even mean? I haven’t a clue, but I do know that it means something - and that the something could be a good thing or a bad thing.

What I would do if I were in your shoes would be to call a contact in Admissions first thing in the morning and ask him ti put you in touch with someone in Materials Science - perhaps the Dept Chair. I would then lay out your dilemma to her and would be quite frank and specific about it. Ask what those vague course titles mean. Are they referring to supervised research opportunities (possibly a good thing), or are they independent study where he is essentially self-taught, or are they something else? I would lay out the contrast between the JHU courses and those at Cornell, and ask for an explanation. It could be that JHU takes a whole different approach to teaching and learning, which could be very exciting, or it could be that they’re simply a smaller department that doesn’t have the breadth of course offerings that Cornell does. If you still have questions, you might repeat the same process at Cornell, or ask for a second faculty member at JHU who might have more specific information about this area. I don’t think that you have enough information right now to make a decision on this basis. But you might learn something that could make the decision easy either because JHU is offering something very exciting that your son won’t get at Cornell, or because JHU is lacking by comparison with Cornell.

If you are getting more for your money at Cornell, then I think that it is worth the extra premium. Your son sounds like a brilliant student with a bright future in a field that should pay him good money. So, I doubt that he will have a problem paying off the loans. I’d see it as a good investment which he’ll collect on later. But if the only difference is a nicer campus, the argument is not compelling - not when the alternative is one of the premier schools in the country at a bargain price. You might still decide to go with Cornell, but you would be doing so for a luxury, not for something essential. But we all do that for certain luxuries. It’s your call.

Just my 2 cents.

1 Like

Did Cornell come in close to what was estimated by their NPC? If not, you can call them and ask them to explain why it was different than the NPC.

I was laid off so my income changed quite a bit in 2020 so the NPC, using 2019, wasn’t a valid estimate. We appealed, they adjusted, however, not as much as Johns Hopkins adjusted…