Cornell vs. Notre Dame

Hi all! I was recently accepted to the University of Notre Dame and Cornell University. I have absolutely no idea which one I should attend, and would love some thoughts about both. Any unfiltered opinions are appreciated!

This is the list of pros and cons I quickly drew up…add more if I missed some.
Pros: Rural, diverse, good research, can’t go wrong in any department, greek life, prestige and name recognition, vast
Cons: More diverse in terms of the type of student (for example, more not as outgoing and those who were told since birth they had to go to an IVY), feels more uptight, less community feel, bigger class. My biggest concern is grade deflation, how much I will have to grind to do well in classes, and the cut-throatiness. If you went to Cornell, please give me your thoughts on the rigor!

Notre Dame
Pros: Football, school spirit and all around fun, super strong alumni network, strong community on and off campus
Cons: less diverse, not as built up in STEM (I think?), less name recognition in Northeast, no greek,

They are of equal ranking – last year Notre Dame was ranked higher, this year Cornell is by only one. So I am not considering ranking. I assume I will get a good education at both, but to make a decision I have to consider all the minute details.

Thank in advance!

What are you planning to study?
Where are you planning to live/work afterwards?

fwiw :slight_smile:

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Go to the school that feels like the right fit for you.

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Cornell and Notre Dame are equal with regard to name recognition and prestige…even in the Northeast…in my opinion.

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It’s close, but I’d argue Cornell edges ND out


Don’t know exactly, but probably somewhere in the sciences or maybe engineering…scared about Cornell Engineer though because I heard it’s hell

I have no strong draw towards both of them so it’s difficult. I’m trying to look objectively at the pros and cons of both while also seeing what other people think (because that really helps me!).

Do you mind if I ask why you would say Cornell? Just curious, or is it kind of random for you? Your profile pic says a lot though haha!

It’s very important to look forward to your college experience, not be apprehensive of it.
Certainly most people at some point have that “imposter” syndrome. You got in, you can handle the workload. It’s not that bad. Other students are cooperative - they are in the same boat. You will have homework groups and you’ll make friends for life.

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actually, you don’t.

You have 2 excellent choices. If you have a gut feel about one or the other: trust yourself. Feeling that you are in the place that feels right to you is huge.

100% whichever school you pick will disappoint you sometimes/in some ways and 100% whichever school you pick will delight and happily surprise you in ways that you haven’t even thought of yet.

Take a deep breath and jump.


Let me ask you a different question - what school (out of all that you applied to) did you feel strongest about?

I would agree with @dimkin. Cornell is better known, and has a better academic reputation. You say “Cornell” people tend to think about “academics”, while, if you say “Notre Dame”, people tend to think “football”. It doesn’t help that Notre Dame has the highest legacy boost of all highly selective colleges, or that they tend to make the news for non-academic reasons (generally politics or partying).

Of course, the “legacy” issue is a strong demonstration of the strength of the alumni network - while part of the reason that they have so many legacies attending is the very high legacy boost, the other part is the high number of legacies who apply. Also, for somebody like you who has already been accepted to ND, high legacy boost is an advantage, not a disadvantage.

So while I think that Cornell is better academically, I do not think that it is always a better choice.

One of the factors that you did not include is location. ND is about 1.5 hours away from Chicago, while Cornell is almost that far from Syracuse.


Well … Ithaca is it’s also only a 4 hr drive from Tri-State area … but a ND is a god aweful commute form there …


@momofboiler1 and @srparent15 are very knowledgeable about Cornell and @momofboiler1 has a kid in/at Purdue Engineering, which so happens to be located in the same state as ND. :wink:

If your intended major is engineering, I’d strongly recommend Cornell over ND.

Which college were you accepted to at Cornell?

I’d really encourage you to map out the 4 year plan of study for these two schools. There are a ton of differences, especially for freshman year.

We were also underwhelmed with the labs and engineering facilities at ND. Cornell’s facilities are state of the art.

Don’t worry about the class sizes - you will have smaller classes even as a freshman at Cornell. I also felt a very strong sense of community at Cornell so I’m not sure where you are thinking that wouldn’t be the case?

Engineering and science courses are going to be tough anywhere. I don’t think you’ll find your classes any easier at ND than Cornell. Engineering courses are designed to be more collaborative than the used to and Cornell has a high rate of retention in the CoE.

Go Big Red! : )

Seriously though, congratulations on wonderful options. No wrong decision here.


With regard to Notre Dame not being as built up in STEM, they have a doctoral level College of Engineering and have doctoral programs in Math, Chemistry, and Physics. They’re developed enough for what any student is going to be able to get out of their undergraduate education. The time to worry about which one is at a higher level in STEM is when you’re applying to grad school. The question at this point is which one offers the conditions in which you’ll thrive.


You mention a negative about Cornell as being rural, but you don’t say that about Notre Dame. You do know that Notre Dame is also pretty rural don’t you? It’s in the middle of no where as well. You have to drive a few hours to get to a major city and I wouldn’t exactly compare Indianapolis to NYC and it’s also still almost 3 hours to Chicago which makes it sort of a moot point since Cornell is about 4 hours from NYC and quite honestly kids don’t travel back and forth from the college towns to the bigger cities anyway. Even my daughter at UT-Austin doesn’t go into downtown Austin that often and it’s within minutes of her. So I would x that off.

Next you mention Cornell’s diversity as a negative. I would be many dollars that Cornell is way more diverse than Notre Dame. You aren’t going to experience many kids of different religions at ND but you will at Cornell. Probably more races than you’ve ever see also. Furthermore, NOT everyone is from NY. We aren’t and my kid has had no problem fitting in.

You say you don’t know what you want to major in, however, for Cornell you are accepted into one of their colleges so were you accepted off the bat into Engineering or something else? Engineering is definitely hard, but I would not say it’s cut throat. It’s actually fairly collaborative. However, if you’re not willing to work hard, and can’t handle getting straight A’s which is most likely not going to happen in Engineering at Cornell, then it is probably not the place for you. It is ok not to get straight A’s and it is not the end of the world. Grades definitely don’t define who someone is or how successful someone is either.


Isn’t Cornell engineering a fully separate college that has a separate application process and you’d know this by now?

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To be fair – South Bend is not rural, it is a city of 100,000 in a region of about 250,000. Cosmopolitan? No, but it has its charms. While there are farms in SW Michigan, which is about 10 miles away, and Michigan-side beaches on Lake Michigan are 45 minutes away, the Loop in Chicago is 90 minutes by car. We know lots of faculty families who regularly go to Chicago and some (not many) faculty live in Chicago and commute out.

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I live in Chicago so I’m well aware, but Cornell is definitely not in the boondocks and it is not in the middle of the fields either. Faculty may go back and forth to Chicago and what not but the students really don’t. That’s no different than my daughter’s friend’s dad who teaches a course at Cornell and has an apartment there but commutes back and forth from NYC each week to teach the class and stays in the apartment when he wants or the Accounting professor she had that went back and forth. Kids really don’t go back and forth to Chicago from South Bend on a regular basis.

What would also really concern me about ND is their lack of diversity. 69% caucasian vs 39% caucasian at Cornell. The next biggest group at ND is hispanic at about 11% and no other group even has 10%. That is pretty disheartening. Both schools have huge legacy populations behind them but wow that is startling.

I get the sense that the OP is leaning towards ND in any case based on his comments which is a great school but he should make sure wherever he goes he is picking based on the right reasons and fit and maybe it’s because he would be a better fit at ND as opposed to Cornell. That stadium though, while not like other schools, is something special to see. Too bad they moved the NCAA Football Hall of Fame - that gave people an excuse to go to SB just because.