Cornell vs Skidmore College

Hello everyone! I’ve been having a little difficulty deciding between colleges for the 2022 school year and I was hoping to get the opinions of some strangers on the internet lol. Right now I’m looking at Cornell and Skidmore College (very small liberal arts school in Saratoga Springs, NY) for undergrad. These are just my thoughts and I was hoping someone might have something to add.

PRO Skidmore:

  • Cornell seems like the obvious choice, but Skidmore is significantly cheaper (big merit scholarship). I also want to major in environmental science and it has been my impression that environmental scientists make what environmental scientists make no matter where you went to school.
  • Skidmore is a really great school and while their environmental science program isn’t that big, graduates do go on to have some pretty cool careers and go to a decent number of big-name schools for grad school (so if I did want to go to a school like Cornell later, I think I would be able to do that with a Skidmore degree.) I’ve also heard that nobody cares where you did your undergrad.
  • I feel like Skidmore is probably a better school for me long-term because I imagine that the academic environment would be less stressful and I’m definitely a small LAC kind of student. From just my interactions with admissions officials and the fin aid offices at both schools, it has been my impression that Skidmore really does care about it’s students (not that Cornell doesn’t, but it’s generally easier to support students when you have less of them lol).
    PRO Cornell:
  • Cornell is obviously Cornell and while the fact that it’s a “name brand” ivy league school is not really important to me, I imagine it will be important to a lot of people (like future employers and grad school admissions councils).
  • It would be really dumb to not take the opportunity to go to Cornell, Cornell would be more academically rigorous than Skidmore, and Cornell is definitely more STEM focused than Skidmore (heavy on social sciences and arts).
  • CALS is absolutely amazing, while Skidmore’s environmental science program is just sort of another major. Being a big research institute, I would have more access to cool research projects, more connections, etc. The average income of Cornell grads is also significantly higher than Skidmore grads but considering how many Cornell students study things like engineering, business, etc and go on to med and law school, and the amount of Skidmore students who study subjects like fine arts or philosophy, it’s kind of hard to tell what that says about the school. I guess what I’m really trying to figure out is, how much more is a Cornell education worth? I feel like Cornell would give me a significant advantage when applying to grad schools, but I don’t know how much of an advantage.
  • Ithaca is gorges! I really really really loved Ithaca and the Cornell campus when I visited and I have to say my overall impression of Skidmore was…ok.

Thank you for reading to the end of my post! I would really appreciate any feedback and advice anyone has. Thanks again!!!

Congrats on having great choices. Where you go to grad school will matter more for environmental sciences. Most grad school programs will be funded for Masters and PhDs in the sciences with TA and research duties, but there are still costs.

If you can graduate from undergrad with significantly less debt that will allow you to have more career options down the road when cost of living in certain geographic areas may become a factor.

Also, look at summer experiences that can expand your options that you feel like you might be missing out on. (Tip - Cornell’s summer program at Isle of Shoals is in partnership with UNH - you can have the same experience for UNH prices - yes, credit from UNH, not Cornell, but grad schools will know the program. And Duke and others also have summer environmental focused courses at remote locations that anyone can go to. )

There are many positive stories of students picking another option beyond the “prestigious” college they were accepted to. D21 did so, and is very happy with her choice.

Good luck!


CALS is one of Cornell’s statutory colleges with reduced tuition for NY residents. Are you a New Yorker? If so, have you calculated reduced tuition into your cost comparison?

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You seem to want to go to Skidmore. You have to be there four years, day after day after day. You point out several times Skidmore is right for you. But you are assuming it’s less rigorous/pressure filled but do you have evidence to support that or are you just assuming.

I get the allure of the Ivy though but you did say Skidmore is cheaper. So there is savings there that may be significant (you didn’t note how much).

Only you can decide - but again, you will live the life daily - and that does matter.

Skidmore is a fine school in its own right. But if you go, then go all in - don’t think every day I could have been Ivy.

You could always put the onus on your folks - can they pay for Cornell? If they say no, problem solved :slight_smile:

Good luck.


Hi. Not sure if you made your decision yet. My daughter is a freshman at Skidmore and has been very happy there! She is a Bio major and art minor. Skidmore is building a brand new state of the art science center that looks incredible. Small class sizes, and lots of research opportunities. My daughter in her freshman year, 2nd semester is doing research with a wonderful Chemistry professor. As far as I can tell, it seems very easy to do research which I think is a great plus. Skidmore also has the North Woods, a huge wooded area owned by the college which is lovely and they use that for classes and research also. The science classes are academically challenging definitely, but still manageable. My one complaint is that it has been stressful registering for classes-- although the class sizes are small, it’s not always easy to get the classes you want/need. So far my daughter has been able to get the science classes she needs but it’s a lot of stress on registration day. This may be true at Cornell and a lot of other colleges too. If I can answer any Skidmore questions please let me know! Good luck with your decision.


I will second the comment that no matter your decision, make sure you go all in once you decide.

It is true that at Skidmore right off the bat you’ll likely have more attention from faculty. LACs tend to be very supportive. However, you also mention how much you love Ithaca. Your campus environment is something that is there all day, every day, and it really makes a big difference. The natural beauty of that area strikes me as being very significant for an ES major. I also think that as you state yourself, the Cornell program is very strong, and although the university is large, departments really do tend to shrink the feel of it. I’m fairly confident you’d have plenty of attention and wonderful opportunities to work on projects there as well. I think I would lean Cornell, due to the intent for grad school work and the likelihood of better connections to graduate departments (including at Cornell) and due to the strength of the ES major there.

Good luck and congratulations!

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When we visited Skidmore, our tour guide was an environmental science major who had spent her summer doing research in Iceland (or Greenland? one of those). It sounded fascinating, and we got the impression Skidmore would be a great place to be an environmental science major with plenty of opportunities, even before they had built the new science building. If that’s where you think you would be happiest, and you’re “definitely a small LAC kind of student,” then it seems like a great choice and I wouldn’t let FOMO hold you back.