Is my guidance counselor crazy for suggesting Cornell?

A long, long time ago (in our own galaxy), I took Cornell off my list.

It just simply wasn’t realistic. I know that Cornell is a reach for everyone, but I figured that it was just WAY too much of a reach for me.

(I still think this).

Yet, my guidance counselor doesn’t. I study at a competitive public high school, and we do have a few kids go off to the Ivies every year. It’s not a surprise that my GC would suggest that.

But it’s a surprise that she would suggest that to ME.


UW GPA Freshman year: 3.4

UW GPA Sophomore year: 3.4

UW GPA Junior year: 3.95

UW GPA senior year (so far): 3.89

We don’t submit class rank, but I’m only in the top third (like said, very competitive high school…but still).

SAT: Won’t submit. Due to COVID, I only had one shot at it (I didn’t know that I’d only have one shot when I took it).

EC’s: Drum Major for my competitive HS marching band (that I’ve marched in for all of HS), lead sax in HS Jazz Ensemble (also competitive), Eagle Scout candidate (finishing my project), etc.

Oh, and I work as an urban planner assistant for my town. My GC thinks that this will get me in…

It’s probably worth mentioning (if you haven’t guessed yet) that I’d apply to the Urban and Regional Studies program within AAP.

What do I have going for me?

  • An upward GPA trend, a legacy, and a unique job working with my town’s urban planners.

What do I have going against me?

  • A low freshman/sophomore GPA, not the greatest rigor (only 5 AP’s and maybe about 60% honors courses), and a 10% acceptance rate (unless I apply ED, but even then…).

I don’t think I’d have a prayer. My GC does, though…

What should I do?

If you have other viable safeties/matches, the school is affordable and you really want to attend then you should apply. If you are just intrigued by the name, are just doing it for fun or want to say you are applying to an Ivy then you shouldn’t.


Schools of Architecture (which AAP basically is) keep their admission statistics close to the vest. The undergraduate BS in Urban & Regional studies enrolls only about 25-30 students per class year. Again, they don’t publish the program’s acceptance rate but you can assume that being Cornell and being associated with Cornell’s powerhouse architecture program it’s highly selective.

I would think that while your GPA would be an important element in admissions, especially as an indicator of how you would cope with Cornell’s intense academic environment, other factors such as essays, recommendations, extracurriculars, interests and life experience would also figure in the decision. The interview is optional but would be beneficial if you feel comfortable talking about what you could contribute to Cornell’s URS community.

I would strongly encourage you to join one or two of the AAP Zoom Information Sessions to learn what URS is looking for in an applicant.

I’ve read through some of your posts over the past year or two. To say that you’ve considered quite a range of majors and professional programs would be an understatement. :slight_smile: This is not a criticism. High school students often have no idea what the world of work entails or what college level study encompass. Career anxiety often pushes them into decisions that they’re not equipped to make.

To me, the beauty of a liberal arts degree is the ability to explore a range of disciplines. Take some courses in anthropology, geology, sociology etc. and let your interests – and ultimate career path emerge organically. Urban planning, landscape architecture, cognitive science, public health etc. will be there for graduate school.

There’s no reason not to apply to Cornell’s URS program, but at the same time put together a balanced list of matches and safeties as well, even if your major remains “undecided” for a while.


Cornell publishes acceptance rates by school, AAP’s was 9.6% this year.

OP, I do think your cumulative GPA will be a dealbreaker for admission, but if AAP appeals to you, apply. Make sure you have a balanced college list with at least one affordable safety. Good luck.

Thanks. That’s good information. Applicants to AAP must specify art, architecture or planning. Acceptance rates to each of the three programs will vary. I believe that architecture is the most selective and that the acceptance rate to planning, while still highly competitive, may be somewhat higher. The OP or their counselor may have access to more specific information.

I agree that Cornell with its emphasis on academic achievement is a stretch for the OP, but URS is a small and quirky program that seeks a close knit group of students who will thrive on an interdisciplinary approach.