Question: I received a rejection from Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences but I wanted to know if I could appeal the decision. I am a passionate student dedicated to the environmental sciences, and recently was granted a prestigious internship in environmental affairs. Should I call and ask?
“The Dean” is sorry to hear about your bad news from Cornell. Unfortunately, each year the Ivy League universities and other “elite” schools turn away thousands of highly-qualified applicants who are seemingly as able as many of those who did get in. Once, in fact, a Harvard dean conceded that he could set aside the entire admitted class and select a new class from the “reject” pile that was every bit as strong as the first one. Having worked in an admission office myself and communicating with many others who still do, I know that it is common for a highly-competitive institution like Cornell to be forced to say “no” to promising candidates. And many of these disappointed candidates (maybe you!) will never know that there were admission officials who were rooting hard for them behind closed doors, even if they were not ultimately accepted.
Cornell does not consider appeals except in very rare cases where there are extreme extenuating circumstances ... such as if it were to come to light that a guidance counselor mistakenly submitted the wrong transcript. If you were to contact Cornell and plead for you acceptance, it won’t reverse the decision and could potentially annoy admission officers whom might be evaluating you later on, if you try to transfer.
However, unlike most of its peer institutions, Cornell does offer a “Guaranteed Transfer” opportunity to certain freshman applicants who were not accepted for the fall but who were clearly qualified contenders. Shortly after receiving a denial letter, these students are notified that they have been selected for a special transfer option and are promised admission to Cornell after spending a year in good standing at another college or university of their choice. The “Guaranteed Transfer” candidates are eligible to complete a special application that is designed just for them and to join the Cornell community as sophomores. Cornell tells the students in the Guaranteed Transfer pool that:
"To be a competitive transfer applicant as a sophomore, you should pursue a full-time curriculum (taking at least 8 courses) in the liberal arts and sciences. Successful transfer applicants to our college typically have a grade point average of at least 3.5, no grades below B, and no disciplinary infractions."
So if you don’t receive an invitation this spring to become a “Guaranteed Transfer,” I do think that it’s reasonable for you to contact Cornell and ask if you might be added to the list. There is really no harm in reiterating your interest in Cornell by requesting a spot in this group. Then, if the answer is, “We pick this group ourselves and don’t take volunteers,” you can certainly still apply as a transfer next year without being offered the guarantee now. Be sure to read these tips from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on how to prepare to be a viable transfer candidate. And your new internship will add extra ammunition to your transfer application, so be sure to explain in detail what you accomplished when it’s time to reapply to CALS.
I do empathize with your disappointment, and I hope that you can understand that your Cornell decision says nothing about how bright, motivated, and successful you are. So forge ahead and work hard in your internship and at a different college next fall. And then, if you decide you want to transfer to Cornell, you will be in an excellent position to apply ... although by then you may have moved on and won’t even want to, as unlikely as that may seem to you today.