Cornell College - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Cornell College
"Cornell's One-Course-At-A-Time schedule sets them apart from the rest of the pack. Students learn...

Cornell College

Mount Vernon, Iowa

One of the nation’s best, One-Course-At-A-Time

Perched above the splendid Cedar River Valley in Eastern Iowa, Cornell College graduates students with strong backgrounds in the liberal arts—students who can write, think, and communicate effectively. With its One-Course-At-A-Time calendar, Cornell offers a unique opportunity for students to learn through in-depth and focused study, which minimizes distractions, increases flexibility, and helps students better retain their knowledge.

Student Profile

Fall 2014 Enrollment
1,086 undergraduate students
99% of undergrad students are full time
47% male — 53% female
87% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2014-2015 Academic Year
86 full-time faculty
22 part-time faculty
11 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Highly residential: 92% of students live on campus.

School Location

Located in the historic town of Mount Vernon, Iowa, Cornell was founded 150 years ago and today is an active and diverse residential community of more than 1,000 students.
Mount Vernon, Iowa—30 minutes from Iowa City, 20 minutes from Cedar Rapids, 2 hours from Des Moines, and 3-4 hours from Chicago.

Retention Fall 2014

83% of students began in Fall 2013 and returned in Fall 2014 (full time, first time freshmen)


Nonresident aliens 4%
Hispanic/Latino 13%
Black or African American 5%
White 66%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 3%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 4%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 4%


NCAA Division III, Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC). 19 varsity sports (10 men’s: baseball, football, wrestling, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, indoor track & field, outdoor track & field; 9 women’s: volleyball, softball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, indoor track & field, outdoor track & field), 40 intramurals.

Other Information

Cornell College is a four-year, selective liberal arts college founded in 1853, renowned for its innovative One-Course-At-A-Time (OCAAT) academic calendar.

Academic Programs

Archaeology; Art; Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; Chemistry; Classical Studies; Computer Science; Economics & Business; Education (Elementary/Secondary); English; Environmental Studies; Ethnic Studies; French; Geology; German; History; International Relations; Kinesiology; Latin American Studies; Mathematics; Medieval & Early Modern Studies; Music; Philosophy; Physics; Politics; Psychology; Religion; Russian; Russian Studies; Sociology; Sociology & Anthropology; Spanish; Theatre; Women’s Studies.

Pre-Professional Programs: Architecture; Dentistry; Engineering; Forestry & Environmental Management; Law; Medicine; Nursing; Social Work; Theology; Veterinary Medicine.

More Distinctions

  • Cornell College ranks in the top 7% of the nation’s 3,600 colleges and universities according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

  • U.S. News & World Report has included Cornell among "America's Best National Liberal Arts Colleges --one of the 164 highly selective national liberal arts colleges" every year since its inception.

  • Ranked in top fifteen nationally in NCAA postgraduate scholars among Division III institutions.

  • Member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), which includes the University of Chicago, Carleton, Grinnell, Colorado College, and Macalester.

  • One of forty colleges featured in Loren Pope’s "Colleges That Change Lives."

Cornell’s unique calendar gives students plenty of flexibility for experiential learning. Students can even get course credit for internships and independent study…


Founded in 1853, Cornell is an attractively diverse, selective, independent, coeducational, residential college community dedicated to fostering growth. Rather than following a traditional academic calendar, Cornell’s academic year is comprised of nine terms, each lasting about three and a half weeks. During these terms, both students and professors dedicate all their time to only one course of study. Also described as the block plan, OCAAT provides Cornell students with optimal focus and flexibility, combined with small classes of about fifteen students.

Cornell’s OCAAT approach to education allows students to focus on only one subject for each academic term, or block. Students are able to devote their full attention and best efforts to each and every class. They gain a depth of understanding through an immersive experience in each interactively designed and discussion-rich class. Courses are substantial and are valued at four credit hours.

Exploratory Courses

OCAAT ensures a lively pace throughout the academic year and allows students and teachers to explore unique educational opportunities beyond the classroom. Faculty and students are free to study away from campus in whatever venues best suit the subject. For example, students in the sciences are able to do research with their professors at off-campus locations such as the Mayo Clinic or to participate in a sequence of all-day environmental field studies. Recently, students have traveled to countries such as Australia, Tanzania, Peru, and the Bahamas through the science and psychology programs. Economics and business students have traveled to Chicago and New York City, and English students have traveled to England, France, Italy, Mexico, and Greece.

Study Abroad

The OCAAT schedule provides many opportunities for students to study abroad, whether for a single term, for multiple terms, or for a traditional semester. Cornell is a member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) and the School for International Training (SIT). Through these consortia and other arrangements, Cornell students can be found studying around the globe.

Personalized Study

To a distinctive degree, Cornell students can customize their programs of study. They can take advantage of the flexible OCAAT schedule to pursue internships and independent studies. Nearly two-thirds of Cornell students have participated in a career-related or professional internship, and two-thirds have completed independent-study courses. Many students complete double majors, if not a major and a minor; others design their own majors. Cornell offers more than forty majors, and the most popular are biology, chemistry, psychology, business, English, and theatre.

At Cornell, students don’t slip through the cracks. With classes capped at 25 and students enrolled in only one course at a time, personal attention is guaranteed…

faculty mentorship

Mentoring is a valued part of the education at Cornell. Faculty truly know their students and actively cultivate and empower them to pursue their interests. Since Cornell professors teach only one course at a time, they are able to focus exclusively on the needs of the students in each class, often leading to longer, in-depth discussions. Many professors feel they are better teachers within the OCAAT schedule because they have the flexibility to concentrate on students’ interests, to travel, and to conduct research with their students without the scheduling restrictions of semester-based calendars.

Cornell’s campus is always crawling with activity. Students all share the same basic schedule, which makes it easy to participate in organizations, clubs, athletics, and service…

diverse student body

As one of only two national liberal arts colleges teaching on the block plan, Cornell attracts applicants from all fifty states and dozens of countries. Consequently, it has an attractively diverse student body marked by its openness to individual and cultural differences. At Cornell, students do not wait to be entertained. They create the campus’ clear sense of energy and vitality, fully embracing campus life and opportunities for involvement.

active participation

The OCAAT program presents opportunities for Cornell’s 1,200 students to participate in extracurricular activities in a similarly focused way, and there are over one hundred student clubs and organizations, ranging from performance arts to special-interest groups. More than 90 percent of students live on campus, and about a third are involved in Greek life, belonging to independent fraternities or sororities. The college’s beautiful hilltop campus overlooks the Cedar River Valley, and Cornell is proud to be one of only two schools to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

fine arts

On campus, the Kimmel Theatre provides an outstanding facility for students of drama. Students perform in every type of performance, from musicals to one-act plays. Armstrong Hall, historic King Chapel, and McWethy Hall accommodate Cornell’s equally active programs in music and art.


Cornell is a member of the NCAA Division III and ranks among the top fifteen Division III institutions in NCAA postgraduate scholars. Cornell offers nineteen intercollegiate sports and is a member of the nationally competitive Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC).

community service

CC’s volunteer office provides a variety of outreach programs and other service opportunities for students. These include elementary-student tutoring, fundraising races, issues awareness weeks, and adolescent mentoring programs. Students can also participate in an alternative spring-break program, which sends students across the country and even around the world to work on service projects. Living-learning opportunities are also popular residential options.

a city of beauty

Located in Mount Vernon, Iowa, a rural town of four thousand in eastern Iowa, Cornell is twenty miles southwest of Cedar Rapids and twenty miles north of Iowa City. The Cedar Rapids metro area has a population of two hundred thousand, with urban amenities typical for its size, including Eastern Iowa Airport, and calls itself the City of Five Seasons. Iowa City has a metro population of one hundred and twenty thousand, and the combined eastern Iowa corridor of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City offers numerous entertainment and cultural options for students.

With nearly all graduating within four years, students at Cornell stay on course. Cornell alumni also have one of the highest graduate-school attendance rates in the country…

graduating on time and with promise

Cornell is proud that over 90 percent of its students graduate within four years, many with double majors. Over 90 percent of Cornell alumni are employed or attending graduate school within three months of graduation. Two-thirds of Cornell alumni continue their studies at the graduate or professional level at some of the nation’s finest universities, typically within five years of graduation.

alumni network

Cornell’s Alumni Fellows Network provides students with high-profile internship opportunities, funding, networking, job shadowing, and externships. Alumni return to campus to conduct mock  interviews and to speak about their employment experiences and lines of work. Cornell graduates are prepared for life after college and feel that their college experiences prepared them to be thorough and efficient.


Admissions Fall 2014

1,915 Total Applicants
1,410 Total Admissions
263 Total Freshmen Enrollment

73.63% of applicants admitted

Freshmen Profile Fall 2014

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 520 680
SAT Math 520 650
SAT Writing 490 640
ACT Composite 23 30
ACT Math 23 28
ACT English 22 31
ACT Writing    




Tuition $37,275
Fees $225
Total $37,500
Room and Board (on campus) $8,500
Room Only $3,800
Board Only $4,700
Estimated Total On Campus $46,000


Financial Aid Breakdown 2014-2015

99% of full-time first-time undergraduates receiving any financial aid
66% of full-time first-time undergraduates receiving student loan aid

$25,413 Average amount of federal, state, local, or institutional grant aid received
$7,651 Average amount of student loan aid received by full-time first-time undergraduates

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