First-Year Applicants

Your adventure starts here.

Do you have keen leadership skills, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a passion for the hospitality industry nurtured through hands-on work experience? At SHA we are looking for students who have pursued a rigorous curriculum, exhibit an outstanding record of academic achievement, embody a strong desire to serve others, and possess an insatiable thirst for exploring the world. 

If this describes you, we invite you to apply online through either the Common Application (CA) or the Universal College Application (UCA). Please choose only one form to submit all required application materials and review the application instructions provided by the Undergraduate Admissions Office.

What we look for

Your application will be reviewed by a selection committee that includes SHA staff and faculty members and considers a number of factors during the review process. In evaluating candidates, committee members consider all of the following:

How you fit in with SHA

As a small school at Cornell University, we will review your application to determine fit with our program. We recommend that you take the time to research our program to best articulate why SHA meets your academic and potential career goals. Many of our applicants are attracted to the career focus and appreciate the opportunity to apply the knowledge they learn in class to real-world work experiences.

If you have questions about what the student experience is like here, you can email one of our student ambassadors at

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High school transcript and academic preparation

The SHA selection committee reviews a variety of different components of your application to determine your academic preparation. Strong academic standing is a crucial element of your application to any college or university.

In addition to your high school transcript, we will receive a copy of your school report which often includes a profile of your school that lists course options, grading-scale information, the size of your school, and more. We want you to challenge yourself academically and we want to see strength in your academic experiences. It is also important to your application that you complete courses of study in the following secondary school subjects (full academic year of study in the discipline noted):

  • Four units of English
  • Four units of math (including coursework in pre-calculus)
  • Two units of science (including coursework in chemistry)
  • Three years in a single foreign language (successful completion of level 3)
  • Additional units of higher-level math are recommended

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Hospitality exposure

We recommend that you become acquainted with some aspect of hospitality through service-related jobs, internships, shadow opportunities, or informational interviews prior to applying.

More than 80 percent of SHA freshman have some hospitality work experience or can connect their experiences to hospitality. Some worked part-time or summers in restaurants, clubs, hotels, coffee shops, or grocery stores. Others worked as tour guides, helped in a hospitality-related business, catered events, or had the opportunity to observe—through shadowing—a service-oriented job. It is important for SHA applicants to articulate in their statement of interest an appreciation of what it means to work in the service industry, as the coursework at SHA sees business through the lens of hospitality.

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Nonacademic leadership activities, hobbies, interests, and community service

We are teaching our students to be engaged community members and leaders within the industry. Many of our students have learned to be leaders who are analytic and personable.

Student leadership can be demonstrated through an elected title such as "class president" or "club treasurer." Other times, leadership might need to be illustrated through extracurricular experiences. Regardless of how you function as a leader, it is important to include this information in an essay or letter of recommendation if you feel those experiences aren't being covered in other application materials. We also want to see that you are active outside of your academics—strong applicants indicate that they can manage their time and that they have interest in their communities, including school, local affairs, religious ventures, and many more.

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Recommendations from counselors, teachers, and others

Both the Common Application and the Universal College Application provide templates for recommendation letters. We encourage you to obtain these recommendations from teachers who know you and are able to provide a well-rounded, holistic view of you as a learner and as a person.

If you are able, we also encourage applicants to obtain recommendation letters from employers, supervisors, and mentors, along with education personnel. As you gather materials for your application, keep every facet of your personality in mind and gather materials to best represent who you are in your entirety.

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Application essays

Both the Common Application and the Universal College Application require that you respond to a general essay prompt, in order to display your communication ability and effectively tie your interests, academics, and experiences together with your career and personal goals. The School of Hotel Administration will also provide you with a second essay prompt, requiring that you respond in a more specific way to the program here at Cornell University.

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Standardized tests

Standardized exams are given in order to compare students in different high school programs worldwide. Although many students find these tests to be a source of stress, we encourage every student to do their best in applying their knowledge and reasoning skills.

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The School of Hotel Administration program is a pre-professional course of study that gives students the tools to be successful in a career. We don't expect your resumes to be perfect, but rather to serve as another facet of your application; as a glimpse into how you present yourself professionally, and what factors you deem inseparable from an application to any organization.

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Optional interview

The School of Hotel Administration does not require an interview for your application. We encourage every applicant to provide as complete as possible a portrait of themselves using the required application materials mentioned above. Registrations for interviews will open again in August.

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If you have questions about the admissions process, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at