How to Get into Cornell, Columbia, NYU, Part 2 (Alternative Admissions Strategies)
Wait Another Year or Learn Part-Time
Cornell University offers a Guaranteed Transfer Option (except for its Engineering college). This option is usually for weaker applicants that Cornell is interested in accepting. However, because of the large size of the freshman class and a large incoming pool of students, Cornell offers the applicant admission given that he or she enrolls in another college for a year. After that year, the applicant can transfer to Cornell provided that he or she meets certain criteria (depending on the college but in most cases, maintaining above a certain GPA during freshman year of college, earning a grade above a B in all classes, has no incompletes, meets deadlines when reapplying). This option is offered to the students after the admissions committee has taken a look at the applications so there is no need to indicate interest when applying.
New York University offers a similar opportunity for its slightly weaker applicants. Each year, a small percentage of the students they plan on rejecting are offered admission to NYU's Liberal Studies Program. When participating in this program, students are enrolled at NYU, spending the first two years takingrequired courses, and if they areeligible, will be accepted into the college within NYU (e.g. Tisch School of Arts, College of Arts and Sciences) they had originally applied to. Interest in the Liberal Studies Program does not need to be indicated at time of undergraduate applications; the admissions committee will offer placement before college decisions come out (usually one month before NYU notifies other applicants of their accepted/rejected decision).
Columbia University's School of General Studies offers a liberal arts education for "returning and nontraditional students seeking a rigorous, traditional, Ivy League undergraduate degree full- or part-time." And, I've heard General Studies is less selective than Columbia College and SEAS.
Apply to An Affiliated College
The first (and for now, only) college that comes to mind is Barnard College. It has a unique relationship with Columbia University. Barnard College is an independent, small liberal arts, women's college that is affiliated with (and some may argue, incorporated into) Columbia University. The exact relationship between Barnard and Columbia is unclear. Both have separate applications, endowments, etc. However, during Columbia University's New Student Orientation Program when it hosted its community forum, there were four torches "to represent each of Columbia University's undergraduate schools" - Barnard College, Columbia College, School of General Studies, and SEAS. When Barnard students graduate, they come out with a Columbia University degree.
Look Into Special Programs
Columbia's School of General Studies offers a Joint Program with Jewish Theological Seminary. In this program, students will have the benefit of earning a degree from both the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University. (Again, I've heard it is "easier" to get into General Studies.)
Columbia's Combined Plan Program offers options of 3-2 (3 years at home school, 2 years at Columbia) and 4-2 (4 years at home school, 2 years at Columbia) so that students can receive a B.A. at their home school and then a B.S. in Engineering from Columbia University.