October 10, 2019

Cornell University Supplemental Essays

Cornell University

The primary focus of your college interest essay should be what you intend to study at Cornell. In the online Common Application Writing Supplement, please respond to the essay question below (maximum of 650 words) that corresponds to the undergraduate college or school to which you are applying.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Why are you drawn to studying the major you have selected? Please discuss how your interests and related experiences have influenced your choice. Specifically, how will an education from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals? 

For this one, imagine getting accepted to Cornell, but in the WRONG COLLEGE. If you’re an Agriculture and Life Sciences gal/guy and end up in Hotel Administration, think through all the ways that would upset you to your core. “Wait, but if I’m in College X, I won’t be able to …” Won’t be able to WHAT? The first step is to capture whatever finishes that statement.

Now, zoom out a bit to consider your life, and your background. What led to this trajectory? What experiences made you realize you DIDN’T like Undesirable Field A, and preferred Desirable Field B? There are likely several experiences along the way. Don’t just include the obvious ones that we could have predicted. It’s neat to see a complete picture. Was there ever a time you dabbled in anything else? Have you truly HATED some stuff? What is it that really inspires you about Agriculture and Life Sciences? We want to see where the momentum comes from, and we want to believe that your commitment to this field of study is real and exciting.

One thing to remember. What if you get rejected from Cornell and this particular school, and, oh well, you end up getting into Harvard and Stanford instead? Will you not go because you have no ability to succeed at a “normal liberal arts school”? Of course not (we hope). The best way to mentally frame this question is to imagine multiple paths to a future ambition of yours. One of those might pass through Cornell, others will not. The question you need to really ask is… why does the version that passes through Cornell and this particular college OF Cornell, excite you in specific ways? Building off of that, what stuff in your past (do you think) has led you to conclude that? See how that’s different from “this is my destiny and nothing else will work!”?

650 words is a LOT of words. Most supplementals are in the 250-word ballpark, so this is a proper essay. As such, you’ll wanna really develop your arguments well. Here’s an outline to get you going:

  1. Establish a quick vision of where it’s all headed. What’s a VERSION of your ultimate vision? What inspires you? What kinds of things do you wanna be doing/achieving? Be quick, be straightforward, but give us a sense of your passion. [50-75 words]
  2. Now take us through some highlights of your life so far that have played a significant role in steering you in that direction. Two or three examples should be good enough, but even one great one can suffice. It should be clear here not just WHAT intrigues you, but WHY (through these examples). [175-225 words, one to two paragraphs]
  3. Explain briefly, what it is you hope to achieve in college, and then perhaps a few years out of college. And therefore what it is that would make for an ideal education IN GENERAL (forget Cornell, for now, just talk generally). What things in a college experience will bring out the BEST in you? [125-150 words]
  4. Now, talk about specific aspects of Cornell and THIS SCHOOL IN PARTICULAR that tie to specific aspects of YOUR SKILL SET and AMBITIONS. Make it clear that THIS ENVIRONMENT might just deliver a better version of success for you than another program at another school. [125-175 words]

These are rough wording guidelines that’ll at least get you a serviceable first draft. From there, lots can happen (and WILL, in our experience). You’ll probably end up expanding the essay beyond the word limit, and then paring back down later – that’s a healthy part of the writing process.


College of Architecture, Art, and Planning:

Describe two or three of your intellectual interests and why you are excited to pursue them within your chosen major in AAP. What personal experiences, background, or future goals will you bring to your scholarly and artistic pursuits at Cornell?

[See above, and substitute in Architecture, Art, and Planning.] But also add in an argument about why the offerings at Cornell are likely to propel you forward somehow BETTER than another school that offers the same stuff. What makes this program unique, given your specific interest within the AAP umbrella?


College of Arts and Sciences:

Describe two or three of your current intellectual interests and why they are exciting to you. Why will Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences be the right environment in which to pursue your interests?

Same basic idea here as with the first two, except this addresses a broader crop of applicants. “What interests you and why Cornell specifically?” The key here is to explain what fuels you, and what you need to succeed optimally. And then MAP that to specific aspects of Cornell to demonstrate that the combination of you + Cornell ultimately leads to a better result than you + Another School.


Cornell SC Johnson College of Business:

Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management: How have your interests and experiences influenced your decision to study Applied Economics and Management? Describe how you would take advantage of the Dyson School’s unique opportunities, for example, its affiliation with both the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Same basic idea here as with the others, except you now have to grapple with this relatively new program and demonstrate that you’ve researched it thoroughly. Here’s one cool way to go about it: Whatever your business/econ goals are, imagine SUCCEEDING at them AT A DIFFERENT SCHOOL (pick a school, any school). Spoiler Alert: You’ll be able to succeed (we hope) at many schools OTHER than Cornell. (Right?)

Cool, now imagine one more version of success, this time, the one that passes THROUGH this program at Cornell. What’s different about THIS version of success for you? Why? What is it about this program, and YOUR GOALS SPECIFICALLY, that makes the collision of YOU + THIS PROGRAM a particularly dangerous combination? If you can’t make a compelling argument here for why THIS combo is necessarily better than You + UPenn (Wharton) or You + (any other Ivy), it’s not gonna land. There’s gotta be a compelling set of arguments. Find em. Approaching it THIS way is a great way to get unstuck if you’re having trouble developing momentum.


Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: School of Hotel Administration:

The global hospitality industry includes hotel and foodservice management, real estate, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, technology, and law. Describe what has influenced your decision to study business through the lens of hospitality. What personal qualities make you a good fit for SHA?

Same general idea here as with the others. There needs to be some magnetic force between you and this specific college at Cornell. Walk us through the events and experiences that led to your decision to pursue this field. But then, convince us that among all the folks out there who share equally compelling reasons to pursue hospitality degrees, YOU deserve a seat in particular. What about YOU should convince the gatekeeper that your future is brighter in this arena than someone else?


College of Engineering:

Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities… the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in.

We have a slight twist here, and it’s a cool one. They want you to pitch an idea. Neat. (Or, simply to express your interest in engineering.) Honestly, pitching a specific idea here is likely to be much cooler than expressing a more generic interest in engineering, so we recommend going with that.

Has there ever been a moment where you’ve considered something engineering-related where you’ve speculated about doing it a different way? Or exploring an idea that might improve upon something? Or revolutionize it? Anything that has STUCK with you, that has led to gear-churning (related to engineering), that has fueled your interest in this field, is a GREAT opportunity.

The next step is to MAP that idea to specific opportunities at Cornell that have inspired you to pursue an education here, over other programs. Be specific. Once again, our favorite tactic is the use of “DELTAs.” Imagine navigating through engineering programs at, say, five other Ivy League universities (doesn’t matter which ones). Now, let’s say you get into ALL FIVE. Make an argument here for why the version that passes through Cornell somehow fits you better, or leads to a cooler outcome, or both. Is there anything about Cornell’s offerings that have FURTHER inspired twists and evolutions to your future ideas? (This could be a great way to tackle it.)


College of Human Ecology:

How have your experiences influenced you to apply to the College of Human Ecology? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future?

Same general idea as the others. Walk us through your specific inspiration for this field, and why pursuing a college at Cornell that focuses on this is preferable to a broader education framework elsewhere.


School of Industrial and Labor Relations:

Tell us about your intellectual interests, how they sprung from your course, service, work or life experiences, and what makes them exciting to you. Describe how ILR is the right school for you to pursue these interests.

Same general idea as the others. Walk us through your specific inspiration for this field, and why pursuing a college at Cornell that focuses on this is preferable to a broader education framework elsewhere.


Learn more and explore each step of Cornell’s undergraduate application process here.

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