Johnson at Cornell University 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Check out the rest of our school-specific MBA essay tips!Are you looking for a close-knit, collaborative MBA program focused on experiential learning, committed to innovation, and further differentiated by an immersion learning component? Plus, it’s located on an Ivy League campus with all the resources and networking opportunities the larger community provides. Still interested? You’ve found it at Cornell Johnson.

I attended a class there last March and was really impressed by the dynamic professor and lively classroom interaction. I am also pleased to note that Cornell Johnson is letting you link to your LinkedIn profile as part of your MBA application. In addition to saving you time, this optional step allows Cornell Johnson to see you as a potential employer would.

This innovation highlights two realities in MBA admissions:

1. Social media count. For LinkedIn in particular, keep your profile up-to-date and professional. Make sure it’s something you’re proud of and happy to have others view.  

2. Much of MBA admissions is driven by prospective employment at graduation. Schools want to know that you have the experience to attract recruiter attention and to land a great post-MBA job. Many, many schools will at some point in the application evaluation process seek input from career services if they have any doubt about the attainability of your post-MBA goals. Let your profile and any information about your professional experience speak to that point.

Finally since your LinkedIn profile doesn’t have the tight limits you have in your MBA application, you may be able to provide more context and information there than here. However, no one wants to read a detailed autobiography on LinkedIn. Keep your job descriptions within reason if you do give Cornell access to your profile.   


1. You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. In 2000 characters (including formatting characters) or less, please write the table of contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. Note: approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity.

Have a little fun with the question. You certainly have a lot of options and flexibility here. You can reveal something about your youth, influential experiences or people, challenges, hobbies, interests, passions… Perhaps where you intend to be in 30 years. It’s Your Life Story. 

2. Targeted Job Type: What is the job that you would like to have immediately upon graduating with your MBA? (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

Be concrete in describing what you would like to do. “Pursue a position that I find personally satisfying” or “Have a positive impact on society” are non-starters.  What task do you want to perform and in what industry do you want to perform it? The answer to that question is the foundation of your response to Cornell’s question.

2000 characters is a little less than 400 words so you may give a little background as to how this goal developed or why your previous experience when combined with a Johnson MBA, will help you achieve it.

3. Post-Collegiate Activities: List community activities (clubs, church, civic, etc.) and professional associations you contributed to since graduation from college. Please include the organization name, your role, hours dedicated, elected offices held, and dates of participation. (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

Depending on how many activities you have, you may be able to go into a little detail or you may need to just stick to the facts. As much as possible, highlight evidence of impact, leadership, and collaborative teamwork. Quantify if you can.

4. Collegiate Activities and Employment: List your extracurricular activities while in college in order of importance to you. You may include details about your positions and the time commitment, honors or awards received, and dates of participation. The list may also include part-time and summer employment held while in college. Please list your employer, job title, responsibilities, hours per week, and the dates for each position. (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

Very similar to #3, highlight impact, leadership and teamwork. Quantify when possible.  The one twist with this question: list the extracurricular activities in order of importance to you.  

5. Hobbies and Activities: Please describe any hobbies or activities that hold special significance for you. (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

What do you do regularly when you aren’t working? Which of these activities would you like Johnson to know about? If you have too many to fit in the 2000 character limit, then choose those that show you contributing innovatively to your community and taking initiative. 

Optional Essay: Complete this essay if you would like to add additional details regarding your candidacy. For instance, if you believe one or more aspects of your application (e.g., undergraduate record or test scores) do not accurately reflect your potential for success at the Johnson School. (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

Clearly you can use this optional to add context for a weakness in your record. Either a low stat or a period of unemployment or some dip in an otherwise strong record of achievement.However the wording is pretty open. If there is something positive or if you want to provide context for an achievement — challenges you overcome or circumstances that made your accomplishment even more noteworthy — you can also do so here. 

If you would like professional guidance with your Cornell Johnson MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Cornell Johnson application. 

Cornell Johnson 2015 MBA Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline Decisions Released
Round 1 October 1, 2014 December 17, 2014
Round 2 January 7, 2015 March 25, 2015
Round 3 March 11, 2015 May 13, 2015
Rolling June 3, 2015 – Final day to submit Rolling admissions

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

  • Linda Abraham

    If any readers would like a profile evaluation for Cornell Johnson, please provide the following info:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Or if you just have a question about MBA admissions, I’ll do my best to answer it.

    • Steve

      Hi Linda,

      Would you please provide insight into my profile for Cornell and/or similar business schools?

      1) All with PepsiCo Foods Canada:
      (Aug ’13- current) – Manufacturing Business Manager at Production Facility. 7 direct reports with 150+ total team. Concurrently inaugural co-chair for National Employee Resource Group.
      (Jan 13 – Aug 13) Project Change Leader in Atlantic Canada for global packaging automation pilot. Scope including layoffs, total spend >$2M.
      (Sept 12 – Dec 12) Manufacturing Team Leader in Western Canada on short-term assignment during active union campaign at facility. Coached other team leads effective leadership skills to manage labour disruption. Did not go to vote.
      (Jan 12 – Sept 12) Manufacturing Team Leader on night shift in Eastern Canada (40 total team). When promoted the team signed a petition to “Keep Steve as our Night Shift Resource”.
      (May 10 – Dec 11) Supply Chain Leadership Designate. Managed small team projects with total spend and savings >$1M. No reports.

      2) GMAT 660/80th (V35/76, Q47/69). Capable of scoring 720 if I rewrite.
      3) Queen’s University at Kingston. Engineering Physics GPA 3.0. Class of 2010. Grades have high fluctuation – lots of C’s in classes like Quantum Physics and Nuclear Physics and lots of A’s in classes like Fluid Mechanics and Calculus. GPA trend is flat.
      4) Collegiate: President of the Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy Club. Elected voting member of Engineering Society. Volunteer with Boys & Girls Club.
      Post Collegiate: President of a Rotaract Club in 2011-2012 but not a lot of extra-curricular experience since, partially because of working night shift/weekends and moving across the country for work 3 times. Can justify Employee Resource Group Co-Chair position as “volunteer”.
      5) No certifications
      6) Stay with PepsiCo, shift career towards Global Commercialization. Have relevant product commercialization experience in current positions.

      I believe I have a strong resume and great leadership experience but have concerns about my grades/GMAT. Also concerned about my lack of community involvement in recent years.


      • Linda Abraham


        I agree with your self-assessment and share your concerns. I think you have two clear options.

        1) Apply this year with your current score and apply to programs including Indian Kelley, Penn State, HEC Paris, Michigan State, and Rotman. if you want to submit to Cornell because it’s your dream school, go ahead, but I’m not optimistic.

        2) Work between now and next year to really improve your profile and apply to programs like Cornell, Darden, Vanderbilt, Ross, and UNC. You can improve your profile by getting that 720 and earning a few A’s in business-related classes. Although the few A’s may be less important if you have A’s in quant classes.

        if there extenuating circumstances that contributed to the low grades, let them know.

        (As I’m sure you realize, being capable of a 720 is not the same as having one.)


        • Steve

          Thanks, Linda! I appreciate your feedback.

          If I re-write the GMAT in early 2015 and score 720+ do you think my odds of entry would improve? Is there a “threshold” GMAT score with my profile that would make me a stronger contender for Round 3?

          Thanks again.

          • Linda Abraham

            There’s not published (or unpublished) magic number for R3. For the schools you’re aiming for and your profile, I believe that a 720 would still give a decent shot at acceptance, but fewer applicants are accepted R3 than in earlier rounds. I’m not sure you have the diversity elements — even if you do have the academic qualifications — for a successful R3 application.

            You could always raise your GMAT and try for R3. If you get in, great. If you don’t, you try again R1 of next year. But if you apply R3, you won’t have time to earn a couple of A’s and that was part of my suggestion.


    • Simren

      Hi Linda
      Could you please guide me as to which schools I should apply.
      1.I work as a software quality analyst at Tata Consultancy Services since September 2013. I also have 3 months experience as a full time english teacher for a social organisation.
      2. GMAT-710. Verbal-87%, Quants-82%
      3. Computer science engineer, graduated in may 2013 from SRM University, India- cgpa-8.89/10
      4. Organized many events, social awareness marches. I have worked parttime as an assistant public relation manager for a national award winning resort for 2 years.
      5. Consulting in the social sector domain.
      I am worried about my low work ex. My target schools are tepper, kenan-flagler, georgetown.

      • Linda Abraham


        You have a competitive profile for CMU Tepper, but I think the other programs are stretch program mainly because of lack of work experience.


        • simren

          Merry Christmas :). Hope you have an amazing day. Thank you so much for your immediate reply. Could you please suggest me a few good schools where I stand a good chance ?



          • Linda Abraham

            You too.

            Rochester Simon.


  • Animesh

    1) (’13- present) Analyst at Copal Amba (a Moody’s subsidiary) : working as a fixed income index research analyst for a bulge bracket US bank. One promotion.
    (’11-’13) Analyst at Deloitte Consulting : worked in the ERP consulting division.
    2) GMAT : 720(94%) /49(79%)/ 38(85%)
    3) Graduated from BITS Pilani (India) in 2011. cgpa : 6.66/10 with a downward trend.
    4) Volunteer at the college alumni association, conducted fund raisers for a global non profit, college Tennis team.
    5) CFA L2 candidate
    6) Work as a finance consultant in a Big 4 advisory practice.
    Besides Cornell, considering Kenan-Flagler, Darden, Tepper, Mcdonough, Simon, Rotman, Said.
    Thanks a ton in advance !

    • Linda Abraham

      You have a chance at all your target programs including Cornell, but I’m concerned about that downward trending GPA. Depending on what caused the decline and how steep it was, it could be a problem at any of these programs. Please see .


      • Animesh

        Thanks Linda for the response. That’s an excellent blog. Couple of questions :
        1) So what would be more beneficial? Taking a few business courses or pulling up the GMAT to 750?
        2) How would you assess my chances at Duke and Anderson?

        • Linda Abraham

          Both! :-)

          If you force me to choose, I would choose a few recent A’s. You need to show that you know how to apply yourself in an academic setting. You’ve already earned a competitive GMAT.


          • Animesh

            Thank you for the guidance.

  • Delta hedge

    Hi Linda,

    Thank you for the feedback on my odds for Johnson:

    -3yrs (will be 4 if accepted for class of ’17) at a major us investment bank in New York as a derivative sales trader ( our product requires constant communication and coordination between NY, London, and Asia). Have received 2 promotions during my time (most recently to associate)

    -690 overall ; 44v 41q (never strong in standardized test but believe the quant heavy nature of my career offsets this)

    – 3.6 with a major in finance from the villanova school of business

    – was president of my fraternity and member of the national honor society during undergrad; post grad I am on the advisory committee board for a non profit high school in Brooklyn


    – to grow vertically with an a bulge bracket or major asset management firm


    • Linda Abraham

      Delta hedge,

      It’s possible that with your GPA and quant heavy work experience, you could be accepted, but a 41Q is a significant hurdle.

      If you are planning to apply in Fall 2015, I recommend a retake and focus your studies on the quant. You might consider a tutor if you prepped with a conventional course last time.


      • Delta hedge

        Thank you Linda! If I was planning on submitting r2 this year, do you think I should address the quant hurdle in the optional essay section? Thanks again.

        • Linda Abraham

          Yes, but how do you intend to address it?

          If you did poorly on the quant section of the SAT you can point to your grades and quant work as evidence that standardized tests aren’t predictive for you. But realize that you also need to present positive reasons for them to accept you in the rest of the application.

          Also ask your recommenders to comment positively on your quant and analytic abilities (without mentioning the GMAT).

          Please see

          • Delta hedge

            Awesome thanks Linda!

  • Mudit

    Hi Linda

    1) Right after completing my engineering, I helped set up my family business and looked after most organisational and technical aspects of getting it up and running. I quit after a year and joined HCL Technologies as a Quality Analyst where I am presently working and do software testing

    2) GRE – 320 (160V – 84%ile, 160Q – 78%ile)

    3) Did computer science engineering from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi, India with 6.8/10 cgpa

    4) Helped set up my family business, did a cancer awareness campaign, writing a science fiction book, passionate about technology, blog for Huffington Post

    5) My goal is to start my own product-based technology company to help solve a real life problem

    • Linda Abraham


      While you have a chance at all three programs, I am not optimistic. Application volume is up (or so I hear), and you are a little on the low side given your background and target programs and R3.

      You would be a more competitive candidate R1 next year especially if you can go into more of a business role at HCL and show growth on the job.


      • Mudit

        Thanks Linda.
        I was hoping that the experience of bootstrapping my family business would help me offset my ordinary gpa and low test score, and especially since it is going to be of great help when starting up my own company.

        Also, do you reckon that my extracurriculars are good enough for a school like Johnson?

        • Linda Abraham


          Your family business experience is a distinguishing factor, but depending on how large that business grew in a short period of time and your role will determine how valuable it is. In addition quality control since then isn’t terribly distinctive or “of great help” from an admissions perspective and that’s what you are doing now.

          Finally, applying R3 is harder.


          • Mudit

            Thanks a lot Linda

  • Anonymous

    Hi Linda,

    Thank you in advance for helping me out. My profile is below:

    I am a 27 year old african american male looking to apply to business school in Fall 2015. I am shooting for MIT LGO, HBS, Wharton, Cornell, but am not sure if my profile is balanced enough to be competitive. I am also worried that my quant score will be liability.

    1) 3 years as operational/management associate, then consultant. Worked in various manufacturing environments (oil sands plants, food/bev manufacturing) directly structuring operational improvement goals and leading/support clients leading focused improvement teams of 5-10 people. All multi-million/billion dollar businesses.
    2 years as operational supervisor (+ likely manager by the time I apply) at industrial goods distributor of over $2B in revenue. Directly managed 10-15 employees + operational/improvement responsibilies. Have improved various operational metrics, and employee engagement initiatives. As manager, will likely manage 2 supervisors with overall team of 25-30.
    2) 760 (99%), 47V (99%), 47Q(68%), 6/6 W, 8/8 AWA
    3) Cornell University, 3.44/4.0 mechanical engineering, grad in 2010
    4) Captain of Division I varsity track team, 2x Ivy league MVP, 5x Ivy League champion, 2x voted team MVP, nationally ranked athlete as well. Member of a (passive), elected senior honor society, and NSBE. Big brothers, big sisters mentor for ~1 year (upon applying later this year). 10+ hours of community service on and off (flood cleanup, delivering meals to less fortunate, etc.)
    5) None
    6) I have had a lot of on-the-floor management experience that has primarily focused on operational metric improvement and employee morale/engagement type work. I have had limited experience managing a full budget/department portfolio and want to attend business school to obtain that broader business perspective to immediately go to operations manager/director with full responsibility for the financial and operational success of that department. The long term goal will obviously be COO, then CEO. Taking this route through private equity would also be an option.

    • Linda Abraham


      You’re most welcome.

      While under other circumstances I might be concerned about the quant score, given everything else you have going for you — quant-heavy undergrad, competitive GPA, excellent leadership, URM status, community service, strong work experience, I wouldn’t worry about the quant score.

      I think you have a competitive profile for your target programs. Cornell is the most likely acceptance, but you are applying appropriately. You may also want to consider CMU Tepper and Kellogg’s MMM program.


      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the reply and assessment Linda! I am just starting applications right now, but will potentially reach out more directly if I run into any roadblocks or think more help is the right thing.

        Thanks again,

        • Linda Abraham

          You’re most welcome. Sounds good. You know where to find us.


  • Aleen

    Hi Linda,

    Here are details on my profile:

    1) 3 years of full time experience at a software tech firm catering to the public education space. 2 promotions within 3 years and time period at each position are included below:
    1. Analyst (1 year)
    2. Senior Analyst (1.5 years)
    3. Project Manager (6 months)

    * Will have 4 years of experience by the time I start school (Aug 2016)
    ** Company is willing to sponsor MBA (will be the first in my company to receive such an offer)

    2) GMAT 710 (Q:76%, V: 87%, IR 92%, AWA 6/6)

    3) Undergraduate: McGill University – 2012
    Major: Economics, Finance – Minor Mathematics
    GPA: 3.0/4.0

    Low GPA Reasoning:
    – International student – adjustment to Canadian education system
    – Financing – worked at 6 research assistant jobs while at school to finance education

    – College: Founder and CFO of College Charity for homeless raising $10k in year 1 and 20k in year 2
    – Founder of education charity in Toronto raising over 50k in 2 years
    – Volunteer at multiple education initiatives locally and nationally
    – Founder local sport club

    5) CFA Level 1 Pass (to prove that my GPA is not indicative of my quant skills)
    Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

    6) Return to my existing work place at a VP level role

    Some other schools I am interested in:
    1. Duke
    2. Tuck
    3. Yale
    4. Tepper

    • Linda Abraham


      Was there any trend to your grades? Any pattern?

      • Aleen

        Yes, each year was better than the previous one, but only marginally

    • Linda Abraham

      I think you’re stretching with 1,2, and 3. You are more competitive at Tepper, and you certainly have a chance at all of them, but I suggest you also apply to other programs where you are more competitive. Consider Ross, Darden, UNC, and Georgetown. Also look into Rotman.


      • Aleen

        What about Cornell?

        • Linda Abraham