A friend of mine has a son who studying at Cornell. When I look at the Cornell supplement, it isn’t hard to picture “John”, sitting at his computer, writing the supplemental statement. It’s also easy to see why he was such a compelling applicant to their admission committee. John is a birder, and he was well acquainted with Cornell’s ornithology program. As a high school student, he had spent hours searching for specific species and summers tracking birds in northern Canada. He could tell you specifically what he was going to do with his Cornell education.
Happily now, he’s in Ithaca, following through on his initial plans. If you are searching for academic options in the Ivy League, look carefully at Cornell. Its undergraduate enrollment is larger than its Ivy brethren, and the diversity of its offerings and majors complements its size. Applicants select one (and sometimes an alternate) of the 7 undergraduate divisions when submitting an application.
While it might be tempting to check the box for a less competitive division (although they are all competitive) and then change after admission, Cornell’s supplemental essay questions ask students to write specifically about the roots of their interests. The admissions committee is searching for students who have made deliberate choices about their intended areas of study. You’ve embarked upon a tough fiction-writing task to convince the committee of your desire to study architecture when you fulfilled your arts requirement exclusively with drama, avoided physics like the plague, and have devoted your extracurricular time to soccer and the soup kitchen.
While it isn’t uncommon for students to change their minds about their areas of study while in college, devoting thought to what excites you intellectually now will help you determine what type of environment suits you in college, and will give you career direction as you move forward in the next few years.
For students who are planning to apply to a number of colleges, writing about your area of academic interest is a common question. For each of these questions, avoid general statements such as “English is my favorite class” and instead focus on the specifics about studying English that appeal to you. Did a specific project excite you? Do you enjoy a particular genre of writing? What are your career goals, and how does your intended major relate to that? If you are writing about extracurricular pursuits, which are particularly relevant to Agriculture and Hotel Administration applicants, again, be specific about your experiences and what you’ve learned from them.
Applicants to Cornell generally demonstrate very high levels of academic achievement in the classroom and on standardized tests. Each undergraduate division at Cornell, however, has slightly different requirements for admission regarding testing and high school curriculum. Double-check the requirements to ensure that you have completed all of the necessary components before submitting your application.
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.