Tips for Answering Cornell University Supplemental Essay Prompts

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The Goal: Demonstrate that Cornell is the right school for you and that you are the right student for Cornell!

This post about the Cornell supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2015 Common Application supplement for Ivy League and other top schools. 

Although the Ivy League schools review the Common Application essay, they also require supplemental essay responses. These help you to convey in greater detail how the specific school is a good fit for you and how you can contribute to the collegiate environment. The additional essays prompts are geared to help these elite schools gain a better understanding of you as a potential student. Think about your future goals and how attending Cornell will help you achieve them!

It is important to familiarize yourself with the specific character of the school before sitting down to write your essays. You can begin by visiting the school website. Whenever possible, a campus visit is also helpful to get a feel for the school and gain a sense of how it supports your interests.

Cornell’s curriculum focuses on the collaborative nature of liberal education and fundamental knowledge through a practical educational approach to impact societal and world problems. As you respond to each prompt, think about your personal objectives, the mission of the school, and why Cornell is the best place for you.

Cornell boasts 14 undergraduate colleges and schools with over 80 majors. Through the broad scope of majors and the individual course of study options, it prides itself on being “a place where any person can find instruction in any study.” It fosters creative collaborations with a bottom-up approach. If you are unsure of which major is right for you, the Courses of Study catalog provides degree requirements for each college.

The Common Application Writing Supplement is based on the undergraduate college(s) or school(s) to which you are applying. Each essay response should be between 250-650 words. These questions are fairly straightforward and the content is somewhat similar between colleges/schools.

Note, if you are utilizing the Primary/Alternate admission option, you must complete an essay for both colleges/schools that correspond to your primary and alternate selections.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: How have your interests and related experiences influenced the major you have selected in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences?

College of Architecture, Art, and Planning: Why are you excited to pursue your chosen major in AAP? What specifically about AAP and Cornell University will help you fulfill your academic and creative interests and long-term goals?

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?

College of Engineering: Tell us about an engineering idea you have, or about your interest in engineering. Describe how your ideas and interests may be realized by—and linked to—specific resources within the College of Engineering. Finally, explain what a Cornell Engineering education will enable you to accomplish.

School of Hotel Administration: Hospitality is the largest industry in the world and includes sectors such as hotel operations, food and beverage management, real estate, finance, marketing, and law. Considering the breadth of our industry, please describe what work and non-work experiences, academic interests, and career goals influenced your decision to study hospitality management? How will these contribute to your success at the School of Hotel Administration?

College of Human Ecology: What do you value about the College of Human Ecology’s perspective, and the majors that interest you, as you consider your academic goals and plans for the future?

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 these interests may be realized and linked to the ILR curriculum.

These essay prompts ask you to discuss specific examples from your life experience (academic and otherwise) that support your interest in a particular school/college. In addition, they ask you to look toward your future and how your educational experience at Cornell supports your goals. They also want to know how you can enrich the collegiate environment at the school. These questions allow you to focus on what excites you about certain subjects and how studying at Cornell makes sense for you. Consider academics, campus atmosphere, location in Ithaca, and your long-term objectives. This is your opportunity to convey your passion for Cornell!

Cornell has a highly competitive applicant pool. It received 43,037 undergraduate applications for the class of 2018. Only 6,105 were offered admission and 87% of the students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class with average SAT scores of 690 in critical reading, 730 in math, and an average ACT score of 32. The best way to distinguish yourself from your peers is through your essays.

Applying to an Ivey League school can seem like a daunting process. It is reassuring to keep in mind that these supplemental essays are a chance for you to share your personal stories and real-life experiences. Pay attention to deadlines and word limits as you craft each response to represent your unique perspectives. Start early to allow time for reflection and revision. Your goal is to demonstrate that Cornell is the right school for you and that you are the right student for Cornell!

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

Marie Todd By , Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.

Related Resources:

Common App Supplemental Essay Tips
What is Passion in Admissions?
• College Application Essays: Writing Tips from the Pros

2014 Tips for Completing Your Cornell Supplement to the Common Application

Check out our college special reports for more great admissions tips!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.






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Cornell Introduces New Joint Program With Israel’s Technion

Check out our podcast episode "Dr. Douglas Stayman Shares the Scoop on Cornell Tech NYC"Cornell Innovation Institute at Cornell Tech and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are introducing a new joint program: an M.S. in Information Systems with a specialization in Connective Media. Students will receive degrees from both institutions.

According to the Cornell Tech website, the program will meet “the growing demand for trained technologists and entrepreneurs in media-related industries: it provides the talent both to drive the digital-age transformation of information (e.g., news, publishing, advertising, and entertainment) industries and to lead the design and development of the next generation of social media applications.”

Sample courses include:

• Building Smart Devices
• Psychological and Social Aspects of Connected Media
• Human Language Technologies
• Big Data and Complex Event Processing
• Algorithmic E-Commerce

You can read more about the program here and here.

For more info about Cornell Tech, check out our recent podcast episode, “Dr. Douglas Stayman Shares the Scoop on Cornell Tech NYC.”






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Dr. Douglas Stayman Shares the Scoop on Cornell Tech NYC

DougStaymanMayor Michael Bloomberg of New York wanted to create a high tech center in the good, old Big Apple. He asked for bids to develop this center on Roosevelt Island, a small island in the East River. Cornell University in partnership with the Technion of Israel won the competition last year. As a first step in developing the entrepreneurial, digital center and ecosystem, Cornell is launching a one-year MBA program as part of Cornell Tech NYC, and we wanted to learn more about it.

Listen to the full recording of our conversation with Dr. Douglas Stayman, Associate Dean of MBA Programs at Cornell Johnson for the low-down on the innovative Cornell Tech MBA program.

00:02:06 – Cornell Tech NYC – what it’s all about.

00:05:36 – Who is the new Cornell Tech 1-yr MBA program for?

00:08:21 – The three parts of the curriculum. This is an MBA.

00:10:18 – The connection to Cornell Johnson.

00:12:41 – No Investment Bankers Allowed? Can non-techies come aboard?

00:14:21 – MS in Engineering and other masters offered by Cornell Tech.

00:16:56 –Roosevelt Island: great view and contemplative environment just a subway ride away from NYC.

00:18:33 – What does the employment future hold for Cornell Tech students?

00:21:13 – Does it really have a $95,000 price tag?

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Relevant Links:

•  Maximize Your MBA Application: 5 Tips for Succinct Essays
•  5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Statement of Purpose
•  www.tech.cornell.edu

Related Episodes

•  Interview with Anne Perigo, UM Master in Entrepreneurship
•  Jeff Reid on Entrepreneurship
•  MBAs Across America: The Coolest HBS Internship

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Admissions Trends to Watch in 2013

2013 Trends

Trends for 2013

2012 has been an exciting year. Experimentation in applications including interviews and essays has marked the most recent admissions cycle. In addition, the recession, growing concern about rising tuition and student debt, and the promise of MOOCs is shaking the world of higher education.  But let’s leave the 35,000 foot view of last year and gaze into the crystal ball for next year.

Trends for 2013

  1. Increased use of MMI in medical school admissions will continue.
  2. For law school, an increasingly practical approach to legal education with more opportunities for externships, internships, and coursework related to legal practice.
  3. More new one-year specialized masters programs like UM’s Masters in Entrepreneurship or Rochester Simon’s menu of one-year specialized masters programs as well more accelerated MBA programs or expansion of existing ones, like those at Kellogg, Columbia, and Cornell. These shorter programs, as well as part-time programs and one-year programs abroad, will present increasing competition to the traditional full-time, two-year U.S. MBA programs.
  4. More experimentation with the MBA interview.  I predict more group interviews, as was introduced by INSEAD and Wharton in the last two years. I also predict continued experimentation with essays and attempts to find alternatives to essays, probably using media other than the written word.
  5. Continued growth of Asian MBA programs as continuing economic contraction in Europe, increasingly restrictive visa policies there, and the relatively strong Asian economy encourage Asian business schools’ growth and competitiveness.

How did I do in 2012?

So that’s what I foresee for this year, but how did last year’s predictions stack up?  How cloudy was my crystal ball. Well I predicted:

  1. Interview experimentation, specifically more use of team interviews for business school. On the money!  :-D
  2. “The trend towards more openness with data (in law school admissions) will spill over to MBA programs.” Not sure here. I think so, but can’t point to anything specific.
  3. “Expect more focus on realistic, well-reasoned goals in all areas of graduate admissions.” Again, I think this is true, but I can’t point to any specific evidence. Jan. 3 2013 News Flash (Edit): I now have some evidence. Today’s Wall Street Journal article M.B.A. Pop Quiz: Are You Employable? reports on increasing number of business schools that are have career services weigh in on admissions decisions.
  4. Increased Flexibility in B-School Curricula.” I expected more schools to move toward the Chicago Booth, UCLA and Wharton models where general requirements can be taken later in one’s b-school career.  Frankly, I haven’t seen this development.

And what did I miss entirely? The shrinking of the MBA application. There have been fewer essays almost across the board.

So my crystal ball definitely had some inaccurate refraction last year. Let’s see how I do in 2013.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com 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.



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