While Ivy League schools require the Common Application or Coalition Application essay, they also require supplemental essay responses. These help you to convey in greater detail how the specific school and program of study to which you are applying are a good fit for you and how you can contribute to the collegiate environment. This, in turn, helps elite schools glean a better understanding of you as a potential student. To respond well, 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 virtual campus visit is also helpful to get a feel for the school and gain a sense of how it supports your interests. Take a remote campus tour, call the admissions office to learn more, and speak with current students.
Cornell’s curriculum focuses on the collaborative nature of a liberal arts education with fundamental knowledge. In addition, its practical approach to education is intentionally designed 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 which major is right for you, the Courses of Study catalog provides degree requirements for each college.
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The Cornell Writing Supplement varies among the undergraduate college(s) or school(s) to which you are applying. Each essay response should be a maximum of 650 words. These questions are fairly straightforward and the content is somewhat similar between colleges/schools. Your goal is to do your research and convincingly explain why your selected school and desired course of study at Cornell are the best fit for you and vice versa.
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.
Cornell University writing supplement essay prompts (by college/school)
Brooks School of Public Policy
Why are you drawn to studying public policy? Drawing on your experiences, tell us about why you are interested in your chosen major and how attending the Brooks School will help you achieve your life goals.
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Required: 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?
Optional (1): At Cornell CALS, we aim to leave the world better than we found it, so we seek out those who are not simply driven to master their discipline, but who are also passionate about doing so to serve the public good. Please elaborate on an activity or experience you have had that made an impact on a community that is important to you. We encourage you to think about community broadly – this could include family, school, or local and global communities. (300-word limit)
Optional (2): The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is dedicated to the exploration of the agricultural, life, environmental, and social sciences and welcomes students with interests that span a wide variety of disciplines. Given our agricultural history and commitment to educating the next generation of agriculturalists, please share if you have a background in agriculture or are interested in pursuing a career in agriculture, regardless of your intended major. (300-word limit)
Select all that apply:
- My family owns or operates a farm
- I have experience working in agriculture
- I have interest in pursuing a career in agriculture
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
What is your “thing”? What energizes you or engages you so deeply that you lose track of time? Everyone has different passions, obsessions, quirks, and inspirations. What are yours?
College of Arts and Sciences
Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person…any study” founding vision. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College.
College of Engineering
All applicants are required to write two supplemental essays. Each has a limit of 250 words. Essay 1 is required of all applicants. For Essay 2, you must choose between Question A and Question B.
Essay 1 – Required response (250 word limit)
How do your interests directly connect with Cornell Engineering? If you have an intended major, what draws you to that department at Cornell Engineering? If you are unsure what specific engineering field you would like to study, describe how your general interest in engineering most directly connects with Cornell Engineering. It may be helpful to concentrate on one or two things that you are most excited about.
Essay 2 – Choose either Question A and Question B. (250 word limit)
Describe an engineering problem that impacts your local community. This could be your school, neighborhood, town, region, or a group you identify with. Describe one to three things you might do as an engineer to solve the problem.
Diversity in all forms is intrinsic to excellence in engineering. Engineering the best solutions to complex problems is often achieved by drawing from the diverse ingenuity of people from different backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity and/or the inclusion of the Cornell Engineering community? What is the unique voice you would bring to the Cornell Engineering community?
College of Human Ecology
How has your decision to apply to the College of Human Ecology been influenced by your related experiences? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future?
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Using your personal, academic, or volunteer/work experiences, describe the topics or issues that you care about and why they are important to you. Your response should show us that your interests align with the ILR School.*
College of Business
What kind of a business student are you? Using your personal, academic, or volunteer/work experiences, describe the topics or issues that you care about and why they are important to you. Your response should convey how your interests align with the school(s) to which you are applying within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and/or the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration).
No matter which essay prompts you are addressing, you should discuss your past, present, and future, both in terms of your academics, your passions, and your interests and goals. Is there a story you can share that helps illustrate your passion for cooking? A particular set of ideas or subject from school that you can’t stop thinking about–something that you simply feel driven to pursue on the college level? What sparked your interest in a particular field? By tapping into the topics that excite you and the goals that feel like your truest ambitions, you’ll be sure to present the adcom with an authentic picture of who YOU are. In addition to your impressive credentials and your unstoppable passion for a certain subject or academic path, demonstrating a strong sense of self-knowledge and self-articulation will be crucial to your admission.
But, in addition to revealing who YOU really are, you have an additional job to accomplish in these essays. And that is to show a thorough knowledge of Cornell and its offerings. These should include specific courses of interest and extracurricular opportunities and communities you would like to join. When thinking about how Cornell appeals to you, consider the whole package of academics, campus atmosphere, location in Ithaca, and your long-term objectives. This is your opportunity to convey your ardent enthusiasm for Cornell!
Putting all this together, you must reflect on how you will enrich the collegiate environment at the school. Based on all the thinking and writing you have done for your essays, what skills and character traits do you know you will bring with you? Which particular communities or clubs (sports teams, debate club, Catholic student union) do you have experience with already and would love to join on campus? Explain how your attending Cornell can play a part in helping Cornell achieve its goals as a university.
Final thoughts on applying to Cornell
Cornell has a highly competitive applicant pool. It received 67,380 undergraduate applications for the class of 2025. Only 5,852 were offered admission. The best way to distinguish yourself from the accomplished applicant group is through your essays.
Applying to an Ivy League school can be a daunting process. Take heart: these supplemental essays are a chance for you to share your personal stories and real-life experiences and boost your candidacy. Pay attention to details. Deadlines and word limits matter–make sure you honor them. Start early to allow time for reflection and revision. Following this advice, you can demonstrate that Cornell is the right school for you and that you are the right student for Cornell.
If you’re applying to Cornell University, you already know you’re up against tight competition. Don’t be overwhelmed. Get the guidance of an experienced admissions specialist who will help you stand out from the highly competitive applicant pool so you can apply with confidence, and get accepted! Click here to get started!
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
Marie Todd has been involved in college admissions for over twenty years. Marie has both counseled applicants to top colleges and evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology; School of Nursing; and Taubman College of Architecture. Want Marie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch.