You’ll want to present your best self through the Cornell supplemental essays to make a lasting impression on the admissions committee, and this guide will tell you exactly how to do so!
Cornell requires all of its students to answer supplemental essays specific to their program. These essays offer a unique opportunity to showcase your passion, goals, and alignment with Cornell's values, so it’s essential you dedicate an adequate amount of time and effort to them!
The hardest part is starting! Knowing what values and experiences to highlight and how to prove your candidacy can seem overwhelming, especially when Cornell is a highly competitive Ivy League school!
Rest assured; this guide will ease some of your worries by providing you with in-depth tips on how to write each of the Cornell University supplemental essays!
Depending on the program you apply to, you’ll be required to write one or two essays and may be given the option to answer additional short answers.
Students applying to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be required to answer the following prompt:
Why are you drawn to studying the major you have selected? Please discuss how your interests and related experiences have influenced your choice. How will an education from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University specifically serve to support your learning, growth, and the pursuit of your goals?
Your response should not exceed 650 words. You may also answer the following optional short-answer questions:
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 experience where you had a meaningful impact on people, a community, and/or an environment of importance to you (200-word limit).
2. Cornell CALS is dedicated to purpose-driven study 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 or interest in agriculture, regardless of your intended major. An "agricultural entity" for the purpose of this question is defined as cultivating soil, growing crops, and raising livestock (e.g., farm, ranch, greenhouse, vineyard, etc.).
Select all that apply:
Please feel free to share additional details (100-word limit).
Applicants hoping to join Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning are only required to answer one essay question and aren’t given any optional short answers:
How do your interests directly connect with your intended major at the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP)? Why architecture (B.Arch), art (BFA), or urban and regional studies (URS)? B. Arch applicants, please provide an example of how a creative project or passion sparks your motivation to pursue a 5-year professional degree program. BFA applicants may want to consider how they could integrate a range of interests and available resources at Cornell into a coherent art practice. URS students may want to emphasize their enthusiasm and depth of interest in the study of urban and regional issues.
Cornell’s College of Arts & Sciences is one of its largest undergraduate colleges. Thousands of applicants apply each year, and each of them must answer the following prompt:
At the College of Arts and Sciences, curiosity will be your guide. Discuss how your passion for learning is shaping your academic journey, and what majors or areas excite you and why. Your response should convey how your interests align with the College, and how you would take advantage of the opportunities and curriculum in Arts and Sciences.
Applicants that chose a major at Cornell’s School of Public Policy will be expected to answer the following supplemental essay prompt:
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.
To all business enthusiasts hoping to join Cornell’s renowned business school, the admissions committee wants to know what’s important to you and the kind of student you hope to be. To evaluate these factors, you’ll be asked to answer this prompt:
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 to which you are applying within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management or the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration).
Engineering is often cited as one of the most challenging majors at Cornell. Considering this, it should come as no surprise that Engineering majors have to write two Cornell supplemental essays:
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 (250-word limit).
Applicants are given the option to choose between two topics for the second essay:
You are given a 250-word limit for this essay as well.
Students applying to the College of Human Ecology will need to answer one essay question:
How have your related experiences influenced your decision to apply to the College of Human Ecology (CHE)? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future? Your response should show us that your interests and aspirations align with CHE and your choice of major.
Last but not least, applicants hoping to join Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations are required to respond to the following essay prompt:
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.
Now that we’ve gone over all of the Cornell supplemental essays, we’ll provide you with tips on how to ace each one to help you confidently navigate your essay(s) and show the committee just how extraordinary you are!
Let’s begin with how to approach the essay:
Above all, be true to yourself. Write an essay that reflects your genuine interests, motivations, and aspirations! Where do you hope your major will take you? What will it help you accomplish?
If you choose to answer the short answers, the second one is rather straightforward. If any of the options apply to you, provide a brief explanation of how. Stick to the facts and keep it concise.
The first short answer is a little trickier, so here are some features to incorporate into your response to ensure it meets the admissions committee’s expectations:
Remember, you’ll only have 200 words to implement all of these tips, so keep your ideas succinct and to the point!
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the length of this essay question! While it may seem complex, at its core, you’re being asked to explain your motivation behind pursuing your major. Let’s break it down further:
Tell a compelling story that shares a specific anecdote that showcases how a creative project or passion ignited your interest in architecture. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box! The project doesn’t have to be directly related to architecture.
Describe the project, its context, and how it impacted your desire to pursue a 5-year professional degree. Emphasize your acknowledgment of the difficulty of this extended program and your motivation to join it nonetheless.
Ensure you also highlight your vision and discuss how the creative project aligns with your career aspirations.
For your essay, you’ll want to demonstrate adaptability. Show how you can integrate multiple interests and utilize the diverse resources at Cornell to develop a cohesive and unique art practice. Do your research to mention specific resources and elaborate on how these resources will enrich your artistic exploration.
It would also be wise to mention your interest in working with peers, particular faculty members, and other artists to expand your horizons, as collaboration is a major part of the BFA program!
URS applicants need to not only express their passion and enthusiasm for studying urban and regional issues but should demonstrate their wealth of knowledge on the topic.
Think about specific issues you hope to address throughout your career. Take a forward-looking approach by discussing how the URS program can aid you in working towards resolving these issues and making a positive impact on the world.
You should also discuss any relevant experiences, coursework, or extracurricular activities that have fueled your interest in this field.
Follow these tips to craft a compelling Cornell supplemental essay for the College of Arts and Sciences:
Fortunately, all you need to do to write a successful response to this question is follow the instructions! Of course, you’ll need to add in some of your personality, an interesting anecdote or two, and some engaging descriptions, but the core elements you need to include are right in the prompt!
Unlike the lengthier Cornell supplemental essays, this prompt is concise and straightforward. Its purpose is to simply gauge your interests and motivations. To make your response stand out, consider the following tips:
By following these tips, you can create an essay that showcases your genuine passion for public policy, your alignment with the Brooks School's values, and your vision for achieving your life goals through this educational journey!
As an aspiring business major, you’ll be expected to have impeccable communication skills. To ensure you start on the right foot by submitting a stellar supplemental essay, keep these suggestions in mind:
If you implement these tips into your essay, you should be able to create a powerful response that showcases exactly what kind of business student you are and how you will contribute to and benefit from the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business!
Crafting thoughtful responses to the Cornell supplemental essays is crucial for Engineer majors aiming to make a strong impression on the admissions committee. Here are some tips to help you in your writing journey:
Your answer to essay one should be concise and focused. Clearly articulate your interests in Engineering and your future aspirations. Consider these tips to elevate your essay:
Despite having a 250-word limit, you can still include a brief anecdote to open your essay. This will make it more personal and engaging!
If you choose to answer prompt A, here are some suggestions to follow:
If you choose to answer prompt B, keep these tips in mind:
Remember, there are various ways to show your diversity! Get creative and dig deep. Think about what makes you unique and what you can offer the Cornell community!
To create a unique and compelling response to the Cornell supplemental essay for the College of Human Ecology (CHE), consider the following tips:
Use your essay to demonstrate your knowledge of human ecology and how you will be a valuable member of the Cornell community!
Lastly, for students applying to the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, here’s how to tackle your supplemental essay:
You’ll notice none of the Cornell supplemental essays except for the CALS-specific and Engineering ones have word counts. However, you should keep your answers concise, so we suggest you aim for your essays to be around 500-600 words.
Now that you know how to write the Cornell supplemental essays, let’s solidify these tips and tricks with a sample essay! Considering a large percentage of applicants apply to the College of Arts & Sciences, here’s an essay that responds to this school’s prompt.
"World's best big sister" was splayed across a bright pink shirt that my parents handed to me with gleaming eyes and hearts full of anticipation. It was a shirt I proudly wore until I had to play tug-of-war with its seams. Now, the shirt sits framed above the mantle in our living room, right between the dozens of collages of the same few pictures of my sister and her tiny urn. There are only so many pictures you can have of someone that barely lived till their second birthday.
The shirt serves as a poignant reminder of the precious moments we shared and the profound impact her battle with brain cancer had on shaping my path towards becoming an oncologist.
But, it wasn’t an immediate revelation. Losing my sister at just seven years old, he thought of being anything other than a firefighter was lost to me in my innocence. I dreamt of donning a firefighter's uniform, bravely saving lives, and heroically extinguishing blazing flames. Little did I know that life had a different calling for me, a calling that would emerge years later and fuel my unwavering determination to confront cancer head-on.
It was during a seemingly ordinary day, years after my sister's passing, when the return of fear to my mother's eyes brought memories flooding back. On that fateful day, my mother had a panic attack and sat shaking on the bathroom floor after feeling what she thought was a lump in her breast. My heart raced, and I found myself reliving the fear that had relentlessly shadowed us when my sister battled cancer. In that moment, I knew I had to transform my grief into purpose.
Fueling my passion for science and discovery, I sought out STEM internships during every summer break of high school, eager to gain hands-on experience and contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of biomedical advancements. As a testament to my commitment to the cause, I have been gratefully selected to partake in the esteemed University of Pennsylvania's Biomedical Research Academy this upcoming summer, a prestigious opportunity that will undoubtedly enrich my understanding and propel my aspirations even further.
As I look to my future at the College of Arts and Sciences, curiosity will be my guide. I yearn to delve into the intricacies of biology, genetics, and medical advancements, seeking the knowledge and expertise needed to combat cancer on both a cellular and systemic level. I am excited about exploring the intersection of science and empathy, understanding that treating cancer requires not only medical expertise but also compassion and understanding for the patients and families facing this harrowing journey.
The opportunity to major in Biology at the College of Arts and Sciences excites me profoundly. I envision utilizing this foundation to unravel the complexities of cancer biology, with the ultimate goal of contributing to groundbreaking research that can revolutionize cancer treatment and improve patient outcomes.
Additionally, I am drawn to the college's commitment to interdisciplinary studies. As an aspiring oncologist, I recognize that addressing cancer's multifaceted challenges requires collaboration across disciplines. I eagerly anticipate collaborating with faculty and fellow students from diverse backgrounds, exchanging ideas, and approaching cancer research from different perspectives.
Beyond academics, I am eager to take advantage of the college's robust extracurricular offerings. By participating in research opportunities and internships at renowned medical institutions, I hope to gain hands-on experience in oncology and further hone my skills.
Armed with curiosity, empathy, the unwavering love of a sisterless big sister, and a fervent desire to make a difference, I am ready to embrace the opportunities at Cornell and spend my life contributing to the fight against cancer.
We also provide more Cornell sample supplemental essays if you’re interested.
For any remaining questions about the Cornell supplemental essays, read on to find your answers.
The CALS supplemental essay has a limit of 650 words, but it does not have to reach this maximum. Do not try to fill in your essay with unnecessary words, as it will reduce the efficacy of your writing! Focus on quality and ensure your essay stays focused.
The other essays, aside from the Engineering ones, do not have word counts, but 500-600 words should suffice.
Every program, except for Engineering, requires one supplemental essay. Engineering majors are required to write two short essays.
While your essays won’t be the most important admission factor, they can play a crucial role in the admissions committee's decision. Your supplemental essay is the only part of your application that will humanize and differentiate you!
Overall, to excel in your Cornell supplemental essays, you’ll need to go beyond merely stating facts. Elevate your responses to new heights by infusing them with captivating anecdotes and employing the art of storytelling. Draw the reader into your world, where your experiences come alive, and your journey unfolds before their eyes!
Your essays are a reflection of your personality, so let your true self shine through with each word! Good luck!