Cornell Interview Questions and Answers: Your Ultimate Guide

Students preparing for the Cornell interview
April 26, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Been wondering how to ace your Cornell interview? Keep reading to learn about Cornell interview questions!

Cornell University Campus

You got a top rank GPA, extracurriculars from rowing to varsity football, and you’ve aced the SAT. Now, all that’s left is to make a lasting first impression at your Cornell interview. Knowing what to expect during your interview and what to talk about can help you with this critical final step. 

While students generally feel anxious about college interviews, there’s no need to get worked up. The interview is meant not only for schools to learn more about you, but for you to get a sense of the education and experience they provide. This article will discuss what kinds of questions you can expect, and what the best ways to prepare are.

Read on to learn about Cornell interview questions

How to Get a Cornell Interview

The first thing to know about the Cornell University applicant interviews is that it’s not required for all applicants. In fact, only those planning on majoring in architecture have a mandatory interview. Students applying to the Art or Urban and Regional Studies programs are also encouraged to participate in an interview. 

But, how do you get a Cornell alumni interview? If you’re applying to the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP), you’ll need to submit an interview request form. It’s important to submit this before the application deadline. 

Getting the request done early not only gives you extra time to prepare, but more options to select your Cornell admissions interview time.

Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN)

For students not applying to the programs above, you can still meet with and discuss your application with a network of Cornell alumni through the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN).

Although these are not formal interviews, and won’t impact your application, they can give you an opportunity to ask any questions you have about Cornell or the program you’re applying to.

How the Cornell Interview Works

Only students applying to the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning need to be concerned with Cornell University admission interviews. If you’re interested in architecture, then the interview will be mandatory. 

For those applying to art or urban and regional planning, an interview is highly advised but not officially required. Students will start by scheduling a virtual interview with a Cornell faculty member or alumni near their home. 

Interview Process

Regular decision applicants must request an interview by December 9th, and complete it by January 2nd. For early decision applicants, the dates are October 20th for requests and November 1st for completion.

Students will bring samples of their work if applicable, and can generally expect some questions about themselves, their area of interest, and their choice of applying to Cornell. A formal portfolio isn’t required, but relevant samples of your artwork are suggested. 

If you cannot complete an interview for any reason, you must complete an interview essay. You’re encouraged to discuss things that are important to you as well as why you’re interested in the program you’re applying for at Cornell.

Cornell Interview Questions & Answers

To get the most out of your Cornell Interview, it can be helpful to go through some common Cornell  interview questions and answers. These examples will help you with the Cornell alumni admission interview questions.

1. Which Kinds of Things Interest You Most?

Potential Answer: I have a longstanding interest in art therapy. Seeing how visual input can have a healing or therapeutic effect on individuals makes me want to get involved with artistic creation and practices. Being able to use creative skills to aid a community or improve someone’s living conditions is something I feel passionate about.”

For this question, you can lead the Cornell interviewer through any interests you have. For urban planning, you can consider discussing how you find group behavior intriguing and relating it back to social sciences as a whole.

If you’re applying to the architecture or art program, you could talk about your interest in seeing how different cultures establish and progress through artistic movements.

Keep in mind that your interests actually don’t need to be related to the discipline you’re applying to. Being a diverse candidate with broad interests and values can set you apart. If you have experience in tech or programming, for example, there are a lot of creative fields making use of computer-based approaches to art.

2. Why Did You Choose to Apply to Cornell?

Potential Answer:Cornell has an established Urban and Regional Planning program. It’s important for me to be surrounded by peers that are very involved with their discipline and this is something Cornell has to offer. I hope to establish a network and connections that will enable me to rise with my colleagues and contribute to future city planning.”

The best way to answer this question is by mentioning something about Cornell specifically that appeals to you. Whether it’s the unique program structure, or eclectic student body, it’s important to reassure your interviewer that there are legitimate reasons why you want to attend Cornell instead of any other school. Perhaps you feel the Cornell Alumni Association can help you in your future career.

Remember that during your interview you’re essentially trying to communicate why you’re more deserving of a spot in your program than other students. To convince the interviewer why it makes sense for you to be admitted, you should show them how Cornell specific resources will benefit you.

3. Tell Me About a Piece of Work in Your Portfolio

Potential Answer: This architect served as a creative foundation for this piece. Her use of structure and open plan residential design was something that I made sure to implement in my work. With careful planning, this blueprint addresses isolation and loneliness with thoughtful maneuvering.”  

Here’s where you can really highlight your trajectory as an artist while interviewing for Cornell. Rather than giving a vague answer, consider talking about the planning stages for your piece. If there were influences that motivated you to take your art in a certain direction, talk about that. 

Maybe there were problems with the piece on its first rendition. Show how you interpreted what aspects weren’t working and what steps you took to make your piece more effective and presentable. Communicating the personhood and personality behind your work can add life and authenticity to your projects.

While you won’t be asked about portfolio pieces if you’re applying to the Urban and Regional Planning department, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about ideas or considerations you’ve thought through in relation to regional planning. 

If you have political or environmental interests, you could discuss how you feel these should influence regional planning in the future during your Cornell interview. Perhaps you feel there’s an overarching social or psychological impact on communities and individuals. 

Explaining how you could address different societal issues in relation to regional planning can give you credibility, as well show critical thinking and problem solving skills.

4. How Do You Approach Managing Multiple Research Projects Simultaneously?

Potential Answer: “Effectively overseeing many research projects concurrently demands a methodical strategy for organizing and prioritizing tasks. My typical approach begins with understanding the extent, goals, and timeframes for each project. This enables me to establish task priorities based on their level of urgency and significance. Additionally, I use project management tools to monitor advancement, establish crucial milestone reminders, and optimize resource allocation.”

Reflect on your experience and approach to managing multiple projects. Describe your task prioritization methods, utilization of organizational tools, and delegation when the situation warrants it. Emphasize instances where your adept multitasking resulted in successful project accomplishments. 

Showcase your capacity to sustain concentration and uphold quality standards across all projects, demonstrating your adaptability and robust problem-solving skills.

5. Do You Plan to Continue Your Education?

Potential Answer: “I envision the possibility of pursuing an advanced degree after completing my undergraduate studies, but I'm not entirely certain about this decision just yet. I anticipate gaining more clarity about my higher education goals as I progress through my program.”

If faced with this question, it's perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that you're currently uncertain. However, if you are indeed planning to attend graduate school, feel free to mention it in your response.

6. What Are Some Academic Goals You Hope to Accomplish in College?

Potential Answer: “My aspiration for my first year in college is to enhance my understanding of applied mathematics and excel in my political science courses, aiming to achieve top scores. I believe that accomplishing these objectives will contribute to the refinement of my critical and creative thinking skills.”

This question is designed so that admissions can understand what your goals are and if you’re right fit for the school. You should answer by mentioning what your goals are and how you plan achieving them. 

These Cornell queries will help you ace your interview! 

Female student interviewing at Cornell

How To Prepare for the Cornell Interview

Knowing how to prepare for the Cornell interview is an important step in the admissions process. This is especially true for students interested in Architecture, or Art, where they’ll be required to have work from their portfolio to show and talk about. 

To prepare for the Cornell University admissions interview, try to break it down in several steps, so you have a mental framework of what you’ll talk about. Having general points, an idea of how to present yourself, and overall structure to the conversation can lower your anxiety when the time comes for the actual interview itself.

After your interview ensure that you send your interviewer a thank you email to show appreciation! 

Questions About Yourself

To start, consider general questions about yourself as a person. This could include topics such as what subjects excite you in school, what your background is like, and any personal interests such as hobbies or extracurriculars you may have. 

Rather than give a simple and straightforward reply, it might be a good idea to unpack your answer to help the interviewer better understand you. Instead of just stating your interest or favorite subject, try to communicate why it’s important to you and the impact it has had on you. 

If you’re still lost, consider making a high school resume and springboarding from there.

Personal Growth

Along with job interviews, interviewing for Cornell will most likely entail a specific example of personal growth. Remember, these types of answers need not be directly about academia. 

In fact, showing you’re a well rounded person with outside commitments and obligations can demonstrate important student qualities, such as time-management, emotional resilience, and tenacity. 

If there were any instances in your personal life where you faced an obstacle, and overcame it, this can give some perspective as to how you handle challenging situations and persevere through difficult times. 

Afterwards, you can discuss how the situation helped you grow as a person, and gain any skill set for success for Cornell.

Future Plans

Finally, your direction after Cornell will likely come up. Having a robust alumni network and successful graduates is something any post-secondary institution prides itself on.

A conversation about how Cornell’s program will benefit you and equip you with tools to succeed on your future journey can bring reassurance to the department that you’re not interested in the school for the wrong reasons. 

Having a clear post-college plan enables you to come across as more certain of yourself and as more likely to benefit from an education from Cornell.

Questions About Cornell

Another area to keep in mind is your interest in Cornell as a school. Admissions ambassadors want to get a feeling and sense of why their school is right for you. This is where doing research beforehand can really help out. 

Perhaps you found a unique club or student organization that you like, or there’s special alumni that give you inspiration. Whatever the case may be, having a clear answer as to why the school interests you is an important step in getting accepted to Cornell.

Questions About Your Program

Now, this is probably the section when interviewing for Cornell you’ll feel most comfortable with, which is why it’s important to really think through what to study in college. Also, don’t forget to do some college research to come up with good questions to ask during the interview.

For those interested in Architecture or Arts, make sure you can give information on your pieces. Discussing their creation process and any influences that may have inspired them is always a good idea. Having a favorite artist or architect can also illuminate your direction as a student. 

When applying to the Urban and Regional Planning program, you can give insight into your views by talking about specific locations that implement effective design and land usage principles.

FAQs: Cornell Interview

If you have any additional questions regarding the Cornell interview, see below for some of our most commonly asked questions.

1. Do All Cornell Applicants Get an Interview?

No, only those applying to the College of Architecture, Art and Planning can get an interview. Architecture students will require a personal interview, while art and urban and regional studies students are highly advised to book one, despite it not being mandatory in their case.

2. Does Getting a Cornell Interview Mean Anything?

Cornell interviews are evaluative and can certainly increase your chances of admission. Not only is it an opportunity for you to learn more about the school and program, but it can also be a chance to show some of your sample work. Also, you can use it to address any underlying questions you may have.

3. What Percent of Cornell Applicants Get an Interview?

Every applicant to the architecture program must be interviewed to be considered. While Cornell doesn’t release interview statistics for students applying to the Department of Art or Urban and Regional studies, it can be assumed to be fairly high given it is strongly recommended, and if the appointment is made early enough. 

Be sure to keep in mind when decisions come out.

4. How Long Are Cornell Interviews?

Although Cornell doesn’t specify an exact length for interviews to students applying to these three programs, they can generally be expected to be in line with other Ivy League interviews at approximately half an hour and be more open-ended than say a job interview.

5. How Important Is an Interview at Cornell?

Getting an interview can make or break your application. For students applying to the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, the interview is a large factor when it comes to admissions and necessary for architecture students. 

It also helps you understand the program a bit better, and gives you the ability to ask any relevant questions about the school and department.

Final Thoughts

Getting an interview at Cornell is an important step in their application process. Even though most students aren’t able to get an interview, anyone applying to the Department of Architecture, Art and Planning needs to take them into consideration. 

Bringing your sample pieces and being able to communicate your personal background and interest in the school not only help you gain insight into the program, but demonstrate to the interviewer why you’d be a good fit for Cornell. 

With careful planning and review of sample Cornell interview questions, you can ace your Cornell interview and make the admissions committee eager to have you as a future alumni. 

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