College Application Essays Cornell

The College of Arts and Sciences (AS) is the largest of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges, and also contains the widest range of majors, from Africana Studies to Statistical Science to Philosophy to Astronomy. Unlike the other colleges at Cornell, there’s no common thread running through AS. For that reason, it’s especially important that your supplement be as detailed and specific as possible to the field of study you wish to pursue. Bring in examples of how your experiences throughout high school led you to your desired major.


For example, if you want to major in computer science, try writing the essay about the apps you’ve developed or the meticulous manner in which you organize sections of code. When explaining your interest in government, don’t try to connect your experiences in model congress to something completely unrelated, like art history — maximize your message by focusing specifically on what’s relevant to the field of study. If you aren’t yet positive about a major, take advantage of the opportunity to explain what you’re considering through your “intellectual interests.”


In transitioning between the two parts of the prompt, illustrate why specifically you chose the major you did. This provides a logical pathway from your interests to why you wish to study at Cornell. Try to isolate a specific moment in your life, or a series of moments, that made you absolutely certain that you wanted to devote your education and career to this particular course of study.


An uncommon example could be: You went on a trip to the Middle East, participated in an archeological dig, and discovered a piece of ancient Roman pottery that was determined to have been used by Constantine in the fourth century. Ever since, you’ve strived to pursue a career in archaeology, so you can continue making connections with lost civilizations. Don’t feel intimidated if you haven’t done anything “crazy,” either. As long as the experience is important to you — that’s all that matters. The ultimate goal is to humanize yourself in the eyes of the admissions staff.


The second part of the prompt asks, “Why Arts and Sciences?” Make sure to provide concrete examples of courses, concentrations, clubs, and/or research opportunities that have drawn you to AS. That being said, be careful not to appear as though you’re just quoting the website: elaborate on how each of the examples you provide will be meaningful to you and help you advance your academic interests and goals! Also, try to avoid dropping names of professors, unless you’ve had personal contact with them. Instead, refer to the course they teach or the research they’re doing.

Cornell University 2017-18 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: one school-specific essay of 650 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s):Why

Hoo-boy! This sure looks like a long list of prompts from Cornell… psych! You may be shocked to learn that Cornell hopefuls are only required to write one (1!) supplemental essay. So, what’s with the list? Well, each of Cornell’s eight (8) undergraduate schools has its own unique prompt. Just kidding! It’s an optical illusion again. Each school actually asks essentially the same question, and it’s one of the most basic supplemental prompts out there: why here? We’ve written a whole separate guide on this common ask, so we won’t regurgitate all of our advice here. But we will remind you that research is your friend! So, dig into your specific school’s website and mine for information about your major and interests. You should also take note of the way Cornell phrases each any every one of these questions: how have your prior experiences and/or interests inspired you to apply to Cornell? So, your goal, no matter where you are applying, is to tell a story about your path: where has it led you thus far and why is Cornell the inevitable next step?

Let’s dig in!

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: 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?

With such a specific professional focus, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is asking for an equally specific commitment from you. Make sure you have real concrete reasons and practical experiences to back up your chosen course of study. Why couldn’t you just pursue your interests in a more general liberal arts environment?

College of Architecture, Art, and Planning: Describe two or three of your intellectual interests and why you are excited to pursue them within your chosen major in AAP. What personal experiences, background, or future goals will you bring to your scholarly and artistic pursuits at Cornell?

Architects need to plan their projects pretty comprehensively and Cornell wants to make sure you’ll bring the same fastidious attention to detail to your life plans. You’ll need to tie past, present, and future into a neat (and aesthetically pleasing) bow to demonstrate that you have the intellectual verve to succeed at Cornell and beyond.

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?

Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences is the most general of Cornell’s offerings, so take this opportunity to show your well-rounded worth. Why have you chosen not to pursue a more specific or professionally-oriented pathway at this point? What will you gain from having access to a diverse array of academic departments?

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management: How have your interests and experiences influenced your decision to study Applied Economics and Management? Describe how you would take advantage of the Dyson School’s unique opportunities, for example, its affiliation with both the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

In other words, show Cornell you mean business about business! If you’re planning on pursuing such a professionally-oriented track straight out of high school, you’ve probably got a plan, so spell it out. Business doesn’t happen in a classroom environment, so it’s important to think about the practical training you’ll gain at Cornell and which specific opportunities will provide the kinds of experiences that will propel you down your chosen career path.

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: School of Hotel Administration: The global hospitality industry includes hotel and foodservice management, real estate, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, technology, and law. Describe what has influenced your decision to study business through the lens of hospitality. What personal qualities make you a good fit for SHA?

Cornell’s world-renowned School of Hotel Administration has a highly specific training program. If your personal interests and needs don’t match up, you won’t be a good fit for this school. So Cornell has zeroed in on a few key aspects of the industry that you need to address in your response. Unlike some of the other prompts, this one also solicits a reflection on your “personal qualities” because, well, hospitality. In other words, you have to prove to admission that you’re not only a fit for Cornell, but for the industry in general. So, make sure your response covers all the bases to paint a complete picture of you as a person.

College of Engineering: Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities… the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in.

Guess what, Cornell knows you want to be an engineer! Why else would you be applying to the College of Engineering? Unlike many of the other prompts, this one isn’t asking you to demonstrate your intellectual fit. Instead, you’ve been tasked with making the case for your mission fit. This why essay is also more future-oriented than the others, so think about the impact you hope to have on the world? Do you want to make it a better place? What problems do you most want to solve and how? If you get into Cornell, how will you use your powers for good?

College of Human Ecology: How have your experiences influenced you to apply to the College of Human Ecology? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future?

Short, sweet, and to the point, this prompt secretly wants to make sure you know what human ecology is before you apply. Unlike many of Cornell’s specific schools, this one doesn’t necessarily flow directly into a particular career path so it’s important for you to demonstrate that you have a plan before committing to such a focused course of study.

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 ILR is the right school for you to pursue these interests.

Like so many of Cornell’s other specific schools, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations wants to make sure that you understand what kind of training it offers and confirm your commitment to the field. Drawing upon personal experience is key for this prompt, so mine for specific anecdotes that speak to the origins and motivations behind your interest in labor issues.


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