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How to Write the Cornell University Supplemental Essays

Cornell requires applicants to submit one supplemental essay based on the college of their choice. No matter which of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges you’re applying to, the word limit (650) is the same as the word limit for the Common App’s personal statement. Each of these questions requires meticulous insight and description about why you chose to apply to that school and major. Think carefully about why you would be a good fit for the college—demonstrate your academic fit based on your academic interests, extracurricular activities, or work experiences. Your writing should speak to your intellectual potential and reflect values Cornell considers important: honesty, open-mindedness, initiative, and empathy. When writing the essay for any of the colleges, be sure to write about the resources offered and how you will take advantage of Cornell’s learning opportunities to take your aspirations to the next level. Some examples include academic programs, study abroad opportunities, campus organizations & facilities, and research opportunities with faculty. Lastly, highlight your best traits by being forward-looking and positive about the future Cornell holds for you.

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?

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?

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.

These three colleges all ask the broader “why this school” question, which is an opportunity to showcase your creativity! Aside from writing about yourself, don’t forget to include pertinent details about the college. Avoid writing broad statements that can apply to Cornell University as a whole. Rather, research and write about the unique and most appealing aspects of the college you are applying to. The school’s core values of “any person… any study” places special emphasis on interdisciplinary education. How will you take advantage of it?

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, inspirations. What are yours?

The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning asks you to write about your authentic passions. Demonstrating your interests, however niche, is key to writing a stellar essay. These interests can manifest in the form of favorite artists, architects, or artworks that influenced your art practice. Are there creative mechanisms you turn to for inspiration? What are some past experiences that have allowed you to pursue your passions? Next, pick and choose the elements from this college that excite you, including programs, professors, or extracurricular activities that will complement your academic endeavors.

Cornell SC Johnson 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 School of Hotel Administration).

Be as clear as possible when answering this question. Show how you fit the ideals of a business student the Johnson College looks for (which can be found through their Mission & Values). The SC Johnson College has two branches of undergraduate study: Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the School of Hotel Administration. The School of Hotel Administration places emphasis on hospitality and management, while Dyson expands to applied economics and policy, finance, and strategy.

In consideration of the level of specialization this school offers, recall the past experiences that speak to your diligence, interdisciplinary thinking, or entrepreneurial curiosity. What have you learned from your pursuits in business, finance, or any kind of work? Are you good at working with others? Why are you applying to the Johnson College of Business, as opposed to the College of Arts and Sciences? How can studying at this college help you to achieve your future ambitions?

College of Engineering

Instructions: Applicants must write responses to two of the three essay options. They may choose which two prompts they write about—their choice. Each response is limited to a maximum of 200 words.

  • Engineering is inherently collaborative. What does collaboration mean to you? What strengths do you bring to the collaborative process?
  • For you, what makes Cornell Engineering special? Why do you want to attend Cornell Engineering?
  • Diversity in all definitional forms is intrinsic to excellence in engineering. Indeed, devising the best engineered solutions to complex problems is often achieved by drawing from the diverse ingenuity of people from broadly different backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity and inclusion of the Cornell Engineering community? What is the unique voice you would bring to the Cornell Engineering community?

For the College of Engineering, you should aim to highlight your collaboration and problem-solving skills– what specific occasion demonstrates your top-notch qualifications as an applicant? Show your enthusiasm for engineering by writing about what you specifically intend to study and professors whose research interests align with your own!

As an engineering student at Cornell, you will have the opportunity to participate in many team-building opportunities, so describe your strengths as a team player through past examples. Start by exploring the programs and opportunities available outside of the classroom, such as multi-disciplinary programs that allow students to apply their classroom knowledge to the real world. These can include building water treatment plant technology or working with World Health to create a meaningful impact! Cornell is especially famous for its Engineering project teams, which represent 14 engineering majors and compete in national and international competitions.

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.

The courses offered by the ILR School are particularly unique, so if you’re thinking about pursuing law school or public policy, this college might just be the place for you! The school is well-known for studying human behavior through an economics perspective in order to understand how to improve societal efficiency. Therefore, when this prompt asks you to write about your past experiences, it means that the focus should be placed on the broader picture than on the literal experience. Discuss the best examples from your life that exemplify your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Once you discuss your experience and interests, you’ll want to relate them to your future course of study at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Read about ILR’s program and curriculum, and write about why you share the school’s goals to understand work, employment, and labor through a social science lens.