The Cornell University supplemental essays differ depending on the specific college you are applying to within the university. Below, please find AcceptU’s advice on answering the different prompts:

The primary focus of your college interest essay should be what you intend to study at Cornell.

In the online Common Application Writing Supplement, please respond to the essay question below (maximum of 650 words) that corresponds to the undergraduate college or school to which you are applying.

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?

Be specific! Which major(s) and program(s) in CALS are right for you? Can you identify particular research projects, professors or classes that match your profile and excite you? Outside your intended major, are there other aspects of CALS – or related fields of study in other Cornell colleges – that interest you?

What are your short-term and long-term goals? How will CALS launch your future graduate studies and/or career?

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?

AAP students are arguably among the most creative at Cornell. An interesting, unique and creative essay will help you stand out.

Students in AAP must get their source of inspiration from somewhere: What is that source of inspiration for you? Do you get lost painting? Writing song lyrics? Reading historical fiction? Meditating? What you write about says a lot about you – admissions officers want to know not just where you spend your time, but what you’ve learned about yourself in the process. How have you grown or changed?

Note that the AAP question above is a version of a question on the Common Application. If you decide to apply to AAP, choose a different Common App essay prompt.

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.

In short, what do you want to study and why? But don’t just tell Cornell your intended major; instead, describe what about that major excites you – perhaps you’ll want to identify certain professors, classes or research projects. Or maybe it’s the chance to double major. What other subjects interest you? What about various minors (concentrations) that A&S offers its students?

Don’t be afraid also to highlight other areas of study at the university that can round out an A&S student’s education.

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).

The Cornell College of Business is incredibly highly selective. Thus, you need to demonstrate – in your application and essay – your interest in and passion for business. If you are specifically applying to the School of Hotel Administration, then you should have experience in the hospitality industry, including a grocery store, country club, travel agency, hotel or restaurant, to name several examples. If your interest is more generally in business and management, then you should have a business internship or experience with a business club at school, or perhaps you’ve begun a program or startup activity in your community.

These work and extracurricular activities will then allow you to better articulate what type of business student you are: social entrepreneur or future business leader or Wall Street quant, for example. The College of Business doesn’t know what type of academics and career path make sense for you – your job is thus to tell Cornell.

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?

Use your experiences in teams – academic or extracurricular or work-related – to describe what you learned about yourself from working with others. Perhaps you can give some insight into whom you worked with, and what your role was within the group. As the question asks, be sure to describe your strengths within a team setting. It’s also okay to be vulnerable and describe your (perceived) weaknesses and thus your reasons for wanting to work with others.

  • For you, what makes Cornell Engineering special? Why do you want to attend Cornell Engineering?

Cornell Engineering is one of the top-ranked engineering programs in the world! But Cornell already knows that fact, so it does no good to indicate that that is why you want to study there. Instead, a more effective essay is one in which you explain what you would like to study at Cornell Engineering, or with whom. You should visit campus, if possible, and take a tour of the College of Engineering, and cite what you learned from the tour. But if that’s not possible, then study the website, course catalog and roster of professors and their research. Perhaps the setting of Ithaca, or the career opportunities, following graduation, lead you to want to study there. You’ll want this essay to be primarily academically focused, but admissions officers welcome learning about your non-academic reasons for wanting to study there as well. 

  • 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?

Cornell Engineering is asking this question precisely because it is seeking a diverse group of students! Thus, in this essay, you want to demonstrate how you will add to the diversity of the College of Engineering. Perhaps you are a member of a group that is underrepresented in engineering. Or maybe you come from a rural location in the US, or a country that sends very few students to study in college in the US. Maybe you are the first in your family to attend college, or you have a unique academic interest that will contribute meaningfully to your classroom discussions at Cornell.

Don’t just assume, though, that you’re automatically contributing to the diversity based on, say, your religion or sexuality or geographic origin. Be sure to answer the question: What is your voice that you will contribute to the engineering community? How will you contribute? Finally, be sure to include why you think it is important that you are part of this diverse college of scholars.

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?

The College of Human Ecology is very unique! Thus, as an applicant, you should not only review and study the website and talk to student ambassadors from CHE, but you should visit the college in person to understand the mission of CHE and the majors within CHE.

What in your background makes you a great match for Human Ecology? What do you hope to learn at Cornell? What do you hope to do someday in the future? How would you leverage your degree from Human Ecology to work towards those goals?

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.

Like Cornell’s College of Human Ecology, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations is the only one of its kind in the Ivy League. (And, there are not very many ILR schools throughout the country.) You should not only review and study the website and talk to student ambassadors from ILR, but you should visit the school in person to understand the mission of ILR as well as the academic concentrations within the school.

What in your background makes you a great match for studying industrial and labor relations? Are you passionate about studying applied social sciences, in particular, work, employment and social issues and policy? What do you hope to do someday in the future and how would a degree from ILR allow you to work towards those goals?

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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