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MAR 11, 2020 • 8 min read
When applying to Cornell, you will need to complete one supplemental essay. The topic of the essay will depend on which college within the university you are applying to. Nevertheless, in general, the majority of the topics are a variation of:
The three colleges with topics that vary from this structure are the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, the College of Human Ecology, and the Charles Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
Because these three topics are unique, they will be discussed later on in this post. For now, we will discuss the topics from Cornell’s five other colleges that follow the structure stated above. The topics are as follows:
To begin writing your essay, first think about your genuine interest or passion and how you came to realize it. Was there a specific experience that got you interested in this area? Did you read a book or watch a movie that sparked the interest? Were you inspired by a teacher or other figure in your life? Was it forged due to a challenge that you had to overcome? How has your interested evolved over time? Begin your essay by telling the story of how your interest came to light or how it has evolved. Telling the reader a story about your interest rather than stating it will make the essay more compelling.
Next, you need to connect your interest or passion to Cornell and, specifically, the college to which you are applying. Now is the time to do your research. Utilize Cornell’s website as much as possible to help you connect your interest to the university. Are there specific classes offered in the school you have chosen that are unique and align perfectly with your interests? Does a professor do research that focuses on your interest? Will being part of the larger Ithaca community further your interest? Connecting your interest to Cornell is critical. You don’t want the reader to believe that this is an essay you sent to any other school. Lastly, because the topics do have slight variations, make sure to adapt this format to fit the specific requirements of the question for the college to which you are applying. Hopefully you will now have a great starting point for your supplemental essay!
Now we will address applying to the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the College of Human Ecology. The topics for the essays are as follows:
These two questions are similar in some regards to those described above. Both questions still want to know your motivations and passions and why Cornell is the best place for you to pursue them. However, they also want to know what you intend to do with your passion. To answer the first part of the question, you can utilize the format previously described above:
The slight difference in these questions is that you need to connect them to your future aspirations. Perhaps you are primarily interested in the Dyson School because its concentration in Strategy will teach you the skills you need to start your own business. This unique curriculum may be exactly the right fit to help you fulfill your dream of founding your own technology start-up company. Whatever your ultimate goal is, describe how Cornell’s unique program will help you achieve it.
The last topic comes from the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. It is arguably the most unique supplemental essay. However, there is a still a big similarity between this topic and the other above. The topic asks:
This question is similar to those above as it asks for your passions and inspirations, but it does not ask how Cornell will further your goals. Because of this, you are going to have more space to describe your “thing,” so let the creativity begin! This question is meant for the Admissions Committee to get to know you and your passion. Ask yourself, what do I care the most deeply about? If you enjoy creating elaborate sidewalk chalk murals more than reading about classic architectural styles, write about creating sidewalk murals. Do you lose track of time trying to complete 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzles of your favorite Star Wars characters? Don’t pick a passion or quirk that you think will look the most impressive to the Admissions Committee. An honest supplement essay describing your true passion will come across as the most sincere and better engage the reader. It is possible that you could even write about two passions if space permits.
Once you have chosen you passion, you are left with the important task of presenting it in an engaging way. As described above, you could take about how you developed that passion. How did you discover it? Has it evolved over time? You could also tell a story about your passion. You could describe a particularly difficult mural you were attempting to draw and how you persevered through the struggles to complete it. While writing your story about your passion, keep in mind what the story is saying about your personality. Does it display positive traits such as that you are highly-motivated, a problem solver, you work well in teams, etc. The best stories will tell the Admissions Committee something about you that they don’t already know, so make sure what you write about is different from your Common App response.
Lastly, despite Cornell’s supplement questions having a fairly large, 650 word limit, make sure to make the most of the space you have. Ask yourself, does each sentence of your essay add value to your application? Is it a sentence that no other applicant will have in their essay? If it does not, go back and revise. However, do not pontificate just to hit the word limit. If you are content with your well-written essay that is slightly less than the word limit, there is no need to add unnecessary content to meet it.
These tips should give you a solid start on your Cornell supplemental essay. Like most supplement essays, Cornell’s questions are structured for them to learn more about you and for you to demonstrate why Cornell is the ideal fit for you. Good luck!