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The Ultimate Guide to Acing the Cornell Supplemental Essays 2021/22

08 NOV 2021

When you apply to Cornell, you will complete one supplemental essay (maximum 650 words). Each of Cornell’s colleges has its own essay topics. The topic of the essay depends on which college within the university you apply to. The majority of the prompts are a variation of: (1) Why do you have an interest in your intended field? (2) Why will Cornell help you explore that interest? Three colleges do not use this general structure. These include the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, College of Human Ecology, and College of Engineering.

How to stand out in your Cornell Supplemental Essays for 2021/22

Although Cornell’s supplemental essay prompts have a higher word limit, it’s still important to choose your words wisely. Does each sentence of your essay add value to your application? Are you writing original answers no other applicants will have in their essay? If your answer to these questions is no, go back and revise. However, do not add superfluous content just to hit the word limit. It’s ok if your essay is well-written and slightly less than the word limit.

How Crimson Can Help You Stand Out

Crimson takes a personal approach when it comes to helping students with their supplemental essays. Advisors get to know their students by talking with them about their dreams, aspirations, goals, and any aspect of their story that’s unique.

Crimson student Max was recently admitted to Cornell. Dave admitted that having someone ‘in the know’ as to how to craft a successful personal statement was key to creating a piece of writing that resonated with admissions officers and made him proud to have written. Check out the video below to learn more about Max’s story!

How Crimson Student Max Got Into Cornell

Need help with your Supplemental Essays? Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect essay prompt response. Get your essay reviewed today!

What are the Cornell essay prompts for 21/22?

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 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?

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.

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 Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration).

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?

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.

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.

Essay Option 1

Engineering is inherently collaborative. What does collaboration mean to you? What strengths do you bring to the collaborative process?

Essay Option 2

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

Essay Option 3

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?

Us Supplemental Essay Ebook

How to answer the essay prompts that ask about your interest in a specific field and why you want to attend Cornell

Applicable to prompts for College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, and School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Think about your interests and passions

Before you begin writing your essay, 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?
  • Were you inspired by a teacher or other figure in your life?
  • Was it forged due to a challenge you had to overcome?
  • How has your interest 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. Make sure you communicate why it’s meaningful to you. How do you want to contribute to the world in this field given your life experiences?

Show how your interest connects with Cornell’s mission

Next, show how your interest or passion connects with Cornell’s mission and, specifically, the college to which you are applying. You can only find these connections through research. Read Cornell’s website, connect with students and alumni who were part of the same college, and scour the Internet to learn as much as you can about your specific college and area of interest. Check out our university profile on Cornell and our blog on the Ivy League Schools to learn more.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are there specific classes 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. Your essay shouldn’t look like you copied it from another application or so generic you could have sent it to any school.

Adapt your writing style

Lastly, because each college’s prompt has slight variations, make sure to adapt your format to fit the college’s specific requirements.

How to Answer the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning Essay Prompt

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?

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. That means you will have more space to describe your “thing,” so get creative!

This question helps the Admissions Committee 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 supplemental essay describing your true passion will come across as more sincere and further engage the reader. You can even write about two passions if space permits.

Once you choose your passion, you must present it in an engaging way.

  • You can talk about how you developed that passion and how it evolved over time.
  • Tell a story about your passion.
  • Describe a particularly difficult mural you were attempting to draw and how you persevered through the struggles to complete it.

While writing your story, keep in mind what the story is saying about your personality.

  • Does it highlight positive traits?
  • Does it show how you’re highly motivated, a problem solver or you work well in teams?

The best stories will tell the Admissions Committee something about you that they don’t already know, so make sure what you write about differs from your Common App response.

How to Answer College of Human Ecology Essay Prompt

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?

This prompt is similar to the other prompts in that it asks about 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, use the format previously described above:

  • Identify your passion/motivation.
  • Tell a story of how it came to be or has developed over time.
  • Describe why Cornell will help you further those interests.

The slight difference in these questions is that you need to connect them to your future aspirations.

Describe how Cornell’s unique program will help you achieve your ultimate goal. Be specific and articulate what you hope to contribute to your local community and the world. Also, talk about what you hope to personally accomplish with a degree from their program.

How to Answer College of Engineering Essay Prompt

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?

The second question is similar to those described throughout this post. The first and third questions diverge from others discussed in this post. These questions help the Admissions Committee understand how you are in relationships with others.

Start by freewriting on the following questions:

  • How do you work with others in a team setting?
  • What do you value?
  • What personal qualities do you contribute?

Be as specific and honest as possible.

  • Are you a leader?
  • If so, what’s your style?
  • Are you a listener?
  • How does this support your team?
  • What do you do when things don’t go the way you want?
  • Do you adapt well and prioritize the needs of the group?

As always, stories help convey who you are in a way that feels authentic to readers. If you have a short anecdote that displays your best collaborative qualities, don’t forget to include it. It’s a great jumping-off point to discussing your collaboration strengths.

The third question is about diversity and differences.

Try to answer the following:

  • What unique identities or life experiences do you bring to the table?
  • How do they shape your point of view and how you work with others?
  • How do you relate to people who are different from you?
  • How do you make sure you include others?
  • What unique perspectives can you bring to the engineering community?

Be personal and honest, and include a story if you have one that feels relevant.

Final Thoughts

Everyone loves a good story, especially if it reveals more about who you are as a person and how you’re the perfect fit for Cornell. Your unique answers will set you apart from those who cut and paste from other essays.

Need help with your Supplemental Essays? Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect essay prompt response. Get your essay reviewed today!

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