Acing Your Cornell Interview: Tips for Success

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a view of the cornell university from afar

Acing Your Cornell Interview: Tips for Success

The Cornell interview represents a critical piece of your application puzzle. Applicants aiming to show their utmost potential benefit from understanding not only the significance but also the terrain of this process, preparing thoroughly, demonstrating compelling interpersonal skills, and employing a considerate post-interview strategy.

Understanding the Cornell Interview Process

The interview process at Cornell University sets it apart from some of the other leading universities. The interview requirements vary depending on the specific department to which you are applying.

If you are seeking admission to the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, an interview is mandatory for applicants to the Department of Architecture, whereas applicants to the Department of Art or Urban and Regional Planning are strongly encouraged to participate.

For the other colleges and schools within Cornell, interviews are neither obligatory nor available. However, applicants to these colleges and schools can request an “informational meeting” with a Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador. This meeting is not a requirement and serves as an additional means for applicants to gain insights into Cornell.

If you wish to engage in a casual conversation with a member of the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN), you can initiate the request through the Cornell applicant portal. Please be aware that you might not be contacted due to geographical or scheduling constraints. Rest assured, this lack of contact will not affect the evaluation of your application.

The Importance of the Cornell Interview

The Cornell interview holds a unique and vital place in the admission process, particularly for the Department of Architecture. While the university offers optional interviews for the Department of Art and Urban and Regional Planning, it’s the Department of Architecture where the interview shines as an indispensable tool for selecting the most promising candidates.

The significance of this interview lies in its capacity to delve deeper into the applicant’s qualifications, aspirations, and personal qualities, beyond what can be discerned from their application materials alone.

Close up of a woman being interviewed in an office.

In the Department of Architecture, the interview serves as a platform for candidates to exhibit their passion for design, their commitment to sustainability and innovation, and their potential to contribute meaningfully to the field. It allows the admissions committee to assess an applicant’s creativity, problem-solving skills, and ability to articulate their vision and goals effectively.

In essence, the Cornell Architecture interview aids in identifying the individuals who are not only academically accomplished but also possess the qualities required to excel in a dynamic and interdisciplinary field like architecture.

While interviews for the Department of Art and Urban and Regional Planning are optional, they too can play an important role for candidates. Those who choose to participate can use the interview as an opportunity to further bolster their application by demonstrating their dedication to their chosen field, their understanding of the program, and their ability to contribute to the academic community.

For applicants with unique stories, experiences, or perspectives, an optional interview can be a valuable tool for setting themselves apart from other candidates. It allows them to provide context to their application, explain any inconsistencies or gaps in their academic history, and showcase their genuine enthusiasm for their chosen discipline.

In conclusion, the Cornell interview is an invaluable part of the admissions process. It serves to identify candidates with exceptional potential, not only in terms of their academic qualifications but also their creativity, dedication, and ability to articulate their aspirations.

While optional for the Department of Art and Urban and Regional Planning, interviews can be a strategic advantage for applicants looking to enhance their chances of acceptance. Overall, the interview process at Cornell University emphasizes the institution’s commitment to holistic admissions, recognizing that a candidate’s story and character are as important as their academic achievements.

Preparing for Your Cornell Interview

Preparing for your Cornell interview is a crucial step in the admission process, offering a chance to showcase your unique qualities and aspirations. This guide will help you navigate the interview by outlining common question categories and providing valuable insights for a successful interview experience.

Researching About Cornell University

Your understanding of Cornell University and its offerings should extend beyond what’s stated on the website. Connect with current students or alumni to learn more about life at Cornell. Attend virtual or in-person tours or information sessions if possible. Your knowledge of Cornell’s unique programs and its culture will demonstrate your genuine interest and drive to the interviewer.

Cornell campus

When researching Cornell University, it’s important to delve deep into its rich history and academic excellence. By immersing yourself in the university’s background, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of its values and contributions to the academic world.

Furthermore, take the time to explore the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning programs, which conducts interviews for admissions. From the Architecture major to Fine Arts or Urban and Regional Studies, each major offers unique opportunities for students to pursue their passions and excel in their chosen fields.

By familiarizing yourself with the specific programs and departments that align with your interests, you can showcase your enthusiasm and commitment during the interview.

Identifying Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Before your interview, carefully consider your strengths and weaknesses. These might relate to your academics, leadership experiences, teamwork, resilience in facing difficulties, or any other area that has fostered your personal growth. It’s essential to be truthful, as your sincerity will resonate with your interviewer.

Reflecting on your strengths allows you to highlight the qualities that make you a strong candidate for Cornell University. Whether it’s your exceptional problem-solving skills, your ability to work effectively in a team, or your dedication to academic excellence, be sure to provide specific examples that demonstrate these strengths. By doing so, you will showcase your unique abilities and potential contributions to the Cornell community.

On the other hand, acknowledging your weaknesses shows self-awareness and a willingness to grow. It’s important to discuss how you have actively worked on improving these areas and how Cornell can provide you with the resources and support to develop further.

By addressing your weaknesses honestly and articulating your plans for growth, you will demonstrate maturity and a commitment to personal and academic development.

Preparing Your Responses

While you can’t predict every question, it’s beneficial to contemplate how you would answer some common college interview questions. Develop a narrative that weaves together your experiences, strengths, learning, and how Cornell can help in your future trajectory. Practice, but ensure your responses don’t sound rehearsed.

A woman interviewing a man in an office.

Here is a list of potential questions you may encounter during your Cornell interview:

Personal Questions

During your Cornell interview, expect some initial personal inquiries. Remember, your interviewer won’t have access to your application, so consider this a fresh start:

  • Tell us more about yourself.
  • Share insights into your upbringing.
  • What’s your preferred academic subject?
  • Tell us about your hobbies and interests.
  • Do you possess any unique talents or skills?

Cornell-Specific Questions

These questions are about why you’re applying to Cornell and what draws you to the university. This is your chance to show your knowledge about Cornell and what specifically attracts you to the institution:

  • Why do you want to attend college?
  • What motivates your desire to attend Cornell?
  • Are there any clubs or extracurricular activities at Cornell that pique your interest? If so, why?

Questions Specific to the Department

No matter which department you apply to in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, expect department-specific questions.

Department of Architecture

  • Describe a piece from your portfolio.
  • Who is your favorite architect, and what inspires your choice?
  • Can you share a few of your favorite structures and explain why you admire them?
  • What sparked your interest in becoming an architect?

Department of Art

  • Why are you interested in the art program?
  • Who or what influences your art?
  • Discuss a specific artwork from your portfolio.
  • Share your most meaningful artistic creation.

Department of Urban and Regional Planning

  • What drives your interest in urban and regional planning?
  • Why have you chosen this program specifically?

Strengths and Weaknesses Based Inquiries

Your interviewer may delve into your strengths and areas for potential growth.

  • Describe a challenge you’ve faced or a past failure and how you dealt with it.
  • Share what you believe is your biggest weakness.
  • Discuss your strengths.
  • Describe a situation when you gave back to your community or a group.

Remember to be honest in your responses as no one is flawless, and your interviewer wants to understand your ability to persevere in challenging situations and handle the rigors of Cornell University.

Questions About the Future

Lastly, anticipate questions regarding your future, aligning with Cornell’s mission to nurture future leaders.

  • What’s your major goal after graduation?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? What about in a decade?
  • How can a Cornell education aid in achieving your objectives?
  • How do you define success for yourself?

These inquiries provide you with an opportunity to reflect on your post-graduation plans and how your time at Cornell can shape your path toward future success.

When preparing your responses, consider incorporating specific examples and anecdotes that highlight your achievements and experiences. This will add depth and authenticity to your answers, allowing the interviewer to gain a better understanding of your character and potential as a Cornell student.

Furthermore, practice your responses with a trusted friend or family member. This will not only help you refine your answers but also build your confidence and ease any nerves you may have before the interview. Remember to maintain a conversational tone and be genuine in your responses, as this will leave a lasting impression on the interviewer.

During the Cornell Interview

When it comes to making a positive first impression during an interview, there are several key factors to consider. One important aspect is punctuality. Aim to arrive a little early at the interview venue, as this shows you are organized and respectful of the interviewer’s time.

If your interview is conducted virtually, it’s important to ensure that you are well-prepared, both in terms of your own readiness and the functionality of your devices. Take a few minutes before the interview starts to set up your equipment and get yourself in the right mindset for the conversation.

Additionally, dressing appropriately is crucial. While it’s important to match your attire to the venue, it’s generally better to be slightly more formal than underdressed. This conveys professionalism and a serious attitude towards the interview. If the interview takes place online, dressing in professional attire from the waist up is advisable. This presents a polished image and demonstrates your commitment to the interview, even in a virtual setting.

Another crucial element in making a positive first impression is showcasing your interpersonal skills. As you greet your interviewer, make sure to do so with a warm smile. This simple gesture can help create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Additionally, offer a firm handshake, if possible, to demonstrate confidence and assertiveness.

Woman interviewed for an internship

Throughout the interview, maintain eye contact with the interviewer to show attentiveness and engagement. Lastly, articulate your thoughts clearly and concisely. This not only helps the interviewer understand your responses better but also reflects your communication skills.

Answering Questions Effectively

When it comes to answering questions during an interview, it’s important to strike a balance between being succinct and providing depth. While it’s crucial to keep your responses to the point, it’s equally important to provide enough detail to demonstrate your thought processes and showcase your qualifications.

One effective way to answer questions is by using concrete examples from your life. By sharing specific instances where you demonstrated certain skills or qualities, you provide the interviewer with tangible evidence of your abilities. This not only makes your responses more compelling but also helps the interviewer visualize how you would fit into their organization or institution.

Remember, the key is to strike a balance between brevity and depth. Avoid rambling or going off on tangents, as this can detract from the clarity of your answers. Instead, focus on delivering concise yet informative responses highlighting your qualifications and suitability for the position or opportunity.

Asking Your Own Questions

As the interview ends, you will often have the opportunity to ask your own questions. This is an important part of the interview process, as it allows you to demonstrate your interest in the institution or organization and gain valuable insights.

When preparing your own questions, it’s essential to show that you have done your homework and are genuinely interested in the opportunity. Avoid asking questions that can be easily found on the institution’s website or promotional materials.

Instead, focus on asking about the interviewer’s personal experiences or seeking advice. This not only shows that you value their expertise but also allows you to gain unique insights and perspectives.

Additionally, consider asking about specific programs or initiatives that intrigue you. This demonstrates that you have taken the time to research the institution and have a genuine interest in its offerings. By asking thoughtful and relevant questions, you can leave a lasting impression on the interviewer and further showcase your enthusiasm and commitment to the opportunity.

Post-Interview Strategies

After your Cornell admissions interview, it’s crucial to follow certain steps to leave a lasting impression and reinforce your interest in the program.

Sending a Thank You Note

Within 24 hours of your Cornell interview, it’s highly recommended to send a thank-you note. This not only conveys your appreciation for the interviewer’s time but also provides an opportunity to express your enthusiasm for the program.

In crafting your thank-you note, ensure it’s sincere and heartfelt. Show gratitude for the chance to interview and reference something distinctive from your conversation. This might be a particular aspect of the program, a shared interest, or a memorable moment during the interview.

The goal of the thank-you note is to create a positive, lasting impression and to remind the interviewer of your qualifications and eagerness to be part of the Cornell community. Keep your note concise, courteous, and professional.

View of a student using her laptop while writing.

Following Up After the Interview

Apart from sending a thank-you note, it’s also valuable to follow up after the interview, especially if there was a specific topic or aspect of the program that caught your attention during the conversation. This could be a particular course, a faculty member, a campus event, or any other detail that resonated with you.

By following up with thoughtful questions or comments related to this specific topic, you demonstrate your ongoing engagement and deep interest in the program. This allows you to showcase your knowledge and enthusiasm further, potentially setting you apart from other applicants.

When following up, keep your message focused and concise. Ask relevant questions or provide insightful comments that convey your genuine curiosity and desire to learn more about the program.

However, it’s important to strike a balance and avoid overwhelming the interviewer with excessive follow-up messages. Use your judgment to determine the appropriate frequency and timing of your follow-ups, ensuring you stay on their radar without becoming a nuisance.

Remember, the post-interview period is a critical time to make a positive impression and reinforce your qualifications and dedication to joining the Cornell community. By sending a thank-you note and following up with relevant questions or comments, you can increase your chances of standing out and potentially securing admission to Cornell.

In conclusion, acing your admissions interview hinges on understanding the process, effective preparation, genuine demonstration of your personality and potential, and thoughtful engagement. With a careful approach, the Cornell interview can be transformed from an intimidating hurdle into an opportunity to shine.

AdmissionSight serves as a valuable support to students as they embark on their journey to Cornell. From interview preparation to navigating the intricacies of the Cornell application, our guidance and resources are designed to empower students with the tools and knowledge needed to put their best foot forward.

AdmissionSight is committed to helping each applicant unlock their full potential and increase their chances of a successful admission to this prestigious institution.



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