The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Cornell Supplemental Essays

October 21, 2020
By AdmissionSight

The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Cornell Supplemental Essays

The Cornell supplemental essays are the perfect opportunity for students to stand out from the crowd of applicants and drastically increase their chances of being admitted to this prestigious university. Unlike other universities that have a series of prompts for all applicants, Cornell has opted to have one essay for each of their unique programs. While this might seem like an advantage to students who don’t like writing, this only leaves one opportunity for you to convince admission officers that you’re a great pick for Cornell. Fortunately, AdmissionSight has years of experience helping students like you perfect their Cornell supplemental essays in order to gain admittance to this esteemed Ivy League School. In this article, we’ll explore the different Cornell supplemental essays in-depth to help you write the best responses possible.

Cornell University Campus

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 and Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals? (Length = 650 words)

CALS, or the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is Cornell’s second-largest school program with a diverse range of majors from entomology to communication. Even if you’re still undecided about what you want to study, you’ll be asked to choose a few areas of potential interest and talk about them in the prompt. The first portion of the question is the classic “why” prompt you’ll be familiar with by this point. Admission officers simply want to know why you’ve chosen your area of study. It’s always a good idea to use personal experiences and stories to explain why you want to pursue this major. For example, if you have an interest in studying animal science, you might talk about how growing up on a farm cultivated that interest. You could then transition into more recent developments such as your volunteer work at an animal hospital or a relevant summer program.

This Cornell supplemental essay has a second half that requires you to explain why attending CALS and Cornell is important in pursuing your area of study. It’s not enough for admission officers to hear that you have an interest in the field. They also want to know what this school will help you achieve those academic goals. The research will be your best friend when answering this prompt. Take a look at the different research opportunities, clubs, courses, and majors that are available through CALS and Cornell and find ones that relate to your area of study. Considering CALS is interdisciplinary, don’t be afraid to mention some programs that are outside of the program too.

College of Arts and Sciences

Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying the 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. (Length = 650 words)

Arts and Sciences, or A&S for short, is one of the more interdisciplinary schools at Cornell University. You can choose to study a wide range of topics including everything from African studies to science. The college also has several programs that let students furnish majors of their own. A&S is interested in admitting students that have clear goals and can find a place within this unique community rather quickly.

A great approach to this prompt is connecting a diverse array of interests into one single goal. The official motto of Cornell “any person, any study” reflects the university’s goal of supporting students in studying the novel and even seemingly unrelated topics. If you’re interested in Asian studies and math, you might explain how you plan to use mathematical models or stats to gain insight into the experiences of the average Asian-American. You’ll need to solidify your interests by bringing up related personal experiences. Maybe you’re studying international relations and you spent some time working on a Model UN.

You’ll also have to discuss how A&S in specific would offer you the opportunities needed to help you in your personal, academic, and professional goals. The university has an open course catalog, so you can easily research which programs stick out to you. Try your best not to choose courses that other students will be selecting. Instead, find options that are unique to Cornell. This will help you stand out from the crowd and can even make it easier to choose your classes when you get accepted!

Three university students lounging in the school

College of Engineering

Tell us about your interest in engineering or what you hope to achieve with a degree in engineering. Describe what appeals to you about Cornell Engineering and how it specifically relates to your engineering interests nor aspirations. (Length = 650 words)

Since the College of Engineering is a wide-ranging program, it’s important to ensure your essay illustrates which engineering area you have an interest in studying. Do you want to pursue a major in computer science or biomedical engineering? Or would you prefer to design a unique major from scratch that incorporates different elements of engineering that you find interesting into one area of study?

You can really drive these points home by connecting your desired area of study with something you’ve recently done or are currently doing in high school. It doesn’t have to be something extraordinary that would blow away admission officers. Just mention a course, club, summer program, or other extracurricular that you’re doing that relate to the subject you want to study. This personal anecdote not only shows your dedication to the subject, but it also helps make the piece more authentic.

You’ll also have to clearly express how you’ll get the tools you need to succeed in your chosen field of study through Cornell Engineering. The program’s project teams and externship program are unique aspects that aren’t found in any other school. Mentioning these is critical when answering this question to show why you’re specifically interested in attending this program.

three students studying outside

Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

The Dyson School is unique by design. What motivates you to apply to Dyson and where do you plan to go from here? (Length = 650 words)

With a low acceptance rate of just 3%, Cornell’s most competitive school is the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. To stand out amongst other applicants, you’ll have to clearly express why your interests and goals align with the unique Dyson program. You’ll need to have more than just a general interest in management or economics to make it in. Dyson’s program features an interdisciplinary culture that even encourages students to explore disciplines external to AEM. Being able to articulate a strict interdisciplinary focus is a perfect way to catch the eye of admission officers.

You should be able to discuss some recent or present activities and interests that are relevant to the program. This not only illustrates your interest in what the program has to offer, but you also show admission officers that you’re already taking action in the pursuit of your academic goals. Try to be as specific as possible when talking about future goals you have both academically and professionally and how the offerings through the Dyson program will help you achieve those.

School of Hotel Administration

How have your interests and experiences influenced your decision to apply to the School of Hotel Administration? How does this decision relate to your future plans and aspirations? (Length = 650 words)

Cornell’s SHA ranks at the helm of the best hotel programs in the US time and time again. Applicants need to have a demonstrable and evident interest in a career related to hospitality in order to gain admittance to this highly-south-after program. In combination with relevant experience, admission officers at SHA will also be looking for interpersonal skills that are required to successfully participate in the hospitality industry.

The professional experience you have in the hospitality interest should illustrate to admission officers why you’re interested in attending SHA. Instead of just listing out the duties you had while working at a hotel, for example, go into detail about how the experience overall invigorated you. Connecting these experiences with your desire to continue in the hospitality industry will help you stand out amongst the crowd of applicants and give admission officers an extra reason to accept your application. Don’t forget to also mention specific ways in which the SHA program can help you achieve your long-term professional goals. Whether you intend to own a hotel chain, run your own franchise, or become a hospitality expert, you’ll need to pinpoint what aspects of the program help you get there.

students listening intently to a class discussion

College of Human Ecology

How have your experiences influenced your decision to apply to the College of Human Ecology? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future? (Length = 650 words)

Cornell’s College of Human Ecology, or HE for short, is centered around the exploration of the human experience and human connection overall. Like many Cornell programs, HE has an interdisciplinary culture with equally strong roots in public engagement and research. This Cornell supplemental essay needs to reflect both of these themes in addition to explaining why you’re interested in pursuing your chosen major. You can cite your extracurricular activities and high school classes for justifying our application to the school. Be sure to get as specific as possible regarding your past academic experiences and their relevance to the area you want to study. For example, maybe you were an active member of the Health Club at school and you’re interested in the nutritional sciences.

You’ll also want to explain any personal motivation behind your interest in these studies. Maybe you had a health professor who sparked your interest in the field or perhaps you read an inspiring book that prompted your passion for human ecology. Regardless of the specific experience, being able to provide admission officers with a personal story or anecdote that ties in with your interest in HE is a great addition to this Cornell supplemental essay. Don’t forget to also look to the future to discuss different plans you have and explain how the HE program will help facilitate the realization of those goals.

College of Industrial and Labor Relations

Tell us about your intellectual interests, how they sprung from your course, service, work, or life experiences, and what makes them exciting to you. Describe how ILR is the right school for you to pursue these interests. (Length = 650 words)

Since Cornell’s College of Industrial and Labor Relations, or ILR for short, looks into the world of labor, human capital, and work overall, your response needs to include references to some of these specific subjects. You’ll also want to throw in some examples of social service into your response to help explain why you chose ILR since public service is a strong driving force of the program. Since the prompt is so specific, it’s critical that you can offer some concrete examples of some personal experiences that relate to your chosen area of study.

Your response to this supplemental essay also needs to go into greater depth about why you’re interested in this subject matter in order to fully describe why it’s so inspiring or exciting to you. Maybe you’re driven by compassion for others and want to advocate for disability rights within the workplace. Don’t be afraid to bring in some personal anecdotes and experiences that helped to shape your interest in the field. This will help give personality and life to your essay.

Woman taking a notes

College of Art, Architecture, 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? (Length = 650 words)

AAP is one of the smallest colleges at Cornell. Understandably, that translates into a relatively low acceptance rate when compared to other programs. Many of the courses offered in the AAP program are hands-on and studio-intensive. With this in mind, it’s important to write an essay that illustrates why you would like to partake in a learning experience that’s non-traditional and why you’re able to handle the uniqueness.

Although you may have many “things” that energize and intrigue you, you should stick to something that relates directly to your chosen major. Selecting a niche-major will help to establish your passion and familiarity with the subject overall. If you’re going to choose something outside of the art world, make sure you have a way to compellingly combine the two disparate subjects. This might be a risky move but could pay off in the end since it’s such a unique and unexpected angle.

There are two main ways you can approach this Cornell supplemental essay. The first strategy would be a longitudinal method where you describe how your interests, passions, or motivations, changed over time. What influenced you in the past and what influences you now? This is an illustrative way to show admission officers how your work has improved, enhanced, and simply changed over time. The other option would be the snapshot approach where you decide to go into detail about one area of interest and how you were initially inspired to pursue it.

AdmissionSight is here for you

AdmissionSight has helped hundreds of students get into the university of their dreams by perfecting their applications. We’ve become experts at taking advantage of the admissions process rather than seeing it as a burden. Our knowledge has been gained through countless years of studying the admission process of some of the best institutions of higher learning in the country. Whether you need help choosing a summer program, want advice on filling out your supplemental essays, or just want to talk with an expert in the field, AdmissionSight is here for you. Feel free to reach out today to speak with a representative.


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