Are you wondering how to tackle the Cornell essays? We’ve got you! Admission to Cornell University is highly competitive! Like many of the other Ivy League schools, Cornell has a holistic admissions process, which means they want to make sure that you are a good fit for the school, both academically and personally. That is why it is important that you ace the supplemental college essay component if you want to be offered admission at Cornell.
Your college essays give you an opportunity to talk to the admissions board directly, in your words, and explain why you deserve a spot in their school. It also gives you a chance to show what makes you different and how you can contribute to your future campus community. This is especially important if you're hoping to get into college with a low GPA.
Looking at Cornell essay examples can give you a better idea of what is expected from your own Cornell college essays and inspire you to write a better essay. In this blog, we share some examples of essays responding to some of the most challenging Cornell essay prompts, and some tips that will undoubtedly improve your chances of writing a stronger essay.
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The application process for Cornell is quite different from other Ivy League schools like Columbia or Brown. Cornell undergrad applicants are required to apply to one of the school's colleges, which means the Cornell essays are also based on the college they've chosen to apply to. The school advises students that the primary focus of their essay should be what they intend to study at Cornell. So, as you read the examples below for the different colleges, pay attention to the way that the author of the essay talks about their academic interests using specific examples from their background and specific details about the program that they intend to study.
Cornell essay example #1
Prompt (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?
Millions of people around the world live with sickle cell disease (SCD), yet millions of people worldwide do not know what sickle cell disease is. The CDC estimates that about 1 in every 13 Black or African American babies is born with the sickle cell trait. My mother was one of those black babies, and so was my father. Like many Americans, they had no idea what sickle cell was and why the fact that they carry the trait for it matters. They found out seven years later when my younger sister was born with sickle cell anemia.
I have spent most of my teenage years watching my sister suffer. According to sicklecell.com, although the treatment for SCD patients has significantly improved in the US, only about 20% of family physicians are comfortable treating these patients even though it is not contagious. I am not sure what their reasons for not being comfortable are, but I do remember how difficult it was to get help for my sister when she needed medical attention.
The first time she had a crisis – the term used to describe the pain resulting from the sickled red blood cells blocking the path of the small blood vessels that carry blood to your bones – I was paralyzed with fear. My parents had taught me that a crisis can last anywhere from an hour to several days and that if untreated, it could have severe consequences for my sister. They taught me that I needed to call 911, but it took me a few minutes to remember that I needed to do that.
It took me a few minutes to get to the hospital and much longer for us to get a physician who understood what my parents were trying to explain about my sister’s medical history. It was on that day that I started thinking about sickle cell anemia patients around the world. I have always recognized that living in the US gives me access to a certain amount of privileged, including access to some of the best doctors in the world. It occurred to me that these same doctors did not know how to approach an issue affecting millions of people of color worldwide, and I wondered how many other doctors worldwide didn’t have that same training or knowledge.
My sister was hospitalized for almost two weeks, and I spent most of that time in her hospital room researching sickle cell. My research helped me understand how to better care for my youngest sibling, and it renewed my interest in medicine. I have always been attracted to the medical field because I enjoy helping others and solving problems. Finding out that not only do we need more doctors equipped to treat sickle cell but that there is also so much research to be done on the subject helped me realize that this was the right career path for me.
I am interested in pursuing my premedical degree at Cornell because it offers unique opportunities to explore and expand on my medical research interests with advanced classes like the Regulation of Cell Proliferation and Senescence. I believe that a strong molecular biology education will give me a solid foundation that’ll prepare me for both my medical school and the research I intend to pursue. Cornell's interdisciplinary and collaborative nature would also allow me to take courses like Behavioral economics and public policy, which will help me develop a global view of community healthcare.
In other words, Cornell is the ideal place to nurture me into a globally aware physician-scientist who can significantly impact the way sickle cell is treated and maybe even cured.
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Cornell essay example #2
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. (Max: 650 words)
Three students from my high school attempted suicide during our sophomore year. They were all in AP classes, participating in multiple extracurricular activities, and well on their way to some of the best and most competitive universities in the country. We all thought that they were doing well, but we were all very wrong. Fortunately, two of the students survived and I am glad to say that they got the help that they needed but one of my classmates died. In his suicide note, he talked about feeling an immense amount of pressure and I could feel his sentiments being echoed by many of my other classmates.
If someone was keeping track of the number of times students cried or broke down in school from freshman to Junior year, they would have noticed that the number was rising exponentially. For context, I went to a boarding school that prides itself on teaching the brightest students and preparing them for the academically rigorous programs of the top colleges in the country. While I loved a lot of things about my high school, I can admit that the environment in which we studied was very pressure-inducing.
I was alarmed at the number of times I heard students say “I’m going to kill myself” on a daily basis, and many of my closest friends confessed that they considered quitting school. If I am being honest, there were a few occasions where I myself thought about quitting, but I was able to rely on my support system and they encouraged me to keep going. Many students did not have one, or they needed a different type of support. In short, my school community was very stressed, and these red flags made me decide that it was time to do something about it.
Because of my role as coordinator of the student event planning committee, I spent quite a lot of time in the administrative office, and I noticed how busy our school counselor was. She helped a lot of students, but she simply didn’t have the resources to care for over 2000 students by herself. I had researched and found that yoga and art therapy were empirically proven de-stressing methods. So, I approached the school counselor and she helped me create the mental health club.
I collaborated with the counselor and the library to organize several events every month. We had weekly meditation, stretching, and doodle sessions, “safe space” days where students could simply come and openly share their concerns and worries, and we even hosted therapy dogs once every term. We asked students to rate their mood before and after each session, and 92% of the students said that their stress level had decreased significantly.
That number is what got me interested in psychology. I was amazed to see that an activity like doodling which many consider mundane, can have such an impact on a person’s mental health. I wondered what else affects our psyche, what does so positively, and what does so negatively. The more research I have done on the topic, the more questions I seem to have. So, I am definitely excited to take courses like educational psychology and adolescence and emerging Adulthood at Cornell which are sure to provide more answers.
I am elated to say that the Mental Health Club is now a formal program of our school that offers weekly sessions and makes it a point to raise awareness about wellness and balance. I plan to use the knowledge I will gain at Cornell to create and introduce programs of this nature in other high-stress environments and learn how to ensure that students are learning in the best conditions possible. (613 words)
Cornell essay example #3
Prompt (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, and inspirations. What are yours? (Max: 650 words)
I was thirteen years old when my mother forced me to put my shoes on and follow her to an art gallery. She told me that an art gallery was like a museum, and until that day, the only other time I had been to the museum was when my 5th-grade class had gone on a field trip to the Natural History Museum to see dinosaurs. I honestly had no desire to see more dinosaur bones, and I informed my mother of this. She told me that this was a different type of museum and that she had a feeling I would like this one a lot better.
Mothers know best! I know it's not always true, but it definitely was in my mother's case. She had noticed my budding interest in painting and wanted to nurture it. I remember walking into the room and feeling almost overwhelmed by the beauty. I didn't understand what I saw, but I knew it was special. One of the paintings I saw that day was Razorbill by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and I immediately loved everything about the piece.
That evening, I talked a mile a minute about wanting to visit other galleries and museums, about how hard it must be to paint a particular color this way or that way, and about how I wanted to replicate my favorite paintings. I stayed up in my room that night, trying to paint using the same loose gestural brushwork I saw in Yiadom-Boakye's work. I obviously couldn't at first, but I tried again the next day. And the day after that.
I also spent quite a bit of time researching and learning about some of the artists whose work I saw on that day at the gallery. That research led me to other great artists whose work I have come to know and love - From the classics like Van Goh and Basquiat to the contemporary visionaries like Henry Taylor and Joy Labinjo. I learned about the different painting techniques and practiced as often as possible.
Unfortunately, my school did not have many resources for students interested in art, but I didn't let that obstacle stop me. After looking for months, I finally found an art teacher that was a forty-five-minute drive away, and I enrolled in one of her Saturday classes. Those lessons not only helped me improve my skills, but they also helped me feel more confident in my abilities.
The more I learned about painting as a medium, the more I wanted to experiment with other art forms. This is one of the reasons Cornell's fine arts program is so appealing to me. The fact that the program includes core studio courses in the mediums that I am interested in, like digital media and drawing would allow me to explore all of my interests. It would also give me a chance to discover new ones through the many elective courses available to Cornell students.
My goal is to one day create art that excites and inspires others the way that Lynette Yiadom-Boakye inspired me. (513 words)
Cornell essay example #4
Prompt ( College of Engineering): How do your interests directly connect with Cornell Engineering? If you have an intended major, what draws you to that department at Cornell Engineering? If you are unsure what specific engineering field you would like to study, describe how your general interest in engineering most directly connects with Cornell Engineering. It may be helpful to concentrate on one or two things that you are most excited about. ( Max 250 words)
“You’re awfully happy for a person who has to get stitches”
I explained to the ER doctor who said this to me that I’d accidentally hurt myself by jumping with joy when my robotics team and I finally managed to get our robot to respond to a sophisticated command. He didn’t seem to understand why that was a big deal.
Learning and creating have always excited me. So, when I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in engineering, it was important to me that I find a college that would encourage my need to explore and give me a chance to start creating from my undergrad years. Therefore, Cornell’s unique focus on independent investigations and its requirement of a senior thesis is perfect for me.
My decision to apply to Cornell was solidified when I discovered that the school is an ABET-accredited Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering School. I am especially interested in learning about Environmental Biotechnology, so it is necessary for me to go to a school that will allow me to learn material that is both applicable and relevant to the industry.
To prepare for the rigorous curriculum, I have enrolled in a differential equation and engineering basics course at the local institute. I am confident that the foundation I will gain from these courses, along with my experiences in robotics and passion for the field, will make me an excellent addition to the Cornell campus community. (240 words)
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Cornell essay example #5
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 to which you are applying within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management or the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration). (Max: 650 words)
Two years ago, my parents took my siblings and me to Timbuktu. It is a relatively small city in Mali that people often use when referring to far away places, but it also happens to be a city that is historically rich, home to three world heritage sites, and my father’s childhood home. We only spent a couple of weeks in Timbuktu, but it was enough time for me to see and learn some pretty amazing things – like how to make the perfect cup of green tea, how shea butter is produced, and how beautiful the Grand Mosque of Djenné is.
What impressed me the most about Timbuktu was its architecture. Most of the city’s buildings are constructed using sunbaked mud bricks. A local tour guide explained to us that in addition to being beautiful, these buildings are perfect for the local climate because they do such a great job at insulating against the heat and cold. The guide explained that these houses are actually more durable and a lot more environmentally friendly than the “modern” houses that they build in bigger cities and most of the western world.
His words stayed with me, so I spent a lot of time researching this architecture and the man knew what he was talking about. Architects and archeologists have found that many mud-brick buildings have survived centuries with little to no maintenance. Many of those buildings are in Mali, Egypt, and Australia. I saw the evidence of that myself in one of the oldest cities in the world and I was impressed.
I started to wonder why this method of building was not being used or at least studied more in the western world if it is that much better for our environment. So, when I got back to the United States, I asked my history teacher about it and they steered me in the right direction by asking me to look into the business of sustainability. I researched on my own and took an introduction to sustainability class from a local community college. Both of those things taught me that in our current economy, sustainable development of any kind can be, and often is, quite costly.
The reality is that nations will only promote environmentally friendly practices if they can afford it or profit from those practices. For some, protecting the Congo Basin comes second to protecting the livelihoods of the small lumber businesses around the region, while for others it comes second to making billions of dollars by selling electronics every year. On a smaller scale, families and people also have to choose between sustainability and affordability when it comes to electronics, fashion, and more. I think it’s unfair that families and regions and countries often have to choose between one or the other.
I want to join the efforts of the economists and environmental scientists who are working to find ways to make sustainable options more popular, accessible, and affordable. For a long time, I struggled because I was looking for an academic path that would allow me to explore economics and environmental sciences while learning about business management. These are the fields of study that I need to pursue in order to understand the world of sustainable architecture and manufacturing better, and eventually research ways to make those practices more accessible, affordable, and profitable.
Dyson’s unique program is uniquely designed to help me achieve this goal. I would be able to major in applied economics and management (AEM), and Environmental engineering through Dyson’s affiliation with CALS, thus balancing my business education with life science education.
In order to get into a school as competitive as Cornell, it is important to write a Common App essay and a supplemental essay that stand out. This is no easy feat, especially when the prompts for the supplementary essay are as specific as the ones Cornell asks its applicants to respond to. These types of prompts are often referred to as "why this college essays" because they are essentially asking why you have chosen the Cornell college or program that you are applying to. To ace the why this college essay, you will need to give yourself enough time to plan, draft, write and edit your essay until it is polished. We recommend planning at least four to six weeks to ensure that your essay is ready for submission.
If you are not sure how to write a college essay, do not hesitate to reach out to a college essay advisor for additional support. Or, even if you feel that you are a skilled writer, we recommend consulting with a college essay review service as the admission experts who review your essays may be able to identify issues in your essay that the untrained eye can't. Remember that because of colleges' holistic admissions process, your college essays can play a significant role in the admissions committee's decision so you want to do everything you can to submit an essay that will improve your overall application.
1. How competitive is Cornell?
For every 100 applications that Cornell received last year, only about eight students were offered admission. So, it is fair to say that it is a very competitive school.
2. How many essays do I need to write for Cornell?
Much like the rest of your application, the number of essays you will need to write depends on the specific college you are applying to. You will be required to write one or two supplemental essays depending on your chosen college.
3. How important are college essays?
Your Cornell essays are an integral part of your application that can have a significant impact on the admissions committee's decision. A student with perfect stats might get rejected because of a poorly written essay, so it is important that you bring your A-game when it comes to your essays.
4. How many colleges are there at Cornell?
Cornell has eight colleges: The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Human Ecology, School of Industrial and Labor Relation, and the newer Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science.
5. What makes a strong college essay?
You need an attention-grabbing opening statement, examples to back up claims about you, specific details about the college and programs that interest you, and an essay that is easy to follow.
6. What should I do before I start writing my essay?
You need to research the programs and colleges at Cornell and take the time to plan your essay before you start writing. Cornell prompts are incredibly specific, so you need to be able to provide detailed information to be compelling.
7. How long should my Cornell essay be?
Cornell essays can't be longer than 650 words. We recommend writing between 400 and 650 words to ensure your essay has a compelling story.
8. What qualities should I highlight in my Cornell essays?
You should highlight the strengths and skills that align with the college that you are applying to. This is why it's important to familiarize yourself with the college's specific character before writing your essay.
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