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Cornell University 2019-20 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

Cornell University 2019-20 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 1 school-specific essay of 650 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why

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?

With such a specific professional focus, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is asking for an equally specific commitment from you. Make sure you have real concrete reasons and practical experiences to back up your chosen course of study. Why couldn’t you just pursue your interests in a more general liberal arts environment?

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? 

If you’re having déjà vu, maybe this will jog your memory: “Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time.” It’s the first line of Common App prompt #6. So if you’ve already written an essay on this topic, you have the extra challenge of coming up with something totally new; even if it’s the same question, you need to show a new side of who you are. Otherwise, our advice remains the same: take this opportunity to let admissions peek into your brain. As a future artist or architect, you need to show that you have a process for getting inspired and playing with ideas; and you need to demonstrate the discipline and motivation to see them through in your response.

College of Arts and Sciences: Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into their academic interests, discover new realms of intellectual inquiry, and chart their own path through the College. Tell us why the depth, breadth, and flexibility of our curriculum are ideally suited to exploring the areas of study that excite you. 

This why essay for the College of Arts and Sciences focuses specifically on their curriculum. So our first piece of advice is the same as always: do your research. Spend a little time on the school website, campus, or local Cornell events to learn everything you can about the academic experience. Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences is the most general of Cornell’s offerings, so take this opportunity to show your well-rounded worth. Why have you chosen not to pursue a more specific or professionally-oriented pathway at this point? What will you gain from having access to a diverse array of academic departments?

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management: Affiliated with both the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, The Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management is unique by design. Explain how our approach to business education is the right fit for you, and how your interests, experiences or goals will contribute to the unique composition of the entering class. 

Business College hopefuls have also been tasked with writing a why essay, but in this case, it’s more about your fit than the schools’ offerings. Show how your own goals and interests align with the school’s offerings. But more importantly, demonstrate how your background and pathway to business school sets you apart from your peers. You’ll need to learn how to write a good value proposition eventually, so consider this essay your first foray into marketing.

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: School of Hotel Administration (SHA): 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?

This one is a two-parter. First you’ll recount what led you to apply to the School of Hotel Administration. And second, you’ll look into the future and imagine where this degree will take you. Your source of inspiration can be many different things: people you’ve met, firsthand experiences, or even seemingly unrelated interests that you can connect to this major. No matter which you choose, get specific. The reader wants to follow your journey, and you have the opportunity to write the story step by step–and, hey, you’ve got a long word count here, so why not use it? Once you’ve figured out what brought you here, jump ahead and get into the mindset of a recent graduate. Research the required courses and think of how those will help your professional growth. Dream big, but connect the dots for admissions as you interpret what they have to offer into opportunities for your future self.

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 interest or aspirations.

The first part of this is a version of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” with a focus on what you can accomplish. There are many ways to use an engineering degree, and this is your chance to show admissions that you’ve thought this through. Remember that this isn’t set in stone, so don’t stress over your vision; just show that you know the possibilities. Speaking of possibilities, don’t be afraid of naming a few! Pro tip: Avoid the Miss America “to make the world a better place” platitudes and go for something concrete or, perhaps, local and meaningful. To ace the second part of the question (Why Cornell?), do some research on the course offerings and professors. Maybe there is an alum who is doing what you aspire to do! Whatever it is that draws you to Cornell, admissions wants you to describe that motivation and then connect it to your aspirations. Notice how the second part relates to the first? During brainstorming, we recommend hammering out the “why” first, as that might lead you to the “what next” more logically.

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?

Short, sweet, and to the point, this prompt secretly wants to make sure you know what human ecology is before you apply. Unlike many of Cornell’s specific schools, this one doesn’t necessarily flow directly into a particular career path so it’s important for you to demonstrate that you have a plan before committing to such a focused course of study.

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. 

Like so many of Cornell’s other specific schools, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations wants to make sure that you understand what kind of training it offers and confirm your commitment to the field. Drawing upon personal experience is key for this prompt, so mine for specific anecdotes that speak to the origins and motivations behind your interest in labor issues.


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