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The Requirements: 1 school-specific essay of 650 words or 2 essays of 250 words each
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why
This prompt is very simple: Why do you want to study Public Policy and how will the Brooks School help you to realize your dreams? If you’re pursuing a degree in Health Care Policy or Policy Analysis and Management as an undergraduate, it’s likely that you have a very personal tie to social issues and other systemic problems that impact the public domain. This is your opportunity to share your story with admissions. Maybe you are passionate about using your persuasive writing and critical thinking skills to implement policies that will benefit the earth (and all its inhabitants). Perhaps you’re eager to take action to close the gender wage gap or reimagine the U.S. healthcare system. Whatever your reasoning may be, show admissions that you have thought carefully about your decision to not only pursue public policy, but pursue it at Cornell.
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?
Cornell wants to hear about an activity or experience you engaged in that made a positive impact on a community close to your heart. Your answer doesn’t have to be connected to Agriculture and Life Sciences in any way, so let your mind wander. Maybe you bring your therapy dog to your local hospital once a month and you love watching everyone’s eyes light up the moment Spunky enters the room. Perhaps you challenged your fear of public speaking to deliver an address at a town hall to advocate for greener public transportation options. When have you gotten involved for the greater good? This essay is optional, but why would you pass up the opportunity to provide admissions with more information about yourself and your motivations?
If you’re interested in studying Agriculture, there’s no reason to skip this essay. You likely have a list of reasons for pursuing a career in the field (no pun intended), and this is the place to share that intel with admissions. The more personal details and anecdotes you can include, the better. What has your experience with agriculture been and why is a degree in Agriculture the next step for you?
If there’s any information that you didn’t include in the two previous optional short essays, this is the place to put it. Maybe you want to tell admissions about the farm that has been in your family for generations or how a summer job at local stables opened your eyes to a line of work you had never before considered. This is a space for you to expand as you wish.
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.
You’re never going to guess what we’re about to recommend! (Okay, maybe you will). Before you even put pen to paper, do some research. Spend a little time on the school website, campus, or at local Cornell events to learn everything you can about the academic offerings, culture, and curriculum. Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences is the most generalized of Cornell’s colleges, so take this opportunity to show your well-rounded worth. Why have you chosen not to pursue a more specific or vocation-oriented pathway at this point? What will you gain from having access to a diverse array of academic departments? Is there departmental cross-pollination that excites you? What about an Arts and Sciences education at Cornell compels you, specifically?
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 programs and opportunities. 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—what issues do you care about when it comes to business, why are they important to you, and which Cornell program will help you both address them and achieve your goals?
You can get an Engineering degree at thousands of schools across the country, so why are you so keen to study at Cornell, specifically? Remember that your choices here aren’t set in stone, so don’t stress over your vision; just show that you’ve done your research. Maybe Cornell’s Environmental Engineering program will propel you toward your dream career in city planning and hazardous waste management. Maybe there’s an alum who is doing what you aspire to do, and you want to follow in their footsteps! Whatever it is that draws you to Cornell (besides Andy’s school spirit in The Office), admissions wants you to describe that interest and then connect it to your aspirations.
This is your opportunity to not only show admissions that you’re paying attention to the world around you, but also demonstrate your creativity and vision. Start by brainstorming a few problems or challenges—big and small—that bother you or impact your life in some capacity. Maybe it’s rampant wildfires or accessibility issues in your community. Although the scope and scale of your problem can vary, remember that Cornell is looking to accept applicants who want to be a part of the solution. Show that you’re not only informed and concerned, but also actively engaged in addressing the problem head on (in one to three innovative ways).
This is a classic community essay, through and through. Admissions officers want to know not only that you value diversity, but which diverse perspectives you, specifically, will bring to the Cornell community. Where do you come from? What has shaped you as a person and how has that made your perspective unique? What you address can be reflective of larger cultural constructs or a trait specific to you and only you. Consider why your particular background or experience will be useful in an academic setting. How will it help inspire and/or inform others? Were you raised in an indigenous community? Do you identify as nonbinary? Have you lived on three different continents? What has influenced your identity? What do you believe and how will your worldview bring something of value to the engineering community at Cornell?
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.
What subject could you talk about for hours on end with your friends, family, or even a complete stranger? Maybe it’s the need for legislation on regulating toxic chemicals in everything from our cosmetics to our food and water sources. Perhaps it’s the impending water crisis, and the public policy that you believe would change the way Americans use and think about water. With this prompt, it’s a good idea that you touch on when or where your passion first began, how it developed over time, and how you are planning to pursue this issue or interest at Cornell. This prompt gives you a wonderful opportunity to reveal something new about yourself through discussing your enthusiastic engagement with a given issue; in the process, you will showcase your curious, well-rounded nature to admissions — and huzzah for that!