An Analysis of the Cornell Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

Padya Paramita

An Analysis of the Cornell Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

After working on multiple essays for each of your applications, you might be surprised to learn that you only have to write one supplemental essay for Cornell University. But it’s a big one! Your response must be as long as your personal statement. Cornell receives thousands of applications from students all over the world who all have unique stories to tell and has become even more competitive over the pandemic, so this part of the application is very important. Standing out isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either, especially if you can impress the admissions officers through the Cornell supplemental essays 2021-2022.

In reading your response, admissions officers want to learn about your extracurriculars, character traits, intellectual pursuits, and reasons behind choosing Cornell. The school within Cornell you decide to apply to could end up being the deciding factor behind which supplemental essay question you write about. . So don’t rush to write your response – plan your essay carefully. To guide you through the prompts for the seven Cornell schools, I’ve outlined them, included the do’s and don’ts for your responses, and added more tips to help you tackle the Cornell supplemental essays 2021-2022.

Prompts for the Cornell University Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

When you add Cornell as one of your schools in the Common Application, you have to pick one of the seven colleges within Cornell, instead of applying to the university as a whole. These are: 

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
    • Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
    • School of Hotel Administration
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Human Ecology
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR)

Each college asks you to answer one 650-word supplemental essay question. When writing the other essays, your response should be tailored to the school you’ve chosen, and demonstrate an unquestionable passion for the field and knowledge of a particular program at Cornell. Without further ado, let’s look at the prompts for each school and the approaches you should - and shouldn’t - take when it comes to your essay.

In the online Common Application Writing Supplement, please respond to the essay question below (maximum of 650 words) that corresponds to the undergraduate college or school to which you are applying.

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?

Since CALS is an undergraduate institution unique to Cornell, there are many Cornell-specific programs and opportunities you can draw from to portray your interest in CALS. You can choose from its 20 program offerings in the life sciences - from Animal Science to International Agriculture and Rural Development - and dive straight into studying the discipline of your choice on day one. These majors are more niche, so the reader must take away a demonstrated fit for the particular program through your writing. 

The key to your answer lies in showing that you have done thorough research on the major that you’ve chosen, and convincing admissions officers that CALS is the perfect school for you. Why are you certain that the CALS Food Science or Landscape Architecture program is what you want over what other schools have to offer? You could highlight your commitment by making a clear connection between the work you’ve done in the particular field and your choice of CALS major. Why is CALS the place to explore your passion for life sciences rather than the Biology or Environmental & Sustainability departments at the College of Arts and Sciences?

Avoid general statements about how exceptional CALS is – admissions officers already know that – and instead reflect instead on ways your interest has grown, what your goals are, and how CALS fits into it all. The more specifically tailored your essay, the better the reader can understand your perspective.

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?”

This prompt diverts from what the majority of Cornell prompts look for by asking you to elaborate on a topic of interest that engages you like no other. Think about what gets you out of bed in the morning, or a topic that you could give a five-minute presentation on at any moment with zero preparation. If you’re out of ideas, ask your friends or family members what they see as your obsessions. Don’t choose broad issues that you can’t cover in 650 words. You shouldn’t go for common topics that many of your peers might choose either. Think about a topic you’re passionate about which might be more nuanced than others realize. Let the admissions officers know that you’re a perceptive and curious candidate. 

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.

In writing this essay, you must display your knowledge regarding the liberal arts approach taken by the College of Arts and Sciences. The school prides itself on encouraging openness, course diversity, and allowing students to design their own curriculum. Focus your essay on how being able to explore your options and have more freedom over your course selection is ideally suited to your learning style. Your anecdotes should focus less on the origin of your interests, and more on how you might respond to a relatively open curriculum. For example, outlining a situation where you took advantage of having agency in course selection can be an effective way to drive your point home.

While you might be excited by the extracurricular opportunities that complement your major selection, the prompt strictly asks you to focus on the curriculum. How can you benefit from two majors in completely different areas? How can your goals be inspired by the courses, lectures, and facilities that the College of Arts and Sciences offers? Remember that many schools take a liberal arts approach. Admissions officers want to know why you’re applying specifically to Cornell’s School of Arts and Sciences over other colleges, so be as specific in talking about your goals and interests as possible.

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business:

What kind of a business student are you? The Cornell SC Johnson College of Business offers two distinct business programs, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the School of Hotel Administration. Please describe how your interests and ambitions can be met through one or both of the Schools within the College.

Like any other “why this school” essay, the Johnson School prompt wants to know why you’ve chosen Johnson over other undergraduate business schools, and how you would be an asset to the incoming class. In other words, you have to elaborate on what makes the Dyson model ideally suited to your learning style, or the School of Hotel Administration perfect for your future career, and explain the reasons why you will be a valuable addition. 

If you’re applying to Dyson:

If you’re applying to Dyson, you have to show that you’ve done your research on facilities and opportunities exclusive to Dyson. One of the key ways of doing so is to demonstrate your understanding of the unique Economics and Management B.S or ask yourself how you’d benefit from this degree over a B.S. in economics from another school, for example. What features will prepare you for a career as an entrepreneur or financial analyst?

Don’t forget to leave space for how your experiences have prepared you to contribute to Dyson. If you’re planning to apply to this school, you should already have ventured into the world of business. Talk about any entrepreneurial initiatives you’ve taken, business-related summer programs you’ve attended, and mention if you have any unusual goals that can distinguish you from other prospective business students. Expand on the skills and values you picked up on the way. Dyson students are allowed to double major with a major at CALS so if your passion for business has a life sciences aspect to it, you should include that in your essay!

If you’re applying to the School of Hotel Administration:

The School of Hotel Administration is the most prestigious hotel school in the world. Conduct your research and think about the main reasons behind your application to this exceptional college - look at the faculty listing, research opportunities, electives, and concentrations. What have been some key factors in your curiosity towards the intersection of business and hospitality? How does a certain program - such as the minor in Real Estate - fit in with your ten-year plan? Don’t just name SHA resources - talk about how they would be beneficial to your goals. You have to be as specific as possible. Due to the school’s higher acceptance rate compared to other Cornell colleges, many students apply through SHA to try and receive a Cornell acceptance. This makes it critical that your essays demonstrate your authentic and specific interest in hospitality and the related fields. 

While you should mention how your academics and extracurriculars have contributed to your career goals in the hotel business, you must also consider the more human side of the occupation. Do you have the qualities it takes to work in hotel administration, such as empathy, ability to communicate, cultural awareness, and teamwork skills? Provide examples and add any anecdotes that will help admissions officers both understand your interest in the hospitality industry and showcase your potential to thrive after you leave Cornell. 

College of Engineering

Tell us about what excites you most about Cornell Engineering and/or studying engineering at Cornell University. How do you see yourself becoming a part of the Cornell Engineering community?

Like the other prompts, this question asks you to think about why you have specifically chosen Cornell Engineering as the place to pursue your engineering education. However, this time they want to see what you will add to the community, rather than only focus on what you get out of the school. Since the prompt emphasizes your excitement towards studying engineering, your essay should too. Think about how your interest in the field originated, what issues matter most to you, and how you can make an impact at the Cornell School of Engineering.  

Narrow your focus by thinking about the major within Cornell Engineering that you wish to pursue. How would a degree in Material Science and Engineering or Biological Engineering from Cornell help you build on what you’ve worked on so far? If you’ve prepared through a rigorous STEM-heavy course load or an extracurricular initiative you’ve implemented to specialize in the area, this is the place to talk about it. Upon reading your response, admissions officers should be confident that you are not only a strong candidate for an engineering degree, but also that you’re specifically geared for success as a future Cornell-educated engineer. The university wants your answer to the Cornell supplemental essays 2021-2022 to reflect your strongest personal attributes, and this essay is an effective way of showing what you care about while demonstrating knowledge of Cornell’s engineering offerings. 

College of Human Ecology

How has your decision to apply to the College of Human Ecology been influenced by your related experiences? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future?

The College of Human Ecology prompt asks to see connections between the development of your interests and your choice of major and career aspirations. The tricky thing about this prompt is that the College of Human Ecology happens to cover quite a few different fields that don’t necessarily have obvious relationships to each other. It’s probably a good idea that you know what “human ecology” actually means and are fully informed about programs such as Nutritional Sciences or Apparel Design before sitting down to write your essay. 

You need to focus more on your commitment to the specialized department you’re interested in rather than human ecology as a whole since that is too broad of a topic. How have your courses and extracurricular efforts prepared you for undergraduate study in Fashion Design or Design and Environmental Analysis? From reading your response to the Cornell supplemental essays 2021-2022, admissions officers must understand that you are applying because you’re actually passionate about the field instead of deciding on a whim because you suddenly like the sound of designing clothing.

School of Industrial and Labor Relations

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 show us that your interests align with the ILR School.

Just like with other prompts for Cornell supplemental essays 2021-2022, you need to build a narrative showing how your interests overlap with Cornell’s offerings. Since you have plenty of space in this essay, you should draw on anecdotes that affirm your interest in people and policy in the workplace. Conduct research and think about how your goals can benefit from taking certain electives or working with a distinguished professor. 

Highlight what sparked your interest in the industry – was there one particular incident or did your concern for topics related to workforce policies develop over time? Was there a high school club or internship that contributed to expanding your knowledge of employment policies? Moreover, think about why you want to attend a school that specializes in Industrial and Labor Relations rather than major in economics at the College of Arts and Sciences. By narrating a unique story that shows why this is the perfect college for you, you can help admissions officers gain a clearer picture of your passion for exploring work, employment, and labor policy issues over the next four years.

Additional Tips for the Cornell Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

  • Keep the Specific School in Mind - It’s not unheard of for students to apply to a less competitive Cornell school such as the College of Arts and Sciences in hopes of later transferring to Dyson or Cornell Engineering. Make sure your essays don’t leave admissions officers doubting whether your interest in the school that you’ve applied to is authentic. Don’t write about your love for life sciences or chemical engineering if you’re applying for an English major at the College of Arts and Sciences! Make sure your essay reflects your particular school choice and its unique offerings.
  • Don’t Repeat Your Personal Statement - Your answers to the Cornell supplemental essays 2021-2022 are supposed to provide admissions officers with more context on your background and passions. That might be difficult to execute if your supplemental essay covers the same topic as your personal statement. It could be tricky to find a new angle - especially when the prompt for the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning is very similar to one of the Common Application personal statement prompts - “Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time.” If you’re applying to the AAP school and you’ve picked this prompt for your Common App, you have to come up with something completely different. Cornell will not appreciate two 650-word essays that overlap in content.
  • Avoid Generic Statements At All Costs - Cornell received the most applications out of the Ivy League schools this year. And the number isn’t getting any smaller. In order to excel in your Cornell supplemental essays 2021-2022, you have to connect all the factors that make a Cornell education appealing to you. Specifics will allow admissions officers to understand what makes you unique. Stating general facts about the facilities won’t help your case since admissions officers already know that great resources exist at their university!

 

Your answers to the Cornell supplemental essays 2021-2022 should convey how you would benefit from a degree from one of its specialized undergraduate schools and the ways in which your experiences thus far have prepared you to contribute to the university’s academic environment. No matter which college within Cornell you’re applying to, make sure that your essays reflect an understanding of the curriculum and highlight any relevant experience so that admissions officers know you’re not just applying for the sake of attending an Ivy League school!

Schedule a free consultation

to find out how we can help you get accepted.