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How to Approach Cornell Supplemental Essays

Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, Cornell University is the biggest Ivy League institution with eight specialized colleges. Cornell prides itself on the breadth as well as the depth of the curriculum, which is entirely in spirit with its founding principle from one and a half centuries ago: “An institution where any person can find instruction in any study”.

The idea of one school for everything from classics to sciences and for everyone regardless of their gender, race, or religion was very progressive at the time and it proved to be the right one. Among Cornell’s numerous alumni (250,000 living today), there are 59 Nobel laureates, 4 Turing Award winners, 33 Marshall Scholars, 33 Rhodes Scholars, 29 Truman Scholars, 7 Gates Scholars, 55 Olympic Medalists, and 35 billionaires. Quite a company!

Cornell is a highly selective school, with the admission rate somewhere between 9 to 11 percent, depending on the year. Still, this is more than that of other Ivy colleges of equal renown – so, something to be optimistic about. Moreover, Cornell does offer financial aid to their admitted students, based on the demonstrated needs.

Cornell University Requirements for Applicants

For first-year admissions, there is a standard list of materials you should submit:

  • The Common App or Universal College Application
  • $80 application fee or a fee waiver
  • School Report
  • Counselor Recommendation
  • Two Teacher Recommendations
  • Midyear Report, once grades are available
  • Official secondary/high school transcript
  • Standardized test scores sent directly from testing agencies
  • Cornell University Questions and Writing Supplement for Common App or Cornell Supplement for Universal College Application
  • Specific items (interviews/portfolios/design submissions) required by the Cornell college or school you have chosen to apply to.

Additionally, Cornell website lists specific checklists for all of its schools, so if you are afraid that something might slip your mind – don’t hesitate to go there to double-check.

Although SAT/ACT requirements were suspended for 2021 applicants following the pandemic, it’s worth remembering that higher scores are traditionally tied to higher chances of admission. Still, the admission process is highly individualized and there are many things that are more important than scores. Cornell looks at how good a fit you are for its culture and philosophy, as well as at your achievements. That is why essays are so important!

What They Look For in Cornell Admissions Essay and Recommendation Letters

Every college has its character. Cornell has impressively diverse student body, but there are some traits that unite all of the successful candidates.

  1. Intellectual potential, passion for learning, ambition demonstrated by taking highest-level courses.
  2. Initiative, leadership, and involvement. Your credentials should demonstrate that you have developed special interests and worked on them by engaging in extracurricular activities, work, community service, etc.
  3. Honesty, open-mindedness, and empathy. Make sure that recommendation letters as well as your essays demonstrate some of the above as your strongest personal traits.

How Cornell Essays are Different from Other School-Specific Supplements?

Very unlike other schools, Cornell writing supplement consists of only one essay. Before you get too relaxed about it, said essay is of considerable size. The limit is 650 words, which is roughly the length of your personal statement. Still, it is less writing than most of the schools will ask you to do.

Another very particular aspect of this essay is that you don’t have options to choose from. There are eight prompts: one for each of the colleges and schools that Cornell has to offer. You should write your essay using the prompt that corresponds to your college of choice within Cornell University:

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

It is very important to know which one is your perfect choice because your decision is binding. Once Cornell has accepted you, you cannot change your mind and request a transfer to another college. You can apply without declaring your major, but you should be absolutely sure about the college.

How To Write Cornell Essay

As with any other university, there are three important aspects to focus on in your essay, and each one reflects the key characteristics valued by Cornell:

  • Your intellectual curiosity and interests (potential and ambition) and how Cornell (one of its colleges) will help you further them.
  • Steps you have already taken to approach your goal (initiative and involvement).
  • Your fit within the Cornell community (honesty and open-mindedness).

However, Cornell puts much more value on your commitment to your intellectual goals and your vision of how the school’s resources will fit you as an individual, than on your emotional connection to Cornell – a very sensible and practical approach.

This is precisely the reason why they ask only one essay from you. This is also why every prompt asks you about your intellectual interests and is college-specific.

Therefore, one of the most valuable Cornell application tips we can give is doing diligent research. Leave no stone unturned. Cornell’s website is a goldmine of information!

  1. Explore every college, every department, program, class, and even professor.
  2. Choose ones that match your interests and personal experiences.
  3. In your essay, integrate Cornell resources with your past experiences and extracurricular interests from your high school. Explain how programs/research facilities in Cornell will help you to achieve your goal in the future.

Remember, despite Cornell being highly selective, the students who gain entrance are usually stellar candidates who are likely to be admitted to other prestigious schools. For example, for the 2018-2019 admission cycle, 49,114 students applied, 5,330 were admitted, yet only 3,218 of those actually enrolled. Every school strives to admit candidates that are most likely to enroll and prioritize it over all the other schools. That is why the more confident and specific you are in your essay, the more Cornell can be sure that you will enroll, once admitted. Consequently, the higher are your chances of gaining admission!

FAQ

Isn’t There a Specific “Why Cornell” Essay?

Every Cornell college-specific prompt consists of two parts: one is about your intellectual interests and passions, another is about why you have decided on your target college. While there is no specific “Why Cornell” essay, essentially, there are “Why College of Arts and Sciences”, “Why School of Industrial and Labor Relations”, etc. to choose from instead.

Where Can I Find Cornell Essay Prompts?

Cornell University changes its prompts every year. The prompts for the 2020-2021 admission cycle are available here. Cornell Writing Supplement prompts for 2021-2022 admission cycle can be found here.

Where Can I Find Cornell Supplement Essay Example?

Admission essay reads have become a staple of college influencer content on social media and YouTube and you can find them without much hassle. However, given how personalized and well fitted your essay must be, there is little point in emulating them. You can study them for a little confidence boost, however.

What is it about Cornell Essays That Worked?

They are honest and very detailed. Successful applicants don’t try to deliver what they think Cornell wants to hear, they deliver their thoughts and feelings about something important to them personally. They tie past activities with resources Cornell has to offer and have a clear vision of how they will benefit from it in the future. Every successful essay has behind it meticulous research and confidence in the choice that the student makes.

Does Cornell Keep Track of Student’s Interest?

Keeping track of nearly 50,000 applicants isn’t feasible. Your calls, emails, virtual or offline campus visits, and contacts with alumni and faculty members do not factor in the admission process. They serve you in learning more about Cornell, which has a bearing on how compelling and effective your essay is.

Petra Lipfer
Petra Lipfer
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Petra Lipfer is a professional blogger from Orlando, Florida. She has degrees in Education and Management and has taken three advanced IT courses. She has been writing for several educational portals and now is a stuff writer at MyAdmissionsEssay.com.
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