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Would you like one-on-one expert assistance with crafting amazing supplemental essays that help you stand out from the crowd and get you admitted? Whether you need help brainstorming ideas, structuring your essays, or refining your writing, we're here to provide personalized guidance every step of the way.

Established in 1865, Cornell University has long prided itself on assuming its position as the “private university with a public mission.” The acclaimed research institution comprises eight undergraduate schools, each of which emphasizes collaboration, engagement, and service in discovering innovations that will better the lives of people across the globe. From the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to the College of Engineering, the programs at Cornell offer a diverse and specialized educational experience for its student body, ultimately educating members of the community in honing technical skills that will allow them to make a measurable impact on the world.

​The Cornell University supplemental essays include one overarching question concerning the ethos of the institution and one school-specific essay that depends on the program for which you are applying. The approach to these two prompts will look different, as the former requires applicants to reflect on their personal alignment with Cornell's core values, whereas the latter encourages them to focus on the ways in which their academic and professional interests correspond to their chosen college. By understanding this distinction, applicants may therein demonstrate their unique fit for both the particular school as well as for the university at large.

​Let's walk through both the university-wide prompt and one of the school-specific prompts to determine a method of response that will surely impress the admissions committee and secure your spot at Cornell.

How to Write Cornell University Supplemental Essay #1

PROMPT: In the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, Ezra Cornell wrote, "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study." For over 150 years, Cornell University has remained deeply committed to Ezra’s vision. Explain how your life experiences will help inform your contributions to a learning community devoted to “... any person … any study.” We encourage you to think broadly about your life experiences, including how local (e.g., family, school, neighborhood) or global communities you’ve been part of have helped shape your perspective. (350 word limit)

Before attempting to answer this prompt, it is imperative that you understand what exactly the college is looking for in a proper response. In this particular case, there are two central topics that Cornell is asking you to reflect and enlighten the admissions committee on: a personal background of yours and how it relates to the founding principles of the university. Thus, you should address these inquiries by detailing your life experiences and showcasing how they ultimately intersect with the ideals of diversity and inclusivity that Ezra Cornell envisioned for his college.


To do so, you might want to begin with either an anecdote or a specific example of a community that you have been involved with in some significant way. As suggested by the prompt, these experiences could appear differently for each student and do not necessarily have to be grand in scale. Where one applicant may write about their time volunteering at the local shelter, another could write about their experience growing up in a multicultural neighborhood. Either way, the key is to draw a clear connection between these ventures, which have come to cultivate your mindset of respect and appreciation and the Cornellian belief in accepting people from various walks of life.


At the same time, admissions officers are seeking candidates who are not only open to assuming Cornell’s progressive ideology but who will actively contribute to the university’s welcoming environment, as inspired by their encounters up until that point. In this sense, you must conclude by emphasizing what you can bring to the table. Indicate any insights and skills that you have acquired through your aforementioned experiences and outline how you will utilize them in working to foster inclusive learning spaces both on campus and in the classroom. This form of intentionality will allow Cornell to see you not as a passive student, but as an enthusiastic and engaged member of society who is truly committed to furthering the university’s mission and benefiting the community there. abc. 

Cornell University has eight distinct colleges:

  • College of Arts & Sciences

  • College of Agriculture & Life Sciences

  • College of Architecture, Art, and Planning

  • Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy

  • College of Engineering

  • College of Human Ecology

  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations

  • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business


Each college requires an essay specific to that college. Below, we discuss how to write the essay for the most popular college, the College of Arts & Sciences.

How to Write the Cornell University Supplemental Essay for the College of Arts and Sciences

PROMPT: At the College of Arts and Sciences, curiosity will be your guide. Discuss how your passion for learning is shaping your academic journey, and what areas of study or majors excite you and why. Your response should convey how your interests align with the College, and how you would take advantage of the opportunities and curriculum in Arts and Sciences. (650 word limit)


Though there are certainly various elements at play, the demands of this prompt essentially boil down to a “why Cornell” and “why major” statement that likely resembles most other colleges that you may be applying for. As with other supplementary essays, you should open with an anecdote that encapsulates and leads to how you fell in love with your proposed area of study. This could range from a moment in your early childhood, a memorable experience in school, or an interaction with another person — so long as it relates to you discovering a deep interest in that specific subject. The goal with this opening is to provide a more captivating start to your essay that both draws the reader in and sets a precedent for the trajectory of your academic journey.


From there, describe how this initial spark led to further exploration and engagement in this field. Be sure to mention any specific projects, courses, or extracurriculars that you took the initiative to join, as evidence of such ventures will surely exhibit your proactive approach to learning and your dedication to following through with the initial interest. Then, transition into how you will either continue on with similar pursuits in college and/or capitalize on newfound resources and opportunities in order to further your contributions in ways that you could not previously.


Furthermore, as you write, you must also conduct extensive research into the unique courses, professors, programs, or, in Cornell’s case, even specialized schools that attract you to this top university. Only then will you be able to refer back to the details of this institution, even going so far as to personalize your response by mentioning the names of faculty members whose research you hope to collaborate on. To this extent, by demonstrating that you have thoroughly researched Cornell, you serve to represent your genuine interest in the university and its offerings — whether it be the interdisciplinary approach of the College of Arts and Sciences, the renowned research prospects, or the thousands of courses across approximately 100 academic departments.

Would you like one-on-one expert assistance with crafting amazing supplemental essays that help you stand out from the crowd and get you admitted? Whether you need help brainstorming ideas, structuring your essays, or refining your writing, we're here to provide personalized guidance every step of the way.


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