cornell supplemental essays

Cornell Supplemental Essays 2022-2023

Since Cornell is one of the most competitive schools in the nation, in recent years, the Cornell acceptance rate has only gotten lower. When considering how to get into Cornell, there’s no room to slack off on any part of your Cornell application. Simply meeting the Cornell University requirements will not be enough to gain admission. That’s where your Cornell supplemental essays come in! 

In fact, these essays are a key part of your application. Your Cornell supplemental essays allow you to highlight who you are beyond your grades, test scores, and recommendations. This means that you should approach each of the Cornell essay prompts with thought, consideration, and attention to detail.

If you’re feeling stuck when approaching the Cornell University requirements—and particularly the Cornell supplemental essays—then you’re in luck. This guide to the Cornell supplemental essays includes expert guidance on how to approach each prompt. You’ll find a breakdown of how to approach each Cornell essay and tips for creating an application narrative that will stand out in admissions.

Cornell Essay Guide Quick Facts:

  • Cornell acceptance rate: 9% – U.S. News ranks Cornell as a most selective school.
  • Cornell supplemental essay requirements: 
    • 1-2 school-specific essays (varies depending on school)
  • Cornell application note: The prompts and word counts for the Cornell supplemental essays vary depending on the college to which students apply. All students will complete the Cornell University requirements via the Common App
  • #1 Cornell essay tip:  We strongly recommend answering all Cornell supplemental essays—including the optional Cornell essay prompts—comprehensively and thoughtfully. Well-written Cornell supplemental essays give your readers a deeper look into your personality and passions, which can significantly increase your chances of admission.

How many supplemental essays does Cornell require?

You must complete one or two of the Cornell supplemental essays listed on the 2022-2023 Common App. The number of Cornell supplemental essays and the prompt you answer, however, depends on the school to which you apply.

Each of the Cornell essay prompts corresponds to one of eight undergraduate colleges/schools at Cornell. While there are eight Cornell supplemental essays to choose from—and we’ll cover them in this Cornell supplemental essays guide—you will only answer one or two Cornell essay prompts.

What are the Cornell supplemental essays?

The Cornell supplemental essays are accessible through your Common Application. Additionally, you can visit the main Cornell site for a full checklist of first-year application requirements (including the Cornell essay prompts).

cornell supplemental essays

In addition to your Common Application Personal Statement, you will select one of eight Cornell essay prompts to answer. Each of the Cornell essay prompts corresponds to the undergraduate college or school at Cornell to which you are applying (including the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; College of Architecture, Art, and Planning; College of Arts and Sciences; Cornell SC Johnson College of Business; Brooks School of Public Policy; College of Engineering; College of Human Ecology; or the School of Industrial and Labor Relations). So, choosing which Cornell majors interest you is a key first step as you approach the Cornell supplemental essays. We’ll dig into each prompt later in this article. 

Although there are several Cornell essay prompts to choose from, you will only answer the prompt that corresponds to the undergraduate school at Cornell to which you apply. For example, those interested in engineering should only answer the prompt(s) for the College of Engineering. This means that every applicant will write only one to two Cornell writing supplements.

Remember that no matter which Cornell majors interest you, all applicants must also write the personal statement essay found on the Common App. Need some help writing your Common App essay? Get great tips from our Common App essay guide to build your college application with confidence. 

Cornell Supplemental Essays – College Interest Essays  

The Cornell supplemental essays may seem more intimidating than other college essays—Cornell is an Ivy League school, after all. However, you’ll notice many similarities. It may seem as though the Cornell essay prompts vary greatly based on the college to which you apply. However, that’s not necessarily the case. 

The majority of the prompts for the Cornell supplemental essays pose the same questions. Why this major? And why at Cornell? So, essentially these Cornell supplemental essays are like a why major essay and a why school essay

Cornell College Interest Essay Prompts

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.

College of Art, Architecture, 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?

Brooks School of Public Policy:

Why are you drawn to studying public policy? Drawing on your experiences, tell us about why you are interested in your chosen major and how attending the Brooks School will help you achieve your life goals.

College of Architecture 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?

S.C. Johnson College of Business:

What kind of a business student are you? 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 convey how your interests align with the school to which you are applying within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management or the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration).

College of Engineering:

How do your interests directly connect with Cornell Engineering? If you have an intended major, what draws you to that department at Cornell Engineering?  If you are unsure what specific engineering field you would like to study, describe how your general interest in engineering most directly connects with Cornell Engineering. It may be helpful to concentrate on one or two things that you are most excited about.

Choose question A or B to respond to.

  • A: Describe an engineering problem that impacts your local community. This could be your school, neighborhood, town, region, or a group you identify with. Describe one to three things you might do as an engineer to solve the problem.
  • B: Diversity in all forms is intrinsic to excellence in engineering. Engineering the best solutions to complex problems is often achieved by drawing from the diverse ingenuity of people from different backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity and/or the inclusion of the Cornell Engineering community? What is the unique voice you would bring to the Cornell Engineering community?

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?

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.

Note that some of the Cornell supplemental essays are optional. We’ll take a closer look at these optional prompts later in this guide. 

Each of these prompts is slightly different. However, you’ll notice that the general essence of the questions stays the same. Your Cornell supplemental essays will vary greatly based on your unique experiences, academic interests, and future goals. There will be no one-size-fits-all way to complete the Cornell supplemental essays. Still, there are certain things that can help you craft the best Cornell University essay possible. 

Keep in mind that the most important part of answering a why major essay and a why school essay is being specific. You cannot give generic responses in your Cornell supplemental essay. 

Cornell Essay- Choosing a college

Before we break down each of the Cornell essay prompts, let’s take a look at all of the colleges to which you could apply at Cornell. Each one has their own set of Cornell majors available. However, don’t be intimidated if you aren’t certain of your major just yet. Applicants are by no means locked into these colleges should they reassess their academic and career goals if accepted to Cornell. 

Colleges at Cornell University: 

Brooks School of Public Policy. Applicants who complete the Cornell supplemental essay for Brooks will have two undergraduate majors to choose from. Brooks students can study Policy Analysis and Management or Health Care Policy. 

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). Students who choose to study at CALS during their time at Cornell have a wide range of undergraduate degrees to choose from. Some options include Marine Biology, Plant Breeding, Food Science, Horticulture, and many more. 

College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP). Students who study at Cornell AAP can choose to study Urban and Regional Planning, Fine Arts (BFA), Architecture, or Real Estate. 

College of Arts and Sciences. This is likely the college to apply to if you are undecided on your major as it offers a liberal arts education. Students in this college can choose from many different majors such as Economics, English, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, or Linguistics. 

SC Johnson College of Business. Students who hope to study business at Cornell will choose from two undergraduate programs: Applied Economics and Management or Hotel Administration. 

College of Engineering. Applicants interested in the engineering program at Cornell will have to write two Cornell supplemental essays. Students accepted to the program will have 14 majors and 22 minors to choose from. 

College of Human Ecology. Cornell’s College of Human Ecology offers three different majors: Human Centered Design, Psychology, and Nutritional Sciences.

School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR). There is only one major for undergraduates to study within ILR at Cornell. However, it’s an interdisciplinary program that studies urgent issues affecting society, organizations, the economy, and international affairs. 

Before reading all about the college-specific Cornell supplemental essays, take a look at an example of a successful why school essay for some tips. Of course, your Cornell University essay will be quite different. However, it should share the same goal: convincing admissions that you belong on campus. 

When writing a “why this college” essay, it is important to write passionately. If you’re waiting to take a tour of campus until after you’ve received your acceptance letter, then why not take one virtually? Envisioning yourself on campus will help you find motivation and inspiration for the Cornell supplemental essays. 

Now, let’s dive into how to write the Cornell supplemental essays for each college. 

Cornell Essay: College of Arts and Sciences

Students who are undecided on their major will likely write a Cornell supplemental essay to this college—unless, of course, a major within a different discipline has captured their interest. The College of Arts and Sciences focuses on an interdisciplinary education. This college is “curiosity driven” and the perfect place for academic “exploration and discovery.”

Let’s look at the prompt. 

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.

You’ll notice that this is a typical why school essay and essentially a why major essay as well. So, you’ll need to choose an area of academic interest in order to best complete this Cornell University essay prompt. However, as the prompt states, you can mention multiple Cornell majors. You’ll have 650 words in which you can respond to this Cornell supplemental essay prompt. 

You can choose various areas of study interest to write about. However, you want to make sure that they connect. You should also highlight how they’ll help you to achieve your future goals. For example, don’t just state that you’re interested in studying Economics and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality studies without giving any context. Maybe you’d like to explore the earning difference between different groups and find solutions to bridge those gaps. Whatever your current interests are, use this Cornell supplemental essay to logically link them to you and your future goals. 

Keep in mind

When responding to the Cornell essay prompts, reference specific opportunities only offered at Cornell. Get specific when writing about your academic interests as well as the Cornell community. How will studying at Cornell impact your education and future career?

Still struggling to identify some majors to write about? Check out our article on how to choose a major for some guidance. 

Cornell Supplemental Essays: College of Architecture, Art, and Planning

cornell supplemental essays

The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning offers three distinct majors. If you’re applying to this college, you likely know yours—if not, you’ll need to choose one before responding to this Cornell essay prompt. 

Here’s the 2023 AAP prompt for hopeful applicants:  

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 Cornell supplemental essay prompt is disguised as a simple “what’s your passion?” essay.
However, successful Cornell supplemental essays will link their “thing” and their intended area of study. 

What do we mean by that? Well, let’s say you plan on studying architecture. Rather than writing about your obsession for baking the perfect cupcake, instead focus on your love of old buildings. Was there a moment, an experience, or a trip that made you begin to notice every little detail of the buildings you step into? Strong Cornell supplemental essays should take the reader into these moments. 

Don’t shy away from using personal anecdotes. However, make sure that it connects back to the Cornell College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. After reading this Cornell supplemental essay, Cornell admissions should know just why you’ve chosen your intended major. 

Keep in mind that applying to an Ivy League school is always a reach. So, it’s important to have other options in mind. Check out some of the best architecture schools to round out your college list. 

Cornell Essay: Brooks School of Public Policy

While our other two Cornell supplemental essays were nuanced versions of the why major essay and the why school essay, the Cornell essay for Brooks is pretty upfront in its intentions. Let’s look at the prompt. 

Why are you drawn to studying public policy? Drawing on your experiences, tell us about why you are interested in your chosen major and how attending the Brooks School will help you achieve your life goals.

Applicants to the Brooks School of Public Policy will use their Cornell supplemental essay to tell Cornell admissions why they want to study Public Policy and why at Brooks. So, you’re likely familiar with this kind of college essay. However, this doesn’t mean your Cornell University essay should read as a list. 

Feel free to get creative with this Cornell supplemental essay. You can use an anecdote to make your essay uniquely yours. Remember that successful Cornell supplemental essays will be specific. Generic Cornell supplemental essays will do applicants no favors when it comes to impressing Cornell admissions. Think about your reasons for choosing this major, what offerings you will utilize that are only available at Brooks, and how this will all tie into your future goals. Address all of these points within your Cornell essay to Brooks.  

Cornell Supplemental Essays: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

cornell supplemental essays

Similar to the Brooks College of Public Policy, CALS asks all of its applicants to answer one prompt that reads as a typical why major and why school essay. 

Here’s the required prompt for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell: 

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?

You’ll want to answer this Cornell University essay prompt by exploring why you’ve chosen this major. Start brainstorming just what brought you to this field of interest. Once you have a list, touch on the most meaningful or impactful points in order to write your most passionate Cornell supplemental essay. Or, maybe you know the exact moment when you decided this major was for you. Great! That’s a great place to dive into for this Cornell essay. This prompt asks you to show how your interests and experiences have influenced your choice. 

The second part of this essay asks why you want to study this major at Cornell. It also asks how studying there will help you to achieve your future goals. Strong Cornell essays will mention specific programs, internships, or professors at CALS. Do your research so that you can get the details right. 

Applicants to Cornell CALS can also answer two optional Cornell essay prompts. We encourage applicants to consider the first essay required. After all, strong and passionate Cornell supplemental essays will only enhance your Cornell application. However, you should only complete the second of these Cornell supplemental essays if it genuinely applies to you. 

Let’s look at both of the optional Cornell supplemental essays. 

Here’s the first optional prompt: 

At Cornell CALS, we aim to leave the world better than we found it, so we seek out those who are not simply driven to master their discipline, but who are also passionate about doing so to serve the public good.  Please elaborate on an activity or experience you have had that made an impact on a community that is important to you. We encourage you to think about community broadly – this could include family, school, or local and global communities. (300-word limit)

This essay may seem familiar from other college applications. Many universities want to know about applicants’ community involvement. This helps Cornell admissions officers understand how you would enrich campus life. 

The prompt makes it clear that “community” can mean many things. So, try to think outside the box with this prompt. There are many ways to write this Cornell essay, so start by thinking about which communities matter in your life. Then, choose one that matters most to you. You’ll need to show how you impacted that community and how you’d bring that experience to CALS.  

Now, let’s look at the second optional Cornell University essay prompt for CALS. 

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is dedicated to the exploration of the agricultural, life, environmental, and social sciences and welcomes students with interests that span a wide variety of disciplines. Given our agricultural history and commitment to educating the next generation of agriculturalists, please share if you have a background in agriculture or are interested in pursuing a career in agriculture, regardless of your intended major. (300-word limit)

Select all that apply:

  • My family owns or operates a farm.
  • I have experience working in agriculture.
  • I have an interest in pursuing a career in agriculture.

Cornell admissions wants to know more about applicants with significant agricultural experience. Consider this Cornell supplemental essay prompt truly optional. You should only respond if you have significant experience in agriculture or a serious interest in pursuing a career in that field. 

If you answer this Cornell supplemental essay prompt, use specific examples to illustrate your experience. Ideally, applicants should use personal anecdotes in order to show just how agriculture has influenced their life so far. Applicants should also highlight why these experiences have made them want to pursue a career in agriculture. 

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

cornell supplemental essays

Applicants to the SC Johnson College of Business will need to specify which discipline they’d like to pursue: Applied Economics and Management or Hotel Administration. So, this Cornell essay prompt is another why major and why school essay. 

Here’s the Cornell supplemental essay prompt for SC Johnson College of Business applicants: 

What kind of a business student are you? 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 convey how your interests align with the school to which you are applying within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management or the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration).

Like the other Cornell supplemental essays, this prompt asks applicants to explore their experiences and show how it connects to their potential business major at Cornell. First and foremost, in order to respond to this Cornell essay, applicants must select a major. Make sure your essay justifies your choice. Strong Cornell essays will show how your past experiences and interests have led you to your chosen field. 

Additionally, applicants should tie in their future goals when writing this Cornell University essay. How will attending SC Johnson College of Business help you achieve your goals? Why do you want to study business there? Again, be specific and reference programs only found within each of these business programs at Cornell. 

Remember that Cornell is among the top business schools in the nation. So, when writing your Cornell supplemental essay, start long before the application deadline to give yourself plenty of time to write an impressive essay. 

Cornell Essay: College of Engineering

cornell supplemental essays

The College of Engineering prompt is a little different from the other Cornell supplements. Instead of one long essay, applicants to the College of Engineering will be required to answer the first prompt. They will then choose one of the two following provided Cornell essay prompts to complete. Your maximum word count for the two required Cornell supplemental essays is lower as well (250 words), so concision is key.

Like with the other Cornell supplemental essays, we will walk through each College of Engineering prompt. We’ll then put together a strategy for answering these Cornell essays effectively.

Let’s look at the first prompt, which is required for all applicants to the College of Engineering. 

How do your interests directly connect with Cornell Engineering? If you have an intended major, what draws you to that department at Cornell Engineering?  If you are unsure what specific engineering field you would like to study, describe how your general interest in engineering most directly connects with Cornell Engineering. It may be helpful to concentrate on one or two things that you are most excited about.

The first of the Cornell supplemental essays for the College of Engineering is similar to many we’ve seen: the why major essay and the why school essay. It’s a combination of the two. So, in order to successfully answer this Cornell essay prompt, you’ll need to think deeply about why you want to study Engineering at Cornell. 

This Cornell supplemental essay prompt does two things. First, it asks you to talk about your academic interests. Then, it checks whether you’ve done your homework on Cornell Engineering. An effective response to this Cornell essay will explain both your interest in engineering and how Cornell specifically fits into your future as an engineer.

When answering a “why this college?” question like this Cornell essay prompt, specificity is key. Represent your future with Cornell in mutualistic terms. What do you hope to gain from attending Cornell Engineering? What will you, in turn, give back to the community, either in the short or long term?

Start with the basics

Let’s start with the basics. Why do you want to apply to Cornell Engineering? Speak honestly. You don’t need to stuff your response with tons of niche details or copy/paste from the Cornell mission statement. Instead, give honest reasons why Cornell fits with your aspirations. Then, highlight how studying at Cornell will help you grow as both an engineer and a person.

Do you have a makeshift robotics lab in your garage? Are you set on studying artificial intelligence within the Computer Science major at Cornell Engineering? Did you visit and fall in love with the community values you saw on campus? Or did you have an interaction with a professor whose research fascinated you? Tell the reader about it! 

Emphasize your interest in engineering as well as specific reasons why Cornell is the right place for you to foster this interest. Make sure that you tie your engineering interests to your intended major. 

If you’re unsure of your intended engineering major, that’s okay. However, make sure that your love for engineering comes through. You can use a personal anecdote to show just how passionate you are for the field, too. Don’t shy away from creativity if it feels right for you. Still, make sure to relate it all back to Cornell. 

Now, on to the second Cornell supplemental essay for Engineering applicants. For this Cornell essay, students will need to choose between two prompts. 

Choose either Question A or Question B. (250 word limit)

  • Question A: Describe an engineering problem that impacts your local community. This could be your school, neighborhood, town, region, or a group you identify with. Describe one to three things you might do as an engineer to solve the problem.
  • Question B: Diversity in all forms is intrinsic to excellence in engineering. Engineering the best solutions to complex problems is often achieved by drawing from the diverse ingenuity of people from different backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity and/or the inclusion of the Cornell Engineering community? What is the unique voice you would bring to the Cornell Engineering community?

When choosing a prompt, one question may stand out to you more than the other. Choose that one. If that doesn’t happen, then do a brainstorming session for potential topics for each prompt. Review your lists and see which topic most motivates you. That’s the prompt to write on. 

Let’s start with Question A. This Cornell University essay prompt is hoping to see applicants’ critical thinking skills. They want to know that you can navigate your way through a problem. Start listing potential problems and how you would address and solve them. They don’t have to be the most complex thing. Any problem will do—just make sure that it’s engineering-related and you can legitimately solve it with your response. 

Question B wants to see how your diverse background will impact the Cornell Engineering community. When talking about “backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities,” applicants have a lot of options. Focus on what most impacts who you are and how you navigate the world. First, you’ll want to address those topics and then demonstrate how it will positively influence the Cornell community. What will your unique experiences bring to the Cornell community? How will it impact your future in engineering both on and off campus?

Beyond academics

Top colleges like Cornell want to know that you will be an active participant in the campus community. Of course, your academics are a big part of your college experience. However, you will learn just as much from your interactions with other students on campus. In turn, other students will learn from you.

Question B asks you to explain what you will bring to campus—not only in terms of your own academic excellence, but also in how you will contribute to student life. Will you be an active member of the community? How will you work to ensure diversity and inclusion prevails at Cornell—be it through extracurricular leadership or through inclusive conversations over dinner? In short, what experiences and traits do you bring to the campus community? How will you use those experiences to build meaningful shared experiences with other Cornell students?

An effective Cornell writing supplement prompt will describe how you have fostered diversity and inclusion in your own communities. This can allow you to talk about how you wish to bring your own voice and experiences to Cornell. 

Ultimately, a strong response to this Cornell essay will make it clear that you belong at one of the top engineering colleges in the nation.

Cornell Supplemental Essays: College of Human Ecology

cornell supplemental essays

Applicants to the College of Human Ecology at Cornell should have an interest in studying human health and wellbeing. Logically, the Cornell supplemental essay prompt asks applicants to expand on their interest in this particular field. 

This is the Cornell supplemental essay prompt for the College of 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?

For this Cornell University essay, students will need to directly link their passion for the field to their interests or experiences. For example, if you’re interested in studying nutritional sciences, you might want to relate it to your experience as an athlete and a vegetarian. Whatever your chosen major is, you will need to back up your interest in it with direct experiences. 

After you’ve shown why you want to study in this college, dive into your future goals. Do you want to work as a nutritionist for hopeful Olympic athletes? Or be the dietician for a professional sports team? Just make sure your objectives tie into the major you’ve selected. Since this is a why major essay and a nuanced why school essay, you’ll want to mention how studying at Cornell will specifically help you achieve your goals. Be specific by referencing certain programs only offered at the Cornell College of Ecology. 

Cornell Essay: School of Industrial and Labor Relations

The School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) follows a similar framework as the majority of the other Cornell supplemental essays. Let’s take a closer look at this Cornell essay prompt. 

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.

When applying to the Cornell ILR, there is only one major that students can choose: Industrial and Labor Relations. No surprises there, right? So, when you choose to apply to this school, you’ve already chosen your major as well. 

Now, you need to show Cornell admissions why you’ve chosen this major. This Cornell essay prompt gives you plenty of ways to show your interest in this field. You can use personal, academic, work, and volunteer experiences. Start brainstorming a list of things you care about. Then, see how this list connects to your experiences. Or, maybe it’s easier to do it vice versa. Whatever works for you is fine. 

Once you have your topic, you need to show how it connects to this specific program. Students studying ILR at Cornell have an interdisciplinary major. They’ll take courses in law, organizational psychology, economics, history, statistics, and management. So, you’ll explore plenty of topics in this college—and your essay should show your enthusiasm for them. 

Let’s say you work on the school yearbook committee and noticed that one group of students was in none of the photos. You gathered your team members together to speak on the topic and decide to get some candid shots of the excluded group. This shows not only your leadership skills, but also that equality and inclusion is important to you. How would those skills and interests align with the ILR major? Show that in your Cornell University essay. 

How do you write a Cornell essay?

cornell supplemental essays

Next, let’s talk a bit more about how to approach the Cornell supplemental essays. 

To begin, you want to have a thorough understanding of what the Cornell essay is asking. Define any key terms, and ask yourself, “Is this a single Cornell essay with multiple steps/answers?” 

Once you’ve gotten a grasp on what the Cornell writing supplement is asking, then you’ll want to freewrite. In general, freewriting can help you if you’re struggling with how to begin an essay. It can also help you choose one topic from a long list of potential essay responses. For specific guidance, check out CollegeAdvisor’s guide to reflection exercises.

Now, armed with your freewrite, you’ll want to start drafting your Cornell essay. While you can work from your existing freewrite, you can also start fresh. In the early stages of drafting Cornell supplemental essays, don’t worry about the word count. While it’s important, you don’t want to stifle your creative flow. Leave the ruthless editing for later on in the process. 

Once you’ve completed the draft and have edited as needed, take your draft to a few trusted sources. These individuals (teachers, counselors, etc.), should read over your essay with a fine-toothed comb. They should focus on grammatical accuracy as well as tone and style.

This guidance should help you begin the Cornell essay process. However, use the specific breakdowns above for each college for more insights. This will help you approach each of the Cornell supplemental essays with confidence. 

To make sure you’re on the right track, keep in mind the following questions after writing your first draft for the Cornell supplemental essays. 

Cornell Essay Reflection Questions:

  • Does your response reveal what makes you a good addition to campus? Does it highlight your best core values?
  • Do you explain your future aspirations in your chosen field?
  • Does your writing show a true passion for your field of study?
  • Do your Cornell essays make the reader want to learn more about you?

How important are the Cornell supplemental essays for admission?

cornell supplemental essays

In a word—very!

Schools like Cornell University receive top-notch applicants from around the world in record numbers every year. High test scores, excellent grades, and meaningful extracurricular achievements are common in the Cornell application pool. Combined with your Common App personal statement, the Cornell supplemental essays give you valuable space to discuss your passions, values, and character.

Cornell admissions looks for students who demonstrate “honesty, open-mindedness, initiative, and empathy,” both academically and in their daily life. The Cornell essay prompts are designed to find this kind of student. Use your Cornell supplemental essays to make it clear to Cornell that you are passionate about learning, curious about the world, willing to challenge yourself to pursue your interests, and will be a valuable addition to Cornell. Above all, your Cornell supplemental essays should show what makes you special and why Cornell should admit you!

Finally, remember that the Cornell supplemental essays are a required part of your Cornell application. However, try not to see them as a chore. After all, strong Cornell supplemental essays, combined with a competitive Cornell application, will make a huge difference in admissions.

Share your voice

Your Cornell essay is a window into your passions, values, and personality. The Cornell supplemental essay allows you to speak to your readers on your own terms. While this task may seem daunting, a well-executed Cornell essay can be incredibly helpful to your application.

You can read more about what Cornell admissions officers look for in prospective students (and what they look for in applicants’ responses to Cornell essay prompts) at the “What Cornell Looks For” page. This can help you write Cornell essays tailored to the Cornell admissions team.

Of course, Cornell is among the most elite universities in the nation. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your perfect college fit. Learn more about what it’s like to apply to and attend such a competitive university from a Cornell alumni perspective. These insights can also help you write specific and targeted supplemental essays. 

Cornell Supplemental Essays: Final Thoughts

Completing the Cornell supplemental essays can seem daunting, but don’t let them discourage you from applying. Instead, view these Cornell essays as an opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions. The Cornell writing supplements should help them see why you’d be a great addition to their school. 

Check out these successful college essay examples for inspiration. While they won’t be exactly like the Cornell supplemental essay prompts, they will show you how college essays can vary greatly from one another. The most important thing is showing admissions who you are while fully answering the prompt. 

Use your essays to your advantage

Maybe you’re applying with a lower than average GPA or SAT score, or maybe you have a couple of blemishes on your transcript. A well-written set of Cornell supplemental essays can work in your favor and make it obvious that you would be a great addition to campus. So, if you’re dreaming about the day you enroll at Cornell, use this guide to help you approach each Cornell application essay with a solid strategy. 

The Cornell supplemental essays are a great way to impress admissions, but make sure the rest of your Cornell application impresses as well. Don’t forget to read our How to Get Into Cornell guide for an overview of application strategy. Good luck!


This Cornell supplemental essay guide was written by Sarah KaminskiLooking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.