The 6.9% acceptance rate for Cornell’s Class of 2026 was the lowest in school history; as late as 2003, the school still had as high as a 31% acceptance rate. Clearly, getting into Cornell in 2022-23 is a vastly different enterprise than earlier in the millennium. Even if you earned a 1450+ on the SAT and maintained straight A’s throughout a high school career littered with AP and honors courses, you still need to find a way to distinguish yourself from other high school superstars. Fortunately, Cornell’s supplemental essays present applicants with just the opportunity they need to showcase their unique personality, writing ability, passions, and talents.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into Cornell University? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into Cornell: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

At Cornell, each college within the larger university has their own essay requirement. Below, we examine the Cornell supplemental essays for the 2022-23 admissions cycle. Each possesses a 650-word limit unless otherwise noted.

Cornell Supplemental Essays 2022-23

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?

There are 22 undergraduate majors and more than 40 minors within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Obviously, the content of this essay is going to be quite different for a prospective American Indian Indigenous Studies major versus someone looking to study Biomedical Engineering. Moreover, applicants need to lay out their academic and career goals. Additionally, you should provide explicit evidence of why CALS  is the ideal place to help you achieve them. For instance, this may involve researching the professors, courses, study abroad programs, undergraduate research opportunities, and student-run organizations relevant to your major of choice.

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?

Your answer may or may not involve art or architecture. It may be directly related to your academic interests, tangentially related, or not-at-all related. Any of these three options can be valid depending on the execution. Really think about what makes you tick. What keeps you up at night? What subject makes you read books and online content until your vision blurs? If you are answering at least one of these questions, you are on the right track with this essay.

College of Arts and Sciences – Cornell Supplemental Essays 

 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 this essay, Cornell wants to see evidence of your drive, passion, and intellectual ambition as well as your specific plans for continuing to be academically engaged while in college. Great things to highlight here include:

  • Firstly, cite specific courses offered in your discipline of interest at Cornell.
  • Undergraduate research opportunities in the summer or during the school year as well as independent research you would like to conduct under faculty supervision.
  • Cornell professors whose work/research/writings you find fascinating and how you might want to connect with them as an undergraduate.
  • Last, explore academically-focused student organizations at Cornell.

Cornell SC 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(s) to which you are applying within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and/or the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration).

To stand out as an applicant to Dyson or the School of Hotel Administration, applicants need to show that they have availed themselves of every opportunity to dive into the business world during their high school years. Of course, not everyone has parents who hand them money to invest in the stock market or hook them up with a Goldman Sachs internship in 9th grade. Relevant experiences can include high school investing clubs, participation in activities like FBLA, summer programs/courses in business/finance/economics, running your own local small business or e-business (Etsy, landscaping, etc.), or just a regular old retail job. Additionally, you want to highlight what you learned from your experience(s) and how you will bring that knowledge to the classroom at Cornell.

College of Engineering – Cornell Supplemental Essays 

Instructions: All applicants are required to write two supplemental essays. Each has a limit of 250 words. Essay 1 is required of all applicants. For Essay 2, you must choose between Question A and Question B.

Essay 1
Required response (250 word limit)

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.

For the “Why Cornell Engineering?” prompt, refer to our recommendation above for the College of Arts & Sciences essay. Do your homework. Tell Cornell about the courses, professors, facilities, research opportunities, and unique programs that make their College of Engineering your top choice.

Essay 2
Choose either Question A and 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?

Question A is, in many ways, a quintessential engineering prompt. It is truly as simple as identifying a problem and proposing a solution. However, you’ll want to follow Cornell’s guidance and focus on a problem that manifests in your local community. For example, this could involve something in the realm of:

  • Climate change
  • Energy efficiency
  • Pandemic management/data-tracking
  • Infrastructure
  • Sustainability
  • Rethinking how cities and towns look and work
  • Safeguarding personal data

Question B choice may be challenging to answer in a deeply meaningful way if you are not a member of an underrepresented group with respect to ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual identity. If this one doesn’t “sing” to you, it’s best to stick with Question A.

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 direction of your essay will be guided by your choice of major within the College of Human Ecology. For example, the content will look substantively different for a Fashion Design and Management major versus a Nutritional Sciences applicant. Regardless of your area of study, the prompt seeks to get the heart of why you’re interested in your particular field and where you see your education/career moving forward. In summary, speak honestly about your goals for the future and how your major will help you achieve them.

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.

Labor relations is not exactly the most common topic for a 17-year-old to fall in love with. Therefore, there is probably a pretty interesting story behind your desire to pursue the ILR path. Given that this major is an intersection of areas like business, economics, government, history, law, public policy, among others—your interest in Cornell’s ILR program may have been sparked by traditional classroom learning. Or, on the other hand, perhaps the spark was the experience of a friend or relative. Perhaps it was even something you have been following in the news (e.g. Starbucks workers trying to unionize). Above all, let your passion and commitment for this field shine through in your composition.

Want Personalized Coaching with your Cornell Supplemental Essays?

In conclusion, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Cornell supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.

Andrew Belasco

A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew’s experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans two decades. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep, and advisor to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.