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How to Respond to the 2022-2023 Cornell Supplemental Essay Prompts

Cornell University is a private Ivy League research university located in Ithaca, New York. Cornell’s acceptance rate is around 11%, which means you will need to make your Cornell supplemental essay question answers stronger than other applicants. Cornell consists of eight undergraduate colleges in total. Students interested in attending the school will have to complete one of the Cornell supplemental essays that aligns with their intended college.

Don’t miss: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

Different schools at Cornell

Cornell requires students to apply to a specific school within their university. The Cornell supplemental essay prompts vary based on what school within the university you’re applying to.

The schools found at Cornell are:

So spend some time researching each school and figuring out what you are passionate about and where you want to study. This will help you breeze through the application process due to your extensive knowledge of the school you want to apply to. 

All of the school’s supplemental essay questions have a 650 word limit except for the College of Engineering. This may seem intimidating, but it provides you with plenty of room to stay creative and emphasize your personality. Let’s get started!

Brook’s 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. (650 word limit)

The Brook’s School of Public Policy is the newest of Cornell’s schools, having opened in 2022. Take the time to research their website and learn about the majors offered. Think about how the website states that:

“The Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy brings together scholars across disciplines to tackle the biggest public policy challenges we face as a society, both in the U.S. and globally. Our mission is to make positive change in the world.”

The goal of Brook’s School of Public Policy is to graduate students who will

Questions to consider:

  • What is your social passion and how might it benefit by learning about public policy?
  • Are there social laws you would like to add, amend, or eliminate?
  • What role (think resources and opportunities) will the Brooks’ School of Public Policy play in helping you achieve  your goals?

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences 

Required Essay response

“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?” (650 words)

This is your opportunity to share your major and academic interests. Consider what programs CALS offers and why you are interested in them. 

Talk about:

  • A program you are currently a part of
  • Volunteering you have done
  • Anything remotely related to your intended major you have done outside of school

This will emphasize your interest in the program because you participate in it during your free time! 

Be sure to also include clubs, courses or other aspects that CALS has that you are looking forward to. Provide specific examples to display your interest and demonstrate that you have researched their school closely. 

Questions to consider: 

  • Why do you want to major in this particular subject? 
  • What does CALS offer that other schools do not? 
  • What do you hope to do after you graduate? 

Optional essay #1:

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 question simply wants you to share how you apply your knowledge and skills for the good of the world around you.

Questions to consider: 

  • What is your volunteering experience?
  • Why are you driven to serve a particular community?
  • How might you continue to expand upon that service while at Cornell?

Optional essay #2:

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. (300 word limit)  Select all that apply:

– My family owns or operates a farm

– I have experience working in agriculture

– I have interest in pursuing a career in agriculture

This prompt wants to know about your authentic connection to the world around you. Answering it is as simple as responding to any or all of the relatable bullet points above.

Also see: How to respond to the Common App essay prompts

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?” (650 words) 

The phrasing of this question allows you to have some fun with your response and freedom of creativity. Choose a “thing” that relates to the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and your intended major. This will make your passion connect to your academics and show how determined you are to attend this school. 

Write about how this passion has unfolded overtime and elaborate on how it inspires you and your future goals.  

Questions to consider: 

  • What could you talk about for hours? 
  • What are you extremely passionate about? 
  • What makes you “nerd out”? 

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.” (650 words) 

The College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell is one of the most diverse schools offered in terms  of range of majors. Therefore, try and make your passions and interests stand out so Cornell can see you will find your place in such a broad community. 

Emphasize what major you would like to pursue. Talk about why you want to study this particular subject and any experiences that have influenced your major decision. 

Then, discuss professional and future goals and how the College of Arts and Sciences can help you.

Be specific about clubs, classes and other aspects of the school that will aid you in achieving your goals. 

Questions to consider: 

  • Why do you want to major in this topic? 
  • What classes offered are you excited about? 
  • What are your interests?

Don’t miss: How to write an essay about yourself

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).” (650 words)

The SC Johnson College of Business has two schools that you can apply to. Be sure to reference which one you are interested in and research that particular school thoroughly. 

In your response, describe how you fit the mold of an ideal business student. Reference their mission statement to show how your values align and to show you have done your research. 

Be sure to write about an experience you have with a business related activity such as a school club or even something as small as realizing how much money a candy bar is. 

Be as specific as possible and feel free to get creative with your response. 

Make sure to reference clubs or extracurriculars that the business schools offer that you want to be a part of and how they will help you in the future. 

Questions to consider:

  • Why are you applying to the SC Johnson College of Business? 
  • What business background do you have? 
  • What activities are you involved in outside of school? 

Don’t miss: Top business scholarships

College of Engineering

This application is different from the other college essay questions offered at Cornell. Applicants must write responses for two of  three essay options (Essay #1 is required, but you can choose between two prompts for Essay #2). Each response is limited to a maximum of 250 words, which is significantly less than the usual 650 word limit. This means you should focus on being concise with your responses. 

  • Do not to drag on
  • Be purposeful with your responses

Essay #1 (required)

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. (250 word limit)

Questions to consider

  • What aspects of engineering are you passionate about?
  • If you had a dream engineering project you could work on, what would it be?
  • When you were younger, what did you always find yourself trying to create?

Essay #2 (choose either Question A or Question B)

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. (250 word limit)

Questions to consider

  • Consider the basic transportation infrastructure of your local community. How are the roads, bridges, and tunnels? Traffic?
  • Engineers help people directly through things such as prosthesis design. How might you help people at the most basic human level though engineering?
  • How will solving the problem make things better for all who live in the community?

Question B

“Diversity in all definitional forms is intrinsic to excellence in engineering. Indeed, devising the best engineered solutions to complex problems is often achieved by drawing from the diverse ingenuity of people from broadly different backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities. How do you see yourself contributing to the diversity and inclusion of the Cornell Engineering community? What is the unique voice you would bring to the Cornell Engineering community?” (250 words) 

Questions to consider

  • What makes you unique? 
  • What is your background and how has it shaped you? 
  • What can you contribute to the engineering community at Cornell that others cannot? 

Also see: Top engineering scholarships

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?” (650 words) 

Explain your future goals and how your current experiences have affected your decision to apply to the College of Human Ecology. 

Relate back to your outside of school experiences that have pushed you to want to pursue a degree in your selected major. 

Then, be sure to emphasize how your choice in major will impact your future. Be as specific as possible and try to avoid generalizations such as “it will prepare me for this job industry.” 

Rather, focus on particular classes or clubs that will give you a leg up on your competition in the job market and talk about those experiences. 

Questions to consider: 

  • Why the College of Human Ecology? 
  • What do you want to major in? Why? 
  • What are you doing now that relates to this interest in your major? 

School of Industrial and Labor Relations

5. “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.” (650 words) 

Take your experiences outside of the classroom and use them to answer this question. Make sure to choose something that you are passionate about. 

Research more about the ILR school to ensure your response aligns with their values and programs. 

Choose an ILR specific program that you are excited about to explain why the school is the perfect fit for you. 

Questions to consider: 

  • What are you passionate about? 
  • What do you want to major in? Why? 
  • What are you doing now that relates to this interest in your major? 

Also see: How to write a 500 word essay

Next steps after applying to Cornell

So that’s what you should know about the Cornell supplemental essays. Now that the hard part is over, and your application is flawless and submitted – take a deep breath. Congratulations, you did it–the hard part is now over! 

Continue to show demonstrated interest in Cornell so they know you are committed and prioritizing their school (even if you have a few other top choices.) 

This can be done by:

Essentially, showing interest and staying connected will allow you to get that extra foot in the door and make your name known. Exploring your interest in Cornell will also help solidify if it is the best university for you. 

Don’t miss: An insider’s view of what goes on in a college admissions office

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