Essay Scoop: Cornell University Essays

Natalie Thompson
Natalie Thompson

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Cornell University’s main campus is located in Ithaca, New York. When you apply to Cornell, you apply to one of 14 colleges even though you get your degree from the university. Let’s discuss how to answer your Cornell University essays for the college application.

About Cornell

The university has about 14,500 undergraduate students with a strong Greek life and great athletics programs. The two most popular colleges are the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Cornell’s graduate studies programs are highly ranked in business, engineering and law.

In addition to filling out the common app, you will write a 650 word essay explaining why you are interested in the area of study you are applying to. That means, you need to decide on a major before applying to Cornell so you can apply to the college of your major.

(As a note, transferring between colleges isn’t easy. You must have good grades at Cornell and be accepted into the college you transfer to.)

Essay Prompts

The following are three prompts for the college essays: the first is to apply to the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business in Applied Economics and Management, the second to the College of Arts and Sciences, and the third to the College of Engineering.


How have your interests and experiences influenced your decision to study Applied Economics and Management? Describe how you would take advantage of the Dyson School’s unique opportunities, for example, its affiliation with both the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences?

Arts and Sciences:

Describe two or three of your current intellectual interests and why they are exciting to you. Why will Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences be the right environment in which to pursue your interests?


Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities… the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in?

How to Approach the College Essay

As with most college application essays, focus on your interests and personality traits. Also, connect that to your academic interests. I would start with looking over the academic majors of the college you like, the courses you can take and what kind of job you could have if you study that field.

If for example, you like the idea of Chemical Engineering, you could see on the Cornell website that you will take classes like Organic Chemistry, Fluid Mechanics, and Process Control Strategies. With this degree, depending on your focus, you can work in pharmaceuticals, electronics, or food processing.

Be specific about what you want to study and why. Most of the questions ask you about your interests and experiences, ideas and aspirations, personal experiences, background, future goals, personal qualities, or intellectual interests.

Writing your Cornell University Essays

In your essay, clearly connect your personality and interests to the college of interest. This would include your hobbies, your academic strengths, or your aptitude for a school subject (such as science, math, art, writing, etc…). If, for example, you like chemistry, you could write about an interesting experience you had conducting a science experiment.

Create an outline to organize your ideas. Be sure to use great personal evidence as support. Link ideas so that you answer the whys you bring up in your essay. And use active verbs.

As a final step, have a trusted friend or family member look over your essay. Empowerly can help you plan, prepare, and refine your college application essays.

Questions? Let us know!