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How to Write Cornell’s Essay for The Architecture College

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Mariana Goldlust in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



Applicants to Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning must write one supplemental essay to complete their application. This article will give you guidance on how to write a standout response to the prompt.


Understanding The Prompt


This essay is different from many of the other supplementals you will write. Rather than asking you to explain why you are interested in majoring in Architecture or what your career goals are, this prompt invites you to talk about your passions. Here is the prompt in exact words:


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 prompt begins by asking you what your “thing” is. Cornell’s admissions readers want you to look into something that excites you. They want you to be quirky, so the sky is the limit when it comes to choosing a topic. It does not necessarily have to relate directly to your major of interest, but it’s great if you can bring it back to that.


Ways to Structure Your Essay


There are two possible structures you can use to organize your essay: the longitudinal method and the moment-in-time method. 


With the longitudinal method, your essay will begin with the story from your past about how you found your passion; then, it will chronologically tell the story of how your interest has evolved over time and how it has made you who you are today.


The moment-in-time method is more focused than the longitudinal method. Rather than sharing multiple anecdotes, you will only share one. Your narrative about this one moment will show admissions officers the depth of your passion for your “thing.”


No matter which essay structure you choose, it’s especially important to elaborate on how your obsession has shaped your values and goals in the present. Make sure to show how your “thing” has impacted what you plan to do in the future too — at Cornell and beyond.


Lastly, remember that the school of Architecture, Art, and Planning values creativity, so your essay should be creative as well.


Is Your Essay Strong Enough?


Essays account for around 25% of your admissions decision, as they’re your chance to humanize your application and set yourself apart from other applicants with strong profiles. 


The “Why This College” essay is especially important, as it allows you to reflect on your fit with the school. Your supplement needs to demonstrate your interest in the college, and paint a picture of how you’ll contribute both academically and socially.

To understand if your essay is strong enough, we recommend using our Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. This tool will make it easier to understand your essay’s strengths and weaknesses, and help you make your writing even more compelling.


For more advice on how to write Cornell’s supplemental essays, check out this article on CollegeVine!