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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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3 Great Cornell Essay Examples

Cornell is one of the top schools in the nation, and a member of the esteemed Ivy League. With an extremely low general acceptance rate, admissions is highly-selective, though keep in mind that acceptance rates vary by schools within the university.


Cornell requires a single supplement for all applicants, but the prompt will vary based on the college you’re applying to. In this post, we’ll be going over two prompts for the College of Arts and Sciences and one prompt for the SC Johnson College of Business (which includes the infamous Hotel School!). We’ll outline what admissions officers are looking for, and we’ll analyze a sample essay written by a real applicant!


Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 


Read our Cornell University essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts. 


Essay Example #1


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. (650 words)


“Give me liberty or give me death!” When I first read this quote, I got shivers. As a fourth-grader, I remember thinking: “How could one love liberty so much that they would give up their own life?” To me, American revolutionaries were too passionate about paying taxes and I shrugged off their fervor for liberty. But five years later, I found myself asking the same question.


During my freshman year of high school, I became completely engrossed in learning about the Atlantic Revolutions. From studying the Storming of the Bastille to Haitain independence, I noticed that people sacrificed everything for freedom. It was soon that I learned about Enlightenment philosophers and the role they played in spurring revolutions by inspiring others to challenge social and political norms. I was amazed that philosophy had the power to mobilize entire populations and positively reform nations. But as I reflected on the circumstances of social inequality and political corruption that led to these revolutions, I realized that philosophy is not just a powerful practice of the past; it is just as relevant today.


The United States is a country of contradictions. We boast values of equality and justice, yet our prison, immigration, and education systems are rife with inequity and corruption. I seek a philosophy education to lend me an understanding of existing power structures and how to create a more equitable society. There is no better place to further my educational career than at the Sage School of Philosophy, the birthplace of the first philosophical review in our country. Cornell’s long-standing commitment to approaching philosophy in a holistic manner is evident in its wide range of courses offered. Specifically, I am drawn to the Discussion of Justice course that focuses on current political controversies such as immigration and racial inequality, both issues I care deeply about. After witnessing the cycle of poverty that plagues my community, I see that our society is facing a moral dilemma. This course will enable me to question the values held collectively by our society and recognize the impact such values have on minority groups.


With a greater understanding of morality and social inequality, I hope to pursue a career in civil law rights, helping underrepresented groups in our country receive the justice they deserve. It would be a privilege to begin my career in law by learning the Philosophy of Law from Professor Julia Markovitz. Professor Markovitz’s expertise in moral reasoning will push me to consider the ethical problems that lawyers face and how to fairly represent those in need. I am energized by this course’s goal to not only learn the law, but also challenge it. Building a fairer future relies on changing current institutions based on the government’s moral obligation to its people. I am eager to study philosophy through a career-oriented lens that enables me to apply my learned knowledge to the field of law.


Among the many political issues our country is facing, I am motivated to learn more about global migration. Just miles from my home in South Texas, the humanitarian crisis at the southern border has shown me the complexity of migration. This year, my experiences volunteering with Loaves and Fishes, an organization that shelters and aids undocumented immigrants, have given me insight into the poverty and violence that many are trying to escape from. To those arriving from the southern border, migration is not a choice; it is a matter of survival. On a larger scale, with rising global temperatures creating climate change refugees and international wars rendering thousands of people homeless, I crave a more extensive understanding of the factors that prompt migration. I plan to pursue a minor in Migration Studies in order to learn how populations can be sustained and thrive in a constantly moving world. Taking classes at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies will allow me to interact with students and faculty from other colleges on campus. I believe there are a myriad of factors that drive international migration; thus, working with students from all disciplines will expose me to a diversity in research that can shape future immigration policies. As a daughter of immigrants, I am moved by Cornell’s dedication to supporting education on migration, namely through launching ‘Migrations’ as the theme for Cornell’s first Global Grand Challenge. By researching, teaching, and engaging with communities to tackle the challenges of migration, I am excited to be part of a generation of activists that assist and empower migrants.


Today, the passion American revolutionaries had for change is no longer perplexing to me. I, too, am ready to enact change in our country and society. With Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences’ broad curriculum that encourages me to explore my many interests, I am confident that I will have the resources to improve our world in a truly revolutionary way.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay effectively accomplished the most important part of a “Why This Major?” essay: walking us through the past, present, and future of their interests. The essay starts by explaining how an interest in history spurred this student to care about philosophy and social justice, then they describe how they hope to further their academic passions at Cornell, and then the student tells us how they will make an impact after graduation.


Beyond the structure, this essay does a nice job of integrating the student’s multi-dimensional passions into the college’s offerings. From the beginning where they describe their research on revolutions to concrete examples of current social inequalities, they present their interests in a very real manner that makes it clear exactly what they care about. Because of this elaboration, the reader can clearly see how the student’s passion for philosophy, immigration, and social justice easily fit into Cornell’s curriculum.


The connection between their interests and Cornell was strengthened by the context this student provided about themselves. For example, when they mention the Discussion of Justice class, the student explains that they have witnessed the effects of poverty first-hand and need this class to better understand and address those issues one day. 


Providing detailed, personal context for school-specific opportunities, as this essay does, highlights your genuine interest and connection to the topics you are talking about. The true strength of this essay lies in the ability to connect the Cornell major to this student, with ample background information, at every stage of their academic career.


What Could Be Improved


While this essay starts strong with an anecdote that places the reader in the middle of the action, the rest of the essay falls a bit short on the action and excitement. The essay is a well-written account of this student’s passions, where they originated from, and where they hope to take them, but we are also looking for an energizing story that keeps us reading.


One easy way to bring more energy to the essay is to simply have shorter paragraphs. Long blocks of text are overwhelming and easier to get lost in, but shorter, more direct paragraphs help move the reader effortlessly from one paragraph to the next. Finding natural breaks in a paragraph is an easy way to make the essay flow more smoothly and maintain the reader’s engagement.


Another way to liven up the essay would be to interject more of the student’s personal thoughts and quotes. In the first paragraph, the student provides a quote to show the reader their inner monologue, which is an excellent way to show us what you think or feel rather than telling us. If more thoughts were interjected throughout the essay, we could get a better sense of how this student feels about certain topics, as well as see their personal voice shine through.


Essay Example #2


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. (650 words)


Throughout middle school and high school, I continuously took advanced science and technology classes. It wasn’t until four years ago when my eyes caught a glance of a flier posted next to my biology classroom: “Academy of Biotechnology! Meeting in room 307 today for freshmen interested in biotechnology,” that I realized my two favorite classes were intertwined in a field of their own: biotechnology. 


I’ve been in Room 307 every Thursday this year listening to guest speakers talk about various topics from sleep to drug development, exploring new advances in biotech, and planning the annual career fair.


Last summer, my internship at Holy Cross furthered my interest in biotechnology. When I was introduced to the da Vinci Xi surgical system – a robot that utilizes high-tech guided targeting and auxiliary technology to achieve less blood loss and a faster recovery time for patients, I was amazed at the employment of technology and its power to renovate the medical field. Cornell’s world-leading academics in its College of Arts and Science, particularly the interdisciplinary Biology and Society major, makes it a dream place for me to pursue my passion in both health and biotechnology. I’m specifically interested in the course on Ethical Issues in Health and Medicine, and the seminar course on Controversies in Science, Technology, and Medicine. These capstone courses under top professors will enable me to acquire knowledge about the breadth of biology within the dimensions of modern medical and ethical issues. 


I love that biotechnology encompasses a public health side as well as a microbiology side. Wanting to further explore the molecular side of biotechnology, I sought out the opportunity to work as a research intern at Montgomery College. I have been modeling protein and protein dockings of a cyanobacterium Synechococcus species through computational biology. I’m also drawn to Cornell’s Biological Sciences major with a concentration in Molecular and Cell Biology, where I can further explore my interest in biotechnology. Cornell’s wide range of courses in this major reflects its commitment to supporting its students with novel opportunities. Particularly, I am drawn to the Orientation Lectures in Molecular Biology & Genetics course. I’m eager to learn about the variety of research that Cornell’s experienced faculty is conducting. 


It would be an honor to learn from and work with Cornell’s researchers at one of the world’s greatest research institutions, through the myriad of opportunities the college provides. I’m especially interested in the research of Dr. Cohen and his team in the creation of micrometer-scale robots for following biochemical signals and encapsulating a soft tissue analog for new future treatments of disease. 


Outside of the classroom, I hope to combine my passions for public health and advocacy by engaging in the American Red Cross student organization, and perhaps the Cornell Sun. I also excitedly anticipate running Club Cross Country through Cornell’s astounding gorges and gardens. I look forward to contributing to the various student organizations at Cornell with my interests and background. 


Cornell’s unique freedom of course selection offers an uncommon opportunity for career exploration. I’m confident Cornell’s College of Arts and Science’s opportunities, courses, cutting-edge research and researchers, and community will make it my perfect next Room 307: an opening to practically endless exploration and growth that cannot be found elsewhere.


What the Essay Did Well


A positive aspect of this essay is how it neatly parallels the student’s interdisciplinary interests in science and technology to the interdisciplinary aspect of the major and the College of Arts and Sciences. The reader gains a full appreciation for the diverse interests this student has and exactly how they align with a Cornell education.


Providing context about the biotechnology club, their internship at Holy Cross, and their experience as a research assistant at Montgomery College are all great ways to show the reader how this student has already expressed intellectual curiosity in this field in the past. Although you don’t need to go into too much detail about things that will be included on your extracurricular profile, it’s always a good idea to tie in your experiences whenever possible.


Additionally, this essay successfully employs an echo back to the opening in the conclusion. The essay starts by introducing illustrious Room 307 as the birthplace of this student’s joint passion in science and technology, so circling back to that room in the conclusion helps bring the essay to a satisfying full-circle moment. It was also clever to use Room 307 as a metaphor for exploring their interest, and thereby comparing Cornell to the next Room 307.


What Could Be Improved


This essay exceeds in covering a breadth of opportunities at Cornell that excite them, but it could use some work on the depth of each opportunity. What do we mean by this? The student mentions nine different aspects of Cornell that excite them, but they provide little meaningful elaboration on why they want to get involved with these particular choices, how they relate to their interests, or what they hope to gain from these experiences.


For instance, instead of just telling the reader they are interested in Dr. Cohen’s research, the essay should delve into what about micro-scale robots following biochemical signals excites them so much. Have they or a loved one been affected by a disease these robots could cure? Did they read an article about this technique a few years back and have been dreaming about implementing it up close? 


Asking these questions to probe deeper than the surface layer of “I like this topic” helps bring the essay (and you as an applicant) to life. If the student chose to cut back on the number of offerings they included and instead focused on the depth and context for each one, it would make the essay much stronger.


One more thing this essay does that we’d caution against is the empty flattery of the school. Cornell admissions officers know that it’s one of the greatest research institutions and there are many opportunities for supporting students, so it’s unnecessary for the student to repeat that in their essay. What they don’t know about is you. Try to steer clear of mentioning the college’s accolades and rankings, and maintain attention on you and how you fit in.


Essay Example #3


Prompt: 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). (650 words)


I rounded third base; dust flew in a whirling cloud of dirt behind me. On my wrist I sported a stained pink wristband with the name of my grandmother, who had recently finished her last chemo treatment. I slid into home plate, narrowly escaping the daunting reach of the catcher. As I got up, I looked around at the field of players, all donning a similar wristband with the name of someone close to them that had battled cancer. I turned to the bleachers and smiled as a sea of pink cheered me on. While cancer can be a dismal matter, it was a merging force that brought a community together for that charity game. Seeing what a unifying tragedy cancer can be, I knew I wanted to help.


At the Dyson School within the Cornell SC Johnson School of Business I aim to gain a strong foundation in business, with a concentration in marketing, to conduct meaningful research as an undergraduate. Taking part in the CALS Honors Research program, I aspire to research marketing strategies for increasing cancer screening rates. Having numerous family members that have battled with cancer has shown me the burdensome effect it can have not only on the individual, but on the family. Through my project, I hope to minimize those effects, as catching the disease early on is vital to a patient’s recovery. With the unique opportunity provided by the program, I know that I will have that chance.


After graduation, I want to continue with a career in marketing for the betterment of society. For me, the importance of marketing is not about convincing consumers to buy the latest product to boost sales, it is about encouraging consumers to make decisions that will benefit themselves and their community. With a focus in healthcare, I will have the ability to positively influence people’s precautionary screening measures, keeping them safe and healthy. Similarly, I aim to apply the same principle in other fields during my career and my time at Cornell.


One of those fields is green energy. Protecting the planet is a sentiment that is also very important to me, and with its beautiful, vast landscape and focus on environmental conservation, Cornell is the perfect place for me to advance that mission. With the state of today’s climate, the need to act swiftly is paramount, and citizen participation is key. As a marketer, I would strive to convince consumers to make the switch to green energy. In the digital age, marketing relies heavily on the internet, and I am excited to take Digital Marketing with Professor Tomaso Bondi to develop my skills in that area.


With Cornell already performing groundbreaking research in sustainable energy, I want to get involved with the initiative from a marketing perspective. An opportunity that intrigues me is the student project Cornell Electric Vehicles. Although it is an engineering project team, I would love to get involved as a student from Dyson working on marketing the effectiveness of the vehicles designed by the team. Switching to electric cars is an efficient way to reduce our carbon footprint and sharing the successes achieved by the team would be a great way to showcase the capabilities of electric vehicles.


As a student looking to make a positive impact on his global community through research and marketing, I know that Cornell can provide me with the opportunities to achieve my goals. Whether it be persuading an unknowing cancer victim to receive a screening or a consumer looking for a new car to switch to green energy, I will make a change through marketing. By gaining a strong understanding of the foundations of business and marketing, I will strive to ensure that everyone after that charity game will be able to return home and hug their loved one and have a healthy and thriving planet to call home.


What the Essay Did Well


This student exemplified the prompt by showing us exactly what kind of business student they are. They are a student passionate about having a social and environmental impact through marketing. The fact that the reader can walk away with such a clear impression of who this student is and what they hope to accomplish with a Cornell business degree is a result of the concise and dynamic flow of this essay.


Every new idea they introduced—whether it was pursuing the honors research program or joining the Cornell Electric Vehicle project team—was supported by contextual reasoning and personal connections. Tying everything back to their past or their goals for the future really brought the student front and center and made it very easy for the reader to feel like they know this student.


In addition to connecting everything to the student, the essay also managed to connect interdisciplinary topics that you might not immediately think of when you hear business to marketing. Not being afraid to delve into healthcare and sustainability in an essay for a business school brings a personal and unique perspective to a prompt that admissions officers are sure to appreciate.


Another source of this essay’s strength is how each paragraph is concise and focused. There is a very intentional use of space that makes it extremely easy for the reader to follow along with each new idea and take away the main points from each paragraph. 


What Could Be Improved


Although this essay is quite strong as it is, one weakness was the abrupt switch from cancer and healthcare to sustainability. It’s great that this student has multifaceted interests and that they were able to touch on both, but given that the anecdote at the beginning was solely focused on cancer, it felt somewhat jarring to switch to green energy halfway through the essay.


One way this discontinuity could be addressed is to find a different anecdote to begin the essay, ideally one that combines cancer and sustainability if at all possible. Or, the student could keep the cancer anecdote and add a second one that connects to their interest in green energy more. However, it’s important to not let the anecdote overwhelm the essay and take up too much space, so keeping it concise and providing just enough to spark interest is key.


This essay only includes three Cornell-specific opportunities, and while this allows for more personal connections to be made to each offering, the student’s interest and research on the college could be demonstrated with one or two more details. It might be nice if they found a club that related to marketing and healthcare on campus and a class that relates to business and green energy to show how they plan to address both of their passions in and out of the classroom.


Where to Get Your Cornell Essays Edited


Do you want feedback on your Cornell essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free 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. 


If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.