How to Write the Cooper Union Essays 2023-2024
Engineering applicants to Cooper Union have three required supplemental essays, in which you will write about your interest in the school, your interest in your intended major, and your interest in a topic of your choice.
With how competitive college admissions have become, your essays are one of the chief ways admissions officers will be able to distinguish you from other applicants and decide whether or not they want you at their school. In this post, we’ll cover how you can write essays that will impress admissions officers at Cooper Union.
Cooper Union Engineering Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1: The Cooper Union is a small, highly specialized, and academically challenging school in New York City. Beyond these traits, what other aspects of the school excite you and how might you contribute to, and benefit from, our learning community. (250 words)
Prompt 2: Why are you interested in pursuing your chosen major (e.g., Chemical, Civil, Electrical, General or Mechanical Engineering) and how do you see yourself applying your degree? (250 words)
Prompt 3: If you were to give a 45 minute lecture on a specific topic to an audience, similar to a TED talk, what would your topic be and why? (250 words)
The Cooper Union is a small, highly specialized, and academically challenging school in New York City. Beyond these traits, what other aspects of the school excite you and how might you contribute to, and benefit from, our learning community. (250 words)
If you haven’t already read our general post on “Why School?” prompts, we recommend checking it out before you get started on your response.
Also remember that even if you have responded to this prompt for another school, you shouldn’t just change the name of the school and copy and paste your essay. As the prompt itself notes, Cooper Union is a specialized college with opportunities that can’t be found elsewhere, and your essay should reflect that uniqueness.
The key to writing a truly unique essay is thinking about specific reasons why you are interested in Cooper Union, and then researching offerings at the school that would allow you to pursue those interests.
For example, say you are interested in using engineering to expand solar power usage. Part of your essay could be focused on your desire to participate in Cooper Union’s study abroad program in Guatemala, where you can work with a team to make a solar-powered drip irrigation system.
Alternatively, say you’re interested in making transportation more efficient. You could write about how Cooper Union’s Chem-E-Car and Hyperloop teams would give you invaluable hands-on experience with transportation-related projects, and give you the opportunity to make a difference in this sphere even as an undergrad.
As you brainstorm for this essay, you may not be able to think of specific opportunities like those mentioned above. That’s okay—there’s only so much you can learn from emails and brochures. On Cooper Union’s website, the clubs page, course catalog, and study abroad listings are some good places to find examples for your essay.
Keep in mind that you should only include opportunities that reflect a genuine interest in Cooper Union. Don’t just pick things that sound cool and then try to make up a personal connection, as that will likely make your essay feel stilted and disingenuous.
You also want to make sure your essay isn’t just a list of things you’re excited about at Cooper Union, even if you’re genuinely excited about all of them. The admissions officers know what their school offers. What they don’t know is why you are interested in these particular opportunities out of everything offered at Cooper Union, or indeed at every other college.
To illustrate what we’re talking about here, say you’re writing about the study abroad program in Guatemala. Instead of just describing your excitement about working on a solar power project, show your reader why you’re interested in solar power.
For example, maybe you grew up in a sunny part of the country, and you’ve always been disappointed by your local government’s inability to make solar power part of the infrastructure, so you want to learn about how to turn an idea into a reality.
This personal connection will show your reader that you’re informed about local environmentalism movements, and eager to learn skills that will help you make the change you wish to see in the world. Remember that the point of a college essay is to teach your reader something about your personality or character, and the personal connection is where that happens, not in the description of the opportunity itself.
In order to make sure you have the space to provide this kind of detail, you should select 2-3 opportunities at Cooper Union to focus your essay on.
While this may seem obvious, remember that these opportunities should be related to engineering, as this is a supplement for engineering majors. While researching, you will likely find many things unrelated to engineering that excite you, and as a student you will absolutely be able to pursue these things. Just don’t focus this particular essay on, say, the dance team.
Why are you interested in pursuing your chosen major (e.g., Chemical, Civil, Electrical, General or Mechanical Engineering) and how do you see yourself applying your degree? (250 words)
Like the first prompt, this prompt is one of the college essay archetypes: the “Why Major?” prompt. We recommend reading our general post on these prompts as well, if you haven’t already.
Additionally, you may have already written a response to one of these prompts for another school. While you may include some similar elements, like the “Why School?” prompt you want your essay to feel fresh and unique, not like a template. Engineering programs are not the same at every school.
There are three primary things you want your essay to accomplish:
- Show your reader how you have developed your interest in your major
- Describe your goals for the future
- Explain how the major at Cooper Union specifically will help you reach those goals
We’ll now talk through each of these points, and provide some tips on how to do these things successfully.
First, as you think about how you became interested in your major, remember that, like with any college essay, a strong anecdote goes a long, long way. Say an applicant, Amanda, is intending on majoring in civil engineering. Below are some examples to illustrate how she might begin her essay.
Weak example: “When I was a kid, I always loved building roads with my set of blocks. When I got older, I started thinking about how I could build those same roads, but life-sized.”
Strong example: “‘Amanda, dinner!’ My mom’s voice floated up the stairs to my room, where I sat in the middle of a spider web of wooden roads and train tracks. In my mind, however, this was not just a toy. This was the future of transportation in Los Angeles.”
Even though the information communicated here is the same, the strong example immediately pulls your reader into the essay, and the writing has an energy that the weak example is missing. Particularly in an essay of this length, you want to be engaging, and if your tone is dry, the actual points you’re making may be lost on your reader.
Next, think about how you see yourself utilizing your degree in the future. If we keep going with the Amanda example, she might want to be a city planner with a focus on sustainable living. The next question is: how will Cooper Union help you do this?
For Amanda, she might write about how Cooper Union has facilities for wastewater, soil, and hazardous waste analysis, and by studying samples from different areas, she would be able to learn how to minimize a city’s impact on the environment.
Remember that you have already written a “Why School?” supplement, and the school-specific opportunities you cite here should be different from those you mentioned in that essay. You only get so many chances to share yourself with the admissions committee, so you never want to waste one by being redundant.
If you were to give a 45 minute lecture on a specific topic to an audience, similar to a TED talk, what would your topic be and why? (250 words)
While the first two prompts are fairly conventional, this one is much more open-ended, and as a result will require more creativity. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—these more unconventional essays can be a lot of fun to write. You just want to make sure you give yourself enough time to craft a strong response.
As you brainstorm what you want to write about, the most important thing is to be honest. Don’t worry about what you think will impress the admissions committee, as most of your application is already focused on showing off your talents and accomplishments. Instead, we recommend using this prompt to showcase part of your personality that might not come across in your GPA or activities list.
If you’re having trouble brainstorming, here are some open-ended questions that will hopefully help you think of passions you have that can carry a 250-word essay:
- What do you most enjoy talking about?
- What kinds of things do you share first with people you haven’t met before?
- If your best friend was describing you to someone else, what would they say your interests are?
Once you pick a topic, you want to identify anecdotes that illustrate what your interest in this topic says about you. You want to use your topic as a tool to showcase part of your character or personality.
For example, say you choose to write about your love for baseball, despite the sport’s declining popularity amongst young people. What you don’t want to do is compare baseball to basketball, and psychoanalyze the reasons why young people prefer the latter.
While this essay might be interesting to read, the admissions committee will learn more about the popularity of different sports leagues than about you.
Instead, you could write about how your dad often worked night shifts when you were little, but during baseball season he would take a night off once a month to take you to a game, and these were some of the only times you were able to bond with your dad.
While most of your friends think baseball is boring, to you the slower pace of the game represents a respite from the chaos of everyday life, and an opportunity to genuinely enjoy someone else’s company and connect with them over hot dogs and cotton candy.
This second approach shows your reader that your family is important to you, and that you value balance in your life. Baseball is just the lens you use to illustrate these qualities to your reader. As you revise your essay, the most important thing to ensure is that the essay is about you, not baseball (or whatever you’re writing about).
Where to Get Your Cooper Union Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your Cooper Union 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!