This is your classic “Why us?” essay, but it asks you to be a bit more specific about a particular part of Cornell college. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to getting started:
Spend 1 hr+ researching 10+ reasons why Cornell might be a great fit for you (ideally 3-5 of the reasons will be unique to Cornell and connect back to you).
Use this chart to map out your research.
Create an outline based on either Approach 1, 2 (recommended), or 3.
Bonus points: Write a first draft!
Some tips before you start writing your essay:
Remember that this is not just another personal statement. Don’t repeat ideas that readers can find in other parts of your application. Bring something fresh to the table or add new dimensions to topics you’ve already mentioned.
Don’t feel pressured to use all 650 words, but take advantage of how much space Cornell gives you. As you’ll see in the example below, great essays don’t need to reach the word limit to do their job. Sometimes, in fact, less is more.
Be specific. Whenever possible, offer memorable details or specific experiences. Don’t just say you like science. Name the particular areas that interest you, what classes you’ve taken to foster your interest, what research you’ve done, how you’ve brought that interest to a certain community, or offer a (short!) specific story you associate with that interest. In addition, a little descriptive language (you’ll see some in the example below) can help the reader understand you in a more visceral way. In other words, the way you describe something is just as important as what you’re describing.
Show the reader you know your stuff. Cornell explicitly requires students to apply to a specific college. While you could include (perhaps at the end) a few details on why you’re interested in Cornell in general, be sure to first share the specific programs, classes, clubs, events, and professors you’re interested in at the specific school you’re applying to.
Lastly, have some fun with it. Don’t let a dull prompt prevent you from getting creative. As you’ll see in the example below, some of the most impressive essays are the ones where applicants think outside the box.
Without further ado, here’s a great essay sample for this prompt:
When I discovered you, first through Andy Bernard’s resounding a cappella in The Office and then by your amazing stem cell research, I couldn’t help but think how perfect we’d be together. I would chart an educational path centered on interdisciplinary learning in your collaborative community, merging stem cells with linguistics; biology with beatboxing; outdoor adventure with poetry.
Cornell offers unique opportunities to expand my medical research interests. Advanced classes like the Regulation of Cell Proliferation, Senescence, and Death—one of the few classes in the country offered on epigenetic regulation and signal transduction-induced pluripotency—perfectly match my interests in stem cells. I am excited by the work of Dr. Brian Rudd at the Cornell Stem Cell Program, as it will allow me to build on my previous work in CRISPR-mediated T-cell development. To my knowledge, similar research is not being conducted anywhere else in the world, and I hope to study signaling pathways and T-cell development under his guidance.
Although I have remained focused on stem cell research, I also have great aspirations beyond molecular biology. A double minor in economics and linguistics will allow me to study interdisciplinary mechanisms and examine humanistic issues through a cultural lens. I relish analyzing market trends as my high school’s Investment Team co-leader, and look forward to courses like Behavioral Economics and Public Policy, which will help me build a theoretical understanding of financial markets and relate individual behavior to public policy. A minor in linguistics will further my seven-year-long Spanish journey, and I look forward to academic opportunities encompassing Spanish poetry and poetry of the Americas.
While I may not be the archetype paper salesman (think Andy!), I too share a special connection with Cornell A Cappella. Many a middle school car ride were spent listening to Cornell Tarana, and it feels surreal that I may be experiencing campus life with the group I’ve loved and admired for so long. I hope to merge my background in beatboxing and Hindustani Classical music by singing with Tarana, learning from peers and sharing my love of South Asian music with the Cornell community.
A kid who grew up racing Hot Wheels on top of my mother’s medical books, medicine was always prevalent in my life. Medicine now excites me because it is a perfect balance between intense scientific inquiry and dedicated personal connection. With Cornell’s unique interdisciplinary environment, I would have the ability to expand my endeavors in medicine, develop a global view of community healthcare, and explore new avenues essential to my diverse aspirations.
Oh, Cornell, you are gorges. I long to hold your hand as I walk along the Beebe’s scenic waterfront, take in picturesque sunsets on the Slope, put on awesome Tarana concerts on your hallowed ground. It is the perfect harmony of research, music, and holistic approach to my aspirations, that tells me you are the ideal place to nurture me into a globally aware physician-scientist!
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Tips + Analysis
Be creative and add personality. This essay is essentially a love letter from the applicant to the College of Arts and Sciences. The author is able to weave her skills and experience into a really engaging structure that showcases both her sense of humor and playful nature.
Even if we didn’t look too closely at the substance of this essay, we’d get a sense of who the author is just by how she approached the prompt and the way she chose to frame her answer. She loves watching The Office and has fond memories of racing Hot Wheels. Those details may not seem important, but they give us a fuller picture of who this person is and what kind of energy she would bring to a community.
Just because the prompts here are relatively generic doesn’t mean your answer should be. Invest some time in thinking about how you can stand out, and inject personality into your answer.
Combine the unconventional. The best essays come out of nowhere. They take ideas, disciplines, and experiences that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with one another and somehow make them seem like the perfect combination.
We wouldn’t necessarily expect one person to enjoy “biology and beatboxing,” but through the course of the essay, the author shows us how her love of both can be fostered at Cornell.
Be specific. Clearly, this applicant has done her research. She references specific programs, clubs, and classes she would like to explore if she were admitted. If you’re a Cornell admission reader, the specificity of those references makes you feel the student values the school. That’s why it’s so important to look through a college’s website before you apply. Think about your core values or what resources you absolutely need in a college setting, then try to find places for that within Cornell. Doing that research pays off in the long run.
Here’s one more sample essay (for the College of Engineering):