If you’ve been waiting to start the Cornell essays, wait no more. They’re Baaack.
Like many schools, Cornell has posted a form with the prompts for this year ahead of the official unveiling when the Common App goes live on August 1st. The “2016” application has been posted for those who will use a paper application with the Universal App. The essay prompts are the same no matter what format you use, paper or eletronic, Common Application or Universal Application, so you can start writing now.
And the news for this year’s Cornell prompts is good: only one important change has been made, and that change eases confusion and lessens the pressure on you to write a Swiss-army knife of an essay. I will post the prompts in full, below my brief explanation here:
Alternate College Option is Gone
The big change for Cornell in 2015-2016 is this: as I reported earlier this year, Cornell is dropping the alternate college designation on their applications. Cornell used to offer applicants the option to write one supplemental essay, but to aim it at a primary college and a second, alternate college option. So in the past you could choose the alternate option and then you wrote an essay for your dream college that was also supposed to work for another college, just in case. Thus the Swiss-army knife allusion.
However, unlike a Swiss-army knife, which actually works pretty well based on my experience, an essay written for one specific college is not likely to work very well for a second college–this observation also based on my experience. In writing an essay that might work for a fallback subject of study, you are more likely to hurt your chances of creating a good essay in the first place. Given the low number of admits to alternate colleges, Cornell has (mercifully) killed this option. Thanks, Big Red.
Confused by all this talk of colleges when you only want to go to that place called Cornell? Here’s the gist: Universities are subdivided into smaller units. Usually this is done by dividing the university into less broad units called colleges, and then dividing those colleges into more specific schools, which house one or a limited number of majors. I talked about this in my earlier post on Cornell as well, and detailed how Cornell specifically divides itself into various colleges, et al, so if you did not click and read above, click and read now: Cornell’s schools and colleges. This earlier post also ties into looking at majors, and I link you to some specific example material at Cornell to get you started, so it’s worth a read as a broad introduction to subjects of study (college majors, in other words) and to Cornell specifically.
It’s also a good place to start thinking about the kind of application essay that asks you to explain why you want to attend the university, or how you plan to use your education at the university, or what attracts you to the university, or what about the university engages you intellectually . . . I could go on, but these are all basically the same prompt. And this prompt will require you do do some research on the university, narrow down the schools of interest, then start digging deeper, into and including looking for research of interest that is going on at the university and within your target college, then into specific people doing the research, as well as looking for facts and video material, up to and including lectures, and anything else that is pertinent–and what is pertinent includes anything that is authentically interesting to you and that might also be useful in an app essay.
Just avoid that mistake of confusing the options for an undergrad with those for graduate study only. Some stuff you find online will not be available to you as an undergrad, and it would sound either ignorant or pretentious to write as if you were going to be a (graduate) assistant for Professor Bigshot–as an incoming freshmen. T.A.’s and G.A.’s are almost always grad students.
If you are looking at an M.B.A. program page online, for example, you are in the wrong place. Go back to the undergrad programs (and try the M.B.A. again in four or more years).
I will write again soon about how to research subjects within a university (provided the application editing I do does not turn into a deluge earlier than planned). In the meantime, Oh Future Big Red, read the prompts below, and start clicking and reading on the Cornell website–and taking notes. Keep in mind that you should be talking about Cornell as much as yourself. And in the process, you may make up or change your mind about what it is you want to study. Good luck and e-mail me (soon–space is going) if you need editing help. Here are the Cornell prompts for 2015-2016–and yes, they are the same as last year, except for dropping the alternate college:
College Interest Essays
The primary focus of your college interest essay should be what you intend to study at Cornell. Please respond to the essay question below (maximum of 650 words) that corresponds to the undergraduate college or school to which you are applying. Be sure to include your full legal name exactly as it appears on passports or other official documents and date of birth, and attach the page to the back of this form. (Special note here: the Cornell Application pdf linked below states the max words at 500, the Common App site on 8/9/15 stated a max wordcount of 650 for the same essays–as it has since 7/1/15. Which leads me to question if Cornell is penalizing those who submit a paper app (the pdf with a limit of 500 words) or if this is a bureaucratic snafu–anybody at Cornell or elsewhere can use the comments at the bottom of this prompt to let me and everybody else know. In the meantime, submit electronically to evade this odd 500 word limit on the paper app–even if you have to walk miles from your cabin in the woods to go online, I guess. Okay, back to Cornell’s instructions):
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences:
How have your interests and related experiences influenced the major you have selected in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences?
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning:
Why are you excited to pursue your chosen major in AAP? What specifically about AAP and Cornell University will help you fulfill your academic and creative interests and long-term goals?
College of 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?
College of Engineering:
Tell us about an engineering idea you have, or about your interest in engineering. Describe how your ideas and interests may be realized by—and linked to—specific resources within the College of Engineering. Finally, explain what a Cornell Engineering education will enable you to accomplish.
School of Hotel Administration:
The global hospitality industry includes hotel and foodservice management, real estate, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, and law. Describe what has influenced your decision to make the business of hospitality your academic focus. What personal qualities make you a good fit for SHA?
College of Human Ecology:
How have your experiences influenced you to consider the College of Human Ecology and how will your choice of major(s) impact your goals and plans for the future?
School of Industrial and Labor Relations:
Tell us about your intellectual interests, how they sprung from your course, service, work or life experiences, and what makes them exciting to you. Describe how ILR is the right school for you to pursue these interests.
And finally, for those who want it straight from the font, here it is:
(Note that Cornell dates their application forms by the year of admission–you will be entering in the fall of 2016, thus this is the 2016 application. Other colleges use other systems (e.g. the class that enters in 2016 is usually called the class of 2020, and some schools will call you that. Optimistic, that’s what they are. Cornell apparently doesn’t look that far down the road.) Good luck, come back soon, and contact me if you need editing.