Cornell College Of Human Ecology Essay
"I got into Cornell off the wait list. A lot of people were like, "Oh, you just got into Cornell because your dad donated a building." No. Okay. I got into Cornell because I'm smart. I'm smart enough to have a dad who donates buildings to things."
Andrew Bernardof "The Office"
It would appear that the Harvard and Dartmouth grads who write for The Office are gleefully taking shots at Cornell University via "The 'Nard Dawg." But if your parents didn't donate a building to Cornell, you'll need to make the most of the lone supplemental essay they require that asks you to write a 500-word essay about your chosen course of study.
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Lots of schools require applicants to respond to a similar prompt, but very few allow you up to 500 words to do so. If you've really investigated Cornell, you'll know that's not surprising. Ezra Cornell, who founded the school, once said, "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study." Today, there are over 70 academic majors and Cornell has a reputation for academic intensity. Successful applicants have to show not only that they've excelled in academics, but also that they're excited about the academic opportunities waiting for them at Cornell.
Here are the prompts (we'll return with advice down below):
Please respond to the essay question below (maximum of 500 words) that corresponds to the undergraduate college(s) to which you are applying.
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences:
How have your interests and related experiences influenced your selection of major?
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning:
How does the major you would like to study in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning match your intellectual, academic, and career interests? Discuss any activities you have engaged in that are relevant to your chosen major.
College of Arts and Sciences:
Describe your intellectual interests, their evolution, and what makes them exciting to you. Tell us how you will utilize the academic programs in the College of Arts and Sciences to further explore your interests, intended major, or field of study.
College of Engineering:
Engineers turn ideas (technical, scientific, mathematical) into reality. Tell us about an engineering idea you have or your interest in engineering. Explain how Cornell Engineering can help you further explore this idea or interest.
School of Hotel Administration:
What work and non-work experiences, academic interests, and career goals influenced your decision to study hospitality management? How will these contribute to your success at the School of Hotel Administration?
College of Human Ecology:
What do you value about the College of Human Ecology perspective as you consider your academic goals and plans for the future? Reflect on our majors that interest you as you respond.
School of Industrial and Labor Relations:
Describe your intellectual interests, their evolution, and what makes them exciting to you. In your essay please address how the ILR curriculum will help you fulfill these interests and your long-term goals.
Back to the advice…
If you apply to Cornell just because it's an Ivy League school and autumns in upstate New York are spectacular, you'll be in for a rude awaking when you arrive and realize a) Cornell's academic workload trumps that of most of the other Ivies and b) spectacular autumns in upstate New York are but a teasing precursor to the spectacularly terrible winters that follow.
Successful applicants choose Cornell in large part because they're drawn to their chosen academic program. These students have well-developed academic interests. They can tell you what their favorite classes have been, what subjects they have to know more about and why they find those topics so interesting. They like to learn and can't wait to dive in and do more of it at Cornell.
Whichever prompt above you're responding to, focus on these important areas:
1) Show the origins and development of your academic interests.
Cornell needs to know that you're not selecting a major simply because that's one of the questions on the application. They expect you to have defined academic interests and they want to know the story of those interests.
Origins of interest sound like this:
"I've never seen my father angrier than the day I took our family television apart just to see how it worked. I was 12 years old, and Monday Night Football was just about to start. It wasn't the first time I'd done something like that, but it was the first time I wasn't able to put something back together quickly. It took me three hours, but I did it, just in time for my dad to see his beloved Giants lose. I never made that mistake again, but I've also never stopped trying to learn how things work."
The development of interests sounds like this:
"My junior year of high school, I volunteered to lead a fundraiser to send our soccer team to Europe to compete in a tournament. And while I enjoyed organizing the car wash and the donation drive and the now much maligned "shrimp-a-thon" (Sizzler doesn't really mean it when they say, "All you can eat shrimp," by the way), what I really enjoyed was crafting personal emails to ask for donations, and writing the regular update newsletters I sent to people who were supporting us, and updating the travel blog I wrote during our stay in Europe. Every day, I thought about new ways to share our story with people who might be interested. Yes, we raised money. But we also raised interest. People who had never cared about our team started caring. We developed a following of loyal supporters, and 18 guys who had never been to Europe finally got to go because of it. That experience was the first time I started to understand the power of the well-written word."
Those examples are specific and, more importantly, believable. These students aren't telling us that "Engineering is interesting because I've always been fascinated with math and science," or "I learned about communications by taking AP English." They're giving us specific, real examples to show where their academic interests came from.
2) Focus on your genuine interest, maybe even excitement, for the subject matter.
When you're sharing your stories, let the reader hear your genuine interests. True engineers get giddy when they talk about engineering. Seriously, they do. Students who really love politics don't believe that talking about it ever gets old. A real Civil War buff can talk for hours about her favorite battles. Look for examples of you showing your true passion for the subject matter, something you weren't just doing to get a good grade. Even if it seems silly, like the fact that you and your fellow math geeks solve problem sets together on the weekends, that's perfectly valid. In fact, most math majors would tell you you'd be right at home with them.
3) Tie these interests to Cornell.
Any student who really has this kind of academic passion would investigate the academic programs of her chosen colleges. These students don't talk about the classes they'll have to take in their chosen major; they talk about the classes they'll get to take in their chosen major.
Successful Cornell applicants can tell you with some clarity how they'll be spending their academic time at Cornell, why their chosen course of study is the right one, and what they're most excited about when it comes to learning, particularly at Cornell.
It's just one essay. But at Cornell, it's a crucial one. So talk about how your academic interests got started and how they developed. Focus on your real passion and let the reader see just how much intellectual enjoyment these subjects bring you. And most importantly, tie those interests to Cornell and show why it's there you want to pursue them.
Andrew Bernard likely didn't do these things, but then again, his dad donated a building. The rest of us have to get in the old fashioned way.
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Filed Under: Advice for specific colleges
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Why are you drawn to studying the major you have selected? Please discuss how your interests and related experiences have influenced your choice. Specifically, how will an education from the College of Agriculture and Life Science (CALS) and Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals?
For this prompt, you are going to want to talk about your background in agriculture and life sciences. Perhaps you are deeply in tune with the importance of landscape agriculture as a result of your relationship with your aunt when you were younger. Maybe you are extremely passionate about organic farming initiatives, and you’ve been thinking about sustainable farming ever since that one summer you went WOOFing on your best friend’s farm.
Or maybe you are just interested in the cross-sectional studies of agriculture, biology, and sociology because you went to a summer camp in ninth grade that opened your mind. Either way, just make sure that whatever you talk about, you convey your experience and passion for Agriculture and Life Sciences.
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
Describe two or three of your intellectual interests and why you are excited to pursue them within your chosen major in AAP. What personal experiences, background, or future goals will you bring to your scholarly and artistic pursuits at Cornell?
This prompt is best suited for those who are passionate about art and architecture. Perhaps your favorite class in high school was Architectural Design, and your notebooks can always be found with little doodles in the margins — this essay would be the place to use an anecdote to explain that. But besides talking about your background in the field, it’s also wise to do a bit of research on how Cornell’s AAP program specifically is best for you.
As such, you should spend some time on the Cornell AAP website and attempt to weave some unique details about the school into your own narrative. This strategy will allow you to have a more Cornell-focused response as to why you are so passionate about architecture and art.
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? (CA and UCA)
If you know what you would potentially like to study within the realm of the College of Arts and Sciences, this essay is the place to expand on that. Unless you have a dramatic passion for three different topics, it might be better to talk about two interests in great detail rather than three different topics sparsely (keep in mind that whenever you introduce one of your interests, you will be spending valuable words on the exposition of that interest).
Be sure to answer the prompt in full (“why they are exciting to you”), and you will get more mileage out of your essay if you can cite specific programs, classes, or professors to back up your claim that CAS is truly the best and only school for you. Do research on the Cornell website to help you in this cause.
College of Engineering
Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities… the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in.
Top applicants to Cornell Engineering will recognize that there are three parts to this essay, and all three should be addressed properly. First, when speaking about your “ideas and aspirations” as they relate to engineering, the ultimate goal is to demonstrate your palpable passion for the discipline. You can do this by recounting your early experiences in engineering — how you first started playing with Lego, and then eventually joined your school’s Science Olympiad team — or by writing in great detail about a specific concept in engineering that interests you.
You should then transition into what it is about Cornell’s Engineering program specifically that entices you — is it a certain professor’s groundbreaking research? Or maybe a particular facility that is unique to Cornell?
At the end of the essay, you should include what you think will happen after you graduate from Cornell Engineering — what specifically do you hope to achieve one day? Be more specific and ambitious than writing simply “I hope to get a good job.”
What problem do you want to solve? Making planes faster? Developing rockets? How will Cornell’s specific resources, as you discussed earlier in your essays, enable you to improve the world? In a way, the admissions officers are making a bet on you by choosing to accept you to the program, so you want to give them an idea of what you’ll be working towards.
School of Hotel Administration
The global hospitality industry includes hotel and food service management, real estate, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, technology, and law. Describe what has influenced your decision to study business through the lens of hospitality. What personal qualities make you a good fit for SHA?
With this prompt, the admissions officers at the School of Hotel Administration hope to weed out the students who are not genuinely interested in the SHA. Feel free to talk in great detail about your background in “hotel and food service management, real estate, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, technology, and law,” using clear examples from your extracurricular profile to support your narrative.
If you feel you do not have extensive experiences in these areas specifically, consider describing how the skills and experiences you developed elsewhere in high school will allow you to succeed in these arenas. When discussing personal qualities, consider carefully which of your qualities best befit an individual in the hospitality field — for example, attention to detail, leadership skills, and diligence. Then, explain how your personality traits will allow you to fit into and contribute to the SHA community.
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?
For starters, take a look at your academic transcript and activities and ask yourself which items are related to your interests in human ecology. Did you take a human ecology elective your freshman year of high school? Or maybe you had an influential professor at a summer camp who encouraged you to observe the relationship between humans and their environment on a regular basis?
Or perhaps your interests in human ecology stem from something not on your resume at all — maybe your aunt influenced you from a very young age. Either way, it’s important to somehow establish credibility and show that you are truly qualified and interested in the College of Human Ecology.
Next, be sure to talk about the specific majors that interest you, and feel free to mention your past experiences in studying human ecology (maybe you founded a club in high school, or did research at a local university) to support these interests. Finally, close your response out by discussing how your future goals tie everything together.
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.
Similar to many of the other prompts, this essay question asks you to explain why you are interested in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The best essays will include specific examples of when you were immersed in an experience related to Industrial and Labor Relations.
Maybe you were working with your father during freshmen year when you realized something about the nature of labor, and you began to nurture that interest throughout the rest of your high school career. Explicating that situation and what you learned from it while simultaneously linking it to the ILR curriculum will lead to an extremely powerful essay.
That wasn’t too bad, was it? Now that you have an idea of how to tackle this year’s Cornell University prompts, it’s time to conduct some research and write. Don’t procrastinate! Every word and idea counts, and we hope that our Cornell University guide will help you compose an essay that will help your application shine. In the meantime, consider visiting Cornell University’s campus in Ithaca to explore the school and get some inspiration. Good luck in all your writing endeavors!
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