Cornell University

11 Essays that Worked at Cornell

Updated for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle.

About Cornell

One of the most prestigious institutions in the world, Cornell University is an excellent school located in Ithaca, New York. The biggest Ivy League (both by number of undergrads and campus size), it provides a diverse and rigorous learning environment for its students. With multiple academic fields including sciences, mathematics, technology and engineering—as well as specialized colleges open to undergraduates—students have many options to choose from when pursuing their studies. Additionally, Cornell offers countless social and cultural opportunities to further enrich students' college experience. From its world-renowned sports teams to inventive clubs and organizations, Cornell is an ideal learning environment for those who strive towards a premier education.

At a glance…

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Ithaca, NY

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Real Essays from Cornell Admits

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.

Coding has been my outlet for creative expression since introduced to basic block programming at age nine, but I could truly appreciate the nuances of code after composing this CPU in my CSII class, which followed a curriculum based on my teacher’s experience studying CS as a Cornell undergrad. Whether programming a robot that autonomously picks up blocks, an automated garden that waters itself, or even an anthropomorphic pickle that jumps across my screen, I now reflect in astonishment on how each action, at its core, is enabled by minuscule logic gates distributing electrical inputs. Accordingly, I’m intrigued by Cornell’s computer science program which allows students to approach CS from a sophisticated understanding of efficient hardware. Through comprehensive classes such as Computer System Organization and Programming, Cornell ensures that I’ll be more than just a programmer—I’ll develop practical and real world-applicable solutions. The power of CS is amplified when juxtaposed with physics, as the two fields are entirely complementary—studying quantum mechanics will illuminate fundamental underpinnings of efficient hardware, while emerging AI and machine learning technologies will enable me to scan the deepest crevices of space to understand the formation of our universe. As a [Organization Redacted] intern this past summer, I experienced firsthand the exhilaration of studying galaxies and quasars unimaginably far away. Physics was no longer a set of equations and laws confined to a textbook—cosmological redshift and Hubble’s Law became real devices for analyzing galaxy evolution and the expansion of the universe. At Cornell, the unique Astronomy Data Science minor is the exact confluence of astronomy and data science that fascinates me. I look forward to taking Modeling, Mining and Machine Learning in Astronomy with Professor James Cordes, where I’ll use modern machine learning techniques to probe questions surrounding human existence. I’m also enthusiastic about conducting research with Prof. Cordes on galaxy evolution in the early universe, using data from the Cornell-led Fred Young Submillimeter Telescope. Regardless of their endeavors, Cornell students know that their impact on humanity depends on their civic engagement and social awareness. With Cornell’s AIPP, I’ll attend seminars to understand the social considerations and policy at the heart of all technological innovation on campus. While taking Ethics and Policy in Data Science, I’ll gain insights into the ethical implications of my work in AI, from consumer privacy concerns to implicit biases in decision-making. Heck, I can even combine my love for both astronomy and literature—the Black Holes: Race & the Cosmos class will provide an intriguing exploration of astronomy concepts through the lens of Black Studies literature. Even within the bounds of Ithaca, I can easily impact those around me. In high school, while helping teach a fourth grade STEM class, I was constantly inspired by my students’ enthusiasm for learning. At Cornell, I would join STEP-UP to help facilitate programs at local schools to encourage more underrepresented students to fearlessly leap into STEM. If accepted to the Milstein Program, I look forward to working collaboratively with my cohort as we embrace interdisciplinary learning approaches in the tech industry. While taking a summer course in tech ethics in 2018, I visited the cutting-edge Cornell Tech campus and spoke with [Name Redacted], who provided advice that later influenced me to independently create an iOS app. Whether based in Ithaca or on Roosevelt Island, the unique guidance provided by the Milstein Program would enable me to innovate more impactful, socially-conscious technology. Simply put, at Cornell, there are limitless ways I could grow while giving back.

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Essay by Sarah J.

CS @ Stanford. Lover of all things STEM, Taylor Swift, and dogs!

Prompt: What three words best describe you?

It is important to me to receive an education involving both breadth and depth. I hope to learn about a wide range of topics as an Arts and Science student at Cornell, but also to dig deep in my specific areas of interest. I crave a well-rounded, expansive education that would also allow me to explore my specific interest in English literature, writing, and, in particular, journalism.

I love reading. From Jane Austen to J. K. Rowling, reading novels is one of my favorite pastimes. Moreover, after years of filling travel journals, serving as a reporter and editor for my school paper, and participating in Writing Fellows, a creative writing community at my school, I realized that writing and, in particular, journalism, brings me unparalleled fulfillment. 

One of the reasons I love writing is its ability to bring people together. Last summer, I interned with the Neighbor Newspapers and wrote articles for my community about restaurant openings, arts events, and community service fundraisers, among other topics. I would go over to my neighbors’ houses to babysit, and they would tell me they tried out the restaurant I wrote about after reading my article or that they decided to foster a dog because I wrote about the shelters being full. I loved being able to communicate with and impact my community. 

The Distinguished Visiting Journalist program at Cornell University offers me the opportunity to interact with accomplished journalists and learn about making a difference in the real world from them. I would definitely write for the Cornell Daily Sun, and I look forward to taking courses such as ENGL 1183 – FWS: Word and Image. The course offers students the opportunity to explore the relationship between words and images, which many artists and writers throughout history have explored and which, I believe, is more relevant than ever in today’s social media environment. 

I also love writing for its interdisciplinary nature. It is a skill that transcends all subjects, majors, and careers. Whether interested in science, art, mathematics, or history, words are necessary. One of the benefits of a Cornell education is that it provides students with a world-class education regardless of which major we choose. My interests span from English, History, and the Classics to Economics. I would take advantage of opportunities to double major within the College of Arts and Sciences, or even major in English and minor in Communication from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which Cornell allows students to do easily. These interdisciplinary opportunities at Cornell offer me the chance to better equip myself with the tools that will allow me to succeed, regardless of where life may take me. Moreover, the study of English at Cornell is interdisciplinary in itself, with the courses’ implications overlapping with other fields, such as business, ethics, social and environmental justice, history, journalism, marketing, and even art.

As an aspiring journalist, I am excited to learn in the environment that prepared so many strong, female journalists whom I admire, such as muckraker journalist Marion Hamilton Carter, who was a women’s suffrage advocate and overall Renaissance woman, working as an educator, psychologist, children’s literature editor, short-story writer, artist, and novelist in her lifetime in addition to as a journalist.

Marion Carter fought to make minority voices in society heard. The news today has a way of exacerbating the already polarized views in society, creating the appearance of a lack of diversity of thought and degrading those with opposing beliefs. Despite appearances, people’s views actually cover a wide range. I hope to explore English and Communications and continue honing my writing skills in the diverse community at Cornell, so that I will be prepared to bring people with all different backgrounds and belief systems together and make a difference in the world like Marion Carter. After all, how can we change the world without communicating clearly with other people?

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Essay by Princeton Girl

Economics student with an interest in Journalism and Finance at Princeton University

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