Cornell University

12 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 | Sharing the essays that got me into top schools (14 acceptances, 2 waitlists, and 0 rejections)!

Prompt: What three words best describe you?

After putting on my ridiculous-looking light blue bouffant cap, isolation gown, and polyethylene shoe covers, I stepped into the chamber. A loud click came from behind me — I was locked in. Immediately, vents blew open and gusts came from every direction, decontaminating me. No, I wasn’t stepping into an airlock on a lunar base camp. I was stepping into the lab.

I have always wanted to explore medicine and research to make a real-world impact. My time in the Cardiovascular Research Institute at CWRU gave me precisely that. After countless hours conducting time-course experiments during twelve-hour days, handling bone marrow flushes with mice to collect macrophages, and running innumerable assays with a spectrophotometer, my research and time spent in the lab yielded crucial results for a potential drug’s development. I realized I could actually make an impact on health and society.

By studying at Cornell, I can learn how to continue making an impact in medicine and solve the healthcare hurdles deeply rooted in policy, pursuing my passion for activism and advocacy relating to healthcare. I can’t wait to major in Biology & Society, where Cornell’s interdisciplinary curriculum would allow me to explore the humanistic connections of health while still examining the policy problems that leave me impassioned. Courses like “Environment, Disasters, and Health,” “Medicine, Culture, and Society,” and “Life Sciences and Society” will allow me to explore my interest in sociodemographic health policy, especially at an individual level. In addition, I want to understand how medicine has been historically linked and remains linked with humanities to expose inequities we must solve. Between “Ethical Issues in Health and Medicine” and “Pandemics Past and Pending,” I can effectively probe factors that have built modern health epidemics as a Cornell student.

At Cornell, I am excited to research alongside professor emeritus Dr. Lois Levitan, where I can investigate how health policy has shaped the landscape of care and how we can articulate problems within the field. In her unique class, “Science Writing for the Media,” I will be able to investigate how to better eloquently call out inequities in health policy. I can further discuss the topic that sparked my interest in writing an article about systemic racial disparities within the employer-sponsored health insurance system. Under Dr. Levitan’s guidance, I can take my passion of using my voice for change and apply it to the sphere of health, better able to expose systemic global inequities.

Furthermore, I am eager to design my own “minor within a major” by focusing on a theme of Biology & Public Policy in the Biology & Society major. Through this distinctive feature, I will be able to uncover the connections between medicine and politics further, building on the fervor for policy and politics that I’ve had throughout high school. After speaking on the speech and debate stage for so long, I’ve become engrossed in the connections between economics, society, and politics, and this theme at Cornell would allow me to continue diving into my interest.

I look forward to making a difference with the Cornell Center for Health Equity, bridging gaps in healthcare through GlobeMED at Cornell, further calling out disparities in *The Cornell Healthcare Review*, finding lifelong friends and exploring my culture singing with Cornell *Tarana*, and utilizing all of Cornell’s resources to help my community. Wherever my career path takes me, whether in the hospital as a physician executive or in academia as a public health advocate, Cornell’s opportunities will allow me to explore how I can best take the first step in making a difference. Engaging in my research taught me that I was able to make a tangible impact on health and society. I’ve learned I can actually solve the many remaining inequities, and that makes wearing even the most displeasing garments worth it, at Cornell and beyond.

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Essay by Dev A.

Incoming first-year @ Harvard | Former Speech and Debater

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