How to Write the Cornell Supplement

Think of the supplement to the Common App as a fun way to tell a story in 500 words, 50 words, more or even less. Some schools don’t actually require a supplement. Many universities require some version of a “Why do you want to attend X school?” supplement. Cornell is no different. Here are a few tips on acing the Cornell supplement:


 First and foremost, you should research the school. If you are determined to apply, you should already have a good idea of why you want to go there. By now, you should already know which school within the university you would like to attend (i.e.: School of Hotel Management, College of Engineering.)  Familiarize yourself with the admissions requirements as well as the supplemental requirements for each specific school within the university. You might notice that the prompts are all pretty similar.

For the purposes of this exercise, we are going to focus on the supplement for the 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?

Notice that there are two parts to the question: the stuff you want to do in the classroom and the stuff you want to do outside of it. Here’s how you can tackle the question:

Pick a Major  

Don’t freak out. We know, you’re only 18 and you may not know at this very moment what want to do for the rest of your life.  It’s okay. This is not a commitment to a specific major. In fact, most schools don’t make you decide on your major until Junior year. This is just an exercise in being able to do research. So, even if you are actually undecided DO NOT SAY THAT YOU ARE UNDECIDED. Pick something that most closely resembles your passions and interests in life and just go with it.

 Paragraph One

 As we mentioned above, the essay is all about telling a story.  The structure provided in the Cornell supplement makes that super easy.  The first paragraph in your story should be an introduction. Tell the admissions counselors what your intellectual interests are immediately and tie them to a major at Cornell. 

Paragraph Two

This paragraph in your story is all about why you want to major in X. Research. Research. Research. Research the classes that major has to offer.  We’re not talking about general 100-200 level courses. We’re referring to classes that are higher-level and unique to this specific university. Learn everything there is to know about the professors who teach them.  Read the work those professors have published, as well as the work of accomplished alumni in the field. Now tell us about why you want to pursue that major. Talk about why else you might be interested. You’re not just there to talk classes. Maybe you also want to do research for Cornell.  Really dig deep and get into it.

Paragraph Three

 This is your chance to talk about extracurriculars and not just any extracurriculars, but extracurriculars that connect to your intellectual interests from Paragraph One. Research clubs and other offerings affiliated with or similar to the major. For example, say you’d like to be an American Studies major. Perhaps you will also join the University Republicans or Democrats or the Committee on Latin-American Relations. You should also build off of extracurriculars you did in high school, because these schools love to see a continuation of interest. So, maybe you also volunteered with a U.S. immigrant services organization or won an award in your American History project.  Make connections to your journey unto this point. Then, write a conclusion, revise, edit, and submit. 

 Need some help with that supplement? That’s what we do. Reach out to us here