Cornell has unique questions and they definitely care about a) your career goals (be specific!) and b) evidence of outreach and school fit. Plus, they want to know about YOU! The “Life Story” essay is fun, and challenging at the same time.
Cornell Johnson 2017 Two-Year MBA Essay Questions – Class of 2020
Here are the Class of 2020 Full-Time essays for Johnson.
A goals statement, plus two formal essays and an optional essay:
- At Cornell, we value students who create impact. Please indicate the opportunities for impact that you’ve identified through engagement with our community and describe how what you learned has influenced your decision to apply to Johnson. 500 words
- You are the author of your Life Story. Please create the Table of Contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. We value creativity and authenticity and encourage you to approach this essay with your unique style. Alternative submission formats may include a slide presentation, links to pre-existing media (personal website, digital portfolio, YouTube etc.), as well as visually enhanced written submissions. 500 words or under 5 minutes for a multimedia (audio/video).
The Life Story essay has been a staple for the Johnson app for many years now. It’s different enough that you won’t be able to re-use what you produce for Booth or MIT or NYU, but similar chunks of content may work across some of those others.
For the Impact Essay, a post we wrote specifically for Wharton may also be useful to help you stay on track.
The Cornell optional essay is a standard optional essay — meaning, it’s truly optional and only should be submitted if you have important information to explain such as gaps in employment or low GPA (where you have a REASON and not an EXCUSE). Reapplicants who tried last year also need to use the optional essay to explain how they have improved since last time. (We have a Reapplicant Guide if you’re in that boat!).
Our The EssaySnark Cornell essay guide is the 2016 version but it’s still valid for 2017! Not sure when we’ll be able to do a refresh on this one. You will get access to any updates if/when we do provided it’s within your original 90-day subscription term. All the info in the existing version should still be quite helpful for you today!
Cornell has been VERY welcoming to the military candidate lately. Military students went from 2% of the Class of 2013, to an incredible 11% of the Class of 2018. We don’t know of any other school that’s admitted such a high proportion. If you’re active duty or a vet of the U.S. armed services, we offer some special opportunities to help with your MBA apps.
Cornell MBA Letters of Recommendations1 Cornell is using standardized recommender questions in 2017.
Cornell Johnson Full-Time 2-Year MBA Application Deadlines
- October Round: October 5, 2017 – this is advantageous compared to other schools’ first rounds because you’ll get your decision really early! In November, in fact. That would be nice, eh?
- November Round: November 15, 2017 – this can be a great date to try for, especially if you’re in the U.S.: It’s after the crush of Round 1 but before the Thanksgiving holiday, so you have a lull in the cycle. (We’re not trying to imply that international applicants would not benefit from Round 2 at Cornell, but Americans may appreciate getting another app out of the way before the end of November, just for personal and family reasons!)
- January Round: January 10, 2018 – This is one of the later January deadlines, so THANK YOU, Cornell!
They also have a final fourth round in March, and they’ll even accept applications once that date has passed – but it’s getting into the trickier stages to be applying to any school at that point on the calendar. Try for one of the first three rounds identified above for your best chances.
Note, too, that the deadlines for the Cornell 1-Year MBA may be different. Please see the Johnson website to confirm.
Cornell Johnson General Info
- Johnson Admissions Blog
- Interview Tips from the Johnson adcom
- @Cornell_MBA on Twitter
- @Cornell_Tech on Twitter
With most schools we suggest targeting any round through a January deadline and that applies here, too, except that they have four rounds which gives you more milestones to try for. There typically are more options with Cornell – in fact, they’ll even keep accepting applications after their final round in March — but it’s certainly better to stick with Rounds 1, 2 or 3.
Past Cornell MBA Essays – EssaySnark’s Analysis
Here’s what we said about previous years’ Johnson applications, in case you want to see where this school is coming from.
Click to view 2016 questions
Again, this is from LAST YEAR.
Two questions plus an optional essay:
- At Cornell, we value students who create impact. Please indicate the opportunities for impact that you have identified through engagement with our community and describe how these interactions have influenced your decision to apply to Johnson. 500 words
- You are the author of your Life Story. Please create the Table of Contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. We value creativity and authenticity and encourage you to approach this essay with your unique style. Alternative submission formats may include a slide presentation, links to pre-existing media (personal website, digital portfolio, YouTube etc.), as well as visually enhanced written submissions.
They haven’t had a formal written essay in some time, so that first question is new in 2016. It’s reminiscent of what Wharton is asking, with their “contribution” essay (we issued some warnings on writing for that before).
Our Cornell essay guide has been updated for these 2016 questions to help you construct a strong strategy.
Additional random comments:
6/29/16 They’re not numbering their rounds anymore; they’ve gone back to October Round, November Round, etc. Not sure if that makes things more confusing, or less!
7/31/16 It appears that Cornell is adopting the newly-standardized 4-question Letters of Recommendation requirements that other schools are using.
[End last year’s questions section.]
Click to view 2015 questions
7/24/15 It appears that Johnson is using the identical essays to last year, they’ve just been very kind to you and increased the limits.
- Table of Contents You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. In 500 words or less, please create the table of contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. We value creativity and authenticity and encourage you to approach this essay with your unique style. Alternative submission formats may include a slide presentation, links to pre-existing media (personal website, digital portfolio, YouTube etc.), as well as visually enhanced written submissions.
- What are your short and long term goals and how do you see the Cornell MBA enabling you to achieve both? (500 words)
There’s also a whole bunch of other questions in their online application, plus the standard optional essay (reapplicants should use that to explain how they’ve improved since originally applying). We go into these details in our new-this-year Cornell MBA Application Guide, to give you all that you need to do a bang-up job on your essays for this school.
In terms of deadlines: Cornell keeps messing with the system! 😀 They retained their three rounds this year but those dates are very different than any other school.
Up through the 2012-’13 app season, Cornell had four rounds. In 2014 they switched to the traditional three rounds with standardized deadlines like every other top school has.
Now they’ve gone back to four rounds for 2015, and they also will accept late apps even after their final deadline in March.
[End 2015 questions section.]
Click to view 2014 questions
From the Johnson adcom: Announcement of 2014 application
These questions are not much different from 2013 – except that “300 words” has turned into “1,000 characters” and they have categorized a bunch of short-answer responses as “essays” which is a little confusing. The first question is the only one that allows you to upload a file; the others must be entered into the text field in their form, which means you can’t submit more than they ask for.
- Creative Submission – Required for All Applicants: You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. In 1000 characters or less, please write the table of contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. Note: approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity.
- Targeted Job Type: What is the job that you would like to have immediately upon graduating with your MBA? (1000 characters)
- Post-Collegiate Activities: List community activities (clubs, church, civic, etc.) and professional associations you contributed to since graduation from college. Please include the organization name, your role, hours dedicated, elected offices held, and dates of participation (1000 character limit).
- List your extracurricular activities while in college in order of importance to you. You may include details about your positions and the time commitment, honors or awards received, and dates of participation. The list may also include part-time and summer employment held while in college. Please list your employer, job title, responsibilities, hours per week, and the dates for each position (1000 character limit).
- Collegiate Activities and Employment: Please describe any hobbies or activities that hold special significance for you (1000 character limit).
- Optional Essay: Complete this essay if you would like to add additional details regarding your candidacy. For instance, if you believe one or more aspects of your application (e.g., undergraduate record or test scores) do not accurately reflect your potential for success at the Johnson School. (1000 character limit)
The optional essay really is optional; you should only use it to explain oddities in your profile that you’re not covering elsewhere. Don’t feel like you should tell them about this great leadership example from work as a way to fill the space. Put that example in your Book of Life if you feel it’s important enough to include, or just rely on your resume to tell the story.
The other questions are no different than what other schools ask, so again, a little strange that the app has them categorized as “essays.” They’re definitely not long enough to be considered as such. The 1,000-character limit means you get about two standard-sized paragraphs, though the fields do allow formatting and many of the questions lend themselves to a bulleted list answer instead of a block of text. Just so you can gauge it, this paragraph is just about 535 characters; the paragraph above about the optional essay is 375.
This is the first school we’ve seen to use Salesforce to deploy its MBA application. They’re touting this feature where you can pull in your LinkedIn profile to populate the employment and education sections. This is optional; you don’t have to click that button if you don’t want to. We don’t see any disadvantage in doing that, so go ahead if you’re on LinkedIn and want to save some data entry. Honestly that seems like the biggest benefit though, and even that may be a little overhyped; the system says that not all fields will be populated so you’ll still need to go through and fill in the gaps.
Still, kudos to Johnson for embracing technology – it’s certainly not something we see the bschools doing much of! They are saying that it’s their Johnson Tech MBA that provided the impetus for this (Johnson is partnering with Google on some stuff so it’s clear they’re embracing the convergence of tech and business – again, not something we see too often from MBA programs).
The strategy for putting together your Johnson essay needs to be the same as it’s always been: Communicate who you are through this structured exercise of the “story of your life” and share some of the real you in that way. And oh yeah, communicate your goals concisely, too.
[End 2014 questions section.]
Click to view 2013 questions
They’ve simply rearranged things but they want to know the same as they’ve always wanted – and the Life Story one is mandatory, since obviously it’s a winner when people do it well. HINT: They really want to know who you are as a person.
Here’s the 2013 Cornell essay questions:
- Essay 1: Who You Are. You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. In 300 words or less please write the table of contents for the book. Note: approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity.
- Essay 2: Who You Turn Out to Be. (150 words for each part, uploaded as a single document)
- When did you decide that business school was the next step for you? (Was this an epiphany or an evolutionary process? What was the catalyst that caused you to consider this next step?)
- Johnson values people that make things happen for themselves. Give an example of how you have initiated this for yourself.
- Please describe your immediate post MBA career goals.
On 7/26/13 Cornell updated their Deadlines page to clarify that they will still accept “late” applications through April. This basically moves them back to a 4-round admissions season all over again! It’s good to see this flexibility but it’s a little baffling why they’re doing it this way. Why not just keep four rounds? Maybe it’s because they’re trying to accommodate all their admissions under the same schedule, and the One-Year MBA starts in May so they can’t have a round hit that late in the season and still get people in there.
[End 2013 questions section.]
Click to view 2012 questions
- How would you characterize your career since college?
- Tell us about your short and long term career goals.
- Choose one:
- You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. Please write the table of contents for the book. Note: Approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity.
- Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed and tell us what you learned.
- What does diversity mean to you and how will you contribute to the diversity of our community at Johnson?
[End 2012 questions section.]
EssaySnark posts on Cornell
- Another school we’re tracking with interest (March 2016)
- Schools where Round 3 is viable (January 2013)
- one-year MBA options (April 2012)
- The one less traveled by: CORNELL (January 2012)
We don’t have a lot of Cornell essays reviewed on the blahg (feel free to send us yours this season!). However you can reference essay reviews from several other schools to get a feel for how to handle Cornell. There are obvious differences between these programs but some strong similarities, too, so these are worth studying as you work on your Johnson application:
- essay critique: Michigan Ross career goals (2011)
- essay critique: Ross “frustrated or disappointed” essay (2011)
The Cornell Application Guide walks you through the important elements of this application and how to position yourself effectively.
And we’ll just leave you with this: A Sloth Selfie