5 Keys to Writing the Cornell Johnson Essays

How To Get Into Cornell University’s

SC Johnson College of Business

Learn How  

So you want to go to Johnson? Prove it! That’s the mentality espoused by the MBA Admissions Committee at this small, tight-knit school. And here are five ways to make your application essays stand out.
1. It’s about the prep

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. Please limit your response to 500 words or fewer.

To write a successful “Impact Essay,” you have to do your research; reach out to a few club officers of professional or shared interest groups at Cornell that are relevant to your background or goals. Identify ways you can get involved and feel free to name drop your contacts in the essay. Touch base with alumni. Determine the volunteering or mentorship opportunities of which you will take advantage. Participate in virtual or in-person information sessions. What are the strengths that you will bring to those groups and how will you use your strengths to support your peers, members of the broader Ithaca community, and future generations of Cornellians?

2. Start at the beginning

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.

This is Johnson’s signature essay, and the prompt usually stumps applicants. Taking the time to think through an approach is key to a powerful “Table of Contents” essay. Brainstorm your accomplishments but don’t shy away from times of adversity. Including one or two challenges demonstrates your resilience and work ethic. Pick a theme that makes sense and frame each chapter title using the vocabulary of that theme. If you’re a banker, maybe it’s the stages of a deal; if you’re a chef, you can discuss the steps of putting together a meal. Whatever you choose, stay on topic and make sure to end with the last chapter taking you to Johnson.

3. Approach with caution

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 Johnson.

The optional essay is the right place to explain flaws in your application. Whether you have a lower than average GMAT, a poor undergraduate performance, or limited work experience, take this opportunity to outline specific, measureable steps you have taken to mitigate those circumstances. Be judicious in your use of this essay as it underscores your shortcomings. See this optional essay article for more information.

4. One more time

If you are reapplying for admission, please use this essay to indicate how you have strengthened your application since the last time you applied. Please limit your response to 500 words or fewer.

If you are re-applying to Johnson, this essay is critical – you MUST explain why you are more prepared in this application cycle to actively participate in a Johnson education than you were the last time around. Have you reflected on where you fell short? What have you done to strengthen your candidacy? For more information about re-applying, see this article.

5. Let your personality shine

The essays are one of the few parts of the application where you can highlight your personality. For example, if you used to be a summer volunteer firefighter, use an anecdote from your experience and write colorfully about it. Remember that admissions officers will be reading thousands of essays so use this space to highlight what makes you – you! It goes without saying that proper grammar and spelling are essential and mistakes distract from your message, so proofread and get second and third opinions on the wording.

About Stratus

Stratus Admissions Counseling is a full service admissions counseling firm distinguished by its team based, multi-step process ensuring each application is crafted for optimum impact. Our MBA counseling team has a representative from virtually every top 20 MBA program, enabling us to provide school-specific guidance.


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