College Essays

Cornell Supplemental

Prompt (Cornell College of Arts & Sciences) 

At the College of Arts and Sciences, curiosity will be your guide. Discuss how your passion for learning is shaping your academic journey, and what areas of study or majors excite you and why. Your response should convey how your interests align with the College, and how you would take advantage of the opportunities and curriculum in Arts and Sciences. (650 words)


After over a year of researching, writing, revising, revising, and revising my paper, “The Limits of Liberalism: Achieving Genuine Equality in Modern Society,” the Curieux Academic Journal accepted it for publication. I explored how social pressures often hinder Liberalism’s naive vision of equality and the effort individuals must exert to change the status quo. Analyzing empirical studies and the works of influential authors like John Rawls and Boniila-Silva, I sought to pinpoint how to make up for Liberalism’s shortcomings. I was first inspired when I read Down Girl by Kate Manne, a professor at the Sage School of Philosophy. By the end of the first chapter, I couldn’t stop myself from annotating. Manne’s insistent distinction between sexism as an ideology and misogyny as an enforcement mechanism made me start to examine their differences and presence in my own school. I interviewed teachers and students to get a measure of their perceptions. I worked with sociology professor Dr. Tyson Smith to cultivate my research skills and become familiar with the ideas I intended to challenge. But most importantly, I spent countless, exhausting hours meticulously constructing my own thoughts, outlining my arguments, and figuring out how to articulate my points. Through this struggle, I learned that formulating ideas through academic writing is absolutely invaluable. The College of Arts and Sciences, home to the CWC and multiple philosophical journals where even John Rawls published his early work, has ample opportunities for me to contribute to scholarly discussion while developing my own voice and convictions. I’d also love to take Professor Manne’s Ethics and Feminist Philosophy classes to examine the foundations and fringes of ethical action in today’s society by deliberating with her and other passionate students.

Beyond individual courses, Cornell’s cultural breadth would supplement my venture into the depths of philosophy. Even the physical sciences distribution requirements and liberal arts atmosphere would further my philosophical education. I first started pursuing philosophy after learning about deduction in eighth-grade geometry, and my zeal for logic still drives my pursuit. So I’m eager to continue honing my scientific reasoning while studying the humanities. The range of the curriculum also makes the Ethics Colloquium an incredible opportunity for unbridled, intensive discussion. Whether in Junior States of America, the Ethics Club at my school, or even just talking with my friends, I’ve always loved learning by engaging in productive discourse with people holding vastly different views. Brilliance is born from the contrast and clashing of diverse perspectives. By debating with other students who each immersed themselves in the arts and sciences, I’ll be able to refine my stances on topics I find interesting and important.

I’m enthralled by the question of whether morality is entirely subjective or if it can be objectively judged and measured. One view, called moral naturalism or Cornell realism, holds that moral facts exist as natural, mind-independent facts. Originally, I was unconvinced. I thought Dr. Gilbert Harman’s explanatory argument for nihilism was far more rational. I agreed with his first three premises proving there can’t be evidence for moral facts and therefore agreed there are no moral facts. Then, however, I read the response of Dr. Nicholas Sturgeon, a co-creator of Cornell realism. Although I didn’t fully agree with all of his counterexamples, his counterfactual test truly moved me. Using deduction and a logically sound assumption, he conclusively asserted that whether or not something is wrong is not completely irrelevant to you believing it’s wrong. His reasoning made me question something I had categorically believed for a long time, and I now have a developing grasp on the complexity of the subject. I strive to continue deepening my understanding of morality and other branches of philosophy through both the broad intellectual community of the Arts and Sciences and opportunities such as the Humanities Scholars Program’s curated courses, research, and honors thesis.

Tips for Writing

When you’re writing a “Why Us” essay, it’s important to remember that it’s also a “why you” essay. Make sure you highlight aspects of yourself that not only align with the college and prompt but also demonstrate characteristics that the college wants in its students. You should also make sure to research specific things that you like about the college. Everyone knows about the professor name drops, so those alone will not be original enough to make your essay compelling. Think about specific courses, resources, or professors (if you have a really strong and concrete reason) that you would like to take advantage of. Say WHY and HOW. Make sure you explain specifically what you’ll do at the college with what resources and how you’ll do it. It’s also a good idea to prove what you’re saying (remember “show not tell”), so connect what you claim you’ll do to things you’ve already done in high school. The most important thing to remember is to make your essay unique. This means write an essay that no one else could’ve written, and make sure that you’re essay would not work for any other school if you just switched the names around.

If you’re explaining why you want an apple instead of a banana, you can’t say it’s because the apple is sweet or healthy (so is the banana), you have to say it’s because the apple is crunchy (the banana is not crunchy).

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