College Essays


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.

What is your favorite color?
A question that has long bothered me. Growing up, it was the sturdy headliner of awkward icebreakers in classrooms. I never understood how my peers could respond so definitively. The color spectrum had an infinite range; how could I limit myself to one choice? So, when the question fell upon me, I found myself scrambling to produce a satisfactory answer…
Red. The brochure in which I first read about Cornell’s interdisciplinary values. Just as I was stumped with the decision of choosing one color as a child, I was now in a similar position regarding my choice of discipline. With most schools offering 50+ majors, I felt as though my vast array of interests couldn’t be categorized under a single label. Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences’ (CAS) flexibility resolves this dilemma. Having options of double-majoring, minoring, and the absence of a core curriculum, I have ample opportunity to pursue each of my academic interests.
Brown. The mahogany wood of the gavel banging against the bench during a mock trial tournament. Joining the team as a freshman, my passion for law blossomed with each year of experience. Fascinated by the procedures of government, I found myself seeking any opportunity to further immerse myself in the legal sphere. This motivation resulted in taking Constitutional Politics (GOVT 3281) during a campus visit, where the mahogany wood now took form as the arc-shaped seating structure of Myron Taylor Hall. As Professor Chutkow detailed various cases, information that had once been limited to books and news outlets now expanded to in-class discussions and constructive debates. Each of the students was engaged, offering fresh perspectives, catalyzing conversation, and conversing in a manner that exuded pure excitement. This devotion observed was one I had yet to find anywhere else, seemingly exclusive to CAS. As someone who thrives off an atmosphere of enthusiasm and interaction, the nature of Cornell’s courses matches my passion, cultivating an environment that fits my needs exactly.
Blue. Ocean waves covering a poster as Professor Squyres details the route of 16th-century sailors in History of Exploration (HIST/ASTRO 1700). My passion for law stems from my life-long interest in history, but I find the two interconnected. Legal concepts such as “judicial precedent” require vast historical knowledge, linking these two spheres and inevitably causing me to be captivated by both. Luckily, CAS’ flexibility means double-majoring is almost as easy as going from my government course to history during my visit. I can pursue both fields in an interdisciplinary manner by taking courses where they converge, including War: Causes and Conduct (GOVT 3867) and Law and Society in Early Modern and Modern China (HIST 2132), ultimately embodying CAS’ principle of maximizing intellectual curiosity.
Green. The sign reading “PICK UP HERE” where I would soon obtain the prized delicacy of Ithaca – a bagel from none other than Collegetown Bagel. As I indulged the conglomerate of sausage, egg, and cheese, I simultaneously observed my surroundings: friends meeting friends, students meeting students, and to my surprise, students meeting professors in office hours. Accessibility of assistance, I soon realized, was a fundamental aspect of CAS. With first-year undergraduates supplied with three advisors and a dedicated space offering guidance (Tatkon Center), this prioritization of student wellness reflects the care CAS has for each individual student. As an aspiring lawyer, additional resources such as career services and pre-law advising directly facilitate my interests, furthering the benefits of CAS.
What is your favorite color?
A question that repeatedly imposed restriction and limitation on my childhood imagination. Today this question manifests itself in different ways. What are you interested in? What is your life goal? What career do you want? All are questions demanding answers yet requiring exploration. They pique curiosity, inspire inquiry, and generate opportunities. Above all, they demand the depth, breadth, flexibility, and color that only Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences can provide me with.

Tips for Writing:
Be specific. Find elements of the school specific to the school. Things like “good classes” and “fun football games” can be applied to numerous schools but “offering every undergraduate 3 mentors” are elements only certain schools offer. Use information outside of the college website. If you’ve taken a campus visit, talked to a school during a college fair, or simply conversed with a current undergraduate, take notes and mention them in your essay. The more information you give in your essay that can’t be found easily on the college website or in information packets shows the school your interest. It demonstrates that you know more about the school than the average applicant, and have gone above and beyond in research. Tailor it to your major. Find aspects of the school that specifically benefit the major you are looking to pursue. For example, if you want to go into biology, mention their research programs or lab internships that can help you. Find parallels between your current extracurriculars and opportunities offered by the school. These connections will help emphasize to the school why they are your perfect fit.
Take advantage of resources.  Most colleges give you the opportunity to talk to a current student or graduate over email or messaging via the college’s website in regard to any questions you may have. Here is the time to reach out, ask about what the school offers and pose questions related to what you can put in your essay. For example, if the theme of my essay is the school’s diversity and inclusion, I can ask about specific clubs or activities the school may offer that directly promotes this. Be unique. As specific as you want to be, make sure not to lose your voice in the process. Once you find yourself merely listing aspects of the school, redirect your attention to how you can make your essay stand out. Maybe add in humor, incorporate an anecdote – anything that can present yourself as well-rounded as opposed to someone reciting reasons why they want to attend a school.

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