2 months ago
Admissions Advice

The confusing WHY MAJOR/SCHOOL essay

Just an example, I am writing my Cornell supplemental essay (and I'm applying to the arts and sciences school) and I wrote a lot about the development of my academic interests in pretty chronological order because that's what feels most genuine to me. I received quite a few positive feedbacks on that but now...my counselor thinks why school essays should not be about me as a person but about my academic strengths. [Things like my research ability or my academic ability in general]...lord how am I gonna write about those things??? I'd like to call the current version of my essay really passionate concerning my interests...so this just confuses me.

should I write about "pure academics" (I don't even know what that is) instead of my growth / the development of my interests?

btw Cornell's 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(650words)

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Accepted Answer
2 months ago

650 words is a lot for these types of prompts. In one of the universities I'm applying to, I have just 150 words to address a similar prompt. It's not merely about highlighting your academic strengths; they will be reflected in other parts of your application). But you should try to describe some experience that kindled your interest in the major you're applying to. Instead of writing about abilities you already have, mention what skills/knowledge you wish to gain by pursuing your interests.

I'm definitely not more experienced than your counselor, so you should do what he says if he does not agree with these suggestions.

2 months ago

"Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our college."

CV's Hale Jager has a youtube video on this:


Following CollegeVine's advice I'm sharing what they wrote about how to write this prompt:


Arts and Sciences (A&S) is by far the most interdisciplinary college at Cornell. Students can study topics ranging from information science to Africana studies, and the College houses multiple programs that allow students to design their own major. A&S looks for students with clear passions and goals that can find their place within a broad community.

Try to connect any diverse interests into a singular goal. Cornell’s motto “any person, any student” fully reiterates the university’s desire to provide students with a platform to explore novel connections between seemingly unrelated subjects. For example, if your interests are math and Asian studies, you could discuss how you plan to use statistics or other mathematical models to gain social insight into the Asian-American experience.

Establish your interests by linking them to your present experiences. If you are a government major, write about your time on Model UN. If you are a biology major, write about your success in Science League. Use your present experiences to illustrate the depth and range of your personal interests.

You also need to explain how A&S specifically would provide you with learning opportunities. Cornell has an open course catalog, so you can research interesting courses. Do not select common courses such as General Chemistry. Instead, focus on classes that are unique to the university. For example, Cornell offers a class called the Death Penalty in America that is taught by top capital punishment scholars. This connection point would enrich the essay of a government or policy analysis major.

Another college portal Prepscholar advises this:

The College of Arts and Sciences is the least specific school of study at Cornell University, and the admissions essay reflects that. If you know you love to learn, but aren't sure what your career will look like after college, it's likely you'll be applying here.

Don't be fooled! Just because the question is broad, you don't have to write a broad essay in response. Don't feel like you have to demonstrate an interest in both Russian literature and molecular biology. Rather, describe your real intellectual pursuits with honesty and sincerity.

You don't have to have huge aspirations or a fancy reason for your intellectual pursuits. Stay true to yourself. If you're interested in Elizabethan history because of some historical fiction novels you read as a child, that's fine! You can totally say that. Just be sure to always tie it back to how Cornell's academics let you study your passion.

If you feel you have multiple areas of study that you are passionate about, you may write about them—but don't write about more than two or three at the most. Otherwise, your essay will feel more like a list, rather than an in-depth exploration of your actual interests.

If you do choose to write about multiple interests, be sure to connect them back to you and your individual experience as a Cornell student and community member.

My personal advice is to always make sure you answer the prompt. It's not a creative writing opportunity to interpret the prompt. Keep in mind the admissions officers will only have 7-10 minutes to read your entire application file so perhaps they will dedicate only 2 minutes of speed reading to this essay. Make sure it can be understood very clearly on the first read and that you do not write in any kind of obtuse writing style with words you normally don't use in regular conversation. The essay is an opportunity for you to connect the dots for the AO reader faster, better and more efficiently than them trying to figure you out all by themselves. Therefore use your 650 words wisely to help them advocate for you.

Good Luck.

2 months ago

I believe you should stick with you original essay


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