Tuesday Tips – Johnson Cornell MBA Essay Tips

The Johnson School at Cornell offers a flexible program, including a virtual EMBA with Queens School of Business in Kingston, Ontario Canada. Top areas of study at The Johnson School include consulting, finance, entrepreneurship, and portfolio management. Last year the Cornell MBA added new concentrations that focus New concentrations focus on preparing MBA students for a tough job market.

According to the Cornell MBA admissions committee, they are seeking “to enroll a class composed of students whose insights are distinct and whose actions are penetrating. The essay portion of your application gives you the opportunity to candidly demonstrate your attributes and your compatibility with our rich and vibrant program.”

Cornell MBA’s relatively short essay set is a strong opportunity to focus your application strategy and demonstrate your accomplishments, goals and fit with the Johnson School. Both questions 1 and 2 are in line with other MBA application questions, while essay 3 requires a creative approach to demonstrate your unique attributes.


Cornell MBA Essay 1: Describe your greatest professional achievement and how you added value to your organization (400 words)

This version of the accomplishment essay asks you to focus specifically on a professional achievement, so it is not the right place to discuss your extracurricular achievements. The second part of the question, requiring you to describe how you added value to your organization, suggests that your greatest accomplishment should be one that is not only significant to you personally, but also benefited your company or team.

When you select an achievement, one particular accomplishment may stand out. It was likely one that was above and beyond your normal work responsibilities. Choosing an achievement that demonstrates your strengths and the work that you most enjoy is a great way to both showcase your skills and describe what drives you to achieve. This can be a great way to prep the reader for your career goals if it shows what you are most passionate about.

If you are in a profession that allows you to demonstrate quantifiable results, it will be important to outline those specifically. Did your accomplishment lead to a product launch? Increased revenue? Reduced costs?

Even if your impact cannot be measured in numbers, think about specifics you can cite. Did you receive feedback from your boss or coworkers? Did your accomplishment lead to a better process or solution? How did you know that your achievement added value?

Cornell MBA Essay 2: What career do you plan to pursue upon completing the MBA and why? How will the Johnson School help you achieve this goal? (400 words)

This standard career goals essay requires you to demonstrate that your Cornell MBA will be the right next step to achieve your career goals. While short- and long-term goals are not explicitly requested, you may want to describe how you view your career unfolding from graduation to achievement of your ultimate goal.
Since your past experiences are likely indicators of your skills and future direction, you may briefly outline key aspects of your career history. The question does not specifically require career history, so you have the flexibility to choose key inflection points rather than an entire resume review. When considering what aspects of your past career to focus on, think about the situations that led you to realize what you really want to do, that built skills that will be important to your goals, or introduced you to people who were crucial to your development.

Make sure to spend enough time on your interest in the Cornell MBA to demonstrate why Cornell is the right place to spend the next two years of your life. Academics are going to be a crucial part of your career goals, yet classmates and activities will also be important. Make sure to investigate your fit with Cornell through talking with current students or alumni, visiting campus if you can, or attending information sessions.

Cornell MBA Essay 3: 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. (400 words)

This essay is an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are on a personal level. Think about highlighting areas you may not have been able to touch in the previous career focused essays, and demonstrate your unique personal attributes or community involvement. If you have a consistent theme of involvement in a charity or activity this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate why you became involved and what you have done over the years.

When structuring the story, think of this essay as a way to communicate a narrative theme of your life to the admissions committee. What are the key moments that are meaningful to you? Were there key moments with your friends, family, hobbies or interests that led you to be the person you are today?

Though the essay specifically asks for the Table of Contents, you can certainly illuminate each chapter through brief descriptions. Illuminate the major milestones and be sure to share your essay with friends and family to make sure you are communicating effectively though the creative exercise.

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. (400 word limit)

This optional essay allows for either an explanation of any weaknesses in your application or additional information that may bolster your application. If you have a poor GPA or GMAT, concerns with your undergraduate record, or were unable to provide a recommendation from a current supervisor, this is the place to offer explanations, not excuses. Quickly describe the situation and what may have contributed to the issue (illness, family difficulties, etc.) without editorializing. Focus the balance of your essay on looking forward: what have you done in the recent past to demonstrate your skills and intelligence?

This essay could be an opportunity to communicate exceptional leadership experiences, accomplishments or extracurricular involvements that did not fit into your previous essays. If you focus on an additional aspect of your application strategy you need to make sure your essay demonstrates significant information that will benefit the admissions committee’s decision-making process.

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