Tuesday Tips: Cornell MBA Application Tips for 2020-2021

Cornell MBA application

Are you targeting Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management? The Cornell MBA application is now live, so it’s time to tackle those MBA essays. Cornell Johnson is a flexible MBA program within an Ivy League campus. The school offers multiple full-time options, including a one-year MBA, specialized executive programs, and the Cornell Tech MBA in Ithaca and NYC.

Whatever your goals and background, Cornell has a program that can help you achieve them. Johnson also works to integrate the MBA experience into the larger Cornell community and to leverage coursework at the other top-ranked graduate programs to provide more opportunity to Johnson students.

When approaching the Cornell MBA essays, set your application strategy before you start working. Then, identify the program at Cornell you are most interested in. Do some serious school research. This means research the faculty, coursework, and career opportunities. Also, examine your background and goals to see what is most important to explain as part of your story.

Make sure to inject a layer of personal background and experiences—what makes you truly unique. Finally, make sure you have solid academics, work experience, and extracurriculars.

These can be covered in your Cornell MBA essays, resume, or recommendations. If you identify any holes in your profile or story, take the time to fill them prior to starting your application. You can explain anything necessary in the optional essay.

Cornell MBA Application Essays and Tips

Goals Statement

Immediately post-MBA, my goal is to work as a(n) ____[Role]____ at ___[Company]___within___[Industry]___.
Targeted Job Role:
Target Job Company:
In 5 – 10 years post-MBA, my goal is to work as a(n) ____[Role]____ at ___[Company]___within___[Industry]___.
Targeted Job Role:
Target Job Company:
How has your experience prepared and encouraged you to pursue these goals?

This short answer question is a quick way to cover the relevant career goals questions for your Cornell MBA application. Make sure that your answers are clear and are consistent with your recommenders.

Once you have identified your industry, company, and role in both the short- and long-term, you can briefly answer how your past experiences have led you to your goals. Then, think about the pivotal moments in your career and how they have prepared you for the next step, or have helped to realize your passions.

Finally, pick a very brief example to cover here. In addition, you can use your resume and recommendations to showcase any other skills you need to accomplish your goals. You can explain more about your accomplishments and leadership in the Impact Essay.

Impact Essay

At Cornell, our students and alumni share a desire to positively impact the organizations and communities they serve. How do you intend to make an impact during the next several years of your education and/or career? (350 words maximum)

The Cornell Johnson admissions committee advises you to use this essay “to explore the intersection of engagement and community culture. Whether during the program or following graduation, our students and alumni share a desire to positively impact the organizations and communities they serve.”

The first step to answering this question is to do your research. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cornell Johnson has suspended campus visits. However, you can still connect with the admissions team through virtual admissions events.  Or, as Johnson suggests, reach out to current students using the community search tool. Another way to find a personal connection is to reach out to friends, family, and work colleagues to see if anyone knows a current or future member of the Johnson community.

As you prepare for conversations to learn more about Cornell Johnson, think about programs, extracurricular activities, and the informal ways that students might interact. Johnson offers groups for interests ranging from cooking to ice hockey and has professional clubs for every possible career path.

Those formal groups, or connecting in a classroom or party, might be ways you make connections at Johnson. Showing that you know the school well is important for a successful Cornell MBA application.

Once you have identified opportunities to contribute to campus life at Johnson, ideally you support your story with evidence from your past experiences. For example, maybe you want to bring new speakers to the Johnson Marketing Association because you have contributed to your young professionals’ group at work. Explain that you have successfully organized events featuring major speakers for a large group of people, and can bring that skill to create impact for your peers at Johnson.

Cornell MBA application

Back of Your Resume Essay

The front page of your resume has given us a sense of your professional experience and accomplishments as well as your academic summary and extracurricular involvement. If the back page reflects “the rest of your story,” please help us get to know you better by sharing ONE example of a life experience, achievement, or passion that will give us a sense of who you are as a potential community member.

Of all the Cornell MBA essays, this one will show the admissions committee who you are on a personal level. Think about highlighting areas you may not have been able to touch on in the previous essays. Consider an example that demonstrates your unique personal attributes.

Another idea might be to focus on community involvement. For example, 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.

As the Admissions Committee suggests: “We encourage you to think about your proudest accomplishments, interests and passions, and personal highlights that will help us to get to know you as a person and potential community member. We value creativity and authenticity and encourage you to approach this essay with your unique style.“

This essay can be written as a 500-word essay, or delivered in one of the alternative submission formats: a slide presentation, links to pre-existing media (personal website, digital portfolio, YouTube, etc.), or visually enhanced written submissions.

If you use an alternative format, you should tailor the format you use to the message you want to send. For example, if you discuss your involvement in a cultural activity, a YouTube video would be a good way to show that experience.

Or, if you have a start-up idea, you may want to showcase it on a website or through a slide presentation. Don’t be too distracted by format, though. While a creative format might impress the admissions committee, the substance is the most important part of the essay.

Optional Essay

You may use this essay to call attention to items needing clarification and to add additional details to any aspects of your application that do not accurately reflect your potential for success at Johnson (350 words maximum).

If you are reapplying for admission, please use this essay to indicate how you have strengthened your application and candidacy since the last time you applied for admission. Please also review our Admissions Policy for additional information about re-applying (350 words maximum).

This optional essay allows for either an explanation of any weaknesses in your application or additional information. Your issue could be a poor GPA or GMAT. Or you might have concerns with your undergraduate record. Possibly you were unable to provide a recommendation from a current supervisor. If any of those issues exist, this is the place to give the background.

Briefly describe the situation and what may have contributed to the issue (illness, family difficulties, etc.). Make sure you don’t editorialize—facts only. Focus the balance of your essay on looking forward. What have you done in the recent past to demonstrate your skills and intelligence?

For re-applicants, this is the place to explain what you have done since your last application. Make sure to strengthen your case for admission. If you have a new GMAT score or took classes in calculus or statistics, you have a solid case for improved academics. A promotion could signal career development and leadership.

Even if you don’t have a clear-cut update to describe, you can use this space to explain how you have improved your career goals or fit with Cornell.


To talk to Stacy Blackman Consulting about your Cornell MBA essays, don’t hesitate to contact us! Learn more about applying at the Cornell Johnson website.

This entry was posted in Application Tips, Cornell Advice and tagged , , , , , .
Bookmark this post..

If you have an interview coming up, you will want to review SBC’s interview prep services. The key to interview success is practice and we provide you with all the tools you need to do just that.

  • Leverage our video platform to practice, view yourself and improve
  • Work with our experts for live rehearsal and feedback
  • Download a guide for lists of practice questions, tips on how to prep and overviews of interview formats
  • Experience a real group interview before your big day

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.