Cornell Johnson School Application Essay Tips, 2022-2023
Cornell Johnson has a small, close-knit community and an amiable culture with an international focus and an emphasis on collaboration. The school looks for candidates who will have an impact on the program both as students and after graduation. Leadership, teamwork skills, the ability to analyze problems, and strong interpersonal capabilities are key traits the admissions committee likes to see.
In general, Johnson looks for MBA applicants with the following:
- Outstanding academic credentials and a commitment to academic excellence
- A resume that outlines notable professional accomplishments
- Thoughtful application essays that communicate fit and potential contributions as a community member
- Competitive standardized test scores (GMAT or GRE)
- The desire to make a positive impact
- The ability to clearly communicate their career goals and the role Johnson will play in achieving them
Applicants to Johnson’s one- and two-year programs must provide a goals statement and one essay.
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Use this short-answer section to succinctly share your short- and long-term goals. If you’re invited to interview, you will have the opportunity to elaborate on your statement further, and you should be prepared to connect your prior experience with your future aspirations.
A statement of your goals will begin a conversation that will last throughout the admissions process and guide your steps during the MBA program and experience. To the best of your understanding today, please share your short and long term goals by completing the following sentences and answering the enclosed short answer question (350 words maximum):
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:
The first part of this prompt is straightforward. The admissions committee wants to understand what your short- and long-term goals are and to see that you can articulate a clear plan. Be specific. Keep your responses short and unambiguous.
Short answer question (350 words maximum): How has your experience prepared and encouraged you to pursue these goals?
Here you want to share with Johnson what is driving your interest in your goals. Give some context for your aspirations so the admissions committee can easily understand why you have decided on the goals you present. Provide examples of two or three pivotal experiences (professional and perhaps personal), then share specifics about how those experiences have shaped you and factored into your career choices. This is a backward-looking essay in which you need to describe past experiences, so it is not where you should discuss how Johnson will prepare you for your career. However, if you have adequate space, you could add a sentence that ties your goals to the Johnson MBA.
Impact Essay: This essay is designed to explore the intersection of engagement and community culture. Our students and alumni share a desire to positively impact the organizations and communities they serve. To help you explore your potential for impact, we encourage you to engage with our students, alumni, faculty, and professional staff before submitting your application. You may choose to connect with them via email or phone or in person during one of our on-campus or off-campus events. As you seek their input and insight, please be respectful of their time and prepare a few discussion points or questions in advance.
At Cornell, our students and alumni share a desire to positively impact the organizations and communities they serve. Taking into consideration your background, how do you intend to make a meaningful impact on an elite MBA community? (350 words maximum)
Unlike the short-answer prompt, this question is forward looking. Johnsons seeks candidates who can hit the ground running and make the most of their time on campus. While the prompt asks how you will engage with and affect the community, by choosing your examples wisely, you can tie your goals to your anticipated activities on campus. This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have done your research on the program. The school actively encourages you to reach out to community members, and after you have done so, avoid just offering a long list of the students and alumni you contacted. If you name a particular student or alum in your essay, be sure to say how they influenced your decision to apply to Johnson and/or what you learned about the program from them. Look for insider tidbits that you could not find on the school’s website or in blogs. Think about how you will engage with your peers both inside and outside the classroom, as a student and later as an alum.
Give a very brief overview of how you have had an impact on an organization in the past, with a professional or a community group. As noted, this is a forward-looking essay, but you want to touch on your past experiences to frame them as a springboard for how you plan to grow your impact at Cornell Johnson.
Describe ways you intend to engage with the Cornell community, through classes, teams, clubs, and activities. Look for places where you can add value. For example, if you have connections or expertise in a certain professional community, you might offer to host a speaker series to share your knowledge. Are you involved in a STEM education program for local high school students? Perhaps you could join or even start a STEM outreach program in Ithaca. Johnson knows you will learn from your peers; the schools wants to see that you are willing to add value back into your cohort.
Close with a reiteration of your desire to make a meaningful impact on the Johnson community.
Optional Essay (required for reapplicants): 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).
For first-time applicants, this essay is entirely optional. Use this space only if there is something unusual in your candidacy that you want to explain. For example, you might have a low GPA because of an illness or work or family obligations while you were in college. Be factual and brief; do not feel the need to use the entire word count.
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 Application Guide for additional information about reapplying (350 words maximum).
Reapplicants must submit an essay for this prompt. Provide very specific examples of how you are a different candidate this year from the one you were when you applied previously. Perhaps you have received a promotion or been staffed on a critical project. Maybe you have taken on a leadership role (formal or informal) at work or in your extracurricular activities. If you have retaken the GMAT/GRE, did your score improve significantly? If your GPA might have been an issue, did you take a quant class such as calculus or statistics to demonstrate your capabilities in the classroom? This is your opportunity to show Johnson how you have grown over the past year(s) and demonstrate that you are currently a strong candidate.
Park Leadership Fellows Program Essay (optional, Two-Year MBA only): The Roy H. Park Leadership Fellows Program is a two-year, full-tuition fellowship award for Two-Year MBA candidates in Ithaca who have demonstrated outstanding leadership potential and who are committed to making an impact within their communities. Each year, fellowships are awarded to up to 25 incoming students with the expectation that they will participate in additional leadership and personal development activities outside of our regular curriculum, serve in leadership roles within the school, and complete a public service project by the time they graduate. The Park Fellowship is only available to U.S. citizens applying for the Two-Year MBA program.
Describe a past formal or informal leadership experience and how it informs your goals for growth as a leader. How would the Park Leadership Fellowship assist with these goals? (500-word limit)
Park Leadership Fellows have a strong track record of leadership and community service, so be sure to reflect in your essay on how these characteristics apply to you. Show how your past leadership experience has set the stage for your future growth as a leader and how Johnson, and the Park Leadership Fellowship specifically, will be key to continuing that growth. The school encourages candidates to reach out to current Park Fellows, and we agree that this is an important part of writing an effective essay here. It is a great way to learn more about the cohort and about the projects these students are engaged in.
Give a brief assessment of a significant leadership experience you have had. Where possible, incorporate key Johnson values, and focus on your commitment to community service and/or socially responsible business. Explain how the experience has influenced your goals. Then, describe how you need to grow as a leader. What skills do you believe you need to attain? This is a chance to show self-awareness through introspection.
Use your conversations with current Park Fellows to identify specific projects or teams you might get involved in. How would those activities nurture and strengthen your leadership capabilities? If you have space, highlight classes, clubs, and/or treks that would also help you build your leadership skills. Look beyond core classes and obvious clubs; perhaps think about how you could leverage opportunities throughout the greater Cornell community. Be specific about how each activity you mention would help in your development as a leader.
Close with a reiteration of how being a Park Fellow at the Johnson School would be the best way for you to attain your career goals.
In Stratus Admissions’ Guide to Getting into Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, you will find information on a variety of the MBA program’s offerings such as the Sage Socials, Immersions, and Johnson Diwali Night. Download your free copy today.