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Cornell Class of 2026 Essay Analysis

Cornell has released its essays for the 2023-24 application cycle. Their goals statement and impact essay remain the same, while they have added an additional essay for those interested in the Park Leadership Fellows Program.

Goals statement: 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:

  • Industry:

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:

  • Industry:

How has your experience prepared and encouraged you to pursue these goals?

Essay 1: 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)

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).

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).

Park Leadership Fellows Program Essay Prompt: 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.

To apply for the Park Fellowship, please complete this essay (500-word limit). 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?

2023/24 essay question analysis

Goals statement

The statement of your goals will be straightforward, and will mirror what you write for other schools. Keep in mind to signal some broadness to your goal. For example, you may want to be Commissioner of the NBA, but there is only one job in the world, and setting that as your goal risks positioning you as a potential disappointed alumni if you don’t succeed.

Most of your goals statement should explain how your experience and background positions you to succeed at your stated goal. Aim for unique experiences that align to important skills needed to succeed. For instance, a passion for personal investing often drives people to want to join buy-side investing firms, but it is something many people do, and the skills needed at an institutional level are often different than your personal trading. While word limits are tight, also try to weave in what motivates you to pursue this goal.

Essay 1

Similar to last year, aim to articulate a compelling contribution, especially one that drives more collaboration and community. The more specific and tangible you can make the contribution, the better. Organizing seminars tied to your unique experiences or creating new partnerships between disparate clubs are great starting points, whereas committing to passionately contribute in class won’t differentiate you sufficiently.

Some clients are wary of specialized contributions, for fear of appearing elitist and/or exclusionary. However centering a contribution around a specialized activity (i.e. fencing, football, Middle Eastern cuisine) can be powerful if you structure it to be inclusive. For instance, starting a fencing club doesn’t have to involve including only (or even, mainly) people who already know how to fence. If you’re good at fencing, you can offer to teach, or find another teacher. Organize socializing around the event (i.e. a potluck meal after practice), and soon the event will be about bringing diverse people together around a common interest and passion for self-improvement!

Optional essays

Similar to other schools, the optional and reapplicant questions are available for you to explain any additional information that you may not have had the space to clarify in other parts of your application.

Park Leadership Fellows Program

This is similar to Northwestern Kellogg's leadership essay. This essay question is more focused on impact rather than role. Successful candidates in the past have included anything from work leadership experiences to community impact. A reminder, educate the reader on the context of the situation (i.e. how was it challenging? What might have happened had you not led others to a successful outcome?) as well as what you specifically learned from that experience.

To make your answer easier for the reader to follow, focus on one leadership learning experience that you can discuss in-depth, rather than multiple examples that skim the surface, making it harder for you to differentiate yourself from other applicants. Even if you made mistakes when responding to leadership challenges, you can highlight insights that came from the situation, and how those insights benefit you today.

Two special notes for this essay: First, leadership has to do with setting goals/establishing a direction, getting others on board and influencing their direction, and achieving results together. This should not be confused with a specific role/title (i.e. being President), which does not necessarily mean you’re demonstrating leadership. Second, make sure you’re giving a recent example, not an older story from your childhood. Examples should be from the last three years, with a preference for the more recent stories. If you’re stuck on examples, let’s brainstorm together!

2023/24 deadlines

Round 1: Application deadline September 20, 2023, Decision date: December 8, 2023

Round 2: Application deadline: January 10, 2024, Decision date: April 5, 2024

Round 3: Application deadline: April 10, 2024, Decision date: May 31, 2024

Other application details

Click here for school interaction opportunities.

The online application is coming soon!


Check out information here (near bottom of page)

School resources

Check out our links to several of school's resources, including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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