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Cornell Johnson MBA Essay Tips

Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management is known for its tight-knit community, one that’s strengthened by the refuge of the abundant nature surrounding Ithaca.

The business school specifically seeks out students who can add value to its small MBA community. Silpa Sarma, a Fortuna Admissions Expert Coach and Cornell Johnson MBA alum, recently offered insight into what admissions officers look for in the Johnson MBA essays, and how applicants can best approach each essay.

“Your essays are an opportunity to connect the dots for Cornell between who you are, where you’re going, and what you hope to bring to the community,” Sarma says.


The first essay prompt asks applicants the following:

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:

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?

While there’s no word count given for this year’s essay, Sarma says applicants should use last year’s 350-word cut-off as a benchmark. To start, Sarma suggests sharing the inspiration behind your goals by providing context of how your interests, academic background, and professional experiences have helped shape said goals.

“Think about what you’ve learned throughout your career and how each role inspired you, and prepared you, to take the next step,” Sarma says. “This will help convey your motivation to make an impact and effect change. To demonstrate that your career vision is ambitious but still realistic, select two or three past experiences that highlight your existing skills and/or expertise that you will leverage, and then articulate how the offerings at the school will take you the rest of the way toward achieving your goals.”


The second essay prompt asks applicants the following:

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, hard cut-off)

To approach this question, Sarma recommends doing research to get a strong understanding of the Cornell Johnson experience.

“While reviewing the school’s website, student blogs, and YouTube videos might be good initial steps, it would be helpful to connect with current students, alumni, and other members of the Cornell Johnson community to gain a more in-depth understanding of the experience,” Sarma says.

Then, you’ll want to think about how your background aligns with the Cornell Johnson community.

“Consider how you might share your sector expertise or industry connections with your peers, be it in a class discussion, during the recruiting cycle, or through a guest speaker series at Johnson,” Sarma says. “Find ways to continue your favorite extracurricular or community pursuits on campus, and if the avenue doesn’t exist, consider how you might create the opportunity and generate interest and engagement among your fellow students.”

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, P&Q

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