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Cornell MBA Essay Questions & Analysis 2024-2025

cornell mba essay questions

The following essay topic analysis examines Cornell / Johnson’s MBA admissions essays for the two-year residential program. The Cornell MBA essays questions are for the 2024-2025 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for other leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.

Cornell MBA Essay Questions & Analysis 2024-2025

Let’s take a closer look at each prompt:

Short Answer

Use this short answer question to succinctly share your short and long term goals. If invited to interview, you will have the opportunity to elaborate further and 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:

How has your experience prepared and encouraged you to pursue these goals?
Applicants would be wise to simply fill in the blanks for the first section of the prompt.  Past examples for the short answers have included:

  • Short Term Goal: Immediately post-MBA my goal is to work as a(n) Consultant at Accenture within Media and Technology.
  • Long Term Goal: In 5-10 years post-MBA my goal is to work as a(n) Founder and President within Nonprofit.

Like last year, candidates are expected to elaborate a bit on how their past has informed their planned future. This invites applicants to share their career history and how factors, such as industry exposure, client projects and more have influenced their decisions. This is an opportunity to establish one’s skills and set up the need for an MBA. You do not necessarily need to touch on each role you’ve held since graduation, but rather the most influential ones in preparing you for your future. If you are a career changer, you may touch on transferrable skills or delve deeper into what really sparked your interest in and passion for your new direction. The key for the short answer is to make clear and concise connections to your vision and motivation.

Essay 1: Choose One

Cornell Johnson offers two options for Essay 1. Applicants should choose and respond to one prompt.

Impact Essay Option: At Cornell, our students and alumni share a desire to positively impact the organizations and communities they serve. How do you intend to make a meaningful impact on the Johnson community?  (350 words maximum)
In prior years, the adcom has encouraged applicants to engage with students, alumni, faculty and staff, so it would behoove you to make such connections and incorporate how they’ve informed your potential to positively impact the Johnson community. Based on these interactions, applicants may want to begin by thinking about an element or two of the Johnson community with which they find the greatest resonance, and should also consider which are already evident in their activities and accomplishments to date. In fact, one to two examples (100-150 words total) that illustrate their skills and potential to make a positive impact should be woven in to selected means of contributing. Consider this in light of the idea that past behavior supports future success.

Of course, the majority of this response should center on the applicant’s planned activities and impact as a Johnson MBA student. It would be wise to discuss your behavior outside of the classroom and identifying specific student organizations in which you might take a leadership role. You should note that speaking convincingly about your ability to make a positive difference will likely require some informed sense of the areas of opportunity and need on campus. Conversations with students and alumni will be very important in producing the most effective essay possible.

The sense of community through Johnson does not end on graduation day, and the adcom may wish to understand the long-term impact you envision. With room permitting, it would be nice to end on a note of your post-MBA plans to have an impact on the community.

Unique Trait That Defines Me Option: What is something unique about you that others will remember you by? (350 words maximum)
This is a chance to tell the adcom who you are. Keep in mind that the question is labeled as “The Unique Trait that Defines Me.” Accordingly, you should hone in on a specific character trait (as opposed to an unusual party trick or genetic feature, etc.).

Following a brief assertion of your unique quality, you’ll need to back it up with a supporting example. Once you settle on the related example, consider the following structure in telling your story:

  • Set the stage by describing your trait. For instance, perhaps you can assert your resourcefulness or persistence, especially discussing how far you’ve come, if you were a bootstrapper or first generation in your family to attend college.
  • Share an example of how the trait has manifested in your prior experiences—what actions did you take that demonstrate this trait?
  • Summarize the (positive) result of your actions in the example and lasting impact you had on others. Your impact is a means of showing why people could remember you.
  • Conclude with your future potential impact. It would make sense to paint a picture of how you plan to contribute to the school community (and ensure your fellow students remember you). Draw that specific connection to how you would bring your uniqueness to the 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). 

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).
For first-time applicants, this optional essay should be reserved for addressing potential liabilities in one’s application. Such discussions should be direct and to the point, providing an explanation and pointing to mitigating factors without being defensive or making excuses.

Meanwhile, reapplicants should comment on how they have spent the past year, taking particular care to highlight improved quantitative records, new professional skills and responsibilities, progress toward their ultimate career goals, and/or increased community involvement.

Clear Admit Resources

Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Johnson MBA essay topics! As you work on your Cornell MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Cornell / Johnson offerings: