Admissionado back once again with fresh, off-the-shelves essay analyses for Cornell Johnson's 2017 application! We wanted to jump in and give you a head-start on those essays questions. Jog that imagination, and give you a few tips and tricks to get started on your Johnson essays to get you started on the best foot this year. Soooooo, without further ado:
Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management MBA Essay 1
At Cornell, we value students who create impact. Please indicate the opportunities for impact that you have identified through engagement with our community and describe how these interactions have influenced your decision to apply to Johnson. (500 word maximum)
This is a sneaky, sneaky question.
It could just as easily read, “Prove to us that you have researched the living HELL out of Johnson and have a demonstrable AFFINITY for our program. Please convey this deep knowledge and preference for our program through… let’s see… sure why the hell not: “impact.”
Most likely, Cornell is sincere about valuing impact. But what they may care about more is trying to gauge whether they’re going to be a “safety” school for the folks out there hoping to score admits from HBS, GSB, Wharton, etc. What will help Cornell (and programs like Cornell, similarly ranked, etc.) in the long run is a cohort that is obsessed with Johnson, over-eager to take a BITE out of the program, and therefore poised for wild success.
This will bode well for their graduate placement stats, as well as the “how many say yes when we admit them” stats, all of which will sum to improve their appeal to would-be candidates and therefore improve their ability to be selective. You get the idea.
So, sincerity is KEY. If you can prove beyond a shadow of the doubt that your engagement with Johnson extends way way way beyond some internet researching and perhaps a conversation or two with an alum (or student) here or there, you’re moving in the right direction.
Think of it this way. Imagine two applicants: Moe and Curly. Moe’s the McKinsey superstar: 780 GMAT, age 25, promotions ahead of his peers up the wazoo. You get the idea. She’s the kind of candidate with HBS written all over her. How deeply do you think she’s going to investigate Cornell’s MBA program? Think about it in terms of minutes or hours she’ll spend on it. (Answer: no more than she needs to.)
Curly on the other hand is 29, GMAT 690, yada yada yada, probably a stretch for H/S/W, but maybe Johnson is his absolute DREAM school. How much time do you think CURLY spends investigating Johnson’s curriculum? And faculty? And in-class as well as extracurricular offerings? (Answer: not hours, but days. Weeks. Maybe more.)
Both Moe and Curly answer the above question. Whose essay do you think stands a better chance of feeling authentic with respect to communicating a connection with the Johnson MBA? Even if Moe is the stronger candidate on paper, you can be sure that no matter how hard she tries, she can only do so much with 25 minutes of cursory “research” for the purposes of hammering out this essay. That’s not your competition. The bar here is CURLY. The person whose TOP choice is Johnson. The person who has researched the living HELL out of this program. The person who not only knows professors by name but has likely been following their careers for a while. The person who can probably name buildings on campus because they’ve visited them… more than once. That preson. Just keep that in mind as you proceed.
Now let’s talk about impact. The real key here is not to talk about your ability to make impact in a vacuum. The key here is to tether your ability to make impact… with Johnson specifically. Put differently, you need to make the case that of all the places where you will have the opportunity to “make impact,” your affinity for Johnson affords you the BEST chance to make the most MEANINGFUL VERSION of that impact. Bigger impact, better impact, however you care to define it. See the difference? This is not about puffing your chest and showing THAT you are capable of seizing opportunity. It’s about showing why you believe you will seize that opportunity in the best way possible at Cornell.
Here’s a cool trick for how to achieve that:
1) First establish what it is you wanna do. An example of an area where you’re excited to change something, leave something behind, “create impact.” Be clear about what that thing is, but don’t dwell, just give us enough to “get it.” (Maybe 75 words or s0)
2) Next, explain the circumstances in which you believe you thrive BEST. Point to specific instances in your (recent) past that support this. Explain why in CERTAIN environments, you excel in a certain way. Be specific. (75-100 words)
3) Finally, connect the dots. Show us how your engagement with the Johnson program, your investigation of what it’s all about, what it has to offer, your communications with students (past or present), the sum total of everything you’ve done to understand what Johnson is… has convinced you that this is THE place where you will shine brightest. This is THE place where your prospects for “creating impact” are best. Show us specifically. And even better, make a case for how this program is somehow better than others in its class. (If you can pull that off, BONUS POINTS.) (More than one paragraph, 300-350 words or so)
With those three pieces as your first cement pour, your foundation will be a fantastic starting place to then sculpt.
Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management MBA Essay 2
You are the author of your Life Story. Please create the Table of Contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. We value creativity and authenticity and encourage you to approach this essay with your unique style. Alternative submission formats may include a slide presentation, links to pre-existing media (personal website, digital portfolio, YouTube etc.), as well as visually enhanced written submissions. (Maximum file size is 5 MB. If you choose to submit a written Table of Contents, please limit your submission to 500 words or fewer. Please limit multimedia submissions to under 5 minutes.)
Cornell Johnson’s table of contents essay question – this is the one they are famous for, and have been asking for years.
Attempting to cram your life story into the chapter TITLES of your book is to miss the point entirely. That’s what “the book itself” is for, is it not? What are chapter titles? What is their purpose? Before we attack this, let’s take a step back and consider what question the Johnson MBA admissions committee is truly asking. Do they really want to know your life story? Do they really even just want a snapshot OF your life story because they’re curious to know about you? Nope.
How many times in ANY business school (or any degree program for that matter) has the admissions committee followed up with their choices to track their progress? Never. So if they’re not after your life story (or even a glimpse of it through a table of contents conceit), then what do they want to know by asking you about a glimpse of your life story through a table of contents?
It’s all about the gears, folks.
Think about those crazy questions you hear about for McKinsey interviews or Google interviews. The ones where they ask you how you’d find your way out of a blender if you were a miniaturized human, with one minute to go before the blades started whirring. Clearly, they’re not interested in figuring this out because it relates to a practical version of this problem. They wanna know how you think. They wanna see the GEARS move and how you interpret the question. How you process the words. How your brain’s algorithm leads you down certain pathways. How you weigh those pathways against one another. Where it takes you. How much you sweat during that process. Where you end up. But… they don’t care about the answer. They care about the moments leading UP to the answer. The part of the process where the gears are in motion.
Why? Because the gears give us a sense for what kind of person you are. Maybe in your approach we see a sense of whimsy. Or a sense of militaristic precision. Or a glimpse of a compassionate leader. It’s all in the approach. WHAT you say here is far less important than HOW you say it. We know this because they have forced your hands with the “Table of Contents” approach. There is room here ONLY for an APPROACH that tells the story, and not enough for the story itself to do the talking. A straight approach is almost guaranteed to fall flat; unless your snapshots are SO remarkable, they don’t require creativity. If for example your life story goes something like “Started Apple in garage. Took company public. Reinvented the music industry. Reinvented cellular phones. Reinvented retail shopping for electronics…” In this case, you don’t need a ton of creativity. But this applies to outliers, not the typical candidate.
And that's that. Helpful, eh? If you have any questions on it or Johnson or anything, just reply here or shoot us a PM. And if you want more Essay Analysis Goodness, check out more schools here. We're updating 'em daily as new prompts are released, so keep checking back.
Admissionado | Packages | Success Stories | Team
If you like the post, give it a KUDOS!
1. Describe your greatest professional achievement and how you added value to your organization. (400-word limit)
This question is very straightforward, with only the most minor wrinkle: be sure that you discuss an accomplishment that shows that you added value to your organization. Virtually all accomplishments can be said to have added value in some capacity, but for this essay, you must be sure to specifically address the second half of Cornell’s question and explain how your achievement benefitted others. As you consider your response, you should work to create a narrative structure that will engage your reader. Many candidates rush to end the mystery quickly and state their accomplishment in the very first sentence of their essay. After that, what point is there to the rest of the essay? Readers of our Monday Morning Essay Tips will already know that this is a very easy way to lose your reader’s interest. So, take care to really tell the story of how you achieved what you did in fact achieve, rather than just offering that you accomplished something special. There is indeed a difference.
2. What career do you plan to pursue upon completion of an MBA degree and why? How will the Johnson School help you achieve this goal? (400-word limit)
Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide,which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store. Please feel free to download your copy today.
3. You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. Please write the table of contents for the book. (400-word limit) Note: Approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity.
This essay question follows the unique and creative model of NYU Stern’s essay three, UCLA Anderson’s audio/video file and Chicago Booth’s blank pages presentation, but for some reason, candidates are often confounded by what they perceive to be the essay’s rigid structure. We recommend that before you even put your hands on the keyboard or pick up a pen, you head to your local bookstore and leaf through various fiction and nonfiction texts, as well as magazines. There, you may just find some inspiration that will lead you to your own unique approach and help you break free of the confines of the rigid table of contents format—allowing you to add crucial information that will set you apart from other candidates.
We would like to stress to candidates that they need not order their chapters chronologically, nor must they cover their entire lives to date. Applicants may have interesting family histories or strong visions for the future, and incorporating these kinds of elements into their table of contents can give an even greater sense of their personality. Other possible options include organizing the table of contents thematically and breaking down the hypothetical book into parts/sections. As the cliché goes, the only limit is your imagination.