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.
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There are a handful of business school essay questions that seem to capture the heart and imagination of many an MBA program.
It seems that, across the board, admissions committees feel these queries offer the best insight into the minds of their applicants. You are likely to see a version of one or more of these common MBA essay questions on your b-school application. These tips will help you craft the perfect answer.
1. Describe your specific career aspirations and your reason for pursuing an MBA.
This may be the most important essay question you tackle. You must convince the admissions committee that you deserve one of their few, cherished spots. Reference your background, skills, and career aspirations, demonstrating how this degree is a bridge to the next step in your professional life. Be sure to speak to how this particular program will help you realize your potential.
It's okay to present modest goals. Deepening your expertise and broadening your perspective are solid reasons for pursuing this degree. If you aspire to lofty goals, like becoming a CEO or starting your own company, be careful to detail a sensible (read: realistic), pragmatic plan.
2. What are your principal interests outside of work or school? What leisure and/or community activities do you particularly enjoy?
There's more to b-school than the library. The best programs buzz with the energy of a student body that is talented and creative and bursting with personality. These students are not just about case studies and careers. Describe how you will be a unique addition to the business school community.
B-school is also a very social experience. Much of the work is done in groups. Weekends are full of social gatherings or immersion experiences, and the networking you do here will impact the rest of your career. Communicate that people, not just your job, are an important part of your life.
3. Who do you most admire?
The admissions committee wants to know the qualities, attributes and strengths you value in others and hope to embrace. Drive, discipline and vision are fine examples but try and look beyond these conventional characteristics. Tell a story and provide specific examples. If you choose someone famous (which is fine), remember that you risk being one of many in the pile. Instead, consider a current boss, business associate, or friend. Know that your choice of person is less important than what you say about him or her.
4. Describe a situation in which you led a team. What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
The committee isn't looking to see how you saved the team through your heroic efforts (so put yourself on ego alert). They want to see how you helped foster an environment in which everyone contributes, illustrating that the sum is greater than its parts. B-schools like leaders, but they like leaders who can help everyone get along and arrive at a collaborative solution.
You should shift gears for this question. Almost the entire application process thus far has asked you to showcase "me-me-me." Now the focus of your story needs to be on the "we" and how you made the "we" happen.
5. Our business school is a diverse environment. How will your experiences contribute to this?
This essay gets at two concerns for the admissions committee: (1) how will you enrich the student body at this school and (2) what is your attitude toward others' diverse backgrounds?
Diversity comes in many shapes. If a grandparent or relative is an immigrant to this country, you can discuss the impact of his or her values on your life. Perhaps you are the first individual in your family to attend college or graduate school. Maybe you are involved in a meaningful or unusual extracurricular activity. Whatever you choose to write, it's vital that you discuss how it contributes to your unique perspective.
6. Describe a personal achievement that has had a significant impact on your life.
Don't pull your hair out just because you haven't founded a successful start-up or swum across the English Channel. Smaller accomplishments with a lot of personal significance are just fine if they demonstrate character, sacrifice, humility, dedication, or perseverance. A good essay describes how you reached a personal objective and what that meant to you. Maybe you didn't lead a sports team to a victory. Maybe the victory was that you made it onto the team .
7. Discuss a non-academic personal failure. What did you learn from the experience?
Many applicants make the mistake of answering this question with a failure that is really a positive. Or they never really answer the question, fearful that any admission of failure will throw their whole candidacy into jeopardy. Don't get crafty. You should answer with a genuine mistake that the committee will recognize as authentic.
Write about a failure that had some high stakes for you. Demonstrate what you learned from your mistake and how it helped you mature. This is a chance to show b-schools your ability to be honest, show accountability, and face your failures head-on.
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