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Writing the Cornell Supplemental Essays 2018-19: Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences

UPDATE: There have been changes to Cornell's major-specific prompts for the 2019-20 application season. Get the details here!

If you’re applying to Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences, you’ll need to write one of the Cornell supplemental essays. This guide will help you develop strong content that shows your enthusiasm for Cornell, and we have examples to help you get started!

Note: if you’re applying to a different Cornell college, check the links at the bottom for more Cornell supplemental essay writing guides.

Now let’s take a look at the 2019-19 College of Arts and Sciences prompt!

Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into their academic interests, discover new realms of intellectual inquiry, and chart their own path through the College. Tell us why the depth, breadth, and flexibility of our curriculum are ideally suited to exploring the areas of study that excite you. (650 words maximum)

The key words in this prompt are depth, breadth, and flexibility. You’ll need to make sure you’re addressing all three features of the curriculum. But what does this mean?

Depth means that the curriculum will allow you to learn about a specific topic in great detail. For example, maybe you love the way the Africana Studies major has a concentration in politics.

Breadth means that the curriculum will allow you to learn about a wide range of topics. For instance, maybe you like the fact that 2/3 of your classes will be in subjects outside of your major.

Flexibility is any way that the curriculum allows you the freedom to pursue your interests. Maybe you like the fact that students can access 63 minors at other Cornell colleges!


Step One:

First, identify the areas of study that excite you. What do you want to explore at Cornell? Jot down a few notes.


Step Two:

Explore the College of Arts and Sciences website and take notes on the features of the curriculum that you like. How will the depth, breadth, and flexibility of the curriculum help you explore the interests you identified in Step One?

Let’s look at an example student’s brainstorming list!

Interests: History, Business


  • History Honors research project
  • Undergraduate Medieval Studies courses
  • History at Oxford study abroad program


  • Academic distribution requirements will give me a new perspective on different cultures
  • Attending the Big Ideas in the Humanities panels
  • Over 1100 Cornell student groups will allow me to try new things, like joining the Entrepreneurship Club


  • The University-Wide Business Minor program


Step Three:

Develop a Core Message for your College of Arts and Sciences Essay. This is a 1-2 sentence statement that summarizes your response to the prompt.

Let’s revisit the example student. Their Core Message might say something like this:

  • “I am drawn to the depth of Cornell’s undergraduate history program, the breadth of the curriculum and extracurricular learning opportunities, and the flexibility to take a minor at another college. The College of Arts and Sciences will allow me to pursue my passion for history while exploring new learning experiences.”

Why this works: The student summarizes their response to the entire prompt and makes it clear why they appreciate these features of Cornell.

Once you have your Core Message, include it somewhere in your first few sentences to provide direction to your essay. Then, your path for the rest of your essay will be clear: add more specific details about the ways that Cornell’s curriculum will allow you to pursue your interests!

Looking for one of the other Cornell supplemental essays? We’ve got all the Cornell essay prompts here!


Click here for our guide to the Common App essay

Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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