Cornell / Johnson MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018
Following up on the release of the Cornell University / Johnson MBA essay prompts for 2017-2018, we wanted to offer some pointers to applicants who are targeting the Class of 2020. While the program has retained its creative Table of Contents essay, it has once again dispensed with the standard career goals essay and instead honed in on a candidate’s interest in Johnson and ability to create impact.
2017-2018 Cornell Johnson MBA Essay Topic Analysis
Per the instructions provided by the admissions committee, applicants would be wise to mirror the direct and concise nature of the examples provided.
A statement of your goals will begin a conversation that will last throughout 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:
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:
Example of Completed Statement:
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.
Let’s take a closer look at each of this year’s Johnson MBA essays:
Cornell / Johnson 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.Please limit your response to 500 words or fewer.
Given the adcom’s basis of engaging the school community, applicants will be expected to be fairly concrete in their comments about how they’ve had contact with Johnson alumni, faculty, staff or current students, and, in turn, how this informed the decision to apply. 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 their behavior outside of the classroom and identifying specific student organizations in which they might take a leadership role. Candidates should note that speaking convincingly about their 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 (as well as reading the Clear Admit School Guide to the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management) will be very important in producing the most effective essay possible. Finally, space permitting, it would be nice to suggest how you would continue to make an impact beyond the Johnson MBA, likely through one’s career goals. The sense of community through Johnson does not end on graduation day, and the adcom—given its longstanding history of asking about career goals—may wish to understand the long-term impact a candidate envisions.
The Cornell / Johnson Table of Contents Essay
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.
Appearing again on the Johnson application, this unusual prompt calls for a high-level and non-narrative overview of an applicant’s life to date. Internalizing the hint about what the adcom values, applicants should understand that while the structure for this essay is somewhat set, there’s still a good deal of room for strategy and creativity: candidates are free to decide which eras or events to highlight, how to title each chapter, and so on. Though relying on a list format might be a viable approach, candidates will likely get more mileage out of this essay by structuring information in sentences or a series of sub-sections under broad chapter headings, offering a description of that “chapter” in your life and drawing out the important themes of the story. Regardless of the format you choose, make sure that it allows you to provide an authentic representation of yourself, introducing humor, personality, and even vulnerability where appropriate.
As for the content of this response, the admissions committee is likely looking for a sense of each candidate’s background, as well as his or her trajectory and growth over time. Touch on those events and accomplishments that are most meaningful and important to you, highlighting the ones that have shaped your personal development. Keeping in mind that this is a b-school application, you will want to share information that is relevant to your current work and your future objectives (without too much repetition of points raised in your other essay).
That said, dedicating the entirety of the table of contents to professional pursuits may not be advantageous or allow candidates to provide well-rounded pictures of who they are. Because the adcom asks candidates to take a lifespan view as they complete this task, comments about the lasting impact of one’s upbringing and early formative experiences are appropriate here. It would also make sense to include important community involvements, the development of important hobbies, and illuminating travel experiences. Overall, you want to make sure to highlight the unique aspects of your personality and candidacy, as doing so will allow you to stand out from others in the applicant pool.
While some applicants with a robust (and admissions-appropriate) online presence might choose to link to an external site in the course of their responses, it’s impossible to know how much time the adcom will actually devote to perusing a blog or YouTube channel. Candidates should therefore submit a fully formed essay in addition to linking to this additional content.
Meanwhile, the “visually-enhanced written submission” option provides an excellent opportunity to develop a memorable response that shows the adcom more about one’s background and interests than would be possible with a strictly text-based response. We therefore strongly recommend that applicants include photos, graphics, or other design elements in their responses to really put their unique stamp on this essay. Applicants might consider including an image with each chapter or section heading, and might even use font choice and color to develop an overall look and feel for the document that is consistent with their personal brands and main themes of their b-school application. Taking the time to develop an aesthetically pleasing presentation for this Table of Contents will also underscore your interest in Johnson’s program by demonstrating a willingness to put time and effort into your application.
Cornell / Johnson Optional Essay
Complete this essay if you would like to add additional details regarding your candidacy. For instance, if you believe one or more aspects of your application (e.g., undergraduate record or test scores) do not accurately reflect your potential for success at Johnson.
If you are reapplying for admission, please use this essay to indicate how you have strengthened your application since the last time you applied.
Please limit your response to 500 words or fewer.
Given the breadth of Johnson’s Table of Contents essay, it seems unlikely that there’s a high point of one’s candidacy that wouldn’t fit into that response. For first-time applicants, this optional essay should therefore likely 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. While there are 500 words allotted for this response, applicants using this essay to address an issue in their application will likely use only a fraction of this space.
Meanwhile, reapplicants would probably be wise to use the full 500 words provided to detail the steps they have taken to become a stronger applicant and learn more about the Cornell MBA program since their last application. Candidates in this situation 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:
Posted in: Admissions Tips, Essay Topic Analysis, Essays
Schools: Cornell / Johnson
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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