There has been growing interest in Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management since the school restructured its MBA program back in 2016. It has since been climbing MBA rankings, with its alumni enjoying high post-MBA salaries. This post will help you approach Cornell’s 1-year MBA and 2-year MBA (though the school also offers a Tech MBA). Before beginning, make sure to note which Cornell deadlines you will be targeting.


Cornell’s 1-year and 2-year MBA applications share the required Goals Statement, Impact Essay and Optional Essay prompts covered below.

Essay 1 (Goals Statement):

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?

With its Goals Statement, Cornell takes a novel approach to a classic MBA question. Here, Johnson wants to understand how realistic and how aspirational your career objectives are. To begin, study your career to date, from your university studies through work, listing your steps piece by piece. How has each of your experiences benefited from past steps and shaped future ones? Once you have a sense of this, you should be able to better identify how your short and long-term goals might fit into a larger picture of your career trajectory. Remember, your long-term goal for this prompt is 5 to 10 years, not more. Aiming your sights high is important, but remain realistic – overly optimistic projections might not convince Cornell that you have an achievable plan in mind.

Once you’ve done a proper analysis of your work and education history, you should be well positioned to effectively answer the prompt’s final question. Try to share the passion you’ve developed for your future goals, not just the skills or experiences that compose it. Including a short, impactful example that strongly illustrates this could be helpful, though no need to dedicate too much space to it – you’ll be able to showcase your accomplishments elsewhere in the application.

Essay 2 (Impact Essay):

At Cornell, our students and alumni share a desire to positively impact the organizations and communities they serve. Taking into consideration your background, how do you intend to make a meaningful impact on an elite MBA community? (350 words maximum)

This prompt is partially checking how well you already know Cornell by researching what Johnson’s MBA community has to offer. If you have extra time available alongside online research, it can help to join the school’s events or visit its campus to connect with alumni and current students. However, any insights gained will only be useful if you manage to link them to your own path.

Avoid the classic mistake of listing opportunities that you might find interesting to engage with other students during. Instead, try to show true depth in your Johnson-related knowledge. Perhaps you can relate your previous work to research happening on campus, which you could offer areas of expertise on. In general, think of how you can tie together what you already know and love with what you’ll find amidst the Johnson community.

Finally, this essay asks you to express your motivation for applying to Cornell, and how a desire to impact the school is a part of that. Johnson wants to know if your motivation for pursuing an MBA is related to your understanding of how past students have made Johnson a community, and what contribution you will bring to that collective project.

Optional Essay:

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).

If you are a new Cornell applicant, this space should go towards explaining, very directly, the circumstances surrounding any application issues that may need to be explained away (e.g. a gap in your work history, poor grades during one period of your education, etc.). As always, this is your chance to address head-on any problems with your application that, left unattended, could be to the detriment your applicant profile. Beyond the context, be sure to also explain why the problem won’t occur again. As best you can, use this space to briefly argue how you permanently resolved said issue.

If you’re reapplying, however, this space will be for you to share with the admission team how you have evolved since your last submission. Many positive changes could have taken place; perhaps you were promoted, or switched to a position with more responsibility, or were in charge of a successful charitable campaign. It might also be the case that your career objectives have been reassessed, reorienting you towards more achievable and inspiring goals. While sharing these changes, be sure to try and set yourself apart from not only other applicants, but first and foremost try to distinguish your past self from the applicant you are today.

Johnson’s applications are unique and require planning, so if you’re looking for help to prepare strong essays for Cornell, be sure to reach out to our admissions experts. For official information on application logistics, you can also check out Cornell’s MBA programs directly online.

Published On: October 29th, 2021 / Categories: Cornell Johnson, Essay, MBA / Tags: , , , /