Cornell MBA Essays: Tips for 2023-2024

If you are looking for guidance on how to write successful MBA essays for Cornell Johnson, you are in the right place. The Johnson MBA application can be difficult and time-consuming, but with these tips and tricks, you can be more confident about one of the biggest parts of your application: the MBA essays. This article will cover how to compose Cornell MBA essays that will fit the criteria for admissions and hopefully earn you a place in Cornell University’s graduating class of 2025. 

Cornell University Johnson School of Business is a prestigious MBA program with renowned faculty and a focus on academic success. Cornell wants to admit students who are intelligent, determined, and prepared to undertake a rigorous curriculum. In addition, Cornell prioritizes community and teamwork. Applicants should pay attention to the specific requirements and expectations set out by Cornell’s admissions committee when writing Cornell MBA essays. Through these Cornell Johnson MBA essays, applicants have a chance to demonstrate their skills, accomplishments, and personal interests.

At Menlo Coaching, we noticed that most MBA essays will fall into one of a number of categories: personal essays, career goals essays, behavioral essays, etc.. Read ahead for our expert guide on approaching these essays for Cornell University’s Johnson College of Business.

Career Goals Essay

  • 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 and complete the following sentences and answering the short answer question below.

  1. In 5 years I want to work as a(n) [Role] at [Company] in the [Industry].
  2. In 5-10 years post-MBA my goal is to work as a(n) [Role] at [Company] in the [Industry].
  3. How has your experience prepared and encouraged you to pursue these goals?

Behavioral 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? (text box, 350 words maximum)

Optional Essay

  • If you are applying for the first time and wish to submit an optional essay, please enter it here.
    You may use the optional essay to explain gaps in your resume, call attention to items needing clarification, or provide additional details about any aspects of your application that do not accurately reflect your potential for success at Johnson. (text box, 350 words maximum)

Park Fellowship Essay

  • Park Fellowship Leadership Essay (500-word limit).
    Describe a past formal or informal leadership experience and how it informs your goals for growth as a leader. How would the Park Leadership Fellowship assist with these goals?

    Please note that consideration for the Roy H. Park Leadership Fellowship is by invitation only. Upon completion of the admissions interview, those selected for further consideration will be required to submit a response to the Park Leadership Fellows Program essay in addition to participating in one of our Leadership Exploration and Assessment Day (L.E.A.D.) events.

Reapplicant Essay

  • If you are reapplying for admission, please use this essay to indicate how you have strengthened your application. (text box, 350 words)

Johnson’s Career Goals Essay 

The Cornell career goals essay provides applicants with a place to let the Cornell admissions committee know how the MBA program you want to attend will help you achieve your professional goals. This Cornell MBA essay is a great place to explain why Cornell is truly the best fit for you. 

It is vital for Cornell applicants to have a solid plan for their post-MBA career aspirations. First and foremost, this is because Cornell wants its graduates to succeed. However, there are a few selfish motivations for the career goals essay, including the fact that Cornell wants to have an impressive employment report and produce graduates who will become donors someday. Further, the Cornell admissions committee wants to ensure that applicants have a career plan that plays on their past experiences and thus ensures success. They also want applicants with the foresight to develop an alternate career plan in case their first choice does not work out. 

Other things to keep in mind for this essay is the necessity to have a career goal that is both ambitious and practical. Applicants should have meaningful goals that fit with what is offered at Cornell’s MBA program. Along this vein, networking is extremely important when preparing to write your career goals essay. The more you know about the program and how it can help you achieve your personal goals, the better.

Johnson’s Behavioral Essay

Behavioral essays involve demonstrating how you have used your leadership skills in real-life situations. The Behavioral Cornell MBA essay gives you a space to identify your morality as a leader and how you might benefit from Cornell’s leadership development programs. Cornell’s MBA admissions committee wants assurance that you are self-reflective and able to identify a moment in which you have been a leader. 

In the Cornell behavioral essay, it is important to be truthful and sincere and to tell your personal story in a compelling manner. You should include as much detail as possible for this type of Cornell MBA essay, discussing your role in a situation that required a strong leader. You should reflect on what this situation taught you and how your leadership style might have changed after this experience. Cornell is looking for MBA candidates who can contemplate how they used leadership skills to solve a problem. 

In this Cornell MBA essay, you might want to reflect on your role on teams in your previous work experience. Further, rather than solely focusing on your leadership successes, it would also be beneficial to identify some failures and explain how you have learned from these less positive experiences. 

Park Fellowship Essay

Johnson also offers each applicant the opportunity to apply for the Park Fellowship. You can read more about this program here.

Optional Essay

Once you’ve completed your application, the optional Ross essay gives you an additional opportunity to provide the AdCom with any additional information or clarity that you feel would enhance your application.

One trap that MBA applicants fall into is using the additional space provided by this essay to write on a whole new topic. However, this is not always the best idea.

You should only make use of this essay if you what you write will provide context to an element of your application to improve your candidacy—you don’t want to jeopardize your chances by adding unnecessary noise to your application.

Reapplicant Essay

For reapplicants, Cornell Johnson requires a specific essay in which you can address how your application has improved since your last application.

In this essay, you can address any improvements to your test scores, promotions at work, additional volunteer or community work, or any significant professional development that you have undertaken since you last applied to the program.

Timing is key for reapplicants, and when you’re applying for an MBA program a second time around, you want to be sure that you are a more qualified and desirable client than you were a year ago—even if your application was stellar the first time.


Applicants to Cornell should pay close attention to the specific expectations for each type of Cornell MBA essay. Although it may be tempting to look up sample essays and draw from these formats, it is most important to let your personal background guide the construction of your Cornell Johnson MBA essays.

Menlo Coaching can help you throughout your Cornell MBA essay writing process, offering one-on-one coaching and exclusive preparation materials. 

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