Cornell University SC Johnson College of Business Essay Analysis 2017 – 2018

Last updated on October 5th, 2017

Reading Time: 12 minutes

If you’re applying to the Johnson School of Business at Cornell, you have come to the right place. In this article, I am going to take you through the details about the program as well as analyze the MBA application essays for 2017-2018 so that you know how to approach the essays.


First, let’s look at the program itself. Cornell is an Ivy League school, it’s one of those large universities with a very good brand name. In the Johnson MBA program, if you look at the class size, it’s a lot smaller than many of the large programs. In that sense, you have a large university set-up but you have a very small program size. If you’re looking at an MBA program where you get to be a part of a university infrastructure yet have the bonding, connection and bonhomie of a small class size, Cornell is the program you should be looking at. That’s one important point.


The second point is, in terms of location, it’s really beautiful. It can get cold but it’s a very beautiful location. It’s about three to four hours from Downtown New York – Manhattan. It’s probably a bus drive away.  In terms of location, it’s a lot of better than some of the schools in the Mid-west which are in the middle of nowhere. In that sense, though it is not a Columbia to be right there in Downtown, it’s still accessible.


The third thing is perhaps a unique feature of the Johnson program. They call it immersion learning. All the students at Johnson have a very career focused experiential program where the students starting the second semester of the first year get hands-on career training. You get a practical experience in whatever you’re learning. That is  a big difference in Johnson as opposed to other MBA programs. In fact, the student management opportunities are enormous. Just to give you specifics,  BR Ventures and BR Consulting, both at Johnson School of Management, provide opportunities to the second-year students to actually manage a venture capital fund and a seed stage consultancy. Those are the kind of opportunities where you can roll up your sleeves and dig into real world experiences. In fact, there is also The Cayuga Fund, an MBA fund, where you have a chance to oversee a portfolio of eight million dollars. It’s a hedge fund. Why is this important? It’s important if you’re the kind of person who feels that apart from theory, you are kind of a doer, you’re a  a kinaesthetic guy, and you learn by doing. In that case, the Cornell program could be ideal for you because there is so much of your own doing, your own experiences, along with the knowledge you gain from an MBA.


2017-2018 SC Johnson School Of Business MBA Deadlines


October Round

Application Deadline: October 5, 2017

Initial Notification: November 15, 2017

Deposit & Official Transcript Deadline: January 10, 2018


November Round

Application Deadline: November 15, 2017

Initial Notification: January 10, 2018

Deposit & Official Transcript Deadline: March 1, 2018


January Round

Application Deadline: January 10, 2018

Initial Notification: March 15, 2018

Deposit & Official Transcript Deadline: April 23, 2018


April Round

Application Deadline: April 5, 2018

Initial Notification: May 1, 2018

Deposit & Official Transcript Deadline: June 1, 2018




SC Johnson School Of Business Essay Analysis 2017 – 2018


The first essay is the goal statement. What Johnson has done here is very interesting. What they have done is, they realised a lot of people don’t know how to write a goals essay. Maybe they haven’t watched my videos or haven’t read my articles. While writing, people just meander, and they go all over the place. The point is, they are not specific. The school, as I have said in my other videos as well, requires you to be very specific with regard to your goals. What is it that you really want to do?  If you see, it explicitly states, “if invited to interview, you will have the opportunity to elaborate further and should be prepared to connect your prior experience with your future aspirations.” They are actually mentioning in a way that they don’t expect you to say “Why”. Let’s keep out the “Why” part. Let us just focus on the “What” part. In most career goal essays, the “Why” part is also required to tie your past experience to why you want to do whatever you plan to do. In this case, you don’t need to worry.


Here is what it reads:


Goals Statement


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.


You have the role, company and the industry. Which one? Pick any that you want. You need to pick your targeted goal, targeted job company and the industry that you want to work in. The same thing gets repeated in your long-term goal. They even specify how long a long-term should be, 5-10 years.


Now, a couple things here. First, your best friend is LinkedIn. Make sure that you go to LinkedIn, and research about people who have graduated, and people with experiences similar to yours. So don’t look at someone who probably went to an Ivy League in the US, born and brought up in the US and is working on Wall Street. You need to make sure it is your background, be it in tech, be it in finance, whatever is your background, that background. Try to see if you can get people who are not Americans but Indians or anyone else who doesn’t have a PR status in the US. Now that you found the person you need, find out what it is that they are doing. Look at people who are now at one-year or two –years after they have graduated. That will give you a good sense. It will give you a good sense of the kind of companies that are recruiting and the kind of typical roles that you would get.


Now, if you want to ask, I would say “Employability” plays a huge role. You don’t want to put something that is so weird that not many people can get that job. That cannot be held against you but they are going to look at it and say, “Is this guy going to get this job? And if not, he is probably in the wrong place.” Pick something, for example, I know that some of the largest recruiters like Amazon recruit heavily from most schools, including Cornell. You have the top consulting firms. You have the top tech firms like Microsoft and Google. So try to pick an employer who has employed people with your kind of a background and look at the title and role they have. What do they join as? Do they join as Poduct Managers? Then you talk about the companies and the roles, which go hand-in-hand, and then the sector. Is it e-commerce? Is it technology? Is it finance? Is it consulting? “I want to be an associate at Mckinsey working in the consulting sector”, or something like, “I want to be a Product Manager working at Google in the tech space.” You have to be very clear.

Now coming to the 5-10 years which is your long-term goal. In this part, there are two things you could do. The one thing you could do is that you could think of a career path that is a progression along this. For example, if you’re a consultant, you want to talk about being an engagement manager or maybe a partner. If you’re going to be a Product Manager, let’s say you want to be the Vice President of Products of a start-up. So that’s one path. Now the second path that you can take in the longer term is something that is allied to what you have done but is completely different. For example, you can talk about entrepreneurship. You could say, “I did consulting (or a tech role). I was a Product Manager in Google for five years, and in five years down the line, I want to be a founder or a co-founder, or a CEO or maybe even a CTO at a tech company. At my own company perhaps, and work in the high-tech sector, work in the healthcare sector.” Whatever sector interests you.  You could play that card as well.

Going back to what I said before, make connections on LinkedIn. It is also very important for the next essay. I am going to be talking about that but if you haven’t really created your LinkedIn profile, please do so today. My LinkedIn profile is down below (LINK). If you want to connect with me, I’ll be more than glad to connect with you.



Essay 2#




The second essay is the impact essay. Now, the essay clearly states “Whether doing the program or following graduation, our students and alumni share the desire to positively impact the organizations and communities that they serve”. Remember, I told you about the experiential learning. This kind of ties with that part. “To help you explore your potential for impact, we encourage you to engage with our students, alumni, faculty and professional staff”. Very important, when they say “We encourage you.” It goes on to say, “You can choose to connect with them via e-mail or a phone or in-a person during one of our campus or off campus events”. If you’re not from the US, perhaps it’s not applicable to you. “As you seek their input and insight, please be respectful of their time and prepare a few discussion points or questions in advance.” Why they have given this background is very important because the actual essay question is going to follow.



Impact Essay


At Cornell, we value students who create impact. Please indicate the opportunities for the impact that you’ve identified through engagement with our community and describe how what you learned has influenced your decision to apply to Johnson. (500 words)


Many people, the moment they see this essay, just blindly carpet bomb all the people on LinkedIn who are from Cornell. It really pains me because I have a lot of my alumni students who are current Cornell students who come and tell me, “ We mostly get messages like, Hey, can you please look into my profile and tell me if I got a good chance.” You just blew your chance, you just blew the opportunity to have a meaningful engagement with someone. Nobody can say if you can get into a B-School. Even I cannot say that. Remember, the probability is above 0% and below 100%. Nobody can say that 100% you’re going to get in, and nobody can say you have 0% chance of getting in. Somewhere, it is a probability, it could be 30%, 50% or 60%. What you should do is to be respectful; you should understand that they are busy and they have a hundred other things to do. Do your research and look at the profile to see if there are any common connections. That’s one thing you can do. See if there is any common connection through whom you can get introduced. See if you could approach them, talk about some similarities in your past. Be very specific in what you want to ask. You have a background in “XYZ”, now give them a summary.  What is it that you want to ask them about? It’s very important that you do so. Now that you have connected with them, it’s very important that you put that in your essay. Now that you’ve connected with them, you know what the story is.


It’s important for you to pick two or three opportunities. Remember, these are opportunities while you’re at Cornell, or maybe life beyond. Things that a Cornell/Johnson MBA can equip you with. As I mentioned earlier, we spoke about the investment fund. Do you want to be part of it? Just don’t say it because everybody is saying it. What is it in your background that you can bring to the table? Have you done investments before? Are you good at quantitative modeling? Is there anything else that you can bring to the table? Talk about how you could create an impact, and also say what you will gain from this experience. It has to be what I will give and what I will get.


Pick two or three opportunities for impact, and you need to say, “Why is that a reason for you to apply to the Johnson program?”. It’s very important that you tie it. It should read in such a way that someone says, “Wow! This guy has done his research; he has spoken with people. He is very clear, these are three opportunities that he has identified, and this is how he going to contribute, this is what he going to learn, which is why Cornell/Johnson is the number 1 choice for him. They have kind of twisted the “Why Johnson MBA essay” in a slightly different way but that’s really what it is. As I have said earlier, that’s because they value student contribution so much.



Table of Contents


This is the table of contents essay. They say “This is your opportunity to present yourself as an individual. We encourage you to think about your proudest accomplishments, moments  of adversity that have been overcome, interesting personal highlights, that will help us to get to know you as a person and potential community member”. hey really want to know about your life. They want to know the highs and lows and not the boring resume. They want to know something interesting, something that pops out, something that makes them feel, “I want to meet that person.” That’s the goal. After reading it, they should say, “Wow! I want to meet this person, I want this person in my class.” Are you able to articulate yourself that way? Let’s look at the specific prompt.


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. Multimedia submissions should be under 5 minutes.


First of all, what I want you to do is, sit down, chronologically write down all of the things that you have done in your life. Maybe something interesting about the place you were born. Maybe you can talk about that, maybe that’s a story. What about your education? Is there anything interesting? Don’t tell me what degree you have. That, I already know from your resume. Talk about something interesting. Did you learn anything about yourself? Maybe you met your childhood sweetheart and you got married to her. Maybe that’s the most interesting thing about your education. You can also think of a great story about your life, which can be put here. It’s very introspective. What about work? Where did you work? What was your biggest challenge? What did you accomplish? Now, remember each of them very clearly, remember that it’s table of contents and not the content.


What actually happened? They will get to know the details of it later. At this point, they want to know, “What was the life event?” Once you have listed out all of your life events, just write it down. As I have said, it’s not just professional but also personal. When you were born, when you got married, or when you had a kid. Whatever it is, just write it down. You could also write about adversity, for example, you had a major accident, you were in hospital for three weeks and that taught you something. Put it over there.


Once you have put all of that down, I would say the “How” is actually of lower importance. If you’re a creative person, you would figure out a good way to express this but if nothing else, make sure that each of these points kind of stands out. For example, let’s say that one of things you want to talk about is about when you got an opportunity to face an audience and you had stage fright all of your life and it took a lot of grit and determination to face an audience. Can you put a YouTube link? Yeah, even it’s a small hand held mobile camera that someone took,  like a shot, or maybe you have your own personal blog and you wanted to express yourself. Make sure you link it here.


Essentially, you need to keep it very concise. Don’t try to elaborate things. They are not wanting to know “Why”. Just because it is 500 words, don’t exploit it and write paragraphs. It should be one heading followed by a small blurb. The heading can be very interesting. For example, the heading could be, let’s say you want to talk about the time you got laid off and you started hunting for a job and you realized that you don’t want to go back to the job you were doing earlier and you wanted to do something new. Now that’s a lot of things. The heading could be “Second innings” and you could say, “After an unsuccessful attempt at my first innings of the….I started my second innings doing…..” Just one sentence. Just a small blurb.  


So, you would have:

<Title> <Blurb>

<Title> <Blurb>

<Title> <Blurb>

<Title> <Blurb> …..

Maybe five or six. I am imagining you’re somewhere under 30, or just about 30. I don’t think your life can have 15 to 20 chapters. That’s perhaps what I would do. Don’t worry about the “How” part. You could figure out a way to be creative, maybe express it differently, or put it in the form of a chart, but I wouldn’t bother too much about that.



Optional Essay


This essay is required for applicants seeking re-admission and should call attention to the steps taken to strengthen one’s candidacy. Candidates may also use the optional essay to call attention to items needing clarification or to address any gaps in experience.


My advice always for the optional essay is to write about a huge gap in your experience or your education or something that couldn’t be written anywhere else. Don’t try to retrofit a story just because it didn’t find a place elsewhere.


There is also this Roy H.Park Leadership Fellows Program essay. This is available only to a US citizen who is applying for a two-year MBA program. If you find it in your application form and you’re an international applicant, I am sorry, it’s not for you. I just wanted to let you know.


If you’re applying to the Cornell Johnson MBA program, I would be interested to know how your application is going. Are there any questions? Are you stuck at any point? Is there a way in which we can work together? Please let me know by clicking this link below.