“Bet on yourself” - How to get into the Cornell Johnson MBA

“Bet on yourself” - How to get into the Cornell Johnson MBA

On 23rd March, Unimy will host Cornell Johnson for an essential webinar for any aspiring Cornell MBA applicants. Register to make sure you don’t miss out.

Chelsea Hann, Associate Director of Admissions will guide you on how to submit a successful application in Round 3. She will also provide helpful tips regarding what admissions looks for in a competitive candidate. 

We spoke to Chelsea to get a preview of the kind of insights she will share live with aspiring MBA applicants all over the world on 23rd March.  

Unimy: Hi Chelsea and thanks for sharing your insights with us! Let’s get started with a key question: What does Cornell Johnson look for in an MBA applicant?

Chelsea: Similar to most top MBA programs, we are looking for applicants from a variety of backgrounds who have demonstrated academic and professional success and leadership potential. Specific to Johnson, we are looking for applicants who want an immersive, collaborative business school experience and an opportunity to build a strong and diverse network.

What five pieces of advice would you give to an aspiring MBA candidate?


  1. Be introspective and thoughtful about how you got to where you are today, your future career path, and the type of MBA experience you are looking for.
  2. Do your research! Doing your due diligence on the various programs you are considering will be helpful as you complete the applications as well as in your own decision-making process. It will also help you understand the type of experience where you may fit best.
  3. Don’t rush your applications. Put time into each component of your application so you can put your best foot forward. Be sure to take the time to complete each school’s application individually.
  4. Connect with the community and/or visit. A program’s community will tell you most of what you need to know about your potential experience there. A campus visit is a great addition if you can.
  5. Bet on yourself. This is not the time for self-doubt. Make a list of all of your recent professional accomplishments if it helps you to craft a strong resume and MBA application (and perhaps share this with your recommender, too!)

We know Cornell has some great approaches to diversity. How does that play out in admissions?

Chelsea: Diversity & Inclusion is a top priority at Johnson. Cornell was founded on the vision of “any person, any study”, and at Johnson, we were the first top business school to dedicate an office to diversity & inclusion (we are celebrating over 20 years!). Diversity & inclusion is at the forefront of our admissions process. We are looking to build a diverse class with people of different backgrounds who can add value to classroom discussions and the learning of their peers and teams. When approaching the application, I encourage applicants to highlight diverse or cross-cultural experiences they have had in their professional or community experiences.

At Unimy, we are very interested in the culture of business education and the cultural fit that happens between an MBA student and their chosen school. How do you see this idea of cultural fit? Do you use it when looking to create a diverse cohort? (How?)

Chelsea: Cultural fit is an important part of our decision-making process at Johnson. We pay close attention to a candidate’s potential fit for our community (perhaps more so than other programs). Our community is intentionally on the smaller side and a common thread among the students at Johnson is a desire to make an impact. Johnson students are looking for ways to impact the community (at Johnson or beyond), mentor their peers, or pay in forward in some way. Applicants to Johnson’s MBA program should be interested in an experience that is collaborative, immersive, diverse, and dynamic. Applicants should be prepared to highlight the ways in which they see themselves getting involved and contributing to our dynamic & collaborative community at Cornell.

We also know that Cornell Johnson has a great emphasis on working in teams and building those skills - how does that play out in admissions? We guess you might be looking to "build" those teams? 

Chelsea: Our core team experience is intentionally diverse at Johnson, and we value the experiences that our students gain from having a role on a diverse team and leading experiences that may put them outside of their comfort zone. When approaching your application and admissions interview, be prepared to share experiences where you have led a team or worked with a group that struggled to work well together or reach consensus. Through these diverse and often times challenging team experiences, our students learn about their own team skills and the role that they typically play on a diverse team, and the individual strengths they bring to the group.

Given all of the above, how does Cornell foster a sense of community and collaboration among its MBA students, and what opportunities are available for networking and building relationships?

Chelsea: Our community at Cornell is organically collaborative due to our class size and location. Additionally, we are intentional in our admissions process about selecting students who will thrive in this type of environment. Because Johnson students are selecting to come to Ithaca to do this MBA journey together, our community is authentically very collaborative and supportive. The Johnson community is a true highlight and differentiator of the experience. Students at Johnson get to know each other well, and it extends beyond a core team or cohort. Our students are so involved and active on campus it seems nearly impossible to be at Johnson and not develop a strong network or build lifelong relationships.

And what about experiential learning and hands-on experiences? How do you approach that within the program and what opportunities are available for students to gain practical, real-world experience?

Chelsea: During our second semester at Johnson, we have immersions, which is an intense, hands-on semester of integrated course and fieldwork in a specific industry. We offer 8 immersions and the opportunity to customize. Our immersions combine coursework and field projects where our students are coached by leading business practitioners and problem-solve in actual business conditions. These are great for setting our students up for success in their internships. Outside of our immersions, we also have cutting-edge intensives taught both in Ithaca and at our Cornell Tech campus in NYC. These are a customized package of classes, collaborative opportunities, and partnerships with industries that give our students the opportunity to learn and practice specialized skills.

From a leadership perspective, our leadership development curriculum is comprehensive and immersive. Our students have a number of opportunities to stretch and grow their leadership skills continuously throughout their two-year experience. They are able to put principles into practice through a variety of leadership expeditions, opportunities to lead student organizations, various mentorship opportunities, crisis challenges, case competitions, and more.

Where can aspiring Cornell Johnson MBA candidates get more support and find out all they need to know?

Chelsea: Please connect with our community to continue to learn more about Johnson. We offer a variety of opportunities to connect with the Admissions Team through virtual events (join us for Ask Admissions!), consultations, or campus visits. Our current students are also willing to chat with prospective students through our online Community Search Tool on our website. We’re excited to share what makes Johnson stand out!  

Register for the free webinar: THE CORNELL MBA: ADMISSIONS TIPS, 23rd March, 10 am NY Time. 



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