Why Major X - Eloise Does Urban Planning

Essay Prompt

Describe two or three of your intellectual interests and why you are excited to pursue them within your chosen major in AAP. What personal experiences, background, or future goals will you bring to your scholarly and artistic pursuits at Cornell? (Please limit your response to 650 words.)

Sample Essay

People always tell me I’m just like Eloise because I lived in a hotel for my growing up years. But I think my story is much more interesting than hers. My story begins in a place far removed from her room on the tippy top floor of the glitzy Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. My story begins at a neglected hotel in midtown Big City.

It started when I was a preschooler and my dad, a real estate developer, walked into the old Landmark Hotel. Its two towers atop an 11-story building had lit up the Big City sky since it opened in 1936. But over time, the Landmark, like many of the buildings in midtown, had become another abandoned building slated for demolition. My dad, however, had a different vision and recognized its potential as a restored building and as a hub for revitalizing this neighborhood. He not only bought the building with plans for redevelopment, but also decided to make it our home.

A year later, our family of four moved into a renovated third floor of the Landmark Hotel. The neighborhood was grim, with many homeless people and an abandoned Cadillac dealership across the street. But, it sprung to life as I grew up.

Our home, the historic Landmark Hotel, was redeveloped as part office building, part residences and part event space. The building filled. My sister and I learned to ride our bikes in the courtyard as residents and office tenants watched. Hellos in the courtyard and elevator led to invitations to dinners and parties, and then to friendships, as we became a little neighborhood of our own.

Renovation Square, an adjacent development by City University, was another catalyst in this transformation. It brought a new bookstore and a Starbucks that was a perfect place to do my math homework. Feeling incredibly grown up sipping my decaf vanilla latte, I remember gazing at the management school and wondering if I would grow up to be like those who walked the glass walled hallways.

I was in the heart of a city that was being reborn and I felt its energy. I witnessed the way in which a struggling, forgotten place could be completely transformed into a bustling, vibrant neighborhood. I was a part of real change and I decided I wanted to do what my Dad did when I grew up.

That desire has never left me and it is what compels me to pursue a major in City and Regional Planning at Cornell. Every single thing about the major and the School of Architecture Art Planning attracts me. Looking over the courses for the major, I got so excited by the online syllabi for the course entitled Global Cities that I ordered one of the required readings, A World of Difference: Encountering and Contesting Development, from Amazon (two copies: one for me, one for my Dad). It has made for some lively debates at our dinner table! I know that I will want an internship and I was happy to learn that AAP Connect helps place students, but I was over the moon when I learned that I might even be able to do an internship through Cornell in Rome. I also really excited by the commitment to public engagement. I know how important that is to making a neighborhood thrive. I will definitely look forward to being a part of Design Connect, the student run organization that provides design and planning assistance to local communities. In other words, this major and the overall educational experience I will have at Cornell will more than equip me to follow in my father’s footsteps as someone who can change the world for the better one neighborhood at a time.

Much more interesting and promising than the future for poor Eloise, who never grew up and left the Plaza Hotel, wouldn’t you say?

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