Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew as a Freshman!


By Ryan Rodriguez, ’16

  1. The Program Houses – After learning about the program houses I chose to live in the Ecology House for two years. Program houses like Eco-House helped me live and interact with a close community of students with similar goals and interests.
  2. The value of office hours – I was often reluctant to go to office hours with my professors either because I felt busy or nervous about approaching professors or teaching assistants. Once I began accepting the help I needed during office hours, I learned that they are a great resource as they often provide valuable 1 on 1 time with faculty. My professors and TAs have been very kind, approachable, and welcoming.
  3. The OADI – I wish I would’ve learned early on about the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, also known as the OADI. OADI is a great resource. They provide tutoring, guest lectures about valuable skills such as finding scholarships, time management, and GRE prep.
  4. Meal Plans – If I could redo freshman year again I would choose the 10 or 7 meal plan over the 12 meal plan. Smaller meal plans fill you up while giving you extra flexibility like an extra hundred “Big Red Bucks” for food locations throughout campus.
  5. Being prepared for the weather – Being from Los Angeles, I came to Cornell unprepared for the winters of upstate New York. It is imperative to prepare for the cold winter snow, rain, and winds with jackets, scarves, gloves, boots, and other appropriate winter wear.
  6. Being aware of research opportunities – I wasn’t quite sure how to learn about research opportunities or inquire about them. I eventually learned that the best way to do so is to keep an eye out for opportunities and not be shy about asking people. Ask professors and advisors, sign up on club listserves, or just walk to ad boards in campus buildings.
  7. Join clubs & activities – Like many Cornell students, during my first Clubfest, I worked on joining major professional organizations to do important things like network and build experience. These are great but I strongly encourage you to also join some fun clubs to take time away from academics and to make new friends.
  8. Become friends with your advisor – Every student at Cornell has their own academic advisor. Some students, depending on major, even get multiple advisors. Get to know them. Ask them if there are opportunities to shadow them in their research. Your advisor can be your greatest connection to opportunities on campus and a great reference once you graduate.
  9. Take classes outside of your field – One of the great things about Cornell is the emphasis on “Any person… any study.” You have the flexibility to take classes outside your major and it’s great to learn something new outside of your field and comfort zone.
  10. Make the most out of your Cornell experience – Mark Twain once said, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” Cornell is a lot more than classrooms and textbooks, so make sure to experience it all: clubs, sports, residential life, the natural environment, the local Ithaca community, study abroad, and major events like Slope Day. It is important to get the full Cornell experience. While I have enjoyed the vast majority of my classes at Cornell, all of my greatest memories, opportunities, and connections came from outside the classroom.