Five Tips for Thriving at Cornell

Photo of Hannah

By Hannah Grant, College of Engineering ’19

I am a senior Chemical Engineering student from Newtown, Connecticut. Aside from my classes, I am a puppy raiser/trainer for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a Cornell Energy Systems Club member, a Diversity Outreach Intern, a Diversity Ambassador, an Alumni Ambassador, part of The Intern Group, and an undergraduate researcher.


You may have heard that Cornell is a stressful place to be, and students are not getting any sleep. Perhaps you have seen some of the great graphics from our meme page including:

However, it really is possible to do well at Cornell, have fun, and get enough sleep.  Now that I am a senior, I can share some tips about finding the right balance.


1. Find things you like to do. 

While it is important to gain experience in your area of study, it is even more important to find hobbies or activities outside of school that you enjoy. For example, I am raising a black lab puppy named Chianti for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which is super fun. She attends classes with me, and we go on all sorts of adventures! When I came to visit Cornell as a prospective student, I met someone who was involved in the club, and I knew immediately that I wanted to join. Each semester, Cornell has “Club Fest” where all the clubs gather into one large space to recruit new members. It is a great opportunity to learn about Cornell’s 1300+ clubs and get involved in activities you enjoy!


2. Stop comparing yourself to others. 

This is super important, but honestly, one of the hardest to achieve. In my classes, I always hear classmates talking about their internships or jobs, and it makes me feel bad about myself or think that I have not achieved enough. However, you must remember that everybody has different experiences, and life is not a contest. While this is very difficult, and I still struggle with it, I encourage you to take a step back and focus on yourself and what you love to do. This relates back to Tip #1. Do not participate in activities solely to put them on your resume; find activities you are genuinely passionate about.


3. Take a break.

When I have been staring at a problem or paper for hours without making progress, I know it’s time for a break.  Personally, I enjoy exercising, so I take my dog for a run, go to the gym, or play soccer. Usually, I find that after I exercise, I am in a much better mindset to tackle problems I may be facing. Cornell has such a beautiful campus, and I enjoy going for walk on the trails and around the waterfalls. It is important to leave the stale indoor air and take in some fresh air.  Other times, I really need to get off campus. I enjoy going down to the Ithaca Commons, where we have a wide variety of restaurants and events such as Apple Fest and Wizarding Weekend.


4. Prioritize and say “no”. 

Sometimes it seems like I have a million things to do and no way to finish it all. However, when I prioritize the important “must-do” tasks and separate them from the “could/should do” tasks, I am able to complete my assignments. As a senior, I have many things I need to do, including weekly lab reports and other homework and exams, my work as a Diversity Outreach Intern and campus visit coordinator, and, of course, job applications and interviews. I always make a list of everything I need to accomplish and check off the list as I complete them.  However, sometimes there really is no way to commit 100% to everything, and I have to say “no” to people, which can be hard. Figure out what is important to you, and you will find time to make it work.


5. Have fun! 

My personal goal this year is to do at least one fun thing every weekend. So far, I am succeeding, and even with my increased responsibilities and assignments, I have been enjoying myself much more. I have found that when I have fun, I am better able to focus on problems and look at them from a different perspective. As a freshman, I spent many nights doing homework that was not pressing and not fully enjoying myself. So, I encourage you to make some time for fun from the very beginning.


If you follow my five tips, practice self-care, and use your support network (including friends, family, your advisor, professors’ office hours, the Learning Strategies Center, and more), you will be on your way to overcoming stress and thriving at Cornell!