Monthly Archives: August 2010

My college application process: for all you high school seniors

Now that September is right around the corner (3 hours away, as I write this), it’s about time for high school seniors across the nation to begin the long-awaited process of applying to college. Yeah, it’s stressful. And yeah, chances are you’ll put a good amount of blood and sweat into your applications in addition to juggling your coursework. Truthfully, though, it really isn’t too bad of a process…if you’re smart about it. Hopefully, speaking as a freshman in college who survived the process, I’ll be able to impart some wisdom on you seniors. After all, you’re probably the largest demographic for this blog…

As someone who applied–and was accepted–Early Decision (ED) to Cornell, I’ll be the first one to say that I had it easy in the whole process. After December 10th, 2009 at 5pm, I was basically walking on clouds for the remainder of the year. Aware of the possibility, though, that I might not have gotten in, I made sure to apply to 5 other schools early as well: the University of Connecticut, Northeastern University, University of Michigan, University of Maryland, and University of Miami. However, as per the ED contract, I had to withdraw the UMiami and UMaryland applications before hearing my decision.

So…what tips do I have for you guys?

  1. Apply early, somewhere! It doesn’t matter if the school is your first choice or your last–just try to pick and apply to one place that has early admissions. That way, you won’t have to be sweating it out April 1st, with the possibility of not being accepted anywhere looming over your head. On a personal note, hearing back positively from the University of Michigan early really made me feel much more relaxed (and would have softened the blow if my results from Cornell were less than positive).
  2. Apply early decision, if you have a clear first choice. It really does make the process SO much less stressful–but only apply if you’re 100% sure that you’d want to go. Honestly, if you’re SURE that it’s your 1st choice, there’s no reason not to. Cornell even admits that they think applying early decision is a plus: “Because enthusiasm for Cornell is considered a plus, early decision applicants stand a better chance of gaining admission.” (source) As well, I’m pretty sure that if you get in ED and can’t attend because of financial reasons, they’ll let you out of the contract (don’t quote me on this, though).Cornell University Undergraduate Admissions Office - HOW TO APPLY
  3. Be thoughtful/smart when writing your essays. Seriously, a little thought goes a long way. If Cornell is asking you to respond to the question, “Why Cornell?” don’t go into blabbing about the prestige or broadly talking about research. Describe the chilling sensation when you walked on campus and heard the bell tower for the first time. Talk about the personable tour guide you had that epitomized being a Cornellian. Be specific–talk about how you want to take the 1,600 person Psych 101 lecture with Dr. Maas, or look forward to watching Architecture students burning a dragon on Dragon Day. Granted, you won’t be responding to that exact essay topic, but you get the idea.
  4. Seriously, relax. It will all be okay. It’s senior year! It’s one of the most fun times ever–filled with proms, graduation parties, and enjoying the last days with the friends you’ve known forever. I’ve seen people practically driving themselves insane their whole senior year worrying about what will happen college-wise, and it’s just not worth it. Just go into the whole process relaxed but knowing what to expect, and everything will work out for the best.

Now that I’ve written all that, it’s time for me to finish up some homework. Expect another update regarding campus life soon, and seniors–feel free to get in touch with any questions/comments!

Finally settled in…

So I’m finally settled in at Cornell–my stuff is all unpacked, I’m  (somewhat) getting used to being on my own, and I’m just getting a good feel for where everything is on campus. Yeah, I’ve made some mistakes along the way–I’ve walked to Robert Purcell Community Center (RPCC) a couple of times when the dining hall was closed and had to go to Appel Commons, I trotted all the way across campus to Bailey Hall to see the Black Violins, only to find out that they had sold out all of their tickets, and I’ve forgotten to wear flip flops in the shower (which will definitely not happen again–yuck). I’ve realized though, that you can’t get frustrated with these kinds of things–college is a process, and it will definitely take a while until I get things down pat. It’s definitely an adjustment from being a senior in high school, where you are the “king of the world” essentially–you’re comfortable with your group of friends, you’ve mastered just how to do well in classes, and you know the building like the back of your hand.

One thing that I really could get used to is the fact that I’m not stuck in the same old high school schedule anymore. After four years, the whole idea of doing the same thing every day–going to the same 8 or 9 periods over and over–just gets tiresome, and I love that I no longer have to deal with that. It is weird, though, budgeting your time. Today, for example, I really don’t have a whole lot going on for a good chunk of the day and I’m kind of just relaxing–but, at what expense is this? Should I be studying or looking over a textbook?

Arrived in Ithaca!

Who would have thought, after all of senior year and the whole summer, that the day would possibly come that I’d actually get in the car and drive to Cornell (okay, my dad did the driving)? It seems weird to say, but in high school you always say, “in college, I will…” or “I can’t wait for _____ in college.” Now that this long-awaited moment has come, it’s weird to think about.

The trip up was long, as expected. It took a good 6 hours, with stops, to arrive in Ithaca. But finally, after miles of farms, we saw this sign:

mail (2048×1536)Granted, there are nicer, better looking signs advertising the university…but this was the first one that we saw so it was the most exciting.

Move in day today was hectic, but very exciting as well. Cornell really does it well–you can tell that they’ve been moving in hordes of kids on one day for many years. The cars get all lined up outside the respective dorms, and then they get a 10 minute unload time to take everything out of their car and place it on the sidewalk so other cars can pull up. All the student volunteers were extremely helpful in getting stuff to the dorms, and I’m happy to say that I’m moved in comfortably.

mail (2048×1536)-1

So far we’ve had just a couple orientation events so far, including a Donlon RA (resident advisor) meeting, a night concert, presidents reception, etc. Looking back, it’s really hard to recount exactly what I did…just because it’s so crazy and you’re meeting so many new people!

Tomorrow is when a lot of the other orientation events begin, so I’ll be pretty busy then as well. Orientation definitely is a great experience, I’ve honestly never participated in anything like it! Check back soon…

That “Last-Minute” Cornell To-Do List

It’s Monday, and I finally leave for college on Thursday. No big deal, right? (Oh, and I admit it–I was wrong with my original countdown in the previous post. I leave the 19th, not the 17th.) I’m the first one of my friends to leave, but it’s probably because I’m the only one that hasn’t had orientation yet–Cornell has it right before school starts. Plus, I’m doing a Hillel “Freshman Fest” Thursday and Friday, which from what I understand is a campout for one night: yet another chance to be introduced to the Cornell community (and Hillel).

All of the stuff that I’d bought for Cornell is now taking up almost a full room in my house, and I honestly have no idea how we’re going to fit it all into the car. I mean, the printer that I got for free with the MacBook is practically the size of an air conditioner, and that could take up a seat itself. Take a look for yourself at the disarray…


Just to randomly point three items out:

  1. A tailgating chair that I figure would be great to have in a dorm when you don’t feel like sitting on your bed, or in the hard desk chair (think: reading, listening to music, watching a movie, etc.)
  2. Sunglasses! The idea of bringing them is laughable to some, considering I’m going to upstate NY for college…but even in January the sun can strike against the snow, making it hard to see
  3. Gatorade–one of those drinks that’s always great to have, whether you’re exercising, not feeling well, or just like the taste. It’s definitely up there with Dr. Pepper (which, from what I’ve heard, Wegmans does stock!)
Cornell Club of Arizona

A picture from the Cornell Club of Arizona website...I thought it was a pretty cool Photoshop effect.

Tonight I’m going to a Send-Off Picnic put together by the Cornell Club of Greater Hartford. It should be interesting, and yet another glimpse as to what awaits in 4 days. Up until recently, I had no idea that these sorts of clubs existed…but they seem like a cool idea and definitely show how strong and diverse the alumni network is.  Out of pure curiosity, I decided to turn to Google to see how many “Cornell Clubs” there are like this; man, was I surprised–there are a ton of ’em! There’s a Cornell Club of New Mexico, one in London, one in Beijing, and one in Wisconsin (among many others). It’s good to know that after I’m touring Big Ben or the Great Wall and need a dose of the Big Red, I’ll be able to satisfy my whim. I mean, I’m not sure why exactly I’d need a dose of the Big Red…but you get the point.

I found out my freshman writing seminar last week; I was placed in Cigarette Cultures, which, according to the course description, “considers how a range of communities are constituted in relation to the cigarette industry.” While I have never touched a cigarette in my life, the tobacco industry is one of the most fascinating to me (I told you I thought business was cool), so I’m definitely looking forward to the class.

In the meantime, I’ll go get back to enjoying my last 3 days of summer…

10 days.

Okay. 10–TEN–days left at home. I can officially count the number of days that I have left in West Hartford on my two hands, and the fact that it’s almost time to go is definitely coming as a shock to someone that started looking at colleges the summer of junior year.

Even though my job as a camp counselor was over in late July, I’ve still been keeping myself surprisingly busy–doing everything from going to the pool, hanging out with friends, and making frequent trips into Manhattan.

Maybe it was because of the famed Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, or the nice summer weather…but somehow, it took me forever to dsfsget through the required summer reading book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Some people have asked me if I liked it, and to be honest, I’m not quite sure what I thought. It obviously wasn’t the kind of page-turner that kept me up until 3 in the morning…but it was an interesting concept that kept me captivated throughout the book.

For someone that has never had to sign up for a college class before, I have to say that this whole scheduling thing can be pretty stressful. It basically involves a lot of playing around with the coursebook, trying to get what you want. So far, it looks like I’m taking a French, Economics (Macro, I think I’ll start out with), math (which has yet to be decided), and the freshman year writing seminar (FWS).

For the FWS, I basically have to rank my top 5 choices, and I guess they randomly assign them based on your preferences. There were a lot of classes that looked great, but didn’t fit into my schedule which is kind of disappointing…ah well. I have some choices that look interesting, including one on Obama, another on climate change, and a cigarette industry one.First-Year Writing Seminars - Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines-1

I’ve realized that I also probably should get started on this whole “packing” thing. As tempting as it is to just throw a couple pairs of jeans and t-shirts into a bag and head up to Ithaca, it’s much more complicated than that. Looking over suggested packing lists online (this is a good one), there’s a lot of stuff that I’ve never even thought about bringing. Blankets? Headphones? Yeah sure, those would definitely have made my original packing cut. But surge protectors? Ziploc bags? Who on earth remembers these kind of things? One smart commenter suggested bringing a fan for the first couple of months, because Donlon doesn’t have air conditioning. That sounds like a great idea, does anyone else have any suggestions?

I guess I’ll keep writing as the days get closer and closer…but that seems to be it for now.