Monthly Archives: October 2010

Parents Weekend!

Last weekend was First-Year Parents Weekend here at Cornell, an event that takes place every October. New Student Programs - Cornell UniversityIt’s exactly how it sounds–all the mommies and daddies of the freshmen class come up to Ithaca for the weekend, partake in activities as a family, explore all that Cornell has to offer, and just enjoy some good ol’ family bonding.

Parents Weekend is kind of at an odd time during the year, at least in my opinion–I just saw my parents two weeks ago over fall break, so it’s not like I was really needing to see them in the sense that I was feeling homesick. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to see them and always miss them–but if I had the option to “bank” Parent’s Weekend for the dark, dreary days of February I would have done so.

So what did I do with mommy and daddy? (No, I don’t actually call them that. I stopped after…say, 4th grade. I promise.) We did a lot of stuff, including:

  • Climbing McGraw tower. Is it embarrassing that I’ve been here for practically two months and have only recently climbed Cornell’s famous icon? It was a great time, and we were rewarded with an awesome view of Cornell and the Ithaca area.
View of the Arts Quad from the top of McGraw

View of the Arts Quad from the top of McGraw

  • Sleeping in at the hotel. Alright…I admit it. I love dorm living as much as the next college student, but when my family offered to let me sleep in their room at the Marriott with comfortable sheets, I was NOT going to refuse.
  • Visiting the Cornell store. What better time than Parent’s Weekend for the family to stock up on Big Red gear?!
  • Showing them my dorm/classrooms, etc. Maybe my parents aren’t representative of the entire parenting population, but they were genuinely curious to see where exactly my French classroom was and how long my walks from class to class are every day. So, who am I to deprive them of that information? Oh, and as far as the dorm goes…let’s just say that my roommate and I cleaned up the room quite a bit before them came. Look how great it look(ed):

P1060644.JPG (3 documents, 3 total pages)

All in all, it was a great weekend. Unfortunately, I’m back into the swing of things…which means lots of work.

On a completely random note, I’ve started ordering in Chinese food to my dorm from a local Ithaca restaurant. I always order too much, though, much to the delight of the other hungry kids on the floor.

cornell.edu (1280×960)

Beef with broccoli and fried rice...what could be better?!

Also, prospective Cornellians, contact me and let me know what you want to hear about! One of my friends was giving me a hard time about my last post involving care packages, saying “no senior in high school would be interested in that.” While that’s partly just him giving me hell for the sake of it, he did have a point. SO…give me feedback and I’ll try to adjust accordingly.

I’ll be headed down to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity this weekend through a Cornell arranged trip–I’ll let you know how it goes!

Let me wrap up this post by responding to a senior’s question:

I was wondering about the structure of the classes at Cornell. What is the size of an average class? I am almost positive I want to apply ED to Cornell, but I want to make sure it’s the right choice… So any advice or insight you could give me would be appreciated!

Thanks for the question. The size of an average class, as any Cornellian could tell you, varies tremendously depending on the subject matter and the format of the class. Before I arrived at Cornell, I pictured all my classes as being these huge lectures with 400 students in a hall with little to no professor-student interaction. However, 2 of my classes this semester–my writing seminar and my French class–both have less than 20 kids, and both professors know everyone’s name! I only have one HUGE lecture, and that’s Intro to Macroeconomics. There’s a discussion section, though, with about 20 students where we can ask the TA questions. So, if you’re signed up for broad introductory classes (i.e. Astronomy or Psych 101), expect to be simply a number in the audience. Otherwise, in the case of some foreign languages or discussion-based classes, you’ll be able to interact with your professor well. Understand, though, that this is Cornell and not a small 1,000 student liberal arts college: if you’re looking for more personal interactions, perhaps a smaller school would be a better bet.

Care Packages: Attention all Freshman Parents

Parents of freshmen, here’s a tip: if you want to make your college student happy–and I mean really make your kid happy–send them a care package at college with all kinds of good stuff. I’ve received some from some really great friends/family members, and let me tell you that there aren’t many things that can put a smile on my face after a day of studying better than a personal package.

What would constitute a good care package, you ask?

  • Make it personal–include a snippet of Fido’s hair to remind the freshman of his dog, or family pictures (the latter being probably a little less bizarre). In April, before my arrival, I read letters to parents from companies offering to send students pre-made care packages. I guess I could see how it’s probably a good idea for time-strapped parents…but honestly? It kind of lacks that homey touch.
  • Send what you know they love–if your son/daughter is a die-hard Crunch candy bar fan, do them the honor and send ’em up with a couple bars. Likewise, if they enjoy Chef Boyardee pasta or Juicyfruit gum…be sure to stock them up.
  • Sneak in what they need! If they’ve been complaining about chapped lips, a care package is the perfect opportunity to remedy the situation with Chapstick. Don’t be afraid to send up Band-Aids, Kleenex, thumbtacks, or the like.

Here are the two most recent care packages I’ve received; click to make them larger.

P1060638P1060640That’s about it for now. It is getting absolutely freezing in Ithaca–I’ve heard people (and read Facebook statuses) of people claiming they’ve seen snow already. As someone who absolutely detests the cold (hey…I was interested in University of Southern California and UMiami), I should be in for a pretty interesting experience during my first Ithaca winter. I’ll let you know.

Have a great weekend!

Fall Break!

Cornell’s Fall Break has come and gone, and I’m now back in Ithaca after a short retreat to West Hartford, Connecticut. This long weekend was spent visiting friends at UConn, spending bonding time with my family at home, and showering without flip flops (arguably the most significant part of the weekend).

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So, what was it like returning home after 2 months? Weird! On one hand, it seemed like things were exactly the same…but on the other hand it seemed like everything had changed and I could now look at everything with a new perspective. Just driving around town, it was odd to see that a new Japanese restaurant had opened up not far from my home, as did a vacuum store (I heard they suck).

Visiting my friends and spending the night at UConn was a lot of fun, and to be honest very refreshing. When you’re away for the first two months at a big school like Cornell and you’re constantly bombarded with new faces, being able to return to your high school “group” and realizing that they’re still very much there is a great feeling.

Oh, and I finally got my picture up on the Life on the Hill page!

Oh, and I finally got my picture up on the Life on the Hill page!

I also took the time to go to my high school and visit all my past teachers (a lot of whom are reading this blog…thanks!). It was great to catch up with them, hear about their current classes, etc. Here at Cornell, I kind of miss the personal attention/relationships that I had with teachers at the high school level, and know that I’m going to have to work hard to try and cultivate new ones here.

Ah well, I guess it’s nice to be back in the swing of things…but the work is definitely piling up again!

Prelim Season is Over!

After weeks of learning loads of information in my classes and hours of cramming it all in last minute, I can now proudly state that I have finished my first set of Cornell prelims!

Completely unrelated to this post...but a cool picture of the new Rhodes Hall

Completely unrelated to this post...but a cool picture of the new Rhodes Hall


If you’re like the majority of people that don’t go to Cornell, you might be asking…what the heck is a prelim?! Apparently, begging to differ from the rest of higher education, Cornell calls exams ‘prelims’–short for preliminary exams. Because it’s not a universal term (and I wasn’t aware of that fact–I mean, how many other colleges have I attended?!), I’ve elicited some confused expressions when I’ve brought up prelims in conversation.

Aaaanyways, diction aside, I’m really excited that I’ve finished my first set of exams. How did they go, you ask? Well, I think. French and math I got grades I’m satisfied with, and while I haven’t gotten Econ back yet I think I knew a good amount of the material.

cornell.edu (1280×960)

I've never taken one of these before arriving at Cornell...but they turn out to be useful during night prelims!

I’m telling you, though, these have got to be the most darned stressful things ever. In high school, if you have a bad test grade, you’re okay most of the time because you can balance it out with projects, papers, presentations, and participation grades. Here it’s a lot different. Take my math class for example–my grade is weighed as follows: 20% prelim 1, 20% prelim 2, 30% the final and 30% graded homework. If you don’t do well on one of those exams…you’re gonna have a hard time pulling up your grade. While this collegiate grading structure definitely has it’s drawbacks, it’s also good in a way because it minimizes (for lack of a more eloquent term) the BS assignments common in high school. You feel you know the material here? Great, nobody will be ensuring you get it and making you go through pointless efforts. It’s up to you to do practice problems on your own, without official “credit” in the class, if you want to do well on the exams.

The buses lined up on North Campus ready to leave Ithaca

The buses lined up on North Campus ready to leave Ithaca

So, now that prelims are over…it’s fall break! As I’m writing this I’m actually on a bus going from Ithaca to Hartford, Connecticut where I’ll be spending my four free days with my family and friends. Going on with the whole “Cornell differs from the rest of academia” theme from earlier,  it seems like none of my friends at other schools have time off–so I’ll be visiting a lot of them at the University of Connecticut (UConn). I’ll let you know what it’s like there and how it’s similar/different from Cornell…and also try to express how weird it is to come home for the first time from college!


To wrap up this post, I’ll answer a prospective student’s question:

I’m wondering about how many extracurriculars to get involved in. Im already captain of the swim team,Art Director of the yearbook, and a member of The National Honor Society,Social Studies Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and Future Business Leaders of America. What else should I do outside of school to help better my chances of getting into Cornell?

Hey there! If I’ve learned anything about Cornell admissions, it’s that you need to belong in *exactly* 18 clubs and have 11 leadership positions or your application will end up in the dustbin. JUST KIDDING! The key to extracurriculars on an application–not just at Cornell, but anywhere–is to base it on quality, not quantity. It’s a pointless question to ask “how many” extracurriculars to get involved in–anyone can join x amount of clubs with no effort. While all those honor societies sound great, I want you to make sure that your passion for at least one thing shines in your essay, recommendations, and resumé. Admissions officers are trained professionals who can spot a laundry list of extracurriculars present just to “look good” on an application from miles away, and you want to distinguish yourself in some way, shape, or form. Go be the passionate violin player who plays at nursing homes every weekday night. Or the computer engineering applicant who started a volunteer organization to teach kids how to use computers. Or the entrepreneurial Hotelie-to-be that’s garnered quite a following catering neighborhood events. Take a look at this link, I think it really explains extracurriculars in the application process well.

And, as always, the usual spiel: thanks for reading, and if you have questions or suggestions feel free to contact me! I have a blast answering ’em, so don’t hesitate.

Responding to Student Comments

Well, I figure I might as well take the time to respond to comments, suggestions, and questions that prospective students have asked me about Cornell.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Hi david,
I am considering applying to either of Dartmouth or cornell. My academics isn’t too strong, but it is good, so I am quite confused what would be right to me. You must be very busy with the fresh college stuff, but if you can tell me why I should go for cornell, it would be quite a lot of help.

Dartmouth and Cornell are both top tier institutions, and people regularly choose between both of them all the time. Ultimately, it comes down to preference–would you prefer a small school environment, where you would have smaller classes and close contact with faculty in an intimate setting…or would you prefer the dynamic resources and diversity that comes with a large research university?

I don’t  really want to tell you why you should “go for Cornell,” because to be honest–Cornell isn’t for a lot of people. It’s definitely a competitive environment and the size could be intimidating; I highly suggest you come and visit both schools. The difference in environments is big enough that you should be able to figure out which one you prefer. I can tell you, though, that many people–including myself–were initially attracted to Cornell by its’ natural setting, diverse curriculum (I personally can’t wait to take a hotel administration class or two), and fabulous reputation for academics. Oh, and the fact that Ithaca was recently ranked the number one college town definitely helps.

Good luck!

Alright, comment numero 2:

I enjoyed your blog. I am very interested in Cornell and understand that interviews with alumni are possible. How do I go about scheduling one? I live in Michigan. I visited Cornell over the summer, but would not be able to make another trip back there before applications are due.

Hey, thanks for reading.

I don’t trust myself enough to answer your question alone, so I’ll let the Cornell website take it away:

“Most students who apply for freshman admission will be contacted by a member of a local Cornell alumni committee in the fall or winter. These informal conversations with alumni are not required and are meant only to allow an additional opportunity for the student to learn more about Cornell—and for Cornell to learn more about the student.”

So, my friend, I don’t believe you have to do anything…just wait to be contacted. If you’re not in touch with someone a good while into the admissions process, then maybe give the admissions office a call.

Aaand number 3:

Can you please post more photos from Ithaca? I am thinking of where I could study college.. do you think it’s a great school?

Hi there. I do think it’s a great school with an infinite number of opportunities. As I said to the first commenter, it’s not a “one size fits all” kind of place–you definitely have to want to be at a big school. As long as you’re aware that you’re going to have to sometimes push to the front to get what you want and realize you won’t be coddled academically or socially, your options during and after college are limitless.

As far as photos of Ithaca go, ask and you shall receive. I like this one:

ithaca.jpg (1026×762)

Wait…you weren’t talking about the city in Greece that Odysseus was trying to return to in The Odyssey? Are you saying that there’s another Ithaca?

No, just kidding. Here are some I’ve taken during visits before I came:

P1050865
ApertureAperture-3Aperture-5Aperture-4Aperture-6I have lots more, but I’ll try to insert them into other posts so they’re not congesting the page too much. Thanks for all the questions!