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.

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