Freshman year at Cornell is an unbelievable experience of ups and downs, and most people I’ve talked to in May feel as if they’ve matured in some way since the beginning of the year. While I definitely feel like Cornell has tons of support systems in place (peer advising, academic advising, resident advising, alumni mentoring, Gannett…), I felt like I was often given generic advice that was too generic. Let’s face it, folks, generic advice simply doesn’t help. At all. Some of my favorite USELESS PIECES OF INFORMATION given to me before move-in day:
Sure, things like that make you feel all warm and bubbly inside. But can you really apply that knowledge to specific Cornell situations?! Not really. Without further ado, here is a random list of everything I wish my freshman self had known the day we arrived on North Campus that first time:
- You’ll probably be getting Bear Necessities food, in Robert Purcell Community Center, more than a few times. 2 notes: 1) Don’t get confused when everyone starts talking about eating at “Nasties,” as Nasties is Bear Necessities. 2) Sure, it might look like, feel like, and smell like a fast food restaurant…but it is oftentimes not as quick. Don’t expect to order, then get your hamburger in 45 seconds like at a McD’s. I’ve waited 15-20 minutes for food, and have seen people arriving late to class and running to catch busses because their food came out late. (Also, don’t accidentally grab the wrong sandwich.)
- Here are some similarly named things you MUST be able to distinguish:
- Uris Hall and Uris Library. Sounds silly, but it’s easy to mix ’em up. Uris Hall is the rusty brown social science building next to the Statler; Uris Library is right below the clocktower. Same with Olin Hall and Olin Library; the library’s across from the clocktower, and Olin Hall is the Chemical Engineering building near the Engineering Quad.
- McGraw Tower is the clocktower; McGraw Hall is on the Arts Quad.
- Wanna sign up for Introduction to Sociology? Great. But you must know that there are 2 Intro Soc. classes with the exact same “Introduction to Sociology” name. One is DSOC 1101 in the Ag. School, and the other is SOC 1101 in Arts and Sciences. I can’t imagine how much it’d blow if you found out midway through the course you weren’t in the appropriate class.
- Likewise, on a more personal note: there are two David Schatz’s in the class of 2014 at Cornell.
- Llenroc is the name of the Delta Phi fraternity’s frat house; it’s significant because it was built specifically for Ezra Cornell. Cool fact you should know: Llenroc is Cornell spelled backwards. There; I just saved you the “NO WAY?!” stupefied reaction you might have had during O-week.
- Cornell is not high school. Repeat: Cornell is NOT high school. This means it is OKAY to eat meals/get breakfast alone if you can’t find anyone else to go with. Seriously…nobody is going to judge you for eating by yourself. I remember first semester, I loved waking up late and having a leisurely breakfast and reading the Sun, before badminton. Here’s what does not happen:
- Similar note: I know it might seem like everybody from Westchester County already knows each other and has grouped up/made unbelievable friendship bonds during O-week, but I promise this isn’t the case. Don’t be afraid to tag along with a group walking to Appel and talk to anybody you want.
- Cool feature of the Cornell website: the ability to search for any Cornellian’s info by their name. This is useful for getting in touch with that kid in your Econ class whose phone number you lost, or to fire off an email to your TA (when Facebook just won’t do).
A few tips for saving money freshman year:
- I wish I had listened to a commenter’s advice last year when he suggested I downgrade my meal plan first semester from 14 meals to 10; I never went to the dining halls 14 times a week.
- Textbooks can often be expensive; investigate options online or on-campus to buy or rent books(i.e. CampusBookRentals). I’d imagine that renting would be a good option when you’re taking a class to fulfill a requirement or to deviate from your main academic path…and thus would not need the book to refer to later (e.g. a Hotelie taking Astronomy…). You could easily save a ton of money that way.
- Nasties is overpriced when it comes to convenience items…so what can you do? Try to head to Target in the Ithaca Mall on the weekends to get all that you need.
- Don’t buy bottled water in eateries like Trillium. They have free cups for water on the side to use with the water button on the soda dispenser.
- When you get to Cornell, hit the ground running and start looking for opportunities. This sounds like generic advice I mocked at the beginning of this post, but let me give examples. If you want to be an RA (resident advisor) sophomore year, you have to make up your mind early since informational meetings are held as early as October; some kids I’ve met were bummed out second semester when they missed the deadline. Likewise, if you’re interested in Greek life, it helps to make all the connections you can with brothers/sisters first semester to make the rushing process all the easier. Finally, attend Clubfest (mentioned here), which takes shortly after the school year begins. It helps so much to see first-hand the hundreds of clubs at Cornell, and trust me–you’re not going to get this kind of exposure to ALL these clubs at any other point in the year. Since I’m stressing to you now the significance of it, you have no excuse for not attending. Nada!
- Let’s talk about OL (orientation leader) groups. I know that your group might seem like a really big deal your first week or so at Cornell, and if you get placed in an awesome group that “clicks” and plays the best “get-to-know-each-other” games…good for you. However, if your group doesn’t seem to mesh and you’re not too thrilled with the people, don’t sweat it. Really. Nobody that I’ve talked to has mentioned OL groups after the first 3-4 months of college. Oh, and don’t be afraid to play the orientation games that might seem silly at first. Everyone’s curious about other people and these games can be a great way to get to know people.
- Somewhat related tip: during orientation week, there’ll be a lot of scheduled activities, and you might notice a few of the cool kids blowing them off to go party or what-not. Not to sound like a stringent rule-follower, but I suggest that you go to everything listed as “mandatory” in your orientation guide. They’re not suggesting you sit in an auditorium to torture you…but rather tell you things that could really be of help freshman year. Seriously, they go out of their way to make the informational orientation events fun (see the booklet cover on the right for proof)…so do yourself a favor and attend ’em.
- Don’t get put off when your classes are located in buildings that have nothing to do with the subject matter. My bugs class was in a Hotel School classroom, the Introduction to American Government class last semester was in a room filled with wall-size periodic tables, and a few Arts and Sciences classes are in Ives Hall (where the “Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations” logos are splattered all over the place).
- GO COURSE SHOPPING! One mistake I made first semester was thinking that I shouldn’t dare sit in on classes that I was thinking about dropping, or adding classes last minute. Honestly, even if you think your course schedule is set in stone..there’s no reason not to attend 1 or 2 more random lectures the first week of class. Worst comes to worst, you decide not to take it and have “wasted” an hour of time. Best case scenario? You realize you prefer a class over another previously-scheduled one, and ultimately have a more fulfilling year. Go ahead, sit in on Introductory Philosophy or Horticulture. It could be that one class you’ll always remember.
- Lastly, get excited because…
If any current students or alums have any more suggestions…absolutely get in touch via the contact page.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!