“CONVINCE Me to Apply to/Choose Cornell…”

It might be because I have this great gig as a paid blogger, or because I have more t-shirts with the Cornell name on it than not. But for some reason, every year I always get a few people writing to me with a simple request–and it’s something along the lines of, “convince me why I should come to Cornell,” or “tell me why I’d love Cornell.”

Every time someone mentions this to me, I always shudder a little because, well, Cornell isn’t suited for everyone…and some people probably would be better off at other schools. My younger sister, for example, will be attending Kenyon College next year, where all of her professors will probably know her name…and I’m happy for her, because I know she wouldn’t have enjoyed the Cornell experience. So, instead of blindly recommending Cornell to everyone, I will say instead that, if you are a determined and motivated student, Cornell can offer you unparalleled opportunities.

So who should and should not go to Cornell? Here are some generalizations that can be made about people that should not send their deposit slip to Ithaca, NY:

  • Someone quiet and unwilling to advocate for themselves. If you’re a shy freshman engineer that doesn’t like to seek help, good luck being plopped into Math 1910 with 100 other students, competing in a class with a B- median. If you want to do well, and haven’t seen the material before, you have to be okay with asking classmates for help, or attending office hours and review sessions. (Same goes for pre-meds with the introductory biology/chemistry sequences.)
  • Someone who wants to maintain the “high school senior king/queen of the world” mentality. You were top of your class, the editor in chief of your high school’s newspaper, and a varsity athlete? That’s great, but it won’t win you too many “whoaaaaa” points freshman year when you tell that to the guy behind you in the stir fry line at RPCC–you’ll be joining a very accomplished group here. Sidenote: In my 2.5 years here, not once have I heard someone ask someone else their SAT scores. Another sidenote: RPCC stir fry is delicious, and something that you shouldn’t take for granted freshman year.

Who should go to Cornell?

  • Someone that has a thick skin, and keeps persisting. Cornell can be a grind, but if you get discouraged freshman year and think that your C+ in philosophy means you’re never going to get into a respectable law school, you might be happier somewhere else. Life at Cornell has its ups and downs, for sure, and you have to be okay with not doing well all the time (and the ramifications of that). Funny anecdote: when I knew I wanted to switch from A&S into a business program, I sat in on a Hotel School information session for prospective internal transfers, and heard about 5 “former” pre-med biology majors introduce themselves to the group.
  • Someone that doesn’t mind a little anonymity. With 13,000 undergrads, there’s no way you’ll get to meet everyone on campus; this can allow you to take risks socially. Your presence on campus simply won’t be wide enough that you’ll have a reputation among the community (well…except Segway Kid).
  • Go-getters. Some people who are more passive may see this list of 994 possible clubs to join, and this database of over 4,000 classes available each semester, and can get incredibly intimidated by the array of opportunities. Others see both lists as a thrill to navigate, because of the many opportunities available, and chart out their adventure from semester one to eight. You probably know who you are as you’re reading this! There’s nothing wrong with being either way, of course, but I can tell you that a “go-getter” might find their way here easier than someone more passive.
Broad disclaimer: I’m completely aware that the advice I’m giving varies by program, the person, and their individual circumstances. And, while I haven’t been an engineer or pre-med, I sure have talked to a heck of a lot of ’em. Hopefully this helps, and, as always, get in touch if you have suggestions or comments!

3 thoughts on ““CONVINCE Me to Apply to/Choose Cornell…”

  1. elton

    “Someone quiet and unwilling to advocate for themselves.”

    While the second part is true enough, I am a quiet+shy person and I have enjoyed my experience so far, and done well.

  2. Laura

    Thanks–this is what I have been looking for. In fact, your blog is the second link that came up when I googled “is cornell right for you.”

  3. Mind

    “not once have I heard someone ask someone else their SAT scores” totally love this, judging people by who they are, not numbers 🙂

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