Monthly Archives: March 2014

What Truly Makes Cornell Unique

As a Life on the Hill blogger, I love getting emails from prospective Cornellians…they keep me on my toes and remind me what was on my mind as a senior in high school. The other day, I got this email, which was pretty darn thought-provoking for me:

Hi David,

Why is Cornell someone’s dream school? Do you know some reasons why, esp. given that so many apply for ED at Cornell?

Thank you,

It’s a great question, and, talking in terms of the undergraduate experience, it’s harder to answer than you would think–even given my years spent at this school. ithaca_campus-1hdvls6Putting aside the notion of college admissions strategy (e.g. applying to the highest-ranked school you can get into) makes it more difficult to answer.

Why? Well, if we’re comparing the campus itself, Cornell’s campus is beautiful in my biased eye…but so is Stanford’s, Yale’s, UVA’s, and so on (as well as a plethora of small liberal arts schools). Going off of academics/faculty, Cornell has had 41 Nobel Prize winners affiliated with the school, and maintains a community of absolutely brilliant professors…but so do many other similarly-ranked schools. And, if you’re going off of prestige and name itself, well again–there are a few other colleges that fit the bill too (you might’ve heard of a few of ’em in towns like Cambridge, Hanover, or New Haven). 

So what makes Cornell different?

My answer: Diversity and opportunity. In, almost literallyevery possible sense of the word.

Let me explain…

Diversity in terms of students: I’ve met aspiring winemakers,  hotel managers, landscape architects, policymakers, interior designers, financiers, astronomers, and fiber experts (yes, like the clothing material)–allAdmissions-17yi4st actively pursuing their passions. Everyone from pre-professional I-Bankers to theoretical physicists. People from Hawaii to Ghana. People from Alaska and people who had never seen snow before getting here. Left wingers (politically speaking) and right wingersI just can’t imagine that at any other point in my life, I will be surrounded with such diversity–in the best meaning of the word.

Opportunity in terms of discovering your passions off-campus: Almost limitless opportunities exist here. Interested in government or policy? Check out the legit Cornell in Washington program, or the Capital Semester program. Aspire to99 be a filmmaker? Cornell in Hollywood is up your alley. The tech scene interests you? Cornell Silicon Valley and Cornell NYC Tech ensure opportunities for connections and events. Have a deep passion for marine biology? Spend a few months on Cornell’s own island, Shoals Marine Lab, off the coast of Maine. If architecture is your “dig,” you’ll enjoy Cornell in Rome. Labor relations/HR students benefit from ILR’s connections with places likes-logo Disney World, GE, and the International Labour Organization to spend a semester putting theory into practice.

…and discovering them on campus: Think of (just about) anything you’ve ever been interested in, and realize that Cornell likely offers an outlet to pursue it…or the opportunity is there (maybe thats why the Squirrel Club exists).Want to work on a racecar? Join Cornell Racing. Like media? Join The Sun, the Social Media Club, Slope Media, or any of the otherpic1 many on-campus publications. Scientists can join the Entomology Club or the Herpetological Society. Musicians can join the pep band, play the chimes, or join CU Winds, and business-oriented people can select from 4-5 business frats and countless finance clubs. Not to mention, if you affiliate with a specific ethnicity/religion/nationality, chances are that there’s stuff for you. Cornell Hillel is booming…butHome - Cornell University Hillel so is the Cornell Filipino Association. Don’t believe me? Take a look at last year’s comprehensive list of 800+ student organizations (warning:PDF) to appreciate the variety.

(The amazing thing is when people combinecheese_club.jpg (430×292) their interests–for example, I TA’ed a business class with many bio majors. But that’s an aside.)

Academically: Again, any person any study rings true. With over 4000+ courses across 7 undergraduate colleges, you can take a class in almost anything. Casino Operations to Beer. Human-Environment Relations to the Ethics of Eating. Korean to iPhone App Development. History of Terrorism to Psychology of Entertainment Media. tree1Digital Business Strategy to Stardom. For (your required) PE classes: Anything from Juggling to Tree Climbing, SCUBA to Birding, and Thai Massage to Handgun Safety. (Heck, You can even do a themed semester.)

And when you graduate? Well, I still have 1-2 months to go (!!!), but when that day does come, I know I’ll find comfort knowing that the comprehensive Cornell network spans globally. Don’t believe me? Check out theCornell Silicon Valley | Alumni | Cornell University websites for the Cornell Clubs of New YorkFrance, Boston, Beijing, Oregon, Los Angeles, D.C., and so on. I’d love to be proven wrong, and I know alumni clubs exist at other schools, but I can’t imagine finding any other place with such established and diverse post-graduate connections and events. 

Coming to Cornell won’t be easy–you’ll be essentially given a list of classes that used to fill a phone book-sized text and are expected to be responsible enough to navigate yourCornell-in-Washington-q8i2k4 way through it all. But if you are up to the task, you can create a 4 year college experience that provides you with unparalleled opportunities to pursue what you want to.

..and that‘s what sets Cornell apart. Hopefully I didn’t sound like too much of an advertisement here…as I’ve said, Cornell isn’t right for everyone. It’s just that, after 4 years, I finally grasp the unlimited opportunities Cornell provides.

 [Here is where I step off my podium]

*Images/logos courtesy of their respective organizations.

Not to Brag, But…

I like to think of myself, in general, as a fairly humble person to others–I self-deprecate myself very regularly and am my own toughest critic. Believe me, I’m not perfect. After all these years at Cornell, though, there are a few insanely bizarre things that I’m proud of97-1kfaouq myself for…and I can’t help but share ’em. So here goes:

1. I have not lost my Cornell ID for good yet…and am still using the one given to me my first day of orientation. I gotta say, I’m pretty darn proud of this one, as I know a few people that are on number 2 or 3. For all the usage that it’s gotten–swiping me into dining halls and helping me pay for meals, being checked at exams, in addition to letting me gain access to a lot of places–I’m just shocked that this original one is still kicking around. (There was the time I was separated from it temporarily, though).

2. By graduation, I will have taken a class in 6 out of the 7 undergraduate colleges at Cornell (AAP, thanks for ruining my track record). Yep, that’s right;  I’ve enrolled in courses from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Human Ecology, Industrial and Labor Relations, Engineering (if CS/INFO 1300 counts), Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Hotel Administration. I was this close to completing them all! Unfortunately, for the sake of grades, I think it’s for the best that I didn’t enroll in anaap01 AAP class…my art skills have gone downhill since I passed third grade. Though, I did sit near AAP Dean Kent Kleinman on a Campus to Campus bus once…does that count?

3. I’m excellent at snagging seats in StudentCenter. During the pre-enrollment and add/drop periods, there’s always stress amongst students as many classes become full–and you see the dreaded blue square, meaning you can’t enroll in the course due to capacity. In very large classes, though, the second that 1 kid drops the class and the green circle appears, you’re good to enroll (unless someone else snatches it before you).  Here’s a pro-tip: if you’re really desperate to get into a class, check StudentCenter during odd hours–like a Sunday night at 11pm.

4. I’m this close to getting rewarded at Manndibles, CTB, and Hot Truck (and was really close at Yogurt Crazy, too). Lots of eateries around here have those cards where, if you get x amount of stamps/punches, you get a free coffee/sandwich/etc. blog1While I’ve definitely redeemed a card at Hot Truck, the 2nd closest I’ve gotten was at Yogurt Crazy…which now has conveniently gone out of business.

5. If my I-Clicker track record means anything, I’d be a helluva game show contestant. I seem to have a knack for answering I-Clicker questions correctly. (These are the little 5 button devices that some professorsMessages-1 use to have you answer multiple choice questions in class, shown at right.) I can’t really explain why, though…

6. I proudly took an 8:00am intermediate French class that met 3 days a week freshman year. Hours before half of my hall was awake, I was on the Arts quad speaking French. Truth be told, though, I honestly don’t mind early morning classes–you get a great feeling of productivity early on in the day (and that’s why I’m not ashamed to admit that, even as a second semester senior, I still have an 8:40 on Tuesdays and Thursdays).

Are these all things to genuinely be proud of? Eh, I’ll leave it up to you. While they may not be suitable accomplishments for my resume or LinkedIn profile, and this blog post is kind of written in jest, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little proud of ’em.

7 Graphs You Should Understand If You Attend Cornell

As a business major at Cornell, I love graphs. They’re an excellent way to explain concepts, visualize data, or to get a point across. And, as a Cornell student, and Life on the Hill blogger that’s spent years here and had countless experiences in and out of the classroom, there are a couple concepts and lessons that need to be explained…and graphs do the trick!clocktowerx300-qvdiob

(And before I begin… yes, I know these are poorly drawn–I’m not an AAP student! Thanks to Skitch software, they were easy to draw.)

So let’s go:

1. How much it’s okay to talk in your Freshman Writing Seminar course (or any small discussion based course, for that matter):

Cornell Freshman Writing Seminars should be an educational sociologist’s dream case study. Here’s an idea: take 15 ambitious students that excelled in high school…and in their first semester of college, plop them in a room together to make them participate a course where their grade is  dependent on discussion and participation (as well as, obviously, papers). If you talk too much, as evidenced by the graph, you come off as overachieving. Talk too little, and you get a poor participation grade…and remain an awkward (wo)man of mystery to the rest of the class. There is an optimal though, and it varies based on individual circumstance. Examine the graph below. See the arrow? Aim for that peak!!


2. When you’ll find TA’s useful: As a teaching assistant, nothing gives me greater pleasure than helping students out with assignments and explaining concepts. I’m available in office hours, by email, and by appointment. The only time that you’re probably not gonna get a response is if you email me, say, past 1am on the day that an assignment is due or there’s an exam. The phrase “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” sums this idea up pretty nicely. As this graph shows:


3. Going off of a previous post, here’s a graph that shows when the Terrace line for salads at Statler doesn’t stretch to Cortland on a weekday basis (time of day is on the x-axis):


4. Appropriate time to show up to an apartment for a social event: This one I can already foresee getting flack for, but here goes: if you show up to a Cornell social event precisely on the dot…you’re gonna have a bad time. I don’t make the rules, and heck, I wish it wasn’t like this, but if you’re attending a semi-large gathering, in my experiences it’s your best bet to show up at least 30 mins-1 hour late (from when you’re told, or it’s listed on Facebook). This, of course, is speaking from numerous occasions where I’ve been awkwardly early to things because people don’t show up on time. Unless you’re excellent friends with the host or just that cordial, sitting around and waiting for other people to come may not be your idea of a good time.


5. Desirability of a car on campus after 4 years: Speaking as someone that doesn’t have a car here, this one hits close to home. The older you get here, the more you feel the lack of a car curtails your freedom (to go home, to run errands, to go to Chipotle, etc…..but mostly just to go to Chipotle.)


6. On “winter break excitement levels”: The 5 or so weeks that we get off in December-January always results in the same cycle of feelings for me.


In blue is the beginning of the break. This is the “I can’t wait!! I’m gonna visit friends in NYC, travel the country, relax, and catch up with old friends” mentality that you’ll have starting the moment you finish your last final, to the first week or so of break.

In green is where the excitement begins to fade. This is where you realize, a good chunk into break, that sitting on your couch and watching Netflix at 3 in the afternoon sounded a lot more enticing when you were cramming for things in Ithaca. Assuming you return home for break, this is where the days all kind of blend together and you just don’t do all that much.

In red is where you miss the social stimulation of Cornell and realize your hometown is very quiet. It’s characterized by 9pm bedtimes, a craving to walk to get food at night, and the like. Fortunately, in my case, this exacerbated state only happens at the end of break.

7. When it’s acceptable, freshman year, to come out of the blue and introduce yourself to others randomly. Note that I’m not saying you shouldn’t introduce yourself to people after this period–but I’m specifically talking about the giddy, “where are you from?” “what dorm are you in?” “What’s your major”-type line of questioning that usually stops a good couple of weeks into first semester.


Well, that about wraps up this post…hopefully you either learned something, or I at least gave you food for thought. And always, if you agree with me or vehemently disagree, feel free to get in touch!