Work Work Work

Oh the slopeA common question about Cornell is “how is the workload?” The short unhelpful answer is that it depends, duh. Here is the longer answer:

If you really want to graduate with doing hardly any work, it’s possible. Take an “easy” major, just meet the minimum requirements; it isn’t all that hard. But then if you do that, why are you even bothering to go to Cornell, just to get a certificate that says that you’re smart? If you want to get the most out of Cornell, you will take the major you want to take independent of how “easy” or “hard” it is considered to be. Any major will be difficult if you apply yourself to it, but I can’t really talk about anything other than my own major, AEP, which has been extremely difficult so far.

My life at Cornell has been centered around doing work (especially this semester), I’m always thinking about upcoming tests and assignments; it’s the focus of why I’m here. But of course I don’t do nearly as much work as I ought to, there are always so many cool things to do and only so few hours in the day. Whenever a small break in work comes around and I slack off some, I’m suddenly behind in everything. It’s really tough to keep on top of everything all the time and sometimes I just get sick of the constant battle and need a nice break even at the expense of my work. It’s really hard now that spring has come just look how green it is! But somehow I’m surviving the battle and I enjoy being challenged; I think I’m getting a lot out of my hard classes.

I’ve found it extremely difficult to find the right course load that works for me. Too much, I can’t focus enough on each class, too little I’m wasting my time here. Taking full advantage of everything at Cornell is impossible and it’s hard to find how far to extend yourself without becoming overwhelmed. The following guide may help tell if you have too much work:
You are overloaded with work if you find yourself:

  • Trying to get some rest by closing your eyes while walking to classes
  • Telling time based on exam dates and when assignments are due, “When was March, like 3 problem sets ago? I forget”
  • Applying what you learn excessively, “Wow, I’ve been getting a lot of observations of photons at 510 nm lately” (trans: Wow, it’s been very green lately)
  • Being jealous of people reading newspapers during lunch, “Who has time for that, don’t they have work to do?”
  • Never posting on your blog as often as you should
  • Thinking late times aren’t that late, “It’s only 2:31 am, I have plenty of time”
  • Feeling uncomfortable, like something is not right with the universe, when you fully complete an assignment before it’s due
  • Trivializing things not so trivial, “After that it’s just algebra” or “After that it’s just Calculus” or “After that it’s just solving the differential equation” or “After that it’s just solving Laplace’s equation in a toroidal coordinate system” or “After that it should be easily solvable somehow”
  • Shielding yourself from being hit by an exorbitant number of photons on the rare chance you emerge from your protective shelter deep underground

4 thoughts on “Work Work Work”

  1. Superior post! I especially love the bullets at the end, especially because I can relate so well to that first one…

  2. Nice post. Really recognizable, one of the most important things I’ve learned when I walked through school, college and professional life is the ability to let it all go when you’re done with it for the day.
    That’s just my little advice, good luck everybody!

    Best regards,


  3. ROFL, I like that last one XD

    Those bullets seem to describe alot of people in those “math-ey” majors…. in fact every math major I have met so far lives in the math building, forgot how to socialize normally, and has become insane to a level in direct proportion to how many credits they take on average per semester. Still, becoming crazed and over-worked results in being uber l337, so it balances out, in my opinion….

    I’m glad I don’t have this problem, being a Wildlife Major. Sure there’s 5-hour labs…. but they’re on mountains. (Or sphagnum bogs, or hardwood forests, or beeches, or…. >:D)

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