It always cracks me up when I think back to how I was before freshman year, and my thought processes regarding college. I believed that achieving happiness at Cornell my first year would be more or less formulaic–you attend X club recruitment sessions, take a certain amount of classes in your major, spend a few hours being sociable in your dorm every evening…and bam! You’re a happy college student. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sure, there are some static aspects of college that you have full control over–like your major, for example, or perhaps your overall mindset. But let me make an interesting declaration: Many of your experiences in college will be based off of pure chance.
Want to hear examples?
- If I didn’t sit in the specific seat I did in SOC 1101 randomly one day during my freshman year, I wouldn’t have seen the flyer that announced recruitment for my business frat, PSE. I likely wouldn’t have heard it otherwise, or been as inclined to join if I heard of it in later semesters. Seeing that flyer at the time, I would’ve never guessed that it would be something I’d stick with all through Cornell, and hold a few leadership positions in. (Who’d have guessed that I’d get a summer internship from the organization, too?)
- You could go into the dorm experience with the most positive attitude, but if you’re not a fan of the kid you’re living with–often randomly selected out of 1000’s of kids–that could completely bias your whole first semester college experience. After all, you live with them. (Alternatively, the person you meet on that first day in the dorm could be your best friend for life.) At Cornell, I’ve heard of both horrid and positive roommate experiences. You just don’t know what yours will be like, for sure, until you’re living with them for a while.
- I’ve fostered random friendships at Cornell that have come about purely by me being in a random place. There are people I still occasionally talk to that I’ve met on TCAT rides, walks to central campus freshman year, and other instances of just being in the right place at the right time. On that note, I know of people who have become good friends after meeting each other in courses that they both randomly enrolled in.
- Speaking of random encounters, if I didn’t have to run an errand at the Cornell Store, I wouldn’t have run into Bill Nye the Science Guy there my sophomore year. (That’s something I’ll always remember.)
- During the Greek rush and pledging process, I’ve been told you want to select a house based on “fit”–and this is often detected by your experiences with the brothers/sisters during one week in January. One week! That’s all the time you have to visit 40+ fraternities for guys, or 12(?) sororities for girls. You can’t talk to everyone in every organization, and your perception of each group will vary wildly based on who you talk to…so there’s definitely some aspect of chance when you’re deciding if or what Greek organizations are right for you.
- I stumbled upon the Cornell “Life on the Hill” blogging project on a whim, exploring Cornell.edu shortly after my acceptance, and somewhat randomly decided to inquire about getting involved. ~110 posts later and this thing is still going strong…
Okay, I understand that this might be stressful to some. Heck, this realization about life at Cornell (and I guess life, overall) was for me, too. But if I could give advice, I’d say to enjoy the process and randomness of it all.
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.
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!
Woo, it’s spring break! I’ve had quite a few busy and stressful weeks, and have dealt with my fair share of aggravation…so let’s just say that this break has been well deserved. While the suburbs of Connecticut might not be as enticing as Punta Cana or Miami, I’m excited to kick back and relax with family and friends. Now that it’s practically mid-way through my second semester of junior year (!!!), I figure it’s a good time to update you, devoted readers, as to what’s been going on exactly in my life. So let’s do this:
- Regarding the summer internship hunt: It’s still very much in progress. I wasn’t one of those lucky few students who sealed the deal early on (meaning, signed a contract in January), so I’m still very much in the hunt for any experience relating to business strategy. I’m also not geographically-sensitive; if there’s any time in my life to try living in a different location, I figure this is it! So, I’m really open to going anywhere. (Corporate recruiters, if you like me, here’s my LinkedIn.)
- I’m officially accepted to the Cornell in Washington program for next semester. Fall of my senior year will be spent in the bustling city of Washington D.C., where I’ll write a substantial business policy paper and get some practical work experience.
- I turned 21 on March 8th, and as such went out to enjoy Ithaca’s, er…unique bar scene. My findings: bars are crowded and sweaty–but a lot of fun to be at, and there’s definitely an allure to ’em.
- Academics are going really well, as I’m getting a lot out of my courses. But, finance is known to be tough…and it is really tough. It’s been a learning experience for me in that, just like pre-med’s do in orgo and engineers do in their weed-out calculus classes, I’ve sunk hours upon hours (heck, weekends upon weekends) into understanding the material, and that hasn’t always resulted in sky-high test scores.
- Other aspects of my junior year experience: Overall, life is good at Cornell. I’m hearing Bob Dylan perform next month. The weather’s getting warmer. It’s fun being a business management teaching assistant. I’ve discovered, 3 years in, that Okenshield’s is actually pretty good, so I won’t flood my CornellCard account with $8.00 Statler salads.
So…yeah, that about sums up where I’m at right about now. I’m at a pretty interesting time in my Cornell experience because –as I plan out my coursework for next year–I’m beginning to see the finish line, that is, May 25, 2014. Whoa…
I’m just throwing this out there: Cornell’s campus is pretty big (it has its own zip code, after all!). This means that, unless you’ve spent many years on this campus, it seems like there’s always a new eatery to try (my new favorite is the Big Red Barn), study spot to utilize (Hotelie library), or a new path to discover.
In these cold months, when I’m stuck in Warren Hall or Mann Library between classes and don’t want to go outside to get something to eat, I can tell you that I’ve found one route to Synapsis Café (at right) that’s saved me from having to brave Ithaca’s chilly winters: the Plant Sciences–Weill Tunnel.
So let’s set the scene:
It’s 11am on a Tuesday, and after getting out of AEM 4160: Strategic Pricing, I’m killing time on Facebook in Mann. It’s 15 degrees out with bitter winds, and my next class, International Trade, doesn’t start until 11:40. Suddenly my stomach growls as I realize that the last thing I put in my stomach was a Twix bar the night before, but I don’t want to go outside. Manndibles isn’t an option since I want to use BRB’s. What do I do??
Go to the basement floor of the Plant Sciences building and use this tunnel:
While the path was originally constructed to transport specimens to and from the two scientific buildings, from what I’ve understood, it’s not closed by any means to students. Fun fact: you can hear echoes very easily with any noise you produce. While I’m not going to venture into providing directions here–there are a few odd turns you have to take–know that if you see a corner (jokingly?) labelled “Hollywood and Vine” in the basement of Weill Hall you’re in the semi-right area.
I remember 4 years ago, when I was a high school junior, I toured Northeastern University and the tour guide bragged about the complex underground tunnel system they have that connects many buildings–and is useful during those chilly months. While this sole tunnel isn’t as extensive, I’m glad I finally found one at Cornell!