Impressions Of
Cornell University

Academic Experience

Female Human Biology, Health, and Society Major C/O 2021

Is there anything you felt your major’s department did especially well or poorly?
Not particularly yet. I didn’t get to go to many office hours type things because of my sports schedule, but the professors are really good about working with that whether you email them or try to go in one time and talk to them about your situation. It’s really nice to have them be so accommodating about that sort of thing. It does get pretty tricky trying to prioritize, like, if you want help in biology or maybe I think chemistry is going to be more of a challenge.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly collaborative or competitive?
I would definitely say it’s competitive but you can find some study groups and friends that are going to help you. For me especially, studying in a group was really helpful for being able to talk through the information and not just doing problems on your own. I would really say it’s a very competitive environment and that was something to get used to.

Most of my classes were on a curve, so people are trying to beat me and beat the average. There have been a few times where students have been a little hesitant to give a lot of information when you’re studying for the same class. Once you find a core group of friends, it’s definitely different in that aspect and it becomes more of a collaborative environment.

Female Undeclared on Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely very competitive. I find that there are a lot of tools that you can use for studying. There are a lot of study groups and you can study with your classmates because we generally have pretty big classes. But, you have to go out of your way to be a part of those. There are no planned study sessions that everyone goes to. You have to go out of your way to find tutoring sessions and stuff like that.

Is there anything that you feel Cornell has does especially well or poorly academically so far?
There is this whole idea of prelims, which are basically just midterms, but there is an extra emphasis on it because there are special time blocks for them at night outside of class and the teachers are stressing it. It’s good because you’re always worrying about the prelim and you’re on top of your studying. But, at the same time, it’s a negative thing because they give it a special name and you have to take it at 7:30 at night in an auditorium, so it makes it a more stressful environment.

Social Opportunities

Male Policy Analysis and Management C/O 2019

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Most of my nightlife goes through my fraternity. I go to my fraternity’s events and stuff like that. It’s mostly on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Certain nights are bigger for bars and certain aren’t. The campus really only goes out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Obviously not everybody does, but if you’re interested, there’s always something to do those nights. We have fraternity stuff Thursdays and Saturdays, and Fridays are more bars. When your fraternity events happen depends on your fraternity.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
We rush second semester freshman year, so freshman year ends up being worse than the others, not that it’s not fun, but you’re less cemented so it’s less stable. There are nights that you go out and you find nothing. Second semester you rush and join a fraternity and all that sort of stuff. I’d say that most people that like to go to parties join a fraternity and sorority. [About 33% of students are involved in Greek life.]

Female Biological Sciences Major C/O 2021

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
As an incoming freshman, it was a mysterious thing that was kind of a treat to be able to get into one of these parties. It was a lot of wandering around in Collegetown and trying to find your way to one of them and not really know what was going on just because we were so new. After rushing second semester, everything opens up and you get to know people that are in them. It becomes more of a really fun social event where you can see a lot of your friends out.

How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m really happy with it. It’s not as big as a really large university’s [nightlife], but I think it’s the perfect amount. There is always something to do even though we’re not in a big city and we’re not surrounded by lots of bars. There’s always something going on, and there’s other stuff going on other than the nightlife too.

Campus Culture

Male Policy Analysis and Management C/O 2019

How did you meet your closest friends?
Either at random freshman events or through the fraternity.

How would you describe the social scene?
It’s there if you want it to be. It’s very based around fraternities and sororities. I’d say the majority of students that go to parties regularly are in a fraternity or a sorority. If you’re looking for a social scene and it’s something you want to participate in, there’s a lot of stuff to do and you’re never going to be bored. But it’s not a big party school. [About 33% of students are involved in Greek life.]

Female Human Biology, Health, and Society Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the social scene?
Cornell is a very big student body and, initially, I thought that’s what I wanted. I like having all the different people there available to meet, but it does affect the social life in that because there are so many people, it’s almost impossible to get to know everybody. You have to pick and choose who you’re going to spend your time with and that was a big adjustment for me. [Cornell has about 15,000 undergraduate students.]

 

Female Undeclared on Major C/O 2021

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
No matter the demographic difference I think people do mix. I have noticed that I think Greek life gets in the way of that because that White frat boy culture does exist at Cornell. Not all frats are like that but there are some that are like that. There is a lot of diversity at Cornell, so you’re only dis-servicing yourself if you don’t mix with people.

How would you describe the student body?
It’s really big. There are a ton of people from all over the world which is really cool. There are also really rich people who are legacies and then also people who are first-generation students, so it’s kind of a mixed bag. [Socioeconomically, about 10% of students come from the top 10% and 3.8% are from the bottom 20%. In the Class of 2022, 13% of students self-identify as first-generation college students.]

Ithaca, NY

Pros of

  • “I like that when it’s nice, it’s really nice. During the one to two months when it’s warm while we’re up there it’s really nice and you can go swimming and stuff like that.”

  • “It’s a smaller city because you can figure out if you like being in a smaller city or if you want a bigger city.”

  • “It’s in the finger lakes region, which is beautiful and you have the gorges and everything.”

  • “They have great food downtown.”

Cons of

  • “It does snow a lot. There’s a lot of distance between the classes and it’s hard walking to class in weather like that.”

  • “Getting there is a little tricky. Ithaca airport is more expensive and the next option would be Syracuse which is a pretty far bus ride away. When I travel and fly into Syracuse, it’s a full day of travel, which is not desirable.”

  • “The big hills. There are a lot of hills and that’s annoying.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Male Policy Analysis and Management C/O 2019

What is something you wish you knew about Cornell before entering as a freshman?
I wish I understood that it was going to be tougher than high school academically. I went in figuring it would be about the same as high school and I’d be fine. I ended up being fine and I think if you’re willing to put the work in you’ll do fine. You have to work harder than you did in high school, at least if you were somebody who was able to coast through.

What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The social life, if that’s something they’re in to. I know the visit I went on it’s not something they tell you about. It’s a lot more fun than the tours make it out to be.

Female Human Biology, Health, and Society Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Cornell before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how important going to office hours and tutoring sessions was because I definitely missed quite a few opportunities in regards to that. [I wish I knew the importance of] making a connection with your professor, which is something I didn’t do last year. If you just go up and talk to them once a week to make a connection with them, because you will find in the future if you want to do research or something they will be great resources. It’s important to realize that it’s not embarrassing to ask for help because it will help you in the long run.

Female Biological Sciences Major C/O 2021

What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
They might miss how far it is to walk from where you’re going to live as a freshman to some of the buildings. I think that could be a little deceiving, I don’t know if they bring them all the way over to where some of the freshmen live on the tour. Then check out the dorms, I would say some freshmen have a better experience than others because they were put in a dorm that’s more social than others.

What is something that we haven’t touched on that a person from a less represented area should know?
There’s a lot of people that come from New York City and it’s really overwhelming at first because it feels like everyone either already knows each other, knows of each other and has similar friends, or has participated in this totally other culture than what you’re used to their entire life. They bond over that and they can spend hours talking about the subway. At first, it gets really old and you feel a bit left out when they start going on about how they live in the city, but it does wear off eventually and just stick through it. It was discouraging to feel like I didn’t have this bond with people just because there are a lot of people from New York City or the East Coast. [About 31% of the Class of 2022 is from New York and 19% is from the Mid-Atlantic.]

Female Undeclared on Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Cornell before entering as a freshman?
I wish I had known how hard it is to get places without a car. I think that would have helped me a lot because I pictured being able to go places and go home sometimes and I wish I knew that it was unrealistic to expect that I could go places. I also wish I knew how much [my sport] would take over my life because I expected I would have more time and I really don’t have much at all.

What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I find I spend a lot of time in Collegetown, so definitely get a feel for the vibe down there. Also, odds are you’re going to be living there.

Reasons to attend and not to attend Cornell University

To Attend

  • “Great college network. There is a lot of alumni who will help you out when you graduate.”
  • “There are a lot of very diverse classes. I’m taking a class in beermaking next year, and those cool classes are not at the expense of getting an education.”
  • “It’s a beautiful place. The Gorges are gorgeous.”
  • “The large, diverse student body. You miss out on the tight-knit environment where everybody knows everybody, but it gives you the chance to meet so many people.”
    • [About 21% of the undergraduate population are underrepresented minorities and about 10% are international students.]
  • “The professors are world renowned, they’ve done so many amazing things, and are still involved with a lot of research. There are a lot of research opportunities to get involved in.”

To Not Attend

  • “It is a very challenging academic environment and sometimes it becomes something that is overly stressful, overly exhausting, and mentally draining. All your tests end up being in the same week so you have to figure out how to study for each of them when you only have a day or two between each test. If you’re not up for that challenge, I would say that’s the biggest concern. People can get very frustrated with the academics.”
  • “The winters are really long”
  • “Traveling there is expensive and a little bit difficult.”
  • “If you can’t stand the idea of feeling isolated on a college campus or in a certain place. I know a lot of people do feel that way sometimes.”
  • “It’s very far from a big city.”
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