A Day in the Life at Cornell University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Stephanie is a Houston tutor specializing in Literature tutoring, History tutoring, Essay Editing tutoring, and much more. She graduated from Cornell University in 2004 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Check out her review of her alma mater:


VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Stephanie: Cornell is located in the town of Ithaca, New York. The area immediately surrounding campus is referred to as “College Town” with Ithaca proper located just down the hill from the campus. It is a beautiful campus with rolling hills, gorges, and waterfalls. The campus is very safe, but you do need to use common sense when walking at night. The campus is divided according to schools and colleges. Each school or college within the university has its own “quad” or central location. On-campus bus transportation is convenient and Cornell students can purchase special bus passes for semester or annual use. Students also walk or bike to class. If you plan to walk or bike, be prepared for cold winters – good boots are a must! Most of the upperclassmen, especially those who live off campus, typically have cars, but parking can be tricky on campus.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Stephanie: I felt that all of my professors, advisers, and TAs were accessible – I just had to make an appointment or attend office hours. Since class sizes can vary tremendously depending on majors and colleges, I would highly recommend going to office hours to develop a rapport with the professor. This is especially true if you are interested in a particular subject or if you want to work with a particular professor later on in your collegiate life. A pre-existing relationship with a professor is also helpful if you choose to undertake a thesis because you select your own advisor.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Stephanie: All of the freshmen live together on North Campus and there are a variety of housing and dining options depending on personal preference. Answers that you provide to university polls on lifestyle and personality type will likely determine what type of housing environment in which you are placed. You can also request a certain dormitory or housing option. The dining halls on campus are first rate and accommodate every type of diet.  

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Stephanie: Cornell’s academics are highly respected and you will find top-notch professors and staff in every major and in every college. I was accepted to Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences as an English major but switched majors halfway through my sophomore year to Sociology. Switching majors was easy since I was switching intra-college. It is possible to switch majors inter-college, but you will need to work closely with the registrar and your advisors to ensure that all of your academic requirements are satisfied.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Stephanie: Making friends at Cornell is a breeze! The student body is large and diverse, and there will definitely be people who have the same interests as you do! There is Greek life on campus, but there are so many other student groups that “going Greek” is by no means mandatory in order to feel accepted and develop close bonds with your peers.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Stephanie: The Career Center is fantastic and Cornell has a robust on-campus recruiting and interviewing initiative. All of the top companies and non-profits come to Cornell to interview. In addition, there are career fairs and the alumni network is very strong.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Stephanie: There are lots of spaces to study to fit every preference. Typically, you will find your favorite spot by the end of exams first semester.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Stephanie: Ithaca and College Town boast an impressive collection of restaurants, theatres, and bars and pubs. Cornell also has the Johnson Art Museum, the Ornithology Lab, a rare book collection, and many other state-of-the-art public resources. Cornell does a great job of bringing in music, theatre, and comedy acts to campus, as well as prominent speakers. For example, while I was at Cornell, I saw No Doubt play a show, went to see Jon Stewart, and President Bill Clinton delivered my commencement address.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Stephanie: Cornell is the largest Ivy League school with a student body of around 13,000, but the way the university divides itself by colleges makes it feel much smaller. Class size varies depending on subject matter and the particular college. Large classes will typically include both seminar (where new materials are presented) and a “section” that is taught by a TA with a class size of 10-15 (where material is reviewed).

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Stephanie: I don’t think I can think of just one experience that I loved! I absolutely adored my time at Cornell – I really did not want to leave. I found that everything, from the friends that I made to the instruction that I received, were more than I could have hoped for.


Check out Stephanie’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.