What is it Like to Attend Cornell University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Maggie is a 2011 graduate of Cornell University where she studied Environmental Engineering. She currently tutors in New York City, specializing in many subjects such as Calculus tutoring, Chemistry tutoring, and Computer Science tutoring. See what she had to say about her alma mater:


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

Maggie: There is a bus system that all freshmen and transfer students can use for free, and it is free for all students during weekends and after 6pm. The campus is super hilly, but that is part of what makes it beautiful. Many people ride bikes despite how hilly Ithaca and the campus are.

VT: How helpful are the academic advisors?

Maggie: One of the downsides of going to a big school is you do not get a lot of individual attention unless you seek it out. But if you do ask for help, your advisor will provide. Because I studied abroad, I met with my academic advisor, Engineering advisor, and study abroad advisor many times, and they were always available. My academic advisor also helped me to get a research internship my junior year and wrote a letter of recommendation for graduate school.

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

Maggie: As a freshman, everyone lives on North Campus. Starting sophomore year, students start living off campus and in their sorority/fraternity houses. And by junior/senior year most people live off campus. I lived in a dorm my freshman and sophomore years. There are always tons of activities going on in the dorms. Every Friday there was a “tasty treat” in the lounge of my freshman dorm (s’mores, pie, cookies, etc.), I took a free cooking class at the dorm with my roommate sophomore year, and during finals there were free massages in the dorm lounges. In terms of meeting people, it depends on what dorm you live in and how outgoing you are as a person. I lived in an all-women’s dorm my freshman year and had trouble meeting people, but, in general, dorms are a great place to meet people on a big campus because you see your dormmates all the time.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Maggie: Any and everything. Cornell’s motto is “any person, any study” and I honestly believe you can get a degree in anything there. They even have a program you can apply to that allows you to make up your own curriculum.  

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman?

Maggie: As a freshman, I lived in a single in an all-women’s dorm, which was somewhat isolating. I had trouble making friends. With so many students, it’s easy to get lost at Cornell. That being said, I know plenty of people who easily made friends either because they lived in a different place or were more outgoing than I was. The best way I made friends was by joining the club volleyball team and meeting people in my dorm.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center?

Maggie: The Career Center is helpful if you ask them for help. They will edit your resume and help you prepare for interviews. They also set up career fairs during the year.

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

Maggie: The facilities at Cornell are beautiful and well maintained. There are a multitude of libraries all over campus where you can study in groups, use computers, have private cubby areas, etc. 

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? 

Maggie: The surrounding town of Ithaca is small and quirky. It has the most restaurants per capita in the United States, so the food is eclectic and delicious and probably my favorite part about the town. The downtown area, which is where many of the restaurants and shops are, is called the Commons, and throughout the year they hold festivals there like Apple Fest and Chili Fest. There are also parks near the lake, an incredible farmers’ market, Ithaca College, wineries, and other small town, charming attractions. My other favorite part about Ithaca is all the hiking trails through the gorges and upstate New York scenery. Students access these trails themselves or join clubs or even take classes with Cornell Outdoor Education in order to take advantage of Ithaca’s outdoor attractions.  

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

Maggie: I would describe Cornell student body as big. There are about 20,000 students if you include graduate students. Because Cornell is so big, you are never limited in what you want to study or do. But Cornell’s size makes it hard to develop relationships with your professors and fellow students unless you seek out smaller classes. I had friends who were able to get to know professors through their research. My biggest regret was not building better relationships with professors, and I think that had I gone to a smaller school this would have been easier.

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

Maggie: My most memorable professor, I had twice during my senior year. He insisted he was terrible at remembering people’s names so he made us all come up with fake wrestler’s names (mine was Mad Eyes), and he would only call us by these weird nicknames. After I graduated, I ended up asking him for a recommendation for graduate school, and I signed my email as Mad Eyes because I was afraid he wouldn’t recognize my real name. 

Check out Maggie’s tutoring profile.

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