A Student Review of Cornell University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Michael is a New York City tutor specializing in SAT prep tutoring, ACT prep tutoring, SSAT prep tutoring, Algebra tutoring, and more. He graduated from Cornell University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development. See what he had to say about his school:

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?

Michael: All freshmen and transfer students are given a free bus pass for their first year at Cornell, which really comes in handy! I bought a bus pass throughout my whole time at Cornell since the campus is quite big. Most students do not bring cars to campus, but it can be advantageous to do so if you work off campus or go home frequently. The campus and surrounding town (Ithaca, NY) is pretty safe; Ithaca is always mentioned as one of the top college towns in the United States, so I’d say that most people believe it is safe!

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

Michael: I have always found professors and TAs to be very accessible outside of the classroom as long as you put forth the effort to connect with them. All professors and most TAs have office hours that exist to be taken advantage of if you have any questions about the course material. It’s really up to the student to be proactive and go to office hours if they need help, or if they just really want to do their absolute best in coursework.

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

Michael: All freshmen students are placed in housing on North Campus, which allows first-year students to really connect with members of their class. West Campus is housing for upper-level students, and it probably has the nicest dorm facilities at Cornell. Also, the food at Cornell is really good! It’s consistently rated as one of the top college dining programs in the country due to its wide variety of available, high-quality food. I miss the food being at home now!

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?

Michael: I believe that Cornell is best known for its Engineering, Pre-medical, and Hotel Administration programs, but it has strong areas of study across its numerous colleges. I majored in Human Development and minored in Educational Studies. I loved the large majority of courses I took at Cornell and believe that many courses are set up to be thought-provoking and informative to students. I do believe that Cornell could place a greater emphasis on its recently dissolved Education Department, but I am pleased with Cornell’s academic support overall.

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?

Michael: Cornell helps freshmen to connect with each other by placing them all in close proximity to each other on North Campus, thus facilitating relationships through joint dorms, dining halls, and community centers. But, you have to be proactive in meeting people at Cornell (as at any other school). Greek life is relatively popular at Cornell, but it is not the only source of campus social life, especially for upperclassmen that live in Collegetown.

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

Michael: On-campus recruiting is extremely popular at Cornell, especially for engineering and other technical positions. Big companies like Goldman Sachs, Teach for America, IBM, and Google consistently have representatives coming to recruit Cornell students to work for them after graduation. The student services vary in their helpfulness, but the University Career Center in Barnes Hall is known to be one of the better sources.

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

Michael: There are at least 15 different libraries at Cornell that vary in size and specialty (e.g. Law School Library, ILR Library), so there is always an available place to study on campus! All of the West Campus dorms also have their own study lounges that are usually available. Not that many people study in the student union (RPCC), but I believe there is some study space in the building.

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? 

Michael: Ithaca is a suburban town that is often referred to be as being “crunchy” because of its highly liberal population and its inclination toward organic food and other progressive reforms. There is an eclectic mix of restaurants in Collegetown and Downtown Ithaca, in addition to some bars. Most Cornell students stay near campus or Collegetown when eating and going out at night, but there are things to do in Downtown Ithaca if you want to drive or take the bus.

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

Michael:I believe there are about 10,000 undergrads at Cornell, which I think is a good number because it is not too big and not too small. Class sizes greatly varied depending on the course subject and what “grade” the class was geared toward. My Introductory Psychology course had around 800 students! But, most of my upper-level courses in my major had between 15 and 40 students.

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

Michael: I remember in my Biopsychology class when the professor had all 150 or so students stand up and form a chain holding hands around the auditorium to represent how an electric impulse travels along a neuron. I will never forget how a neuron works thanks to that demonstration!

Check out Michael’s tutoring profile.

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