Student Experiences at Cornell University

Peter earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Cornell University. He specializes in algebra tutoring, biology tutoring, and a number of other subjects. Below, he shares his experience at Cornell University:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options. 

Peter: The campus in Ithaca is quite rural. There are buses throughout campus if you need to get from, say, West Campus to North Campus. I felt safe, as there were blue lights and the police presence was strong. A car can be useful if you want to explore the surrounding areas, like the mountains or lake, but there are also buses that travel to and from campus and within campus.

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

Peter: The professors generally set office hours and are certainly available closer to exams. The teaching assistants are definitely available to talk more in a one-on-one setting and are available more frequently than professors. Academic advisors are what you make of them. They can be assigned to pretty large groups of students, but if you are purposeful in making your meetings with them, they should respond positively.

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

Peter: The dorm life is quite vibrant as a freshman on North Campus. Everyone is together and there are no upperclassmen, so you really get the chance to bond with your dorm-mates and people in other dorms. Some dorms are newer than others. I was lucky enough to be put in Mews Dorm, which was less than five years old. There are lots of opportunities to connect with people, especially if you join clubs that you are interested in. It is easy to meet people when you are engaging in a common interest.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Peter: There is a very large pre-med and biological sciences representation on campus. The pre-med community was especially strong for me, as I was social chair of the campus’s only pre-medical professional fraternity: Phi Delta Epsilon. I felt the resources provided to pre-medical students were quite numerous, especially if you were a biological sciences major or minor. You could always set up chats with biological sciences office advisors to plan your trajectory and get advice on what to pursue. Also, Cornell did a good job at preparing you for the HCEC process.

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?

Peter: It was definitely quite easy for me to meet people and make friends as a freshman. You can find friends at dorms or on campus if you join organizations. Greek life can be a positive influence on your social life if you choose it for the right reasons (meeting people). I found from my experience with Greek life, that this really was a chance where people were open to getting to know you and made an effort to do so. It is a good way to form longer-term relationships, especially with fellow members of your pledge class.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? 

Peter: There are career centers for each of the seven colleges at Cornell. The Career Center I was a part of was the College of Arts and Sciences career center. They knew everyone was coming from a general liberal arts background and were responsive and good at helping you figure out how to pitch yourself to employers. Overall, I was very impressed with the breadth of employers who came to campus. Many reputable consulting and financial firms came, as well as many other types of organizations (nonprofit, TFA, etc.).

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

Peter: There are lots of places to study. The libraries are beautiful and great places to be if you want to get stuff done. There are many nooks and crannies and levels to the libraries you can explore. My favorite library was Uris in the White study area. Dorm lounges are okay, but I would definitely recommend going to the libraries, and, if it is nice out, outside on the slope.

Describe the surrounding town.

Peter: College town and the surrounding town of Ithaca have a decent amount of personality. If you like free food and small festivals, you will like Ithaca. There is also a fresh farmer’s market and there are shops that are paradise if you are an organic food lover. I will say NYC is a four-hour drive away, so it can be a little isolating at times, especially during winter. But if you love the outdoors, there is always something to do.

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

Peter: The size of the student body is huge: 20,000 people total, counting graduate students. Though, the size of my school, the College of Arts and Sciences, was only around 4,000 people total. If you find small communities within this large one, you will be good. I would say, when you are walking through campus, there is hardly a time you will not see someone you know—so the campus is small in that sense. If you are enrolled in general chemistry, expect class sizes of up to 1,000 students, with a very tightly packed lecture. If you are in a writing seminar, expect a class size of 10 to 20 people—much more manageable. The only classes that are massive are the general pre-med or general engineering courses. Once you get to your junior and senior years, the size and general interest of people in the class will go up down and up respectively.

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

Peter: One of my favorite classes ever was my Philosophy writing seminar. The professor was great in the sense that he truly listened and was interested in what you had to say. He let the class propel discussions, while he guided us. The material was very intellectually stimulating and the professor was very good at modeling what he wanted on papers. We learned some basic logic and also some cool theories about what makes an object exist or not (Metaphysics). This is a great class that is good for anyone wanting to get a well-rounded liberal arts education.

Check out Peter’s tutoring profile.

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