As senior year approaches for me, I realized I’m now (semi) qualified to write about my experience thus far at Cornell and maybe offer some advice. Off the top of my head… here are some of the practical advice I can give to the incoming 2022 freshmen. 

Dining Plans: You’re not going to actually use 21 meal swipes a week. Well, some of you will, but most of us will not. I was on the 10 meals a week meal plan and had trouble finishing that! Truth is, most of your meals will be on Central (grabbing a quick yogurt/coffee/bagel at a cafe on campus, then a sandwich for lunch on campus—these all use BRBs (Big Red Bucks) and not meal swipes!). My advice would be to start with the 14 meals a week meal plan, then upgrade or downgrade after the first two weeks or so. You’ll be allowed to upgrade or reduce your meal plan until early September — just check the Dining Website.

Take Advantage of Add/Drop: Add/Drop is basically a period of time in the beginning of school year where you can drop classes without penalty. There are two good things about this:

  • Because you’re freshmen, you choose your classes after everyone has already chosen. Unfortunately that means a lot of the classes you might want to take are already filled up. Many people drop classes during add/drop however, so if there’s an 8AM section you’d rather switch out or a class you really want to take or a specific section that would just fit your schedule better, you have a chance to add/switch in your schedule! Just check student center frequently and more often than not, at some point there will be an open spot in the class/section you want a spot in.
  • Drop deadline (where you can drop classes without penalty) usually is after the first exam (or as we call it at Cornell, the first prelim), so if for some reason you really messed up the first exam, you can just drop the course. For me personally, I really overloaded on the credits freshman year and realized I couldn’t handle that—so I dropped a class and that was helpful. Just make sure you’re still enrolled in enough credits to be considered a full time student, however. 

First Year Writing Seminar: Somewhat related to Add/Drop is the required first year FWS. So FWS’s are hit-or-miss, they’re usually taught by graduate students but a few are taught by professors. If during your first week or so, the FWS felt “off” or it felt like you might not enjoy it (for example, I chose an Anthropology one that was titled “Witchcraft, Insurance, and Terror” and I was more interested in the Witchcraft and Terror part and not so much the insurance… and it turns out the course was actually only about insurance…), then drop it! Ask around and see what your peers are taking or if they like it, then add another one. It’s perfectly normal/fine. Don’t be like me and stay in a class for WAY too long. 

Winter wear: The last couple Cornell winters I’ve experienced (I’ve experienced three) actually weren’t all that bad (and I’m from the south!). Expect pretty cloudy weather year round (Ithaca is gloomy :( ) and and the occasional snow from October to April (yes, April!). I have one good winter coat, and after layering up I’m good for the winter (plus the gloves, scarf, and earmuffs of course). Also be prepared to invest in a good pair of winter boots—I’ve had many scary experiences of almost-slipping while on my walk to class.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Some places at Cornell offer free tutoring (Learning Strategies Center, Math Support Center), and most TAs and professors hold weekly office hours. In addition, there are also supplemental classes for introductory classes (ex: CHEM 2070, General Chemistry, offers supplement courses CHEM 1070 and CHEM 1007, which follow the lectures closely but provide extra workshops and lectures). Take advantage of those! There is no shame at all in asking for help, as long as you’ve done your own due diligence trying to understand something. Also, a plus side to going to office hours is that you can potentially get to know a professor—and potentially ask him/her for a recommendation in the future too!

Cornell is a marathon, not a sprint. So… by all means, Sleep! Eat! Self care! Yes you’ll probably need to study pretty hard at Cornell, but make sure to take care of yourself as well. There will inevitably be all-nighters, but burn out is super real.

Let me know if you’ve enjoyed this–and feel free to reach out to me for any further questions/comments! :)