Welcome to College

27 06 2008

Without meaning to come across as a complete jackass, I’ll admit that Cornell is a very well-regarded school. Well, for the most part. The school adminstration seems to suffer from the “red-headed stepchild” syndrome, where it constantly feels like it is being neglected and under-appreciated, and is constantly self-conscious of its activities. I blame this on being looked at as the worst of the Ivy League, which is in itself a ridiculous notion driven up by other school to make themselves feel better about their own college. That might be a little idealistic, but I believe Cornell gets bashed for the sole hope that it makes someone else’s school look better. And of course, this leads to Cornell’s inferiority complex.

The result of this inferiority complex is prominent throughout campus. Cornell is driven to succeed and outdo rival colleges that much more. with the exception of the Arts and Sciences school, which is known for having lots of high GPA liberal arts majors, many of the school have majors where they work the student to the bone, and work to make the class as challenging as possible. One of the ways this is done is through Cornell interpretation of exams, referred to as “prelims”. Most classes seem to have two or three in a semester, and they usually make up about 40-60% of a class grade. And in many of the classes, they design them to be as “challenging”, i.e. mind-blowingly difficult, as possible. Professors like to have low averages on an exam. I had a math exam where the mean was a 51 out of 100. Lo and behold to my surprise when I received a 46 on the exam, I thought I was  dead until I heard the mean. If one were to take the average means in my physics and math courses, it would likely be somewhere around 62. And I don’t often tend to be on higher side of the mean.

Academically, Cornell can be extremely frustrating. I’ve seen people try and drink their troubles away, shut themselves off from the world, and become generally miserable. A number of people I know have transferred from harder majors like engineering and pre-med to communications and AEM (being an AEM minor, I can understand why; the averages in the classes are much higher). Cornell will be the place that sends you and your academic confidence (perhaps arrogance for some) crashing back down to earth. 

In my situation, it was a rough landing. It’s something that has to be accepted and dealt with as best as possible though. Ithaca is really an amazing place, and Cornell has a lot to offer outside of academics. If it wasn’t for those things, then student life here would probably me much more unpleasant.

Sometimes it’s awkward to look back at high school and realize how things have changed with regards to academics and extracirriculars, but at least at Cornell, it was a necessary adaptation.


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