Cornell University Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?

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Rachel

Cornell is known for its academic prestige and rigor. It is one of the best schools in the world. The research opportunities are incredible, as is the opportunity to take a variety of classes. I know many professors in each of my majors, and they all know me by name. Students are VERY competitive. The grading is tougher than at almost any other institution in the country. Cornell will prepare you well for the job market.

Claire

It definitely depends on your major. Engineering, science and math classes are notoriously challenging. However, other majors tend to be easier. It is not an easy place, and you are guaranteed to always have a lot of work, but it is rewarding because you are exposed to so much rich knowledge and wonderful professors.

Eve

Academics at Cornell are very tough. The people here are brilliant, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed at times. I'm a physics major at Cornell, with an astronomy concentration, and the science/math programs here are intensely intellectual, challenging, and rewarding. I know people involved in many and diverse academic programs (inside and outside of the sciences) here at Cornell, and they all work very hard. Cornell puts academics and intellectual advancement above many things; you're here to learn, and you rarely forget that. Many lectures are large, and in those, you don't have a close personal relationship with the professor unless you purposely seek one out. The good thing is that for large lectures, there's generally a smaller discussion section that meets at least once a week, and you're able to build a close relationship with your (generally graduate student) TA. There are also small classes at Cornell, and in those you get to know your professors and teachers better. It's tough to avoid large lectures at Cornell, but many people like them (I do). Cornell professors definitely leave the ball in your court as far as grades go. You need to pay attention, study hard, and really do your part to succeed in classes here. Grading can be tough. The good news is that Cornell has a lot of tutoring and time management support services that can be used to help you with your studies. Academic requirements are not very limiting, and for the most part I've been able to study what I've wanted to study (the only thing I had to take that I didn't want to take has been a foreign language). I work in the Space Sciences Building on campus, in the Astronomy Dept., and know a lot about both that Dept. and the Physics Dept. These are tough, research-oriented, and groundbreaking departments, filled with absolutely brilliant professors who love what they do and are eager to teach what they have learned. You just need to speak up; all I had to do to get my current research position was talk to a few professors in person. The professors are generally very nice here, but it's on you to reach out to them. Being a physics major at Cornell is incredibly hard, but it's doable! I took the Honors Sequence and don't regret it. I've learned so much, and that makes all the effort worth it. Oh, one last thing: the tests here are called Prelims. We dread them. But they happen, and you'll be surprised; even if a course feels impossible, if you work hard, you might do better than you ever thought you could.

Jordan

It definitely takes a lot of effort to perform well here at Cornell. However, I think it is unjust to call Cornell "the hardest Ivy to graduate from" because I know for a fact that schools like Princeton has more severe grade deflation than Cornell. Yes, if you are taking 17+ units per semester, you will be spending 5+ hours per day outside of class to maintain a high GPA (3.7+), but hearing from my friends from other schools, students from other campuses work just as hard as Cornell students if not harder to do well in school. I am double majoring in Economics and Government, and I spend good 30 hours a week reading and working on problem sets. There are days when I would have to work more, but those days only come when a big assignment such as an essay is due within three days or so. Introductory classes are fairly big, but once again, other schools also have introductory classes that have 100+ enrolled students as well. My freshman year, it was rather difficult to get to know my professors, but as I began to take more advanced courses, I got the chance to sit down and talk with them more often. Unless you dread talking to professors, there is no way you can't get to know the professors when you put in some effort. Some students are very competitive while some are more relaxed and laid back. But I know that most students are willing to help each other. In fact, when I work on problem sets or study for big exams, I usually work in a group. Class participation is common and encouraged. In fact, for many classes (and in all of the classes from Government department I have taken so far), participation is required and constitutes a fairly big part of your grade. Yet, if you are a shy student, as long as you inform your TA and professor, you won't be penalized for not speaking as much as students like me who love debates and discussions. I'm a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, so I take pride in taking many classes for enjoyment and learning. Yes, there are academic requirements (which vary from school to school), but I do enjoy variety of classes offered at Cornell and receiving a liberal college education. But, if you are looking to get an education that is geared toward getting a job, don't worry. Other undergraduate schools such as Hotel Administration and Human Ecology well prepare their students for prospective careers.

Jessica

I'm a science major, so most of the classes I took as a freshman had more than 100 students enrolled. As a pre-med, the environment is definitely competitive. Most professors are willing to help though, and they appreciate if you visit them during office hours. Think of office hours as a win-win situation--you understand the material a whole lot better and the professor does not waste time just sitting at his desk in his office. To de-stress, pre-meds can take a wide array of electives such as Magical Mushrooms & Mischevious Molds and Introduction to Wines.

Jessica

I'm a science major, so most of the classes I took as a freshman had more than 100 students enrolled. As a pre-med, the environment is definitely competitive. Most professors are willing to help though, and they appreciate if you visit them during office hours. Think of office hours as a win-win situation--you understand the material a whole lot better and the professor does not waste time just sitting at his desk in his office. To de-stress, pre-meds can take a wide array of electives such as Magical Mushrooms & Mischevious Molds and Introduction to Wines.

L

This all depends on what you want to study. Most intro classes are very big lecture classes, but more specialized classes can be much smaller. Competition is heavy amongst bio majors. Engineering majors have to spend a lot of time studying.

L

This all depends on what you want to study. Most intro classes are very big lecture classes, but more specialized classes can be much smaller. Competition is heavy amongst bio majors. Engineering majors have to spend a lot of time studying.

Jessica

It is very competitive here! Since most classes are generally 300 students or more, the only way to get the professor to know your name is to attend their office hours and speak a lot in class. Students study like crazy, there are some who LITERALLY spend all day in the library or pull all-nighters to get assignments done.The students here definitely take their academics seriously, especially since they lead to job/internship opportunities.

Jill

The academics are really diverse here. The largest class (Psych 101) has over 1000 students, and then there are classes with only 5 people. In smaller classes (which have less than 50 students) professors often make the effort to get to know students names. In these classes, as well as larger ones with several hundred students, there is student participation. Sometimes professors will actually call on students, and sometimes they use things called i-clickers, which allows the professors to poll the class and students can click in the letter choice of their answer. Students have intellectual conversations outside the classroom all the time, especially in one of the coffee shops around campus. In terms of being competitive, some students are and some are not. It depends on their personality. Some people are here to learn and others are just here to get good grades and move on- it really depends on the individual student. The most unique class i took was called "Making a Difference By Design" and it was all about how we can see the world in different ways and what ways we can use different aspects of design to positively impact the world around us. We had a lot of crafty projects for the class and the grading system was really unique as well (one of my grades was a CD recording of the professor's thoughts about my project) I study human development, and it's actually a really broad department. There are several concentrations within the department (mine is social and personality development) and each of the professor I've interacted with has always been willing to answer my questions and explain things I don't understand. Overall I find the department to be really friendly and helpful. Personally, I don't spend too much time with professors outside class, other than the Professor from whom I'm a Teaching Assistant (TA). I'm the kind of person who likes to get my work done independently and only seek help from Professor if I need it. However, other students spend more time with Professors, and they always hold office hours to meet with and help students. In addition, the Professor I TA for is great to work with- I spend a lot of time with her and she's taught me a lot. I don't think the academic requirements are too stringent. The graduation requirements tend to leave enough room for students to take several electives of interest. The education is both geared toward the sake of learning and toward getting a job. It really depends on the student's major and also on what the student is looking for- Cornell provides both.

Alex

Academics and classes at Cornell are really what you make them. There can be classes where the only time you see the professor is when you are sitting in lecture, but then again I have professors who have invited the class of less than 15 over to his house to eat lunch and talk. Going to office hours is one of the best recommendations I can give, because you get to talk one on one with the professors and the TA's. Students are eager to learn, but there is no cutthroat competition that I have found. The requirements vary by the college you are in, but in my college (Engineering), I have had no problem completing the requirements. I am looking to major in Operations and Engineering, which combines aspects of system analysis into optimization and engineering. The professors I have worked with are all more than happy to help students with questions, facilitate undergraduate research, and instruct students looking for internships and jobs.

Lois

The academics are very hard. I mean don't get me wrong it is possible to do well in most classes, but it's nothing to sneeze at. We are an Ivy League School for a reason. WIth that being said there are plenty of resources to make sure that we all have the opportunity to do well. There are office hours, study groups, Learning Strategies Center, and TA's. Sometimes you can even find students just getting together to review or study for a certain class in the dorm's common areas. Whatever you need help in there are places available. Just remember school comes before play and you will be alright in the end.

Maya

Academics here are no joke! If you plan to go to Cornell you have to bring your A game. Pretty much all students here take their academics seriously and if they don't, then they will not be here for long. The courses are too rigorous for a slacker to survive. Going to class and being prepared is vital to your success here. Students are ALWAYS studying, its pretty much our lives. :-) Trust and believe that you will be challenged. Competition is serious here too, but I would advise not to let it onsume you. Even though academics are tough here, it is extremely rewarding. I am a Near Eastern Studies Major, but my favorite class I have taken is "Mongrel America: The Myth of Racial Purity" Trust me when I say that any class at Cornell will sharped your crtical thinking skills. I think Cornell is unique because first year class sizes can be any where from 6 people to 400. In the smaller classes the professor will know your name, but in the larger classes, the only way the professor will know your name is if you make your name known. The Cornell professors can be some of the coolest people you will ever meet in your life and they can be some of the best advisors and resources as well, so I suggest you abandon your shyness and get to know as many as you can! The education here is what you make of it. If you want your education to gear you towards a job then you can do that. However, if you want to just be a scholar you can do that as well. In regards to academics and where it will lead you, the choice is yours.

Amanda

In general, very rigorous. That said, it's possible to coast by in areas that you may not enjoy as much. They do a good job with offering classes to non-majors who need to fulfill distribution requirements. My Chinese major was very difficult; my film major took a lot of time but did not hold people to specific standards and was more effort-based reward.

David

Being part of the Ivy League, Cornell is know for the high quality of it's academics. That being said, students definitely work hard to succeed. Most find it very rewarding and truly enjoy what they learn. Professor Maas who teaches Introduction to Psychology has one of the most liked classes on campus, despite the fact that it is the largest class in the country with over 1,100 students enrolled in a semester. On the other side of things, every student is required to take discussion style freshman writing seminars capped at around 15 students. Classes can range anywhere in between and go way beyond the traditional classroom. You can learn the intricacies of culinary arts in the School of Hotel Administration or even get out in the Ithaca community to learn about education. Professors love interacting with their students. After a week of lecture in some of my favorite classes, going to office hours with the professor can open worlds of knowledge and debate with experts in their field as well as research pioneers. Also really enjoy my major. The staff in my department of Human Development are incredibly knowledgeable and represent a field that is unique to only a few universities in the United States. Human Development, as an example, also allows students to take many electives and go into almost any field after graduation. The education across Cornell, I would say, is geared more to getting a job. Many students are preprofessional; meaning they want to go on to be doctors, businessmen and women and lawyers so many students look to steer their education in that direction. Students are competitive in the sense that they are always looking to do their best, but it is in no way cut-throat. Many students study together and work together on projects, homework assignments and make study guides together. In conclusion, academics are very important at Cornell, but it leads to a well-rounded student who knows how to conduct themselves in a presentation, knows how to debate a topic and who can create extraordinarily creative and innovative products.

Nicole

Academics are very strong and research is a visible part of academics as well. Students are interested in doing well and learning while professors are caring, kn owledgeable, and are closely tied to their fields of study. It always seems funny to me that even on Friday and Saturday nights, no matter what people are doing, intellectual conversations occur. The nature in class is pretty competitive (especially in the biology and chemistry pre-med classes), but I believe the competitive nature can help motivate individuals in a positive way.

Yoonsoo

Once you get past the general studies courses that tend to be popular like Psych 101 or Econ 101, the major studies courses will generally be more intimate in size and interaction. Depending on the class, professors will either take volunteers or do cold-calling in order to engage the students. Generally, there is no need for the professors to resort to the student roster to have questions answered since students will willingly participate in the conversations. You can expect to experience heated discussions by students passionate about the subject and gain better insight from other perspectives. Personally, I was more of a introvert but did not feel pressure to raise my hand everytime. You can cater the classroom experience to your preferences and still reap the benefits of the class.

Yoonsoo

Once you get past the general studies courses that tend to be popular like Psych 101 or Econ 101, the major studies courses will generally be more intimate in size and interaction. Depending on the class, professors will either take volunteers or do cold-calling in order to engage the students. Generally, there is no need for the professors to resort to the student roster to have questions answered since students will willingly participate in the conversations. You can expect to experience heated discussions by students passionate about the subject and gain better insight from other perspectives. Personally, I was more of a introvert but did not feel pressure to raise my hand everytime. You can cater the classroom experience to your preferences and still reap the benefits of the class.

Shannon

You must study if you want to go to Cornell. Academics are strong here. Avoid first year teachers. The good teachers are AMAZING, however there are a few bad ones. I have very close relationships with my professors. After one year at cornell I had over 10 professors I was close enough with to ask to write me letters of recommendation, and seven who I would go out to lunch with socially. It is all about reaching out. The schools academic requirements can feel like a lot, especially in ILR, but they make you take classes you need to be successful later.

Sam

As is the case with many things in life, Cornell's academics are largely what you make of them. If one chooses to form close relationships with his or her Professors, there is no reason why this can't happen. The classes, however, have a huge range in terms or class size. Many of the classes, especially the intro level classes, are taught in large lecture halls and are taken by hundreds of students. During your later years at Cornell ,it is far more common to take classes in which only 10-25 students are enrolled. For these large lectures, there is a frequently a 'section' once a week, in which groups of approximately 15 students meet to review that week's lectures. Sometimes these sections are required, while sometimes they are optional. Needless to say, these sections are a much more intimate academic environment. There are SEVEN distinct undergraduate colleges within Cornell University, which means that students have the option to pursue very different paths at Cornell. These schools range from mainstream schools such as the school of Arts and Sciences and the Engineering School, to more unique programs such as Cornell's School of Hotel Administration.

K

But really, that comes with the territory of going to a school this good at academics. I never really noticed before I was a Cornellian, but Cornell University and its researching faculty pop up in the news ALL THE TIME. I find my professors cited in online news articles, in international textbooks, and I just think, oh my goodness, this is the coolest thing ever. Here's the trend of class sizes. Your intro classes are going to be big, sometimes a couple hundred people, sometimes around 50. As the classes get more difficult and more specialized, class size drops dramatically. I'm a freshman, and I have 4 classes -- one with 10 students, one with 15, one with 40, and one with over 1000 (this is the Intro to Psych class, which nearly every Cornellian takes because Professor Maas and his lectures are just that entertaining). Another thing -- this is Cornell. The classes aren't fluff. Yeah, you have to study a lot, but isn't that why we're here? Put in a chunk of hours every day. It's manageable to keep up with everything and still have time to chill, party, eat, sleep, whatever. Time management is definitely important. One thing that really surprised me is how available the professors are. They're not here to research and write off their undergraduate students -- they actually want to talk with you, answer your questions, chat with you at office hours, go out to coffee. They're an amazing resource. That was a very pleasant surprise. The students here are smart but chill, if that makes sense. People are smart and they're good at being students. You have your kids who are focused, pre-this or pre-that, and you have your undecided people, taking a bit more time to figure things out. In Arts & Sciences, there's a chunk of requirements everyone has to fulfill, but you can sort of manipulate it into still working with your area of study. It's not an inconvenience to fulfill and it's not going to bug you too badly.

Chyanne

I came to Cornell not being absolutely positive what I was going to do with my intended major in Industrial and Labor Relations. I won't pretend that I've got my life oath completely figured out now as a junior, but I have benfited immensely, emphasis, immensely, from the wonderful student services in Cornell's School of Industrial Labor Relations. From what I have gathered from my friends at other colleges, the big advantage to a small school is real attention from advisors, counselors, professors etc. In ILR I get that, and my advisors have the resources and backing of a powerhouse like Cornell. I constantly get emails from the Career Services Department or the Office of Student Services about new opportunities and events that I may find interesting. Never think that you can't get real attention at a large university. Cornell's seven college structure effectively creates small communities. I know, I know, every college says it, but Cornell really is a large college, with a small college feel- when you are in one of the smaller of the 7 undergraduate colleges.

Bryce

The professors are great; I enjoy most lectures. Class participation is usually a small fraction of a grade with the emphasis being on prelims and the final. Most classes are on a curve, but its still tough considering who you're curved against. I was surprised to find very few people are cut-throat. Most students study pretty intensively on most evenings, but take the weekend nights off to relax and party.

Bryce

The professors are great; I enjoy most lectures. Class participation is usually a small fraction of a grade with the emphasis being on prelims and the final. Most classes are on a curve, but I was surprised to find very few people are cut-throat. Most students study pretty intensively on most evenings, but take the weekend nights off to relax and party.

Zac

The classes often large lectures to begin with, but those are the intro classes. Most other classes are small. And if you do have a large class, you will have a TA, who will likely be more helpful than the professor. All the professors have office hours when you can meet with them. The classes often have a lot of work, and people study a lot. However, it all depends on what classes you take. You could go anywhere from 12 credits and almost no work to a 25 credit triple major (I have only met one). Almost all the professors I have had have been friendly, understanding, and approachable. Academic requirement really depend on the major and college, and range from a very laid out schedule in engineering, to having complete control of your schedule in CALS or Arts and Sciences.

Alex

Students study and/or write papers all the time. There are plenty of opportunities for students to meet with TAs and/or professors. Intro classes are very large and are often the most difficult to do well in. Plus, the curve system used for some classes can be very nerve wracking if you grades are below the mean. For those who are better at writing than taking tests (like me) there are many opportunities to take a writing intensive version of the same class. Academic requirements vary depending on which college you're in, but the Arts and Sciences school (the one that I'm in) is said to have the most demanding requirements.

Dylan

Great academics. Very hard curriculum... Prelims are killers. Some professors know you by name, others might learn your name my the end of the semesester... if you introduce yourself.

Alex

You're able to pick what you want here. There's so many classes to pick that you can choose to take the big or small classes or even to teach yourself. Cornell was recently voted as the 'Hottest Ivy' and it's because of the large resources we have here.

Emma

Freshman year there are a lot of big classes, but by senior year I had 5-20 people classes. There is a lot of work, it doesn't matter what your major is. People study every day of the week. For notoriously difficult classes, like Intro Bio and Orgo, people will begin studying over a week ahead. People who aren't willing to work hard will not do well at Cornell. Coming in and knowing that helps prepare you. Engineering is particularly tough the first 2 or 3 years, but senior year gets significantly easier. People often talk to friends about their classes. Some students are competitive, but within the math, science and engineering majors, people collaborate on homework, so the only competition is between groups of students. Cornell education is definitely geared towards getting a job, which pays off senior year when friends at other schools were struggling, and I felt I had the background and training to get the jobs I wanted. Wines and Psych 101 are classes that up to 1/3 of students take at some point, and you definitely should if you get the chance. They were my two favorite classes at Cornell!

Alex

Academics at Cornell, from my personal experience has been rough. I didn't come from the best high school, but it wasn't that bad either. After starting classes, I realized that some teachers just aren’t that good, and the majority of learning in some classes must take place in supplement classes or in study groups. Study groups are also essential at Cornell. Study groups have served me well in understanding my own studies. I believe that a student doesn't truly know a subject unless he/she could explain it to someone else, along with the fact that students also learn new things in study groups. People have a saying for Cornell in terms of academics: "Cornell is the easiest Ivy to get in, but the hardest to stay in." I would have to agree completely. It is really difficult some times to keep up with your studies and have any type of life at all, but it is still possible. Moving to the topics of teachers: Some lectures are far more boring than anything you could imagine in high school, and others are really good because that professor really likes their branch of study. In certain classes, like Calculus I and II, graduate students are teaching so sometimes you could get one who just doesn't care, or can't really teach that well, or is focusing to much on their own studies. In this case your grade suffers or you must work harder to make up for it, believe me I know from first hand experience.

Kat

I can only write about the engineering academics, and only the freshman ones at that. By and large they are quite good; while some teachers were not the best I've ever seen, only one was truly bad, though the lab TAs more than made up for him. On the other hand, the physics staff was some of the best I've ever met. However, like most things, you can only get out of the academics what you put in. I currently work in the same lab group as one of my TAs, while I cannot remember the name of some of my professors. Despite the curved grading system, it's surprisingly non-competative. The large classes probably contribute to this.

Amanda

STRESSFUL. Do not come here if you aren't ready to work your ass off all year. Don't make the mistake of thinking it "won't be worse than high school." There are alot of big lectures in huge lecture halls, but most sciences and alot of other classes have small scetions where TA's answer questions and go over problems. Pre-meds are notorious for being rediculously competitive.

Bobby

Academics are great at Cornell! Most professors are at the forefront of their respective fields and they tend to genuinely care about teaching. Like most schools, the level of difficulty and the level of competitiveness really depends the class and department. The professors are really approachable outside of class.

Jamie

I am in no position to explain much at all about how many majors, courses and schools there are to choose from. However, keep in mind, the school you choose may very likely hold you to a specific track, with prerequisits and so on. So be sure to look into these. Some classes are hard, some impossible (or so I hear), and some quite easy. You have to explore and ask around.

Kim

It's impossible to classify Cornell's academics as a whole because the school is so varied. The Architecture school is nothing like ILR. I am in Arts and Sciences, so I can speak about that college. Overall, the classes are really hard, but that's what you should expect when you go to an ivy league school. If you want massive grade inflation and a 4.0, go to Harvard. At Cornell, there really isn't grade inflation, and you cannot expect to have a perfect GPA. The professors are amazing. I have been taught by many of the world's experts in their field. Peter Katzenstein is a must if you are interested at all in government, and John Weiss and Peter Logevall are amazing history professors. Take a crazy freshman writing seminar!! I took "Magic and Witchcraft" randomly and it turned out to be one of my favorite classes at Cornell. Professors and TA's are extremely helpful at office hours. I have really gotten to know some of them, and it's great to go and just chat. Small seminar classes are great because they really are essentially a conversation among students with just a little imput from the professor, but don't be scared off by big lectures- they have been some of my favorite classes and sections are really helpful and engaging.

KJ

1. The STUDENTS- Competetive? A little bit (some schools more than others); but if you got accepted to Cornell I think that gives you an indication that you can handle it. I personally enjoy a little competition so I don't complain about it. Class Participation? Depends on the school, but kids are NOT afraid to speak their minds Relationships? It takes time, but you will find so many different people to meet here...that's the advatange of going to a big school! 2. The PROFESSORS- Accesible? DEFINITELY. These professors are here to help you! As long as you're not shy, you can always find the answers to your questions. They won't know your name unless you make the effort! Intelligent? UM-YES! These guys know what they're talking about, and they teach in a way that you can understand. I don't enjoy all the subjects I've taken, but I've certainly learned how to approach the classes I've taken 3. The opportunities AFTER CORNELL- High paying jobs? Definitely, if you want them! Cornell has a great career services department and I know tons of people who are now working at Microsoft, Johnson and Johnson, etc. their first year out of college!

Emily

My proffessors were amazing. Some of my friends complained that they never even spoke to the professors in their huge lectures, but my classes were small and the professors all knew my name. It's definitely important to take classes outside of your major. It makes class schedules more interesting and lets you take a class with your friends that aren't in your college! Word to the wise - choose your freshman writing seminar carefully. One of friends too one called "How to be a Caveman," and would spend her classes searching for edible flowers and learning how to through a spear. Other friends in "Culture Studies," watched Arrested Development and rap videos for homework. I, on the other hand, read books, wrote papers, and gave dull presentations. Talk to older students and get their recommendations on which ones to take!

Doug

The academics are great. That was the real pull for me. The professors are great, but unless you do research you don't really talk to them unless you really make the effort or do undergraduate research (which a lot of kids do for either pay or credit). The format of larger classes (usually freshman year) is that a professor lectures at a group of oever 300 kids and then the class breaks down into smaller "sections" of 15 where you talk through the material and homework material with a grad student. There are a lot of options at cornell. As an engineer I participated in the Co-op program where you take classes summer after sophmore year, work fall semester of junior year and again in the following summer. This allows you to get more work exposure and the companies tend to treat you more like a real employee since you're going to be there longer. It's great to get work experience and it really sets you apart. Classes are pretty hard too. There have been at least a couple of times when I wasn't really pulling my weight and had to step it up towards the end of the semester. So far as going to class goes, the percentage of kids who show up is usually proportional to the difficulty of the class. I found that a lot of intro level humanities classes weren't really worth going to. As an engineer you have 6 liberal arts classes that you must take and if you pick the right 6 you can usually coast through them.

Emily

Most of the introductory classes are based on a curve, and often the median grades are not A's. They're usually B's or B minus. These classes are difficult, and don't get discouraged if your GPA is not where you want it to be. You will have the chance to raise it in the upper-level courses. If you're a biology major, read on... If you have placed out of introductory biology, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you take at least one semester of Biology 105-106. I got a 5 on my AP for biology, but I took both semesters of this class and studied biology at such an intense level. This course is an autotutorial course, and many agree it is more difficult and more instensive than the traditional Biology 101-102, but the great benefit is that you WILL master the material in this course. Why? Because you take 10 unit exams and can't pass the course without passing each one. Each exam consists of a written portion and an oral exam with a TA. I know it probably sounds intimidating, but it's worth every minute you spend slaving away at this course.

Erin

Classes at Cornell range from very easy to very hard... but heavier on the very hard. There are a few classes that people will tell you to take for an easy A, but they're kinda rare. Most science classes (chem, biology, physics, etc) are really, really, really hard, as are most math classes. But if you would rather do problem sets and labs than write papers, you'd probably find them easier than most social science classes. As an anthropology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, I take mostly liberal arts classes because that's what I enjoy. So I end up writing A LOT of papers (at least 1 a week,some weeks more). I also do a shit load of reading- page after page after page of readings. I waste so much printing paper and ink printing out articles assigned from the internet because I can't read PDF files online. One of the first things you'll learn about at Cornell is prelims. Prelims are basically like big tests (like midterms) but because they happen between 2 and 4 times throughout a semester, they're called prelims. Some professors make them easier, some make them hard as hell. In science classes the average could be as low as a 60 or 65 percent, but then they professors will curve them. In the classes I've taken with prelims, however, the average was around 85 so the professor didn't curve them. Oh, and by the way, most of you that get into Cornell will be used to getting all As in school- at Cornell, that most likely won't happen. You're going to get a B... get over it. The professors at Cornell are kinda all over the board. I've had really, really awesome professors and really, really bad professors. Most though are very nice and will work with you if you wish. The bigger classes (over 50 or 60 people) will have TAs (teaching assistants) and they will work with the class in smaller groups called sections in order to understand the material better. These students are either upper-classmen who have shown a great aptitude for the subject or graduate students who are working on their masters, doctorates, whatever in that subject area. I have had really good experiences with my TAs and have gotten to know them very well and were able to ask questions and get answers. However, I do know people who think their TAs are idiots and don't get any help from them at all.

Molly

I am in the architecture department, so the academic life might be somewhat atypical. All of my professors know my name and we often have dinners together, travel internationally together, or just shoot the shit together. The department is small, about 60 undergrads per graduating class, so all of the students are very close. There is quite a bit of healthy competition, leading to quite a bit of amazing production. At the end of each semester, when everyone's work is done and on display, I have a strange epiphony that studying at Cornell is a truly amazing experience. Since architecture students work constantly (yes, we pull all-nighters frequently), we have bonded in our studios, but have also somewhat cut ourselves off from the rest of the university.

Jesse

The professors and TA's help you out a lot if you go talk to them. The most unique class I have taken is Thai boxing, which is taught by Kevin Seamen, a coach for a UFC fighter. I did not expect such a good teacher; Cornell definitely went looking for the best.

Steve

Cornell can be a "personal" place, but be warned: in most introductory classes, especially those for pre-meds, classes will be huge and impersonal. Once you start taking 200 level classes, however, it becomes difficult to avoid close relationships with at least a few professors. I suggest using AP credit to skip the intro classes, because the intro classes are impersonal and, for the most part, useless. There are thousands of students at cornell. I am disappointed that a large proportion view their time here as a stepping stone to a job rather than a learning experience. There are enough people here, however, that it is not difficult to find students who are genuinely interested in learning and education as an end in itself.

Owen

Most of the classes here are pretty big, and most professors in general intro lectures will not know your name. Labs and writing seminars are small (max of 15) so professors/ TA's will know you personally. The classes are challenging, and a lot of work is involved, but professors always have office hours if students are struggling. I don't think Cornell is a cut-throat competitive environment, generally everyone helps each other succeed. My major , nutritrion, has very good core classes- very interesting, and great professors who want you to succeed.

Shawn

This survey takes way too long. Please see my previous response, where I address many of these concerns. Let it be known that there is so much diversity across academic departments that nothing I say about the Atmospheric Science program will be applicable to other majors, which may operate entirely differently. Briefly: Cornell students are smart, intellectual, and we have stimulating conversations. Most of my professors know me, if I make an effort to get to know them. I love my climate courses. I despise physics. Differential equations was tolerable- the professor was great. Students' study habits wax and wane dependent on their exam schedules. I know I lived in the library before finals, and all the libraries (there are more than a dozen, I believe) were pretty full. But I hadn't spent much time there before then, except around Prelims Class participation varies with the class. Small classes, yes, large lectures, not as much, typically, though some professors strive for it. We are wicked competitive, though we'd rarely admit it. Most of us like to blame the Pre-Meds and the engineers for making the atmosphere so competitive, but the fact is that by pushing ourselves to succeed, we all help perpetuate the stress. Most unique class... I took Introduction to Figure Skating and loved it. International Folk Dance was great too. I realize these are PE classes, but hey, they were fun. I'm atm science, as I said. Great major, though very difficult. Dept, staff, faculty, and students are very supportive and cooperative. Its easy to get involved in research. I feel like I have a personal connection with my advisor, who is a professor in my dept. The students work together, study together, and help underclassmen. I love my major. I've spent time with professors outside of class, yes. We have so-called "Happy Hours" that 2 of our favorite professors have attended, and every year there is an Alumni Weekend that includes a bbq, reception, and party that most professors, students, and many alumni attend. Cornell's academic requirements... depends on your major. Physics and math drive me insane, but my sociology and economics electives can be fun and easy. Education here is geared towards both learning and employment, since just as many people go for their graduate degrees as head straight into the work force. Again, this varies across major.

Michele

Students are really bright here, and most are quite competitive. In chemical engineering, I didn't really know the professors til Junior year, because the first two years are mostly core engineering courses. Now I know a bunch of the professors much better and have spent time with them outside of class at other events too. I don't feel like I will use much of what I've learned in my major in my actual job, but rather, the process of learning how best to learn and quickly solve problems.

Kai

Students here are very competitive, and are very intelligent. However, there are distinct flaws. For whatever reason, the learning here is very grade oriented, and as such is rarely challenged, and often lacks the rigor of being tested. Class participation is common only because it is forced etc.

Emily

The academics at cornell are hard. The classes and exams are very challenging and they force you to have good time management skills and dedication to your education. However, there is always lots of help available for those who need it and ask for it.

Jen

My professors do know me by name in the Hotel school because it is a much smaller school. I really enjoyed the Marketing classes and was not a fan of the finance classes because I do not like numbers. Class participation is very common and students are social with professors. Cornell Hotel School is great at finding you jobs. They have great resources and a fantastic alumni network.

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