Next week I start my junior year at Cornell. That’s two years gone and two years left. I’m halfway done with college. So how do I feel? I feel wiser but also more ignorant. For every thing I learn, I meet some incredible individual who seems to know a world more on the subject. I feel like time has passed too slowly and too fast. Some weeks seem to drag on for centuries (is it Friday yet?), but prelims always creep up on you and there’s never enough time to study for them all. I feel like everything is familiar yet I encounter surprises every day. I don’t consider myself to be an expert on how to succeed in college, but I’ve certainly picked up some useful tips and I’m sure I’ll continue to pick up more in my remaining two years.
Part 1: What I’ve learned so far (aka advice to the Cornell class of 2015)
- Three crucial things to own: 1) A large, sturdy, preferably vented umbrella. When it rains, it pours. It’s also often windy, and a sturdy, vented umbrella helps protect you from looking like an idiot when the wind inverts your umbrella. 2) Weatherproof footwear. Rain boots, duck boots, hiking boots, etc. Your pair of nice $250 leather boots will not survive the snow and the salt of an Ithacan weather. As unfashionable as they may be, weatherproof boots are a must. 3) An electric water boiler. I’m pretty sure these are actually not allowed in dorms, but who’s checking anyways. Essential for making instant ramen, Easy Mac, instant oatmeal, and heating water for tea and instant coffee.
- You don’t need to start out with a set major: A lot of people may rattle off impressive sounding majors, or even double or triple majors as freshmen, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with remaining undecided. I’ve had friends start out as pre-med biology majors only to end up switching to economics. I’ve also had friends who started out with one major and added a second major or a minor later on. Most colleges don’t require you to declare a major until the end of your second year, and even then it’s possible to switch.
- Use the academic resources you’re given: If you do have a major, you’ve most likely been assigned an advisor in that field. Consult with your advisor when choosing courses or looking at internships and research options. Chances are, they’ve dealt with situations like yours in the past and have some good advice. Also, go to office hours. For some courses, I’ve learned more from going to office hours than attending the lectures themselves. Never underestimate how helpful a good TA can be. This especially applies to large, lecture classes of hundreds of students where it’s impossible to receive individual attention during class.
- Pay attention to what you put in your body: Everyone has heard about the dreaded “Freshman 15.” Just because the all-you-can-eat dining halls offer cupcakes, they don’t have to become a food group. Many of the dining halls offer extensive salad bars and fresh fruit options. Also, if you’re fairly new to drinking, after a few nights of bingeing and vomiting in the bathroom of CTB (we’ve all been there), figure out your limits, and keep them in mind. There is a line between happy social drunk and sloppy vomiting drunk.
- Scope out study spots: Some people have to study in absolute silence, others prefer white noise. Cornell has libraries all across campus (some open all night) and various other designated study spaces. There are rooms for individual and group study as well as public computer labs and a printing system that allows you to pay by bursar. Uris library rents lockers to students who don’t wish to tote heavy textbooks all across campus. Some students prefer to study off campus in coffee shops or friends’ apartments as well. No matter where you go, it’s useful to have a few good go-to spots for intense cram sessions and last-minute papers, somewhere where you know you work well and will be productive.