This is my last column for The Cornell Daily Sun and at first I wasn’t too sure what to write. As a graduating senior, I could do something really sappy and look back at my favorite Cornell memories. I could list out my biggest regrets about my four years here. I could also just treat this like any other column. Ultimately, I decided to do a bit of each of the three. Here’s some advice to the Cornell class of 2021.
Your First Week
Unless you’re one of the 200 Cornellians in the class of 2021 from Syosset High School, you probably won’t know very many people here. Being from Texas, I came into Cornell with zero friends and honestly had a tough time making any. I had lived in the same Houston suburb since I was eight, so I couldn’t really remember the last time I had been in a room of complete strangers my own age. It’s a terribly lonely feeling, but you should understand that most people feel the exact same way. Embrace this feeling and be open to meeting as many people as you can.
Go out with your floor to a fraternity house or Collegetown party every night of O-week, even if you don’t drink. There’s nothing to gain by sitting in your dorm and thinking about how far from home you are. The friends you make your first week probably won’t be the ones you stay in touch with years after graduation, but they still play an integral role in your transition from high school to college.
Also, don’t take your first week of classes all that seriously. Definitely show up to all of them, but if you’re sitting in Uris library at any point during your first week, you’re just playing yourself. You’ll have plenty of late nights at Uris throughout your Cornell career — trust me.
If you’re coming to Cornell, it’s probably because you were able to convey to the admissions board a balance between your booksmarts and genuine interests outside of school. Or you’re just a legacy. Regardless, don’t let your other interests die because of school! If you love acting, audition for a play. If you like hip-hop dance, join a dance troupe. If you like business consulting, you’re probably really annoying and career focused.
These types of clubs are a great way to make friends and take your mind off of school, but they’re also a great way to support your friends. When I came to Cornell, I never could have imagined how talented most of the people here are. Yes, your quiet pre-med friend is also a hilarious stand up comedian. Your nasal-voiced roommate actually is an amazing a capella singer. Everyone at Cornell has an unexpected hidden talent and you won’t know it until you see it yourself.
In case you didn’t already realize it, everyone at Cornell is super weird. This definitely isn’t a bad thing, but no one will admit that they’re weird. In what I assume is an attempt to compensate for our own insecurities, everyone at Cornell joins fraternities and sororities to prove to other Cornellians that they’re less weird than everyone else. So we all end up joining these houses according to how cool we heard they were from some anonymous online list. This hierarchy has actually become so hardwired here that we often forget that everyone at Cornell is a gigantic nerd.
All joking aside, if you want to join a fraternity or sorority, that’s great. By all means go for it. You’ll find lifelong friends and you can tell your grandkids about that time you did an elephant walk in a sticky, dimly lit basement. But don’t take it all that seriously. Greek life provides a cool opportunity to take part in decades of tradition and all that, but it should never determine who you do and do not interact with. Also, full disclosure, every fraternity on campus is pretty lame — except Delta Chi. Those guys are all really cool and down to earth.
Relax, Reconsider, Relish
You’re bound to fail at Cornell. It’s going to hurt because you’re probably not used to it, but don’t freak out. Learn from your mistakes and change your study habits. Approach T.A.’s to help you prepare for the next test. Do the problem sets ahead of time in case you have questions. While it’ll probably feel foreign to ask for help at anything, you’ve got to understand that there is no shame in it.
There’s also no shame in switching majors or career paths. Just because your parents want you to become an engineer or a doctor doesn’t mean you need to do it. There are plenty of other opportunities out there that will yield similarly successful careers. Study something that genuinely interests you, apply for jobs you think sound meaningful, and impress interviewers with your genuine passion. Despite what people may tell you, there’s no one path to professional success.
Finally, don’t just take classes in your department. Seek out classes you never would have thought of taking. Being at Cornell means you have the opportunity to learn from some of the most accomplished thinkers in their respective fields. My suggestion is to take one class that just sounds cool pass/fail every semester. Worst case, you don’t like the course and you drop it. Best case, you find a new lifelong interest.
Write for The Sun
For whatever reason, the folks at The Sun have let me sully their #1 ranked college newspaper with sarcasm and poop jokes for the past two years. I’m still not sure how I got this gig, but if I got it, you can too. And if your experience ends up anything like mine has been, you’ll always remember and cherish it.
Akshay Jain is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the last edition of College Stuff.