Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

Courtesy of Cornell College

Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

November 25, 2018

A Tale of Two Cornells: How an Applicant to Cornell University Ended Up at Cornell College

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When Martin Rosenfeld was still a high school senior, his college application list included an Ivy League school in Ithaca. A few months later, he got into Cornell and decided to go there. But when he left for school in August of his freshman year, he headed for Iowa, not New York.

Rosenfeld intended to apply to Cornell University, as he did to schools like Vanderbilt and Brown. However, during the highly stressful process, he accidentally applied to Cornell College, which is in Mount Vernon, Iowa. He ended up going there and he has no regrets about it.

Coming from a military background, Rosenfeld went through the college application process at Vicenza American High School, an American military high school in Italy. Many of his classmates went to Brown and Penn, and with similar good grades, Rosenfeld was a worthy candidate for any school in the country — including Cornell University.

Rosenfeld had aimed for Cornell’s scenic location and academic prestige, but in the midst of the stress and technicalities, he made a life-altering mistake: he sent his SAT scores to Cornell College instead of Cornell University.

Realizing the mess-up, Rosenfeld decided to cut short his application to Cornell University and continue the accidental pursuit of the school he knew “absolutely nothing” about at the time.

Cornell College is a small, liberal arts school in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The school has an enrollment of about 1,000 undergrads. Although not as well-known as Cornell University, they proclaim themselves the original Cornell since they were founded 12 years before the University.

The Cornells are similar in some unappealing ways. Both are placed on steep hills and both have cold winters, although the College claims that they have more sunny days on average.

What greatly intrigued Rosenfeld about Cornell College, however, was its curriculum design — “the block plan.” At Cornell College, students take one course at a time and intensively study it for 18 class days – about three and a half weeks – and repeat it four times per semester.

“You’re only taking one class. You’re focusing on that. You don’t have to worry about a whole bunch of other (assignments or) exams that you’re taking (like in a typical semester system),” Rosenfeld said.

This “unique and innovative” approach to learning, as well as a significant financial aid package, convinced Rosenfeld to take a chance on the College. Foregoing his acceptance to Vanderbilt, Rosenfeld instead headed to Mount Vernon, a decision that has caused confusion amongst those around him.

Martin says that he faced multiple “outbursts” from his peers in high school about why he decided to go to “some small, liberal arts college that practically nobody has ever heard of.” His family, despite being supportive, also had a hard time wrapping their heads around this move.

But according to Rosenfeld, attending Cornell College was the best decision he ever made. Now a junior in college, Martin has loved his time in Iowa. He specifically cites the small size of the school, the closeness of the community, and the block plan as the key reasons why.

“I don’t regret it at all. My time at Cornell has been fantastic. I can’t imagine being as successful as I am here anywhere else.”

He is also thriving in school, boasting a high GPA in his study of biochemistry and molecular biology with minors in Psychology and Applied Statistics. Rosenfeld also said that he “rarely gets less than an A, and if I do it’s an A minus.”

His academic success in Mount Vernon has set Rosenfeld up well for the future. Currently, his end goal is to become a neurosurgeon and do research in the field.

After graduating and finishing his pre-med track, Rosenfeld intends to pursue research experience — and possibly a Master’s degree — in neuroscience. He then hopes that this will set him up to be accepted into an MD-PhD program in neuro-molecular neuroscience at a “higher end” school, such as the Ivy League or equivalent schools.

Who knows? Maybe he’ll end up attending both Cornells.