Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

A few students take advantage of the sunny weather to sit outside on the Arts Quad on March 13, 2020. Incoming students will have to experience campus virtually.

May 6, 2020

Despite Uncertainty, Pre-Freshmen Summer Students Express Excitement Over Coming Semester

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The Prefreshman Summer Program, along with all Cornell summer programs, has been moved online, but participants are nonetheless harboring high hopes for their first foray into college life.

PSP is an invitation-based program for incoming freshmen who are students of color, first-generation students or students from low-income backgrounds. The program seeks to provide support to participants as they acclimate to the new academic and social environments at Cornell.

For Adigun Olusola ’24, who plans to study civil engineering, participating in PSP would have been his first visit to Cornell’s campus. He was looking forward to getting a “more exclusive view of campus life,” but expressed concerns about the new online format.

“When it comes to online stuff, I’m not the best at it in terms of keeping focused,” Olusola said. “I like to be engaged in a classroom.”

Incoming ILR student Sahara McElroy ’24 planned to “get a taste for the rigor of courses,” form good study habits and learn about campus resources through PSP, but is now worried about doing so virtually.

“It just won’t be the same as meeting people face to face,” McElroy said, adding that she has similar concerns about the possibility of her first semester of college being moved online.

Tejhan Diallo ’24, an incoming computer science major, noted his disappointment at the reduced social aspect of the virtual program, but remains optimistic about the PSP experience.

Alexandra Williams ’24 describes herself as being “relatively new” to her intended major of architecture and said PSP would allow her to “adjust to the workload” and reduce the stress she anticipates facing as a first-generation black student.

Olusola, who comes from a predominantly black neighborhood and grew up with a father who instilled in him a sense of love and respect for black culture, views PSP as an opportunity to ease into his transition to Cornell, a predominantly white institution.

Olafunke Fadebi ’24, who plans to study chemistry on a pre-med track, expressed similar concerns about integrating into life at Cornell and hopes to “form close bonds” with fellow PSP students to help her through this process.

“I am used to going to school with mostly minority students, so the possibility of being the only black person or minority in a lecture, discussion or lab is a real fear of mine,” Fadebi said.

Fadebi, an aspiring cardiac surgeon, also plans to utilize PSP’s course offerings to get “a head start” in difficult pre-med courses such as CHEM 2070: General Chemistry.

Students also shared anxieties about encountering imposter syndrome at college.

“Going to an Ivy means going to school with … kids who are just as — if not more — driven and intelligent as me,” said Fadebi, who also expressed concerns about adjusting her “overachiever mentality” to the new realities of college academics.

“I might feel like I don’t belong and that I have to prove myself to others,” Williams said.

Nevertheless, students are eagerly anticipating the start of their college careers, virtual or otherwise.

Diallo expressed excitement about starting a new chapter of his life in Ithaca, and hopes his time at Cornell will provide him with the resources and experience to explore his interests in technology entrepreneurship.

Olusola, who developed a passion for civil engineering after witnessing the destruction of infrastructure by natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, is looking forward to taking classes in his major and living in the program house Ujamaa.

Meanwhile, McElroy noted the “notoriously rigorous” reading and writing workloads in ILR, but is “up for the challenge.”

Williams praised the College of Architecture, Art and Planning’s close-knit ethos and conveyed her excitement for being in “an environment that allows us to push, motivate, inspire and collaborate with one another.”

“Everything about this feels like a dream,” Fadebi said.