September 5, 2022

MEHLER | Reflecting on Checkboxes

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With my senior year beginning and my graduate school applications already being submitted, I have found myself crossing out lists, highlighting spreadsheets and checking off checkboxes for all the things I wanted to do before the end of my Cornell undergraduate career. Taking all the right classes to get minors and honors, passing off leadership to younger club members and simply ensuring I do as much as I can in Ithaca before I leave has been satisfying and enjoyable in my own quest to have a fulfilling Cornell experience. As I reflect upon my own graduation checkboxes, I urge all students to take the time to reflect upon where they are in their Cornell experience as we all grow and evolve through it together. 

At the start of each semester, I have planned out which classes to take on multiple spreadsheets to ensure that I hit all of my ILR requirements, Global Scholars honors and different minors. Over three years of tracking classes, the minors I have tried to complete have changed with the courses I enjoyed and subsequently took more of. The international relations minor became much less feasible after a couple of semesters neglecting it. The business minor was definitely within reach, but I became no longer interested in that style of classwork. I ensured I was taking at least one Law & Society minor course and completed the minor by junior year.

Yet unintentionally, I found myself recalibrating my junior year when I began reexamining the courses I had already taken to see which minors I might additionally reach. The inequality studies minor only required two more courses; the leadership minor needed only one. With the start of senior year’s add/drop period, I looked through dozens of minors to see if I was close to completing them as well. PAM, History of Capitalism and other minors seemed close but too far away with just one semester left to plan. Nevertheless, I was happy to have been somewhat intentional in the courses I took my junior year while also leaving myself open to new and interesting material throughout both of my upperclassman years.

Beyond coursework, the other general pre-graduation checkboxes that I have been completing have been the most exciting to fulfill. Go to AppleFest, PorchFest and Ithaca Fest: check. CU Downtown, Homecoming, Dragon Day and Slope Day: check. Going to a game at Lynah, bowling at Helen Newman Lanes, attending a concert in Bailey Hall and climbing to the top of McGraw Tower: check. Even outside of Ithaca but in the area, I visited the Great New York State Fair and a Syracuse Mets game but still have the Corning Museum of Glass and the Golden Plates to see. I wrote previously about Cornell-specific checkboxes too, such as seeing every building on campus and doing some of the more reasonable things on the list of 161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do, but completing these checkboxes has truly made my Cornell experience that much richer.

As my time as a Cornell undergraduate is ending, I am trying my best to do all there is to do in what now feels like so little time. For all the freshmen and transfers starting a new journey, for all the sophomores and juniors continuing that journey and all the seniors beginning the end of it, I encourage all of you to reflect upon the checkboxes in your Cornell career. Which ones do you need to do before it gets cold? What class do you need to take to get that extra minor? What part of Cornell do you want to remember after we have graduated and look fondly upon our time at Cornell? I think more about these questions each day as graduation approaches, and I encourage you all to think about them too.

Patrick J. Mehler is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. The Mehl-Man Delivers runs every other Monday this semester.