Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Students work inside Martha Van Rensselaer Hall on a snowy first day of classes, Jan. 23, 2023.

January 26, 2023

Spring Transfers Start Cornell Journey Mid-Year and Prepare for Challenges Ahead

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Amongst the winter’s rain and snow, Spring 2023 transfer students have embarked on their first semester at Cornell, with instruction having begun on Jan. 23. 

According to Shawn Felton, Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions, 72 new transfer students matriculated out of 584 applications for Spring 2023. Colleges with new enrolling transfers include the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, the S.C. Johnson College of Business, and the College of Architecture, Art and Planning.

At first sight, Cynthia Cui ’25, a new transfer in CALS, found Cornell’s landscape strikingly different from that of her past school, the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“I thought my old school was rural enough, but Cornell turned out to be even more rural,” Cui said. “The building style is also very different. It is much colder too.”

Cui explained that UCSB’s academic buildings were scattered across its campus, and she sometimes found its proximity to the ocean distracting. Being nestled in a more rural region has helped her focus on her studies.

“Cornell is a great place for learning knowledge,” Cui said. “It fits my ideal college image.”

James Cottral ’25, who transferred from the University of Buffalo, also noticed a difference in campus layouts, emphasizing how much bigger Cornell feels than his former school.

“All the buildings at Buffalo are connected, so it is almost like one large stretch rather than a lot of buildings spaced out, whereas at Cornell there is definitely a lot more spacing between buildings,” Cottral said. “At Buffalo you would either take tunnels or skywalks, you never had to even go outside for most of your buildings.”

In addition to architectural differences, transfer students often find it more difficult to connect with the Cornell community. Spring transfers in particular may face additional barriers to entering the campus social scene midway through the year. However, orientation events help transfer students connect with each other and meet peers with similar backgrounds and interests.

“There was one Zoom meeting only for E&S transfer students … and we were able to meet who is in our major,” said Abbey Yang ’25, a transfer in Environment & Sustainability. “There was also a social yesterday and another Zoom meeting for CALS transfer students.”

Although some transfer students are anxious to settle into their new friend groups, many voice a different concern — arranging classes to avoid delaying graduation.

“My biggest worry right now is probably making sure I take the right classes, and take those classes on time so that I can graduate on time,” said Waleed Chouai ’25. “Most of the classes I was looking at were closed [during the add/drop period]. So, I had to rearrange my schedule to fit it perfectly.”

Pre-enrollment for current Cornell students for the Spring 2023 semester began in November 2022, the same month that spring transfers are typically admitted. This means that transfer students had to wait until mid-January for add/drop to begin enrolling in their classes, according to Chouai. 

Yang echoed similar concerns about choosing classes. Originally studying wildlife ecology and microbiology at the University of Wisconsin Madison, she was unsure if the classes she had taken at her former school would satisfy the requirements of her new major.

“I talked to my advisor, and she said I should be fine with all the biology [classes I took], so I do not need to take any more general biology classes,” Yang said. “But that has not been shown on my DUST.”

Still, Yang expressed appreciation that her advisor informed her about her degree progress, as this helped her decide which classes to take this semester.

In addition to organizing their class schedules, some transfer students felt uncertain about adjusting to an Ivy League curriculum. Knowing Cornell’s academic rigor, Naiya Patel ’25 worried about establishing a healthy work-life balance.

“I tend to add a lot of things to my plate at times,” Patel said. “ I am trying to do 18 credits, so that will be a lot. I am not sure if I will be able to go through with it, but I might drop a course. I am really hoping that it all works out.”

Despite various concerns, transfers plan to take initiative and explore on-campus opportunities.

“I am going to ClubFest to see what is offered here. I definitely want to find [a] work-study [position], like [being a] RA or working in the dining hall,” Chouai said. “I am just going to wait [this semester] out and see what happens.”