Bombing a prelim seems so easy to say and accept, but once you’re in that situation, it can feel like the end of the world, especially to students who are ambitious and high achievers. It feels harder for me to accept this reality because I caged myself in the notion that I shouldn’t find any of my classes difficult, especially because I am in a humanities-based major. As a student studying Policy Analysis and Management, I’ve always compared my workload to my pre-medical or engineering friends and discredited my own struggles. Every time I catch myself feeling down about the amount of work I have to do, I scold myself for thinking my classes are difficult when my friends have it worse than me. I’ve only just come to the realization that I need to show myself grace and acknowledge that I may find my major difficult. This doesn’t discount my intelligence or efforts, but is just another demonstration of how academically rigorous Cornell is.
Saying that you failed a prelim can be numbing, especially with the prevalent prelim culture here on campus. I seem to hear this phrase every week, especially from students in more academically demanding majors, such as engineering or pre-med students. It almost seems to be a rite of passage and a sense of pride for Cornell students — you are not officially one of us until you’ve felt the pressures of academic success looming over you. Your struggles feel heard if everyone collectively agrees that a prelim was hard, and you feel especially validated when you are in a more traditionally difficult major. However, as many know, Cornell also offers many non-traditional majors.
This semester, I was faced with a dilemma that plagues many college students: Choosing between two classes for my major. One is a class that I am genuinely interested in, excited to learn about, and eager to take something away from. The other is a class that I know would be less work and would likely result in a better grade.
The Cornell Engineering administration is under no illusion that first semester freshmen are under a large amount of stress and pressure. Thrown from all corners of the world into a notoriously difficult University environment, there are bound to be growing pains as they acclimate to their new lives. The administration provides them a large number of supplementary Academic Excellence Workshop classes, bar them from joining the competitive and time sinking project teams as fully fledged members and flood them with resources and opportunities to find their home and people on the vast campus. But despite precedent from other leading engineering schools, they’ve failed to eliminate the single greatest stressor to these bright-eyed freshmen: Their grades. By switching the first semester grading scheme to a S/U system, we can create a more equitable environment for students to acclimate to their new lives.
Less than a week after Cornell unexpectedly cancelled all instruction until April 6, the University has finished ironing out details for how the academic calendar will be structured following spring break.
My junior year, one of my closest friends and I discussed our winter plans at the dinner table. I mentioned the possibility of taking an online course to complete a graduation requirement and relieve some of my academic coursework during the spring semester. He also mentioned that he, a biology major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was taking an Introduction to Economics course during the winter session. When I asked about his anomalous course choice, he mentioned it was to hopefully experience a relatively easy course and earn a GPA boost. I was flabbergasted.
I write in response to “College Shouldn’t Be a Breeze” by Christian Baran ’22. He wrote, “I’ve met many students, including myself, who take the path of least resistance when it came to classes and course loads. We say that a good GPA is all that matters.” This is all too true at Cornell. I define this worldview as “conveyor belt philosophy,” and it is the predominant, although not the only, philosophy I see at Cornell. Conveyor belt philosophy values getting the highest GPA for the least amount of work, and then taking a gap year to find oneself.
This is a change from last year, when the college offered placement on the Dean’s List based on a multi-tiered credit system, according to Duncan Bill, Director of Administration and College Registrar of Arts and Sciences.
My GPA is below a 3.0. The campus culture frowns at that fact. It tells me that I have a bad GPA. I have been trying to resist the urge to agree. I go through these cycles throughout the semester where I become frustrated with Cornell’s atmosphere.
Data from the University show that financial aid policy has taken several turns in the past decade, and in the past five years, loans have increased significantly, while grant aid has stayed roughly similar relative to the increase in loans.
In a special meeting on Saturday, the Interfraternity Council passed a set of resolutions that may fundamentally change the processes of recruitment, pledging and open parties. With a quorum of just over half the chapter presidents, five main changes were voted into effect, the sixth being tabled until tomorrow’s meeting. Most changes will go into effect next semester.
“These are things that are long overdue,” said Eddie Rooker ’10, IFC president. “They are problems we’ve had in the past, especially with new member education. We are a self-governing system, so we have to tackle the problems.”