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.