College Life

College Isn't Just About the Academics: The Cornell Experience

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Obviously, your first priority starting college is to figure out what classes you want to take so you can pick a major and prepare yourself for a career, or in some cases, grad-school. It's important to realize if you spend all your time working hard and never taking a break you might burn out. For that reason, it is a good idea to become involved in a variety of activities on campus and attend fun social events you hear about with your friends. Looking back on my first year of college- I was able to get involved in some pretty cool groups that made my experience much more enjoyable.

Here are a few things I was involved in on campus this past year that I would definitely recommend to incoming freshman who are looking for extracurriculars to broaden their horizons.

 

Sport Taekwondo

At Cornell you are required to take a Physical Education class, and I thought a martial arts class could be interesting, so I enrolled in the intermediate Taekwondo class. I found the class so much fun that I ended up joining the team and traveling to a few tournaments at other schools. While the time commitment was pretty large, joining a club sport team was a great way to blow off steam after a long week of classes, and also helped motivate me to keep in shape by going to practice at the end of the day, when I would otherwise have stayed in the dorm.

 

ChemE Car

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As an engineer, I was interested in working on projects outside of class, and Cornell’s assortment of project teams allowed me to satisfy this desire. During our weekly general body meeting or weekend lab time, I was able to collaborate with other people interested in working in a similar field to prepare for competition, learn important technical skills from upperclassmen, and feel accomplished in applying my knowledge of math and science in a way that I felt mattered. You also get to bond with the members of your team during travel for regional or national competition, and they are often some of the most interesting people you meet at your time in college.

 

Zeta Psi

Going into college, I had no intentions of joining a social fraternity; in fact, I didn’t even show up to rush week until the very last night. The two-to-three events I attended, however, convinced me otherwise. While your friends from your dorm and classes will spend a lot of time with you, it is always nice to have a brotherhood of people you can turn to if you need a change of pace. Working together with a bunch of friends to have fun at college, organize philanthropy projects, and maintain a house together brings you closer to your peers than you would ever expect, and is an experience I would definitely recommend.

 

Alpha Chi Sigma

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In addition to social fraternities, professional fraternities are a good way to make connections within the student body at your school and to network for after college. In a professional fraternity you benefit both from the social aspects of a brotherhood and from the resume-building/academic advising of a pre-professional organization. As a prospective chemical engineer, having a group who shares my passion for science has helped me feel comfortable in my classes and has significantly reduced the amount of stress I experience when picking classes and studying for tests.

 

Hillel

Religious groups on campus are a good way to bond with people of a similar background and to maintain traditions you may have celebrated growing up now that you are away from home. IN addition to attending the occasional shabbat dinner, I took part in a pre-orientation program the week before school began that was organized by Hillel, and many of the people I met on this trip are still my close friends today. I enjoyed this experience so much I am even coming back to campus early this summer to help lead the trip for incoming freshman in the class of 2021!

 

Intramural Sports

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For those who are interested in competitive athletics, but who may not feel comfortable with the time commitment of a club or varsity sport, intramural sports are the perfect afternoon activity to unwind after classes. You can sign up with a group of friends to play once a week, and even have a rotation so that not everyone has to attend every game. Especially when the weather is nice, there is no better way to get a group of people together to run around and have a good time than the intramural program organized by your school. I took part in basketball, volleyball, and softball this past year, (sometimes with friends from my dorm, sometimes with fraternity brothers, sometimes on co-ed fraternity/sorority teams) and each of them was a blast!


Slope Day

Every week a new event will pop up on your Facebook feed that you will be interested in, but won’t find the time to go to. This past year I missed stand-up from Josh Peck and from John Mulaney, a live performance by Gucci Mane, and several other events that I wish I had gone to! The one major event I attended was Slope Day, an annual concert held on Libe Slope that features live music, carnival games, food, etc. Even though finals were coming up a few days after this event, I couldn’t be happier that I went because my friends and I had a great time taking a day off from work to hang out, catching up with people we hadn’t seen in awhile, and getting to listen to some artists we had never heard of before who turned out to be better than expected. Obviously you should balance work and play during your time at college, but if you manage your time properly, you will definitely have time to attend some of these events throughout the semester, and I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
 

Tips for College Move-In Day

It’s almost Labor Day, and if you haven’t begun moving in already (many freshman students are probably already settled in), it’s time to start going through your closets, stocking up on supplies, and most importantly, buying the cutest and coolest dorm room accessories and decor! 

For many, the task of packing up and moving can be overwhelming and stressful. The excitement you feel as a freshman wears off every year after that! It’s definitely a shock getting used to not only a much smaller space but one that you might have to share with a stranger. Fingers crossed for an amazing roomie! Here are a few tips to help ease your way back to school. 

 Resident balconies at Scripps College

Resident balconies at Scripps College

Simplify your wardrobe

You’ll probably be going home a few times between the start of the semester and when the weather starts to change, so I suggest bringing only what you need! You won’t need your heavy sweatshirts and jackets until the end of October, possibly even November. So, leave those at home so you have more space in your dorm closet. 

Hang, stack, hide

Learning how to organize everything you need will help you greatly! I highly suggest purchasing stackable drawers or totes to help keep related items together. This will keep your room clean and your items easy to find! Also, many schools allow you to raise your bed, and this adds much more space. Use your spaces wisely! 

Take a breather

Move-in day can be hectic. There are hundreds of students and their families mulling around campus. Once you have all your belongings in the room, it’s ok to take a moment to yourself and take a deep breath before unpacking. This will clear your head and help you feel ready to tackle the daunting task of getting your new room just right. 

 Dorm room at Bentley University

Dorm room at Bentley University

Coordinate with your roomie

I couldn’t agree with this point more! I remember when I was moving into my dorm, my roommate and I (strangers before college), communicated via email to discuss who would bring what. This ensured that we weren’t stuck with limited space because we had two refrigerators, two tv’s, two vacuums, etc. Touch base with each other before you start stocking up!  

Make it Yours

Even though there’s a lot of anxiety surrounding moving in, the best part is making the space truly yours. Your room should reflect who you are! So, buy those cool posters and wall art, get the bedding with the super cute pattern, and let your personality shine. Above all, have fun!! 

Good luck to all of our college freshman and returning college students in the new school year!! 


Rae-Ann 

My Biggest Regret in College & How You Can Avoid the Same Mistake

Ah, summer. The sunny skies, the green green grass. Beach time if you're lucky, study time if you're ... well, study time. Period.

Some of you are heading back to high school in the fall for another year, inching (or, from your parents' perspectives, hurtling) toward the Great Launch to College. And some of you are making the Great Launch even as we speak, preparing to enter a brand new world, surrounded by exciting new people and exciting new opportunities. Either way, in the short term or the (not very) long term, you are looking toward a time of choices -- what to learn, whom to hang out with -- and in many cases, it will be hard to make a truly wrong choice. You're going to learn a lot, no matter what you do, and learning is the whole point, and the joy.

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I have exactly one regret about my choices in college. In order to fulfill a curriculum requirement one semester, I was choosing between two science classes: one, a notoriously EASY course in electrical engineering, where the main assignment was to create a rudimentary website by the end of the course; the other, a notoriously HARD class on the physics and acoustics of musical instruments. Now, I'm a musician, and I love everything having to do with music. The acoustics class looked so intriguing ... but I thought to myself, "Do I really want to do hard calculus problems again? Wouldn't I enjoy myself more if I gave myself a break and coasted through the semester this time?" And so, like many others, I chose the website class ... and it nags at me to this day. 

 Sound waves from Pink Floyd's "The Wall"

Sound waves from Pink Floyd's "The Wall"

I got nothing from that easy class. (Well, I guess I got a lousy website, but even that is long gone.) But I still think about what it might have been like to explore the science of how music, my life's greatest passion, is actually physically made. I look at a rock band, or an orchestra, and think, "I could have learned how all those magical things are happening. How the strings vibrate the air, how the overtones color the sounds of the oboe and the electric guitar, how changing the length of the air column in the flute changes the pitch ..." But I didn't. I ... I chose the road MORE traveled by ... and that has made, if not all the difference, at least enough difference that I still look back at where those roads diverged.

So what I'm saying is: when it comes to the choices between the hard and the easy, remember to push yourself. Don't just float down the river; choose the course where there are rapids to navigate, because the rapids are thrilling and exhilarating, and even if you come out exhausted and bedraggled on the other side, you will remember it with joy and pride.

And you know what else? It's never too late to pick the challenge. We live in a world where we can go back and find those textbooks on musical instruments, and learn what we never pushed ourselves to learn back then. So I think I'm gonna go do that ... gonna head down the rapids I steered myself away from so long ago. See you on the other side.

Your Transition from High School to College

Most of your life as a student is preparing for something -- preparing for a test, preparing for college, preparing for a sports competition. You spend hours and hours studying, practicing, and creating expectations for how it’s going to be when you reach the goal you are pursuing.

Sometimes, however, when you finally achieve your goal, you find that it's not quite what you expected. It’s not so uncommon to dislike the life you had been fighting for, or at the very least to
struggle with the transition once you get there. It's actually very common for college students,
even ones who get into their dream schools, to feel this way at the beginning of their freshman
year. They may think: “but it’s all that I've ever wanted” or, “it took me so much time and energy
to accomplish this.” If this happens to you, stay calm -- it’s not the end of the world.

You are not the only one to have second thoughts about the new place you are in and the people
you live with. The teachers may not be so friendly or helpful, and college is a totally different
environment that can be very intimidating.

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My tips to get through this phase (yes, it can be just a phase) are:

  • Talk to your peers. You may not think it, but there will be a lot of people feeling the same way as you.
  • Don’t isolate. You have to give it a chance in order to enjoy the brand new world that college is, so try to participate in activities and to integrate into a group that you identify with.
  • Get help from your home support system. This can be friends in the same situation as you, your parents or siblings (sometimes the distance can make people even closer), or even an LP instructor.
  • Seek professional help. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about your feelings with someone outside of your circle.
  • Enjoy the journey. This is a unique lifetime experience that will change you and shape your future as a person and professionally, so be sure to enjoy and take advantage of all the lessons learned.

And then, if you continue to feel that you don’t belong to the place after you give every shot, it’s ok to change your mind and try something else -- another school, city, or even another county. We don’t always hit the mark at the very first try; what’s important is to overcome and figure out what’s best for you and what will make you happy.

Good luck and enjoy college!

Four Quotes for College (AKA What I Wish I Knew Freshman Year)

1. “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” —Oscar Wilde 

I know, I know, it’s a pretty Hallmark card thing to say. But if I had the chance to go back and tell myself one thing, this would be it. No one else is quite like you, which means that how you grow and succeed is a deeply personal thing. The way you study, socialize, and relax might look different from how other people do it. That’s ok! Figure out what works for you. Don’t contort yourself into what you think is most interesting or attractive. Don’t get swept up in what other people are doing. The most successful and magnetic people I’ve met got to the awesome place they are by being no one but themselves. Maybe you don’t know exactly who you will become or what you will do. Here’s an earth-shattering secret: no one does. Being yourself isn’t a static thing, it’s an ongoing process and exploration. If you think you’ve got it all figured out right now, guess what… 

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2. “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” —Heraclitus 

This isn’t a diss on going into freshman with a clear sense of what you want to do and pursuing it. Some of my friends came to college knowing very clearly that they wanted to pursue art, or medicine, or history, or law. They didn’t change their major halfway through or contemplate hundreds of life paths every time they had to pick a class schedule (like I did). But a lot of my classmates who stuck to a clear path in college are doing wildly different things now than they (or anyone else) expected them to do after graduation. I know art majors who are now in med school, and pre-med kids who are living off the grid and writing award-winning poetry. College (and life) gives us all kinds of experiences we simply can’t predict. You can fight that uncertainty, swim against the current, and exhaust yourself. Or accept that things will shift, not just once or twice, but all the time. That doesn’t mean that every time something is hard or every time you mess up you ditch and run. There are challenges inherent in every field of study, every way of life… but ask yourself: “are these the challenges I want to be engaging with? Does this feel right for me right now?” And accept when the answers to those questions change. 

 

3. “Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts … good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends that you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourselves with.” —Michelle Obama

Fill your life with people and ideas that inspire you to be your best self. Life is hard, don’t make it harder by investing your time and energy in pursuits and people that leave you feeling insecure or empty. We all have doubts and fears, but it is important to not be ruled by them, and watch out when others are picking at your insecurities. Be strong in standing up for yourself, and seek out the people who help you do that -- and who you can return the favor for. Building mutually supportive and enriching relationships will help you succeed in and out of the classroom. 


 

4. “Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose” —Friday Night Lights (my favorite Netflix binge in college)

College is a big deal! It’s your first shot at curating your own life. It’s an incredible privilege to have so many options before you, but it can also be terrifying, and sometimes paralyzing. What’s the right way of doing this? Who should I be? It’s ok to be nervous, but remember you can’t control everything, and there is no one way of getting through college—or life for that matter. Adjust your game strategy as needed. Keep your eyes open. Find things to love. Faced with an expanding world of uncertainty and possibility, be kind and patient with yourself and others. 

 

And when all else fails, get a pep talk from this kid: 

Thumbs up for rock and roll! 
 

8 Things You May Not Expect About College Life

1. Textbooks are extremely expensive

With 4 or 5 classes a semester and textbooks that run around $200 a piece, getting ready for the semester can get really expensive really quickly. Luckily, there are a few alternatives. You can try to buy textbooks from students who have already taken the course and will probably sell to you at a discounted price to get the book off of their hands. You can try to buy used books from the campus bookstore as opposed to new ones (Pro Tip: often there are new editions to textbooks each year, but very little changes from year to year; older editions are often less expensive and provide the same material). You can also try to rent your textbooks from the bookstore or online; both physical and digital versions of these books are probably available. The best option in my opinion, however, is to try to find free PDFs of these textbooks online at no cost. 

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2. You need to actually talk to your professors and their TA's

Coasting by in the back of the classroom isn’t going to cut it anymore. If you want the professors to know you, care about your performance, and help you succeed in their class and beyond, you need to make sure you develop a good relationship with them. Not only is this practice helpful when you need help with material in the class or that little grade bump at the end of the semester, but it is also a helpful beyond the classroom. Professors are key to connecting you with great career opportunities, whether that be working in a lab or getting your next summer internship. Also, they may even take you out to dinner for free (once you are in college you will realize how revolutionary that is)!

 

3. Dining Hall food WILL get boring

While in most cases dining hall food doesn’t dip into your wallet, it can get a little mundane after a while. Even if you go to a school where the food is always really good, the same menu options can only get you so far after weeks of multiple meals per day in the same kitchen. Great ways to help combat this issue are to get your own food from the grocery store, take up cooking as a hobby, or try new dining halls maybe a little further from your dorm!

 

4. Amazon Prime™ is your best friend

You WILL need things over the course of the semester that you didn’t realize you’d need until mom and dad are gone. Amazon Prime™, with a discounted student membership fee, will save you in your times of need. In just two days, you can get any books, school supplies, or dorm necessities delivered to your dorm. This opportunity might not seem so pivotal now, but once you are outside of your house and need to be resourceful on your own time, Amazon Prime™ is there.

 

5. Spotify® is also your best friend

Just like Amazon Prime™, you can get a discount on a Spotify® Premium subscription for being a student! Whether you’re creating a playlist with the people on your floor, tuning people out while you study in the library, or just relaxing in your room, ad-free music is a must-have for any college student.

 

6. Venmo® is also… a really good friend

Even if you personally always have cash on you, you will come to realize that 95% of college students do not. Going out for food with friends is fun, figuring out how to split the check when everyone only has their credit card is a hassle. Venmo® makes it easy for you and your friends to split bills, cover each other for small purchases, etc. and most people you meet in college are already using it. 

 

7. College can be a bubble, so keep yourself updated on current events by reading the news

College keeps you pretty busy, and sometimes it’s hard to remember the important things you should always be doing, like calling home and keeping up with the world outside. If not for your own knowledge and ability to talk about important happenings around the world with your peers, you should make a greater effort to keep up with the news because being an active global citizen is an important part of attending university. As part of the generation that will be taking power in the next few years, we should all be informed about what problems others are experiencing, what political and economic tactics work and don’t work, etc. 

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8. You’ll make way more friends than you could ever imagine

From the first day of orientation week, you will be bombarded with a bunch of unknown friendly faces and you will be forced to pick who you are going to be friends with. Especially if you go on a pre-orientation trip, you will make a lot of friends right at the beginning of the year, and you might be worried that this friend group will be the only one you will get close with during your time at college. That fear is totally misguided: this isn’t high school anymore. Every semester you will take new classes you are interested in, become involved in different clubs or professional organizations, and meet new people who share your goals/hobbies. As an adult, you will begin to schedule times to catch up with a friend for lunch or off-campus, and you can maintain a much larger network of friends than the group of people you ate lunch with in high school. In fact, sometimes it becomes hard to remember all of the people you’ve met because there are so many of them! (Pro-tip: when putting people’s contact information in your phone, put the name of your school as their company so you have your own directory of college acquaintances that you can search through if you ever want to remember the name of that one person you played basketball with, or to catch up with the person who sat next to you in your freshman writing class.)

Pro Tip: Organization is Key

Have you ever woke up abruptly in the middle of the night with the terrible realization that you have a paper due in 5 hours that you forgot to finish? Somewhere between a group project and your laundry, you neglected to actually write your history paper, even though the research has been done for weeks. It’s in this moment while you’re furiously typing, stealing quick glances at your pillow, that you realize with just a little more organization, this situation could have been avoided.

 

Clear your desk of clutter

That pile of papers on your desk that has been growing taller for weeks is doing more harm than you realize. Besides making it more likely that you will misplace an important paper, physical clutter can actually affect your mental state. Your mind is subconsciously processing the mess making it harder for you to remain focused when it really counts. When you are not focused, you run the risk of forgetting something important. So before you even open a book, make sure your surroundings are clean!

 

Write everything down

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Even with the best of intentions, something will slip your mind. To avoid this, write down everything you need to accomplish the moment it is assigned to you. Your phone can be a helpful tool when it comes to keeping an up-to-date list. Creating a list in your Notes App will ensure you won’t misplace it (or add to the clutter on your desk).

 

Relax

Before you go to bed, take a few minutes to reflect on the day’s events. Quickly review everything you accomplished, upcoming due dates, and look at what is on the agenda for tomorrow.  These brief moments of reflection will help ensure you finished everything you needed to so you can always get a good night's rest. 

The Joys of Going to College Near a City

Whether it be Philly, Boston, or the one near and dear to my heart, Manhattan, every city has so much to offer. Going to college near a city reminds you that a learning experience is not contained within the walls of a classroom and that there are always better dining options than your cafeteria. Since I went to college in Riverdale, NY, NYC was only a few stops away on the 1 train. And yes, while the subway at times seemed more like a burden than a blessing, I never took for granted the twenty-minute ride that transported me from the stillness of Van Cortlandt Park to the liveliness of Columbus Circle.

Here are some of the many benefits of going to college near a city:

 Murilo visits a student at NYU Stern

Murilo visits a student at NYU Stern

Internships and jobs

New York City gave me the opportunity to intern at places I would have never imagined. I was able to intern at The United Nations for six months and enjoy the view of the East River and the Pepsi-Cola sign. Internships at PEN America and Penguin Random House allowed me to explore the streets of Soho. If I had not been near the city, I would not have been able to work with these organizations based in the heart of Manhattan. The city opened doors I didn’t even know existed for a college student and allowed me to network, building professional and personal relationships with people for years to come.

 

Food 

 A student shows Murilo where the best food is near NYU's campus

A student shows Murilo where the best food is near NYU's campus

Is there anything else I really need to say about this? When I was tired of eating chicken fingers and fries, I knew I was only a subway ride away from Korean fried chicken, halal food, or artichoke pizza. And none of these things broke the bank, either.

 

Escape

Sometimes all you need is to get away from campus. Whether it be a solo trip or an adventure with friends, the city always has new places for you to discover. Find your new favorite study niche, or get lost somewhere in East Village. It’s definitely a good way to get a breath of fresh air.

 

Cities have all of this and more. Even if it’s not Manhattan, just go out and make the most of any environment you find yourself in - you’re young, go explore!