Advice for First-Years

With #NSO2014 and the new school year swiftly approaching, we figured the incoming class could use some advice from those who were most recently in their shoes: the class of 2017. Here, 5 rising sophomores speak candidly about their own experiences: about their transition, what they wish they knew going into college and what they have learned, in the hopes that it will help and inspire the class of 2018.

Leah Bossom

Hey first-years! Congratulations on choosing the best school in the world! I’m
kidding… kind of… But, no matter how wonderful Cornell is, it’s a little tough at first. Here’s some advice to help make it a little easier for you!

  1. Don’t over pack. Just don’t. Your parents will probably mail you it if you’re dying without whatever it is.
  2. Talk to your roommate beforehand so it isn’t so awkward meeting him or her for the first time. And keep talking to him or her the rest of the year otherwise it’s just weird.
  3. Get to know the people on your floor and in your building, you will probably be seeing these people the most and hanging out with them will be one of your favorite things to do.
  4. Look for scholarships all year long. Talk to your admissions counselor and ask them to keep you in mind if something comes across his or her desk.
  5. Go to class. Classes can be challenging, and they will be impossible if you are ditching all the time.
  6. Check your e-mail. Every. Single. Day. Multiple times a day.
  7. GET INVOLVED! It doesn’t matter if it’s sports or volunteering or Spanish club or Greek life or yoga club or all five! Even if you are unsure, clubs and groups are always excited to have new members so go out there and do your thing or try something new. The friendships you make here are priceless!

I think that’s a good start, so get your stuff together because before you know it you will be on the Hilltop to begin a new chapter. Have a great rest of the summer and I’ll see you soon!

–Leah Bossom

Arturo Castillo '17
Arturo Castillo

The transition into college life can be a very intimidating and scary process. What I think truly made my transition a great one was the student of color orientation known as Each One Teach One. I met many of my close friends there, participated in helpful workshops, got advice from current students and alumni, and I learned about the campus as well as the block plan. Something I wish I knew before going into the transition is how easy it is to ask for help. I wish I knew that sometimes we don’t need to deal with everything on our own. There is a tremendous amount of support, acceptance and understanding at Cornell. The students and faculty are amazing and they can truly help you get through hard times. Whether it’s helping you deal with homesickness, helping you do homework/study, or just listening Cornellians will be there to help. I also wish I knew more about the block plan and what students at Cornell truly think of it because it can be an intense system for those who are new to it. All in all, my transition into college life was amazing and I honestly think it is because I chose the right college. Sure there were times when I called my parents and said I wanted to go home, but in the end I got through it all and that was because of the support of my friends and my willingness to keep moving forward. All incoming students should remember that they are not alone through this process; there will always be someone there who will be willing to lend a hand, especially at Cornell.

–Arturo Castillo

Sol Wooten

Based on my experiences during freshman year, the best advice that I can give is to get involved and do so as early as possible.  As a recently graduated high school student enrolled at Cornell, I envisioned many things when I thought of college.  Most importantly, I saw a place where I belonged.  Having played volleyball and been a member of a variety of clubs throughout high school, I probably should have already known the importance of being involved.  But it turns out that sometimes the best way to learn how to create a sense of belonging is in the absence of it.  During my first couple of blocks, I went from being really excited about Cornell to feeling very isolated and unhappy, despite my interest in my classes.  It wasn’t until I had resigned myself to remaining at Cornell in order to graduate early that things began to change for me.  I started going to Ultimate practice and Greek pre-pledge events.  The more involved I became, the more comfortable I started to feel and the more I was able to enjoy Cornell both socially and academically.  Another thing I’ve learned: Cornell is a great place to do things you’ve never considered before.  Ultimate was completely new to me and I never imagined that I would take part in Greek life (Note: This was largely due to the negative stereotypical view I had of Greek groups).  But it was in these two very unfamiliar settings that I was able to find a place where I felt I belonged.  Lesson: Don’t let the fear of not fitting in to certain groups or not being good at something keep you from trying.  Placing yourself in new (and, therefore, initially uncomfortable) settings actually allows you to learn a lot about yourself and can be extremely rewarding and empowering.  You may also discover – as I did with Greek life and pledging Arrow – that your preconceived notions of something are very different from the reality.  One final piece of advice: Once you’ve found your “place” at Cornell, don’t let it limit you.  Let’s stop thinking of ourselves and others as merely group labels used to (inaccurately) define who we are.  While it’s important that each of us can be proud of the things that we are involved in, we shouldn’t allow this to separate us from one another.  Let’s take advantage of the diverse opportunities that Cornell offers.  Let’s keep trying new things and reaching out to new people, maybe discovering in the process that we belong in many surprising new places.

–Sol Wooten

Tucker Lewis '17
Tucker Lewis

If you’re reading this, get a fan. A huge fan. There is no point at which size or power could become excessive when keeping your room cool for the first and last few months of the year.

NSO is summer camp. Don’t get sucked into acting like it’s summer camp. You’re going to be spending the next nine months with the people from NSO. Be warned.

Assume that everyone knows everything. The thing you did that one night is almost definitely on someone’s GoPro. Accept it and move on.

Go to class. Do (most of) your homework. Take your work time seriously. Take rest time as serious as work time. Don’t confuse work time with rest time or rest time with work time.

Take classes that interest you, not classes that you think will be interesting.

Your first year is about you. Not your parents, not old friends, not high school, not anything else.

But seriously, get a fan.

–Tucker Lewis

Viviana Guajardo
Viviana Guajardo

The summer before college was filled with much anticipation, having just completed the high school chapter of my life I was ready to begin another. It was also a step into the unknown. On the surface Mt. Vernon seemed like one of those “what you see is what you get” kind of places. Coming from a rather large city, the transition to a small Midwestern town was definitely a process- though not impossible. I began to realize the hidden gems Mt. Vernon had stowed away. The town grew on me… there was this built in trust system within the Cornell and Mt. Vernon community. It was that small town mentality that I came to appreciate. My residence hall was the place I referred to as home; although it was a temporary one it felt as if I was building a truly independent lifestyle for myself, removed from the overbearing concerns and requests of family members. I entered Cornell with an open mind and left freshman year with the understanding that many people had differing perspectives from my own, but it was important that those differences  were met with respect. What I learned was that everything is subject to change. Whether it be a major, a relationship, or Friday night plans- things fail to remain static. Thus I begin my second year at Cornell, ready to continue on with the friendships put on hold by summer and anxious to take on more extracurriculars that I can handle- as is the Cornell way.

–Viviana Guajardo