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Why cornell??? Any answers???

FLtonegraceFLtonegrace Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
edited December 2012 in Cornell University
1 - Cornell has a very weak graduate school placement rate and is far lower than most top schools, according to the Wall Street Journal. This data is much more important than any US News ranking. This is what difficult grading does.

2- According to the NY Times, Cross admitted students are not often selecting Cornell, and the rate at which Cornell is selected is decreasing every year. This is what difficult grading at cornell does.
The New York Times > Week in Review > Image > Collegiate Matchups: Predicting Student Choices

3- Median grades will be on your transcript. Do the math - and it is easy to see how that hurts most every student in most every course. Even doing better than the median may not look that good if you are only a 1/2 grade above it. Did you know median grades would be on your transcript at Cornell?

4- Look at Cornell's acceptance rate to top graduate schools. It is about 1/2 of the other ivys.

5 - US News says Cornell has the lowest percentage of ivy alumni contributing. This is what hard grading and bad grad school acceptance rates can do.

Letter to the Editor: Professors and Students. Thou Shalt Read This Letter.

To The Editor:
Regarding Cornell Sun Articles

Re: "Professors: Thou Shalt Read This Column," Opinion, Nov. 10
and "Students, Thou Shalt Read This Letter, "Opinion, Dec. 1

Professor Pitts and Sam Dean importantly address promoting a positive relationship between students and faculty. Unfortunately however, they miss the mark by failing to assess the source of the tension between the two.

Recent articles in the Sun have focused on the efforts at protecting students from gorge related incidents, as well as a recent legal suit filed against the University.

What is remarkably absent from the dialogue about the interaction between students and faculty is why this University has a significant issue with student dissatisfaction, often resulting in significant consequences. Not one of our peer institutions faces a student dissatisfaction problem even remotely close to what is presented on our Ithaca campus. Not one of our peer schools has an administration as preoccupied as ours with protecting students from themselves with barriers or similar efforts. Not because our peers do not care about their students. Quite the contrary, they care enough about their students to avoid a problem such as the one we have. Plain and simple, student dissatisfaction at Cornell largely lies in the consequences of difficult grading practices throughout the undergraduate colleges at Cornell.

While Cornell's efforts at increasing student mental health services is admirable and serves as a model, the time has come for Cornell Professors and Administration to ask why is it that our students have a level of dissatisfaction and pressure that is not found at any of our peer schools. It does seem rather manifest that the level of student dissatisfaction is significantly tied to the extraordinarily difficult and often unfair grading practices which are employed by a significant number of departments. Professors need to understand that our students are competing against students from peer schools who, by most every account and study, receive significantly higher average grades. How can a Cornell student fairly compete against a student from, say Columbia, when that school has no policy of creating a bell curve for grade distribution in any department, and almost 70% of all the grades they issue their undergraduates are A, similar to Brown, Yale and others? The Cornell practice of taking a high achieving student body and then, in many instances, issuing them grades on a bell curve, has resulted and continues to result, in substantial student dissatisfaction, something from which none of our peer or peer-like schools suffer.

Increased mental health services and increased dialogue between students, faculty and administration is a positive. Yet it still does not solve or directly address the underlying problem, which is largely rooted in the unreasonably harsh grading practices utilized at Cornell. Add to this practice the policy of posting what the Registrar terms "median" grades on transcripts and you have an unreasonably high pressure atmosphere. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the posting of median grades on transcripts adversely impacts the vast majority of students, and thus even further enhances student stress levels.

Is there even one Professor at Cornell who had median grades on his or her undergraduate transcript? Is there even more than a handful of present students who knew of Cornell's harsh grading practices, or that they would have "median" grades on their transcript, before they matriculated? Is it any surprise that the end result is many unhappy students?

Cornell students and faculty should work together. Students love to learn and so does the faculty. Yet it is difficult to truly love learning when, as a student, you know that the grading policy at Cornell is significantly more difficult than most, if not all, peer schools. The perception that employers and graduate programs factor in Cornell's difficult grading is not at all supported by the data, which is reflected in our relatively poor employment success rate or graduate admissions rate as documented by a number of reliable publications. A cursory review of the employment practices at any large financial sector company, law school or graduate program, reveals that they do not take a college's grading practice into account. With Cornell's difficult grading, and reporting of median grades, the end result is the overall inability of Cornell students to fairly compete with students from peer colleges.

With the existing grading practices at Cornell which are harsher than most (possibly all) ivy and ivy-like schools, combined with the additional difficulty posed by median grade reporting on transcripts, how can a Cornell student fairly compete?

Professors, read this: Grade students more fairly; do not create a bell curve amongst a class of students that are often all well qualified and gifted. Give students the grade they earn. If they all get As, give them all As. If they all get Bs, give them all Bs. If Columbia or Brown can have introductory courses in economics, math, psych or chemistry where nearly every single student can earn and receive a grade of A, why can't Cornell? Why does Cornell inflict such hard grading on its students, disadvantaging them against other peer schools? Is this the reason why student satisfaction at Cornell is lower than the other ivys?

Students, read this: Professors do care and are not working against you. They want to challenge and get the best out of you. We are all in this together. Let professors and administration know of your concerns and what you think can be done to help you, your fellow students, and the University.

Administratiors, read this: Why has median grade posting on transcripts not been finally eliminated? How many more students have to be burdened by a transcript full of median grades, which by any explanation, interpretation or evaluation almost always works against the Cornell student in his or her post-undergraduate pursuits.

Professors, Administration and Students, read this: Let us not be afraid to ask the difficult questions about student satisfaction and make the changes that are necessary. Let us all do what is best for the continued success of this great University, its faculty and its students.

Low Student Satisfaction Compared to other IVYs:
Division of Planning & Budget documents/1000456.pdf


Brown University has repeatedly been ranked as having the happiest students in the country. Would it make sense for Cornell to consider adoption of Brown's grading and course policy which does not allow curving and only allows for issuance of grades of A,B or C and prohibits grades of D or F, and has an open curriculum which allows students to take as many classes as they want for credit and without any grade or GPA? There is no median grade reporting of any kind at Brown. Nearly 75% of all grades issued at Brown are A. How can a Cornell student compete with that?

The New York Times did a survey of applicants that were cross accepted to Cornell University and other ivy league schools. The survey revealed that Cornell was the least selected school compared to the others? Median grade reporting on transcripts is something that will hurt most students by making them look average and will make it even more difficult to attract top students who are cross admitted. Eventually, it will affect the alumni.

page 21 of Cornell University's Strategic Plan, something that was produced after quite a bit of effort and expenditure of funds. The Plan most clearly indicates that "The health and well-being of students deserve special attention, because increasing reports indicate that excessive stress is negatively affecting students’ learning." Is difficult and curved grading the problem? If you have a friend at other ivys you know that the policy of ot grading on a curve does not exist there. At those schools everyone gets the grade they earn, even if everyone gets an A or B. Can Cornell students in courses with curved grading fairly compete???

Very simply, the problem is that University Leadership has failed to address the causes of student stress, which in large part is the product of excessive work, grade deflation, grade curves and the Registrar's reporting of Median Grades. The result has been decreased job prospects and relatively low admission rates at top graduate programs for our undergraduates. The low level of student satisfaction and high level of stress on campus is thus often carrying over with our students even after graduation.

Dialogue is important. Discuss and analyze this with professors and students; comment whether you think it is right or wrong; and what can be done to bring about positive change for the entire Cornell community.
Post edited by FLtonegrace on

Replies to: Why cornell??? Any answers???

  • gomestargomestar Registered User Posts: 4,699 Senior Member
    it took a lot of time and effort to put this first post together. My hat's off!
  • mikeyc765mikeyc765 Registered User Posts: 1,347 Senior Member
    I support the difficult grading at Cornell. It makes you a better student and instills better values. If your sole goal with your education is to have the absolute best job opportunities possible, Cornell may not be the best, but it's still pretty good. If your goal is a high quality education that teaches you a solid work ethic, Cornell is fantastic.

    I think the stress at Cornell can be overstated at times, especially when compared to other universities.

    The cross-admit data is what you'd expect more or less given the US News rankings, which count a lot in deciding between schools.

    As for WSJ placement, I haven't done the math personally, but my first impression is that Cornell has a higher percentage of students with undergraduate majors where graduate school doesn't make sense. All they did was divide admissions by class size, yet a significant proportion of Cornell's class size compared to other schools on that list is that Cornell has top programs and many students who wouldn't require advanced degrees. For example, many AEM majors do not end up pursuing an advanced degree and get a good job right out of college. Cornell has a top Engineering program and thus many are going straight to work right after undergrad. Notice they note for MIT that their students are placing into graduate business programs, not advanced Engineering programs. A substantial number of students are in the Hotel school and often they don't go on to get advanced degrees.
  • applejackapplejack Registered User Posts: 1,483 Senior Member
    So you're complaining that your school makes you work hard and doesn't sugarcoat your grades?

    I'm struggling to feel your pain on this one.
  • 2Daswell2Daswell Registered User Posts: 247 Junior Member
    "A cursory review of the employment practices at any large financial sector company, law school or graduate program, reveals that they do not take a college's grading practice into account. "

    This certainly cause difficulty for Cornell students. My daughter who is on CoE Dean's List still feels she won't be able to compete with Harvard's easy grades. She originally planned to go to graduate school and had now changed her plan not going to apply. She is much discouraged by the grading system.

    This is a bigger issue than on the surface. I am sure endowment has a lot to do with student satisfaction which is largely affected by the taste of the difficult grades.
  • Murphy600Murphy600 Registered User Posts: 473 Member
    Some of your data is very outdated. The college match up info is from 2006!
  • 2Daswell2Daswell Registered User Posts: 247 Junior Member
    Don't get me wrong. My daughter loves Cornell and enjoy her life there. She likes to be around bright kids like her.

    But she feels with the nations best and brightest students there (Engineering's 75 percentile enrolled students Math SAT is already at 800), more than a half of a class should get A's. From her experience she got all A's easily at a good state university hornors program. She is working harder now but still getting some B's. (but I don't know if she is disctracted by young men there, though. she is a pretty girl :-))
  • morrismmmorrismm Registered User Posts: 3,494 Senior Member
    Kudos to the op for this well written and thought out entry. I am, however very conflicted about the issue.

    I am appalled by the following-- "Brown University has repeatedly been ranked as having the happiest students in the country. Would it make sense for Cornell to consider adoption of Brown's grading and course policy which does not allow curving and only allows for issuance of grades of A,B or C and prohibits grades of D or F, and has an open curriculum which allows students to take as many classes as they want for credit and without any grade or GPA? There is no median grade reporting of any kind at Brown. Nearly 75% of all grades issued at Brown are A. How can a Cornell student compete with that?"

    Only A, B or C and no D or F? And how is this helping the student for the real world? Do you think no one gets fired and that everyone is "happy"? And every worker, or grad student for that matter, can do whatever they want? That is totally Lalal land and I cannot believe Brown is highly ranked if that is their practice. It makes me even more highly suspect of the USNews rankings.

    Grade inflation is not only at the top ranked schools. It is at many top state and private schools. So, every mediocre HS student is now very smart and every smart HS student is now a genius?

    I do not know about you, but I am experiencing more and more frustration with just about everything in business. Have you spent time on the phone trying to get to someone, a person, to try and figure out anything to do recently?

    My point is, if we now have all these smart or brilliant minds, why do people not seem to be able to do simple things.

    We need every school to be like Cornell. Maybe not to force a curve. But definately not grade inflation.

    My confliction is with-
    "The perception that employers and graduate programs factor in Cornell's difficult grading is not at all supported by the data, which is reflected in our relatively poor employment success rate or graduate admissions rate as documented by a number of reliable publications. A cursory review of the employment practices at any large financial sector company, law school or graduate program, reveals that they do not take a college's grading practice into account."

    If this is true, it is a concern. I believe Cornell should not change, but the other schools should.

    What is good for a school ( society) may not be good for an individual and what is good for an individual may not be good for a school (society). EVERYONE is not an A student. If you were a C or B student in HS, what makes you an A student now? Oh, I see, just like the Olympics, 70% get gold medals. (Haha)
  • zenziczenzic Registered User Posts: 180 Junior Member
    Caltech is at #28 on this list and yet has the highest percentage of graduates go on to graduate school out of any American university.
    The grading really isn't that hard here. I'm a 1st sem. freshman double majoring in computer science and chemistry and taking 3 sophomore-level, second-semester-level, and/or honors math/science courses, as well as a writing seminar and a 5th course for a total of 20.5 credits (excluding PE), and it's no harder here than in high school for me, although maybe more work. I can't speak as to the difficulty of the humanities or other majors here but from what I've heard hard sciences and CS are supposed to be some of the most difficult majors. Many kids here don't seem to work hard, which might be the reason for the low averages. Also, many kids might be pressured into engineering or pre-med by their parents even if they aren't cut out for such paths (as is probably true at every school).
  • UnibamesUnibames Registered User Posts: 123 Junior Member
    Nice, that really true of Brown? I'm sending my kids there (when I have kids) when I'm done with Cornell then. Besides, the whole legacy thing won't work much for them when Cornell realizes I'm contributing nada to their endowment (**** financial aid and charges for everything.)

    I feel you on the grades. I'm one of the lucky few I guess that actually sacrifices sleep to get those grades though...So yeah, makes us kind of miserable in that sense. And to these jokers posting above saying that making it harder to get grades somehow hones a greater work ethic is just silly. Most of my engineering mates use and lose what they learn in most cases. And yeah, Cornell really makes it so not a lot of people can get the grades when they're earned. And posting the class grade median on your individual transcript? I didn't even know that. Is it any wonder why the uni struggles with endowments?
  • norcalguynorcalguy Registered User Posts: 7,548 Senior Member
    It should be stated again that Cornell is NOT grade deflated in relation to other top schools. It has, statistically, one of the weakest student bodies among the top schools and yet its average/median GPA (~3.4) is in line with other top schools. It is in actuality probably slightly inflated in relation to schools like Princeton or UChicago.

    Brown is going to grade however it wants. However, note that despite the ridiculous grading policies, its graduates don't have the greatest admissions rates to grad schools. Which brings me to my final point: getting into med school, law school, or business is 95% dependent on the individual and 5% dependent on the school. Yale, Princeton, and Harvard consistently place better in grad school admissions than schools like Brown or Cornell because they have better students. Simple as that. Cornell has the worst acceptance rates because it has the weakest students. The school itself is just fine. I say that as a Cornell graduate. I came to Cornell with excellent HS stats and I excelled at Cornell. There are too many weak academic students at Cornell, which is why there is all the whining about "grade deflation." At no time when I was applying to med school did I feel that Cornell was given less consideration in the process vs. schools like Duke or Penn.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 21,017 Senior Member
    The reason Cornell students are so unhappy is all due to the school's grading system. If the administration should decide to give every students As, then the campus would be filled with happy students. Rather simplistic view, no?

    Try to do better. If you can't handle Cornell's course load, transfer out. Too much whining.

    I am more involved with UG recruiting at my current employer. We recruit at all major engineering schools (MIT, CMU, Cal Tech) and few Ivies with strong math and physics department. I happened to be the one who came up to Cornell. When people went through the resumes from Cornell, they all said the applicants had the most relevant courses AND experience. Students from other schools with high GPA had mostly research experience. We decided to cut out some schools from our list because return from those schools didn't justify our effort. The schools we eliminated probably have some happiest students.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 21,017 Senior Member
    Unibames- you are a transfer to AEM (norcalguy can start the transfer rant now). AEM courses should be pretty straight forward. Employers would generally want to see GPA north of 3.75 for AEM students. On the other hand, CoE students with 3.0 is still respectable.
  • galen0805galen0805 Registered User Posts: 65 Junior Member
    What about Princeton? From my understanding, their grading policy is even stricter than Cornell, and a curve is forced in all classes. So what would account for their success in placing students in graduate school? Some of their very smart kids are earning lower grades because of the forced curve. I am glad my son (a sophomore) is getting a rigorous education, but I also hope he will be able to attend grad school if he wishes to. I always thought a lot of that was up to HIM. His grades, his relationship to professors, his research and internship experiences, etc. BTW, I am a former professor--and I have seen students do well from a variety of educational backgrounds, including beginning in community college. Likewise, my husband's firm has seen a number of "privileged" students from Ivies fail miserably. Some of them came to employment with a sense of entitlement. And maybe with the mistaken notion that all would be smooth sailing, like Brown and all As! Some of them were surpassed by new hires from the local public universities.
  • PeppinoPeppino Registered User Posts: 316 Member
    How on earth can Brown only give out an A, B, or C? That makes absolutely no sense.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 21,017 Senior Member
    What's so bad about including the median grade? Woukdn't it give more context of a student's grade? Didn't your high school include school's profile when you were applying to colleges? My kid's school profile included distribution of grades and scores for AP classes.

    If a student got a B+ in Real Analysis and the median grade was B- then B+ was a good grade. Wouldn't you want grad school or employer to know that? Of course if you got B+ and the median grade was A, that tells a story too.
This discussion has been closed.