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Is Cornell really that stressful/depressing?

brandonbkobrandonbko Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
I just got in and I have to decide if I want to go here or attend Michigan and I was leaning towards Cornell but I hear how tough and sad it is from students at Cornell. I guess I just want to really understand the culture at Cornell before I make my final decision.

Replies to: Is Cornell really that stressful/depressing?

  • CU123CU123 Registered User Posts: 1,306 Senior Member
    Cornell is consistently ranked as the most difficult school which has an affect on the happiness of the students attending it.
  • preppedparentpreppedparent Registered User Posts: 2,364 Senior Member
    It doesn't get a lot of sunshine in the winter, so Ithaca can be gloomy, but it has so much to offer.
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,485 Senior Member
    edited June 11
    re #1, though the handle + posting here might suggest otherwise, it is my understanding that @CU123 is not a Cornell student. Correct? I think it might help OP to understand this.

    One can "read stuff", and then again one can actually experience it for themselves.
    For a more "hands on" opinion, based on actual experience, we have, for one, my D2, who transferred to Cornell from a "good" LAC. She found the work demands to be basically the same. Based on her experience you should expect the workload to be commensurate with other "good colleges".

    Albeit some years ago, there is a CC moderator who attended both the schools in question and has posted that the academic levels and work expectations were essentially the same.

    Science and engineering majors will likely be tougher though. At all "good schools, basically.

    Personally I found things depressing when I was not doing well, socially or academically. When I was doing well, socially or academically, it was quite non-depressing. The same would likely have been the case anywhere.I found it uplifting , actually, when I would walk to campus on a nice fall or spring day and look around at the natural beauty that surrounded me.
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,485 Senior Member
    edited June 11
    Re; "really understand the culture:

    You can also read the posts of "Life on the Hill" student bloggers, to get some more flavor.
  • CU123CU123 Registered User Posts: 1,306 Senior Member
    @monydad yes a single anecdotal person should be the source of knowledge for Cornell vs polls of many Cornell students.
  • ALAL Registered User Posts: 123 Junior Member
    edited June 12
    I just finished my first year at Cornell; at the very least I can give you my thoughts.

    Was it academically challenging?
    Yes. Most of my free time was spent with friends and neighbors, as well as some clubs (NGO-oriented ones). The rest of my time was spent on homework (which included some really late nights and rushed jobs). I didn't spend time partying or drinking as I've never been into that sort of thing (but alcohol and mj were pretty common on campus, which I assume is the case on most campuses). I slacked off my first semester there, but I bounced back in the spring and my GPA is doing pretty well.

    Did I get depressed from seasonal affect?
    Yes. When the snow gets bad, it's hard to go outside and the sun doesn't shine often in general. I did lose motivation and got tired much more easily, but overall it was definitely manageable. I was not aware of many depressed kids on campus this year, and there were no suicides. There's a ton of help available in counseling, community and medical centers located right on campus, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

    Was it fun?
    Absolutely. It was many magnitudes more enjoyable than HS; my neighbors were very amiable and I made several good friends from my classes. Cornell also has hundreds of clubs and groups that each offer a different experience; I ended up doing some volunteering and charity work outside of class, as well as join a very friendly church on campus. My classes were all diverse and interesting; learning what you find interesting is one of the great things about Cornell. However, there are quite a few bureaucratic woes as there are some pretty strict prerequisites and departments are segmented along college lines. I'm in the College of Arts and Sciences, so my graduation requirements and class schedules were still very flexible.

    But because Michigan is no academic pushover either and also has intense winters, it probably won't be too different there. And no matter what, there's always a level of stress from moving into a new environment, so whether or not you choose Cornell, good luck!
  • Ranza123Ranza123 Registered User Posts: 1,235 Senior Member
    Regarding the above comments (and I'm sure we could argue this for days), I think well-rounded anecdotes are much better than single-question polls. Is Cornell stressful? Yes. It's super stressful. If you want to spend the next four years not stressed, don't go to Cornell, and don't go to Michigan either.

    Beyond that though, is the stress worth it? Yes (to me, and I would say to all my friends as well). At the end of the day, it's so rewarding. As post #3 points out, when you're doing well, life at Cornell is great. Even sometimes when I'm not doing well in one area, other aspects of my experience there are still great and I'm still happy at the end of the day. Of course there are bad days and bad weeks and times when I feel like there's no way this is all worth it. But overwhelmingly I'm glad to be here and I know that every tough moment balances out with all of the amazing opportunities and experiences I have here.
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,485 Senior Member
    edited June 12
    Regrettably I only have an 11 year old US News, none more recent. But FWIW, I just looked there and saw that Cornell had a freshman retention rate, at that time anyway, of 96%. And its actual graduation rate over-performed the number US News would have predicted based on its regression analysis incorporating entrance stats and other explanatory variables.

    So it would seem that, however stressful it may be, a lot of students are choosing, and able, to cope with it through to graduation, rather than leave.

    The notion that Cornell is "the most difficult school" is actually laughable. I had a parent, an MIT grad, PM me just a few weeks ago, glad that her kid was choosing Cornell, because the MIT impression was that it was a more reasonable and balanced school than theirs was. Which I readily accept. When I attended college, MITs freshman physics book, for all students, was the same one that we used for only the elite honors physics class at Cornell. Half the class at Cornell would probably flunk a class taught at that level. Just look at the difference in the SAT brackets for Cornell vs. maybe a dozen other schools that are yet more selective. Undergraduate science classes are curved, almost everywhere. The students at all these schools are motivated to achieve the best future destinations for themselves, and the student bodies at these other places are yet more talented, overall. There is simply no way that the classes at Cornell are the toughest.

    I am not familiar with these so-called "polls". The only one I've read about was some "most stressful" thing for some on-line article, that was a joke. A bunch of very mediocre schools were also listed as "most stressful". My comments about that particular article are here:
    . A "poll" done poorly, with poor, or not fully disclosed, sampling methodology and poor statistical significance may garner some readership points, but means nothing.

    I will say science & engineering majors are typically very rigorous, everywhere, and Cornell has relatively a lot of these majors. As well as a culture that favors whining, rather than sucking it up. That's why actual comparison with other schools, by people who have actually been to both, are relevant. Besides the two I mentioned above., there is a former CC poster who transferred form Tufts, and said Tufts was harder. My D2 knew a guy who transferred from Berkeley, I know he preferred Cornell.

    There was one former poster who transferred from Columbia, and said Cornell was tougher. When I questioned him about it, it turned out he took over 20 credits a semester at Cornell, while working multiple part-time jobs. I daresay if he'd tried that at Columbia he might have found it to be pretty tough there, too. And seeing as he wound up with an engineering PhD from Berkeley, he seemed to do all right in the end.

    Lots of transfers do wind up struggling there, at least initially. But not necessarily the ones who came from "good" schools initially. Because the demands at most of these schools are reasonably comparable.

    But OP should expect that he will be challenged there, no doubt about it. It *will* be tough.

  • xanthippexanthippe Registered User Posts: 132 Junior Member
    My D is a student at Cornell, and she feels that although the workload can be stressful, she has a great balance between work and play. She has found academics to be very rigorous but intellectually fulfilling, and she has fun going to parties, concerts, festivals plus hiking in the many nearby state parks. She finds the beautiful natural environment (in all seasons) really helps to keep her in a good mood. Overall, my D has been completely happy with her decision to attend Cornell.
  • blprofblprof Registered User Posts: 741 Member
    My oldest D is at Cornell and my youngest D is at Michigan. They are both happy. I am a Michigan alum. My observations:

    1. The weather is essentially the same at both. Not a deciding point, IMO.
    2. The academic workload and stress will be similar at both, and is more dependent on major than University. Neither D is a STEM major, and both have found the workload quite manageable. Now if you are going into engineering or architecture, that's a different story, but as others have noted Cornell will not differ from Michigan in this regard.
    3. Both of my Ds have had plenty of fun. Cornell is not in any way a sad place. Michigan has a level of school spirit that Cornell can't match, but many people don't care about that.
  • CALSmomCALSmom Registered User Posts: 443 Member
    edited July 1
    I have a son at Cornell and he chose it over Michigan (we're from CA). The winter was tough but not as cold as he thought it would be. He really loves it there, has made some really good friends and has found a good balance of academics and fun. He's a stem major so the majority of his classes have been challenging but surprisingly he's received better grades (As) in his liberal arts courses! There is a lot to do there and he's enjoyed parties, free concerts and other events. You can't beat the reputation and the status of it being an Ivy too. Top notch service from FA office, housing office, advising office...you name it.

    As long as you pick a major that fits your abilities/interest, know how to prioritize work, and be disciplined about studying a bright student should do well at Cornell. And I agree with reading the student blogs found on Cornell site, they're wonderful!!
    P.S. My S was also concerned about if he would be sad or depressed going to the northeast for school and heard the reputation of suicide and stress at Cornell. He said it's not like that in his experience and observation
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