Beyond the Classroom
Looking for ways to get involved beyond the classroom? There are many different ways to get involved on campus including: clubs, project teams, research, Greek life, and the 161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do. There are hundreds of different clubs on campus spanning a wide variety of interests. Anything from theater or dance troupes, acappella groups, games or sports clubs, to service, religious, or cultural based organizations can be found on campus.
Get involved starting your first year
One way to gain technical experience is through one of the College of Engineering's project teams. Not only will you have the opportunity for research and hands-on project work, but project teams also develop strong communication and teamwork skills. You'll also work closely with upperclassmen who will be a terrific resource for academic and social help! Unlike research, project teams heavily recruit new students for everything from robotic submarines to concrete canoes, to solar ovens, to racing cars, to water treatment systems, to satellites. If the current list of teams doesn't appeal to you, that's okay, you can even start one of your own!
While doing research isn't common among new students, if you're interested in a professor's work, send them a personalized email about potential openings. Be sure to thoroughly read up on their topic and show enthusiasm! Don't be discouraged if you're unsuccessful during your first year. Many professors prefer to hire students who have at least one year of college experience. However, it's certainly possible to get a position as a first-year student, and professors will definitely recognize your interest. The Cornell Undergraduate Research Board, undergraduate research and academic opportunities and support pages have additional helpful information on how to get started.
Do an externship, such as the FRESH program organized by the Engineering Career Center, to shadow a working Cornell alumnus during spring break. The externship experience can help you better decide what to do (what classes to take, what major to pursue, etc.) while you are still at Cornell.
Join student organizations. Cornell's Campus Activities Office has clubs for nearly everything. Like dancing? There is a club for that! Interested in finding a religious group? There is a club for that! Want to help the environment? There is a club for that too! Get involved early, gain exposure to more opportunities, and learn from upperclassmen.
One of the best ways to learn about what you can do on campus is to visit Club Fest during the first week of the semester. Hundreds of different organization set up tables with information about themselves. You'll be able to sign up for any of the clubs' email lists and meet some of the members. Also, clubs hold events for the entire Cornell community. Feel free to participate if you're not a member.
Look for posters and online for social events. Acappella concerts, sports events (Go Big Red!), and comedy shows are only a few of the hundred of events that are hosted by the Cornell community each year!
It's my first time away from home. How should I approach developing a social life?
You will be meeting many people at random in your first few weeks. This is a great opportunity to jump start your social life as you have time to make new connections with a bunch of other people in the same situation. You aren't necessarily going to continue all the friendships you start, but it's a good time to remember how to meet new people and make friends. Be sure to exchange cell phone numbers or emails and get last names.
Keep talking to new people until you find some that you connect with. Whether it's the music you listen to or a hobby, it's important to find friends that you have an easy time talking to. In particular, try to get to know the people on your residence hall floor. These are people that you know you will be seeing a lot in the near future, and with whom you will be sharing at least a few new experiences. Your floor can be really quiet or like a family. You need to work to make it what you want it to be.
Once classes begin and you begin to see some people on a more regular basis, friendships will start to develop. Try talking to someone sitting near you before class and maybe ask them if they want to sit with you at lunch or trade emails so that you can share notes if one of you misses a lecture. Remember, everyone here is new and most people don't have friends yet. Sit with a stranger at lunch, you have nothing to lose.
As you're in new territory, it's important to find a support base in Ithaca. It can take anywhere from a week to a year for you to find this circle of friends. You might not even know you've found them until months into the school year. But when you do find people you can truly count on, Cornell may just begin to feel like home.