After reading Bilmes’ very creative ‘Eight Things You Won’t Hear During Cornell Days,’ I’ve been inspired to compile my own list of interesting facets of the Engineering School / lifestyle that incoming freshman will find useful. My close friends may identify me as not being the ideal student to provide engineering insight, but here i would beg to differ (I never said anything about facts regarding being a good engineer).
It’s OK to suck: You’ll hear it over and over again your freshman year, but that doesn’t mean it’s cliche. In fact, the required engineering 1050 seminars are basically all about this; A+ students in high school and overachievers are going to at one point or another get their buttocks handed to them in a tightly bound, light blue, test booklet. How you handle this is entirely up to you. As you ascend into higher level courses, increasingly more weight will be added to the final exam score – until then, nearly all classes have multiple tests and projects to keep your grade afloat. Especially after the suicides of engineering students this year, professors have become very accommodating to try and deflate the image of an overly grueling curriculum.
Students are cool with cheating: OK, maybe not exactly cheating. But I remember as a senior high school I heard rumors of how engineers would refuse to share their homework or provide extra assistance to a classmate in need. While certainly there are students here and there who won’t be inclined to work as a team on an assignment, these usually aren’t the people you choose to pair up with. The competition is certainly present but you’ll never be hard-pressed to find engineers fervently copying each other’s homework before a deadline. While cheating doesn’t run rampant by any means, you’ll occasionally hear of someone trying to submit false re-grades.
Duffield = Disneyland: You’ll never have to leave Cornell’s engineering hub. The biggest building on the engineering quad is a smorgasbord of food, computers, lounging, all the people you know (and compete against), and temporary overnight beds (chairs). As an engineer, you’ll spend most of your time and around Duffield Hall. A few highlights: 1) open 24-7, good luck on Saturday, 2) coffee dispenser downstairs in Upson, connected to Duff; it’ll come in handy, 3) tables upstairs overlooking Tower Rd. provide some of the best people-watching on campus, and 4) all Collegetown restaurants know The Duff and love to deliver there.
Professors / TAs: You’re likely to read about self-absorbed professors and incompetent TAs before coming to Cornell. However, in my two years here, I have found that this problem is largely overstated. While some classes are taught by professors consumed in their own research, and everyone has a TA horror story, my experience has been quite contrary to this. Even if your TA is one of the less qualified ones (and some are undoubtedly better than others), there are numerous study sessions and separate office hours that are all accessible by anyone.
Study Corner: Most of an engineer’s time is spent studying – seriously. Here’s some of the lesser-known places to look out for: 1) Phillips Hall, accessible 24-7 through Duffield. There are numerous, huge open rooms with projectors and chalkboards. 2) Random Lounges – there are comfortable and homey rooms scattered all over the engineering buildings. There’s an MSE lounge overlooking Cascadilla creek, a reading room in Snee Hall, and lounges in 3rd floor Thurston, for starters. 3) Carpenter basements. It’s impossible to NOT get work done when you’re buried deep within the bowels (ew?) of Carpenter Library’s stacks. You don’t even have to crack a book open, it’s almost like you just absorb information. It’s very isolated, somewhat dark, and there’s even a huge empty room with desks on the bottom floor in the corner.