College Spotlight – Cornell University

Cornell University

Freshman Update

by Richard Gu
December, 2021

College Expert Counselor: Sue Luse

Hello from Ithaca, New York!

My name is Richard Gu, and I will be your virtual tour guide of Cornell University today. I’m currently a freshman planning to major in Computer Science with a minor in either Economics or Business.

Cornell’s iconic McGraw Clock Tower

When I was first researching colleges with Sue, one of the most important factors for me was academic flexibility. Yes, I knew I wanted to major in Computer Science, but I wanted to take classes and concentrations in different fields to broaden my scope of knowledge. Cornell has just that. As the largest Ivy League university by size, Cornell has the resources to live up to its motto: “any person, any study.” Most students get a glimpse into the stunning breadth of different courses during their first semester with their First-Year Writing Seminar. These classes aren’t your typical writing workshops; their topics can range from Korean Cinema (yes, I routinely hear the class down the hall watching K-dramas) to a class focused on writing about Beyoncé. It doesn’t stop here. Classes like “Swedish Massage” (yes, you read that right), “Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds” and “Introduction to Wines” sprinkled into your schedule can ensure that you have an exciting semester outside of taking core major classes. As a large research university with faculty that are among the most accomplished in their respective fields, Cornell has the resources to ensure that students in STEM fields never hit an upper ceiling, from research opportunities to niche technical electives. I find myself being inspired almost every day after an especially provoking lecture or an engaging conversation with a professor (especially my Astronomy professor, Dr. Jonathan Lunine). That isn’t to say that those pursuing Business related degrees or the humanities don’t have boundless opportunities to explore their field. Cornell truly does a great job of supporting any academic interest its students have.

A snapshot or Cornell’s 745-acre campus

All these opportunities available to students as soon as they step on campus does feel a bit overwhelming. As someone who’s been indecisive my entire life, I certainly felt overwhelmed when I was confronted with so many choices and no right answer. However, something you realize in college is that there’s always someone there to help. From my academic advisor to dedicated upperclassmen mentors assigned in clubs, I found it easy to reach out to my fellow Cornellians for help. The friendly atmosphere is present in all parts of college life. Academics are always tough here at Cornell, as is to be expected from such a high-caliber school, but students can always find help in office hours, intimate discussion sections led by TAs, and study groups formed outside of class.

Although Cornell is known as a very academically rigorous university, that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Another advantage of going to a school with a large student body is that there are so many activities to join and people to meet. With over 500 active on-campus student organizations, there’s something for everyone. I’ve devoted most of my free time this semester to Club Tennis, Alpha Phi Omega (a community service fraternity), the Chinese Students Association, and the Global Tea Club (we literally drink tea at meetings). I was initially a bit hesitant about committing to Cornell because of its location in upstate New York, far away from “civilization” and bustling city life. However, Ithaca is a gem of a small town that most students really come to appreciate. My fondest memories this semester include hiking along the gorges, taking pictures of the beautiful fall foliage, and going to Ithaca’s annual Apple Fest. Foodies also shouldn’t be worried as Ithaca has its selection of great restaurants, in addition to Cornell Dining being ranked among the top dining halls in the country 😤. Ithaca truly is as beautiful as they say, and I think I didn’t fully appreciate that until I came here in person. Oh and living in Minnesota my entire life, Ithaca’s weather isn’t too bad.

Looking back on my first four months at Cornell, I can think of no school that would be a better fit and I’m glad I was lucky enough to be admitted. There’s so much more I want to explore during my four years here, and I already can’t wait for next semester. If you have any more questions about my experience at Cornell, feel free to email me at

Me (second from right) studying with friends