How many universities can boast their own dairy bar, state-of-the art instructional livestock facility, an art museum designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei, a Lab of Ornithology devoted to exploring and conserving nature, and a first-class hotel featuring a full-service signature restaurant, business services, and 24-hour fitness center? As a private Ivy League institution and New York State’s land-grant institution, Cornell University–ranked 15th in U.S. News and World Report’s 2013 list of “Best Colleges and Universities”–is a study in contrasts.
Cornell has a vibrant community of nearly 20,000 scholars, hailing from Ithaca’s own backyard to over 120 countries spanning the globe. Outdoor enthusiasts and urban devotees alike enjoy the student offerings that make Big Red life such an exciting place to live and learn.
Located in central New York on Cayuga Lake, part of the region’s beloved Finger Lakes, Cornell and surrounding Ithaca offer everything from breathtaking gorges (hence, the omnipresent “Ithaca is Gorges” bumper sticker campaign) to eclectic architecture. The campus spans 2,300 picturesque acres, encompassing all of the expected academic facilities displayed against a stunning backdrop of lakes, waterfalls and gardens.
Collegetown, considered one of the country’s best, and Ithaca Commons deliver a more urban experience, and are both just a short walk away. Downtown Ithaca bustles with a multitude of eclectic shops, professional theater, award-winning coffee joints, vintage clothing stores, the popular Ithaca Farmer’s Market and dining establishments. In fact, per capita, Ithaca boasts more restaurants than New York City!
Because of its “best of both worlds” environment, Ithaca consistently appears on “best of” lists, including “top 100 places to live” to “best green towns” to “foodiest towns in America.”
When the world outside Ithaca beckons, Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport is just 10 minutes away, and offers a complimentary shuttle service.
Famous Cornell alumni include author E.B. White, Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and–most recently–the character “Andy” from the popular television program, The Office.
Proclaimed the “first American university” by historian Frederick Rudolph, Cornell offers unparalleled educational opportunities. Students can study at colleges focused on typical academic disciplines such as Arts & Sciences and Engineering, or select a more unusual field like the elite Hotel Administration program, top-ranked Veterinary Medicine, Human Ecology, or Industrial and Labor Relations. The colleges of Architecture Art and Planning, and Agriculture and Life Sciences, are also popular choices.
Overall, Cornell offers an astounding number of courses–4,000, to be exact, with 80 undergraduate majors and more than 70 minors–with a total of 11 undergraduate, graduate and professional schools. Outside the haven of Ithaca, Cornell programs are offered in Washington, D.C., New York City, and all over the world.
Admission to Cornell is extremely selective, with a mere 18 percent of applicants accepted. Each college has its admissions process, however, so precise figures depend upon the competition within each school.
Cornell boasts a student-faculty ratio of 9:1, with over half of its classes containing fewer than 20 students. Popular majors are in the fields of Engineering, Agriculture, Biology, and Social Sciences.
Class offerings range from the traditional to the unexpected, including “Alien Empire: The Bizarre Biology of Bugs,” “Magical Mushrooms and Mischievous Molds,” “Intro to Wines,” “Stardom,” and “Human Bonding,”–a course devoted entirely to hook-ups and all things relationships.
A high freshman retention rate of 96.5 percent indicates a significant degree of student satisfaction.
While first-year students at Cornell reside in on-campus housing, off-campus housing is a popular choice for older undergraduate and grad students, although the school does offer on-campus options for everyone. Just over half of Cornell students live in housing that is owned, operated or affiliated with Cornell, while the remaining live off campus in popular Collegetown as well as downtown Ithaca.
Cornell offers a multitude of student services devoted to health and safety, ranging from a women’s center, day care, health service and health insurance, as well as comprehensive security measures including around-the-clock patrols and escorts via foot and car, in addition to controlled dorm access, emergency telephones, and lighted pathways.
Despite efforts to support student health, Cornell’s name has been somewhat marred by its reputation as a “suicide school,” thanks to a series of well-publicized student deaths that have occurred in the gorges over the years. The administration suggests that the claim of an unusually high suicide rate at the school is a misperception, and that suicide statistics at Cornell are actually consistent with country-wide averages.
Frat life is big at Cornell, with a whopping 70 frats and sororities making up a rousing Greek Life. Cornell students of legal age are permitted to drink on campus, although partying is a popular activity regardless of age.
Cornell is part of the NCAA I athletic conference, with over 30 competitive sports teams supported by an active fan base. Hockey and lacrosse, in particular, have huge followings, with hundreds of people camping out every year for season tickets to the former.
And while the weather at Cornell can be brutal in the winter with snow, ice and wind creating an, at times, treacherous trek, the other seasons more than make up for it. Not to mention, most Cornell students are generally quite active, with a love and appreciation for the great outdoors in any type of weather.
Cornell is rich with history, thanks to events such as the beloved tradition of Slope Day, which celebrates the end of the school year with music and entertainment, and late March’s Dragon Day, where freshman from the College of Architecture, Art and Planning construct elaborate dragons and parade them around campus toward their ultimate demise: a giant bonfire.
The most frequently played set of bells on any of the country’s college campuses, the Cornell Chimes are another beloved Big Red tradition. The 21 set has been a feature of life on the hill since first ringing out in 1868. Student “chimesmasters” perform thrice-daily concerts as well as special events, featuring songs ranging from Bach, the Beatles, and Broadway to Coldplay and the Cornell alma mater.
While Cornell takes academic life seriously, partying is also prioritized. The school has held the 13th position in Newsweek’s ranking of party schools, receiving particularly high ratings in Greek life and nightlife, as well as the list’s top position for drug safety.
A more dubious distinction? Cornell’s first place positioning on GQ’s list of “douchiest colleges.” Now what would Andy Bernard have to say about that?
Luckily, you don’t have to take our word–or his–for it. For an up-close-and-personal inside view of Cornell, check out the popular “Life on the Hill” blog series, which gives prospective students an uncensored look at real campus life.