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Cornell University

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Date: Feb 14 2009
Major: Electrical Engineering (This Major's Salary over time)
Cornell was intense! I learned a ton from the rigorous academic program, from interacting with an interesting and diverse group of intelligent and motivated fellow students, and from having to overcome some initial challenges (coming from California) and then persevering through four years successfully. The topnotch education combined with personal growth was priceless. I feel blessed to have attended and graduated from Cornell.

Cornell has an excellent reputation among both employers and grad school admissions committees. The Cornell engineering degree definitely opened some doors for me—from landing my first job at IBM to later career moves, and even in getting admitted into a top MS/PhD program, with a fellowship offer to boot. Cornell engineering grads have the smarts, the training, and the work ethic to get the job done. Did you know that Cornell graduates the most undergrads who go on to become medical doctors and PhD's in the life sciences? Cornell was also the top American university (behind 3 universities in China and South Korea, and ahead of UC Berkeley) for graduating engineering and natural science undergrads who earned PhD's at American institutions in 2006.

Life is a journey of personal growth. From California, I came to Cornell in August 1983 sight unseen. I chose Cornell (3000 miles from home) over UC Berkeley (25 miles from home) because I wanted adventure and independence. And I got both from the get-go of Freshman orientation week. I met and made friends with students from different states and countries—granted a huge chunk of them were from Northeastern states, with a huge chunk of those from Long Island. I quickly learned to distinguish mannerisms and accents from Boston, NYC, Long Island, midwestern and southern cities. I also discovered dorm parties and frat parties. The grueling academics followed.

My advice to incoming freshmen is to be prepared to work hard, and to have academics as your number one priority. But this needs to be balanced with some occasional fun, recreation, and extracurriculars, as these can help keep you sane, as well as form the basis of your fond memories of life at Cornell. Many years after graduation, my memories of torture and disappointment have faded—the long hours spent in the libraries and the labs, the dreaded all-nighters, the pressure-cooker environment, getting my first C grade (builds character?), and the long cold winters in the frozen tundra (especially rough for a Californian). But the fond memories remain—the late night discussions/debates in the dorm with smart folks about various topics, gatherings with my Christian fellowhsip group, midnight flag football in the snowy Arts Quad in January, traying down Libe Slope, hanging out with the brothers of my start-up fraternity (we do the lip sync contest during rush), dancing on top of large speakers at our frat parties, and dining with friends. Especially important to me was my spiritual growth—I was always praying to God to give me the strength, wisdom, and power to do well so that I can bring Him glory.

I actually enjoyed learning my engineering, science, and math subjects (can you say nerd?) But I also enjoyed the liberal arts courses. Some "must haves" included Intro to Psychology with Prof. Maas, and Recent American History with Prof. Polenberg. Back in the 1980s, the grades given in engineering, science, and math were on a strict curve, with the mean score assigned a C+/B-, mean score plus one std. dev. got a B+/A-, mean minus one std. dev. got a D+/C-, etc. This weeded out many engineering students by the end of sophomore year. Unfortunately in the 1980s, the average grade given in junior and senior courses in engineering only moved up to B- or B. Fast forward to the 21st century, and it appears that the younger engineering profs who have replaced the old school ones who have retired are giving higher grades. (Reference: This is a good thing, as it is more consistent with other top engineering schools, and it's only fair.

Finally, I believe attitude and adaptability are important both during and after college. To achieve one's goals, he/she has to learn how to make the most of his/her situation, as well as to make paradigm shifts when necessary. I'm currently a consulting engineer, with plans to start an engineering consulting firm, and then perhaps a high-tech startup. I personally know a few former classmates and friends who have risen in their fields. My dorm roommate during freshman year (Cornell BSME, Wharton MBA) is now CEO of a start-up biotech firm. My sophomore year roommate (Cornell BS Hist, PhD), who had to switch majors from Physics to History during freshman year, is now a History professor. My senior year apartmentmate (Cornell BSME, PennSt MS), who got mediocre grades at Cornell, but got straight A's in grad school, is now principal engr. My former high school classmate (Cornell BSME, MIT MBA) is now VP of an international firm. And a number of my Cornell friends are now medical doctors.

My Cornell education has enriched my life. I would highly recommend Cornell to anyone with the smarts and the fortitude that it requires. God bless.

responseThank you for your review. I can see that you are a very positive person, and can weed out your positive experiences in life. This is a very inspiring trait, and reading your review has been very pleasant because of this. Also being a Christian, I like how you were not afraid to mention your faith and how it helped you through college. Thanks again!
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