Tips From Students
Where can I learn more about the different academic options available at Cornell?
The Engineering Undergraduate Handbook contains plenty of useful information. For instance, if you would like to know more about a certain major or minor, this guide will tell you how contact the relevant undergraduate major consultant.
What classes should I take and how many should I take?
The Engineering Undergraduate Handbook tells you about the requirements for your all majors. On average, first semester students take 14-18 credits, which is 4-5 classes. Most majors have roughly the same math, basic chemistry and physics requirements, as well as an introduction to engineering and computer science courses and First-Year Writing Seminars. If you are undecided about your major or still exploring different options, don't worry! Your first semester will consist of general classes that will be required of all engineering majors so you have time to figure out what to major in. Note, though, that 12 credits is the minimum for good standing. If you're considering dropping below 12, you should discuss this with your Faculty Advisor and/or Engineering Advising. This can be particularly complicated for students with financial aid, international students, and/or NCAA athletes.
I have Advanced Placement (AP) credit. What do I do?
The College of Engineering website includes all the details about AP and transfer credit. You can also refer to your "Transfer Credit Report" on Student Center (located on the drop bar on the left column). Talk with an advisor if you have questions about whether or not you should take a class for which you have received credit.
How should I schedule my classes?
Many students use cornell.chequerd.com/ or cornell.schedulizer.com/ (created by Cornell students but not official University websites) to make their schedules. If you're not sure about your schedule, ask your faculty advisor or the advisors in 167 Olin Hall. To make the best of pre-enrollment, be sure to plan your schedule ahead of time. Try not to have late classes/labs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as tests are usually scheduled for the evenings of these days. Also, don't forget to schedule a lunch period. On Chequerd and Schedulizer, you are able to make multiple schedules since some classes have multiple lecture and lab times. Be flexible in scheduling so that if a class fills on Student Center, you have a good backup plan! Be sure to prioritize pre-enroll for the lab or discussion section first instead of the lecture, using course numbers found on the Registrar's Course Roster to expedite the process.
How do I add or drop a class?
The easiest way is to go to Student Center and use the add/drop a class feature. If you don't get into a class before the semester starts, don't panic. Contact the department office for the courses that you need. Sometimes they add more seats or have a wait-list. Important dates and deadlines for adding and dropping courses are published on the College of Engineering website each semester.
I'm trying to plan ahead. Is there anything else I should take note of?
Not all courses are offered year-round; some are offered only in the fall and some only in the spring.
Keep in mind that a three-credit course might be just as much work as a four-credit course. Also, two classes that have the same credit hours do not necessarily have the same workload. For example, a three-credit class, such as ECON 1110, may have much less work than another three-credit class, like CS 2110.
Look through the course flow charts in your engineering handbook. Take courses that are prerequisites to other courses as prescribed on the flow chart or sooner. You don't want to delay taking them and then realize that you cannot graduate on time.
How are courses graded?
At Cornell, there is no standard grading policy. Different faculty have different grading policies, but will let you know that policy at the first class meeting and in the class materials. Some faculty will grade on a curve, which means that students receive grades based on how well they rank in a class. As an example, if the mean score is curved to about a B, a standard deviation above the mean is usually about an A–, while one below is about a C+.
How hard should I be working?
The difficulty of the work varies. Expect to spend about 3 hours on work outside class per week for every academic credit. So, in general, devote about 9 hours a week to a 3-credit class.
What do I do if I'm having trouble with classes?
Cornell has many resources to support you with any class. All professors and teaching assistants have office hours several times during the week where you can work one-on-one with them on unclear questions or concepts. You can also enroll in Academic Excellence Workshops, which provide extra practice to supplement those assigned by professors. The Engineering Advising Office is great place to get started when seeking assistance. Other resources include the tutoring centers for various subjects (e.g. Physics Tutoring Center in B-14 Rockefeller Hall, Math Support Center in 256 Malott Hall). You may also be able to get a tutor by filling in a peer tutor request form. In addition, the Learning Strategies Center offers guidance with regards to general study habits.
What should I do if I fail a prelim?
Don't panic if you fail or don't do as well on an exam as you would have liked to have done. Speak with the instructor about your struggles. He/ she may have suggestions to improve your study habits or offer to increase the weight of your remaining exams if you improve. Make sure to go to Teaching Assistant office hours as well. Some students find that forming study groups helps them learn from their peers in a less stressful atmosphere. You can also talk with your faculty advisor or an advisor in Engineering Advising about other options like potentially dropping a class and making it up over the summer, if needed. Most importantly, get advice. Don't drop without asking about the consequences.
What is the liberal studies requirement?
Make sure to read the liberal studies requirements and review approved courses. Some courses might not be your "cup of tea" but there are tons of classes to consider. Try something that's new to you- maybe a language or approved art class.
Which Physical Education courses should I take?
Another great way to try something new is through Cornell's extensive list of PE courses. Instead of taking a course in the same sport you've been playing since you were three, try anything from backpacking to squash, ballroom dancing to sailing. Find a sport that you really like? Get some friends together and check out intramural tournaments!