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Cornell University

First Year

"Make sure you ask for help early - it will save you time later on."

Your first year of college is full of new experiences. It’s a time to grow as a person and to explore and take on new academic challenges. Remember the skills and values that got you to Cornell; they will help you be successful here. In your first year, you will take classes and begin your academic journey. Each college has different requirements and academic guidelines, so you should always check with your advisor about specific questions you have.

Begin Your Academic Journey 

As you being your academic journey, it will be important to build a relationship with your advisor, enroll in classes, and identify academic support resources. Moving from high school to college provides an opportunity for you to hone current skills and learn about new tools and technologies.

Establish a relationship with your advisor

Your advisor is often your first stop for questions. Schedule a meeting with them and think about questions you might want to ask. They can help you find classes based on your interests and the requirements of your major or college, and they can help you find help and support when you need it. You should pay attention to information they share with you – take notes in meetings, read emails, etc. Let them know early if you are concerned about being successful in a course you are taking - they can help you think through options and point you to places to get help.

Enroll in classes

Review the information available for your college and major as you are thinking about classes. At Cornell, we have "pre-enroll," which is when you can request courses for the upcoming semester. For new first-year students, this happens during the summer before you come to campus. You should follow the guidelines sent by your college about choosing classes and reach out if you have questions. You enroll in classes using Student Center, which is also where you can see course enrollment information. You can always make changes to your schedule before classes start (during the "add" period).  Read more about enrolling in courses here.

Identify your academic supports?

You are in college to learn, which means that you are going to make mistakes and be confused sometimes. Once you’ve enrolled in classes, it’s a good idea to map out where you will go when you need help. Check out the course syllabus for office hours and resources the faculty member suggests. See if there is tutoring available through the Learning Strategies Center (LSC), your college or the department. It’s also a good idea to form a study group – in the first week of classes, try and exchange contact information with another student. If you aren’t sure where to go, ask your advisor or look at this academic support list compiled by the LSC.

Hone your success skills

College classes can be more challenging than high school classes. Look at your course syllabi, and use a semester calendar to map out important dates and to identify busy times. A weekly calendar can be helpful as you build in time to do your homework, study, and engage in extracurricular activities. Talk to your advisor about where to find new study strategies to help you be successful in your courses. Familiarize yourself with academic materials and technology, including how to access and effectively use digital academic materials. For most classes, you will find course specific information, including the course syllabus, on Canvas.

Set Your Foundation and Build Community 

Set a foundation by connecting with peers, faculty, and staff through clubs, organizations, and academic classes while also prioritizing self-care to find balance and maintain your physical and mental health during your time at Cornell.

Develop connections and build community

Think about ways to connect with peers as well as faculty and staff. There are many different clubs and student organizations you can be part of. Find one or two that you want to learn more about, but don’t overcommit. Campus Groups is a good place to start, but you can also find community in your residential community, in your classes, and through the Centers for Student Equity, Empowerment, and Belonging. It is important to connect with the faculty who teach your classes.

Take care of yourself

There will be many new opportunities and also new expectations at Cornell. It is important to make time for things outside of your studies. Find ways to stay connected with family and friends from home, and to connect with new people here at Cornell. The Skorton Center for Health Initiatives and Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) at Cornell Health have lots of resources and programs for finding balance and staying healthy.

Begin Exploring Experiential Learning and Career Options 

You will have lots of time to participate co-curricular activities at Cornell and explore your post-graduate options. In your first year, you can start to get an idea of the offices and units that can support you along the way.

Visit career services

Visit Cornell Career Services or take a look at their online resources. Your college will also have a career advising office. Remember that you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do after you graduate, and even if you do, you can change your mind as your interests change. Cornell also offers engaged opportunities for studying abroad and community-based learning.