Letting Go of Cornell

When applying to colleges my senior year of high school, I was determined to attend Cornell University the following year despite my relatively average GPA and SAT scores in comparison to the credentials of the typical Ivy League student. I had high hopes I would receive an acceptance from the school of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), but felt disillusioned when my early-decision application was initially deferred. My hopes were finally crushed when I received what I thought was a rejection letter in late March. A few paragraphs below the “I regret to inform you…” and countless euphemisms, however, was an unusual statement informing me that I would soon receive an email regarding a “transfer option” to Cornell. Confused and already in tears, I shut my laptop and attempted to ignore what I thought was a trap that would only lead to further disappointment. A few weeks later, though, once I had already sent in my deposit to Boston College, I responded to an email from the ILR School and hesitantly accepted the prospect of transferring out of BC after one year as long as I maintained the minimum GPA and enrolled in the required courses.

The Cornell Transfer Option is offered to a group of first-year applicants who are allowed to enter Cornell’s Class of 2021 once they have completed one year of study at another four-year institution. Admission is guaranteed if students meet first-year course requirements and keep their GPA above a 3.3. During the BC freshmen orientation, I found that aligning my schedule with Cornell’s requirements proved simple, and I even met a few other students in the same situation. As a result of my far-fetched dream of attending Cornell, I was ultimately grateful for having any opportunity to attend the University, even if the circumstances were not ideal. I rationalized my acceptance of the situation by telling myself that staying close to home during my first year would allow for a smoother transition to college life. I also convinced myself that I would remain detached from all lasting relationships and commitments outside of the classroom so that leaving campus in the spring would be much easier. Still, no matter how hard I’ve tried throughout the past year, I have not succeeded in distancing myself from BC life as I originally intended.

Immediately upon arriving at my dorm on Newton Campus and meeting my roommates, I recognized that, if I stayed here, I would spend the next four years surrounded by many intelligent students who would create the competitive academic environment that I previously believed could only be experienced at an Ivy League school. At the Fall Student Involvement Fair, I witnessed no dearth of opportunities to pursue my interests and couldn’t resist the compulsion to get involved at BC beyond my coursework. Far from consisting solely of mundane introductory classes, my schedule this year was filled with relevant, unique courses like Global Implications of Climate Change, Sociological Research Methods, and The History and Politics of Terrorism. Professor Peter Krause’s project team has provided me with the opportunity to delve into research in the political science department and to make tangible connections with my coursework. My first-semester topic seminar entitled The Role of Law in Society allowed me to view current political issues from all perspectives by engaging in necessary weekly discussions with my classmates. I participated in the Compass mentoring program, which gives AHANA+ students upperclassmen mentors to help  adjust to the seemingly alienating BC campus. The South Asian Student Association has similarly enabled me to connect with students who can easily empathize with one another’s backgrounds. Throughout my tumultuous yet motivating freshman year, my personal experiences consistently dispelled the many stereotypes that I held before coming to BC. Regardless of its flaws, the community and curriculum that I have grown to love here have prompted me to reject the option to transfer.

Faced with pressures from my parents, peers, and articles all trying to convince me to accept the transfer option, finalizing this decision has involved months of panic and ambivalence. My satisfaction with BC’s academic program as well as its range of co-curricular and networking opportunities, however, has overpowered my previous wish to switch schools due to misguided perception that an Ivy League school is “superior” to all others. Ultimately, no one can decide for me where I belong. Maybe I’m making a mistake, and my parents likely believe that I am, but easing their doubts requires that I continue to take full advantage of the possibilities at BC, most of which I have yet to explore.

No university is perfect, and I now understand that my expectations of Cornell as a prestigious, picture-perfect utopia were always unrealistic. Cornell is an amazing school, and I’ve faced many students and professors alike who criticized my decision to stay at BC, but ultimately I believe that I’ve found the challenging, engaging environment that I demand for my education. Transferring simply because of the status of the Ivy League and senseless obsessions over the rankings of my university would only lead to unhappiness. As cliché as it sounds, BC is my home, and although freshman year can be challenging, transferring to a different university will not solve the normal trials and tribulations that every student must overcome in his or her first year in college. What’s important to me is that I have discovered how I can take full advantage of my education, study what I love through a prospective International Studies major, and pursue a secure career path all while developing strong relationships along the way.

Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor