Tips from a Transfer Student

I transferred to Cornell my sophomore year. Since then, I’ve learned a lot. As a transfer student, things are difficult at times. You’re coming into a large university where classmates have mostly settled in, made friends, and acclimated to the rigors of a Cornell curriculum. Even so, it’s definitely possible to maximize your potential and make lifelong friends along the way!

The first tip I’d like to share is to (1) make friends. The first part of any transition begins with building a foundation- this is where friends come in. The first few weeks at Cornell were some of the hardest during my three years, and it was unsurprisingly because I didn’t yet have a group of friends. However, as time progresses, inevitably you’ll find a group of people that you enjoy spending time with. If you’re a bit of an introvert (like me), don’t worry! I met my friends by attending office hours every week and going to class- these are some of the smallest settings you’ll be able to interact with others, so it’s a good chance to try and start some conversations, even if it’s just about course material. Being a chemistry major, there are also options outside of classes, like the professional chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma. This is the co-ed chemistry fraternity that I joined during my first semester at Cornell, and it was such a wholesome and supportive environment for making friends. 

Moving to the logistical side of things, the second tip I have is to (2) think about your interests, and try to decide on a chemistry major track. There are different tracks tailored for specific postgraduate interests, and it’s helpful to know what courses you have to complete before graduation. It’s ok not to know! I’m not telling you to go plan the next two or three years- it’s impossible to know exactly what you’ll do. However, the more you know about what courses you have a genuine interest in and when you need to take them, the more prepared and confident you’ll be. 

If you have an inkling to try something outside chemistry, do it earlier rather than later. It is much easier to try something new and discover a secondary interest in that area rather than finding out later. Chemistry can be an intense major, and that’s amazing if you are invested in learning and pushing yourself by taking hard courses- that’s exactly what I did! However, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t courses I still wanted to take. Some programs have fairly rigid curriculums, so that might be an issue if you decide to wait. Now, as a chemistry major, I assure you that there is plenty of time to finish the major and take other courses, even graduate ones. You can also try to tailor the major to suit your postgraduate interests! 

And (3), joining a lab can also be a great way to establish yourself within the department. It never hurts to email a professor saying you are interested in their research. Some may reply that you need to take certain introductory courses first, but nonetheless it’s always good to engage with faculty and show interest.

I know those were a lot of words, so here’s a quick recap:

  1. Make friends
  2. Think about what courses you might want to take, both chemistry and non-chemistry
  3. Try talking with professors about joining a lab

If you’d like to discuss anything in more detail send me an email at

Jack Gruhin, ’20

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