Not to be confused with Cornell University in New York, Cornell College is a small liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Cornell’s motto, “One Extraordinary Opportunity After Another”, is an appropriate way to describe the unique experiences it provides for students. I recently visited Cornell and was thoroughly impressed with what I learned about the school.
Cornell is one of only a few colleges in the U.S. with a block plan — a schedule in which students take one course at a time for a block of 3 1/2 weeks. This enables students to really dive into a subject without having to divide their attention between several courses. Many courses have a travel component, and students also have the option of doing a full-time internship during a block.
Cornell is very generous with financial aid. The average aid package is half of the total cost of attendance, and there are academic, service, and diversity scholarships ranging from $7,500 to full tuition. The costs associated with courses that include off-campus study often are offset by departmental funds, and grants are available for students also.
Speaking of off-campus study, Cornell recently opened a campus in downtown Chicago. While courses had involved travel to Chicago for many years, faculty now have a permanent location in which to teach. Additionally, the facility includes residential space for students and professors.
Cornell offers a First Year Program which includes orientation and a required seminar on study skills, which must be taken in students’ first block. Students also are required to take a writing-intensive course within their first three blocks.
Students do graduate level work in their junior and senior years, and indeed, about two-thirds go on to graduate school. All students are required to do a senior capstone project, but the scope of the project varies depending on your major.
As for the social life at Cornell, there are over 100 student groups, including local fraternities and sororities. (That is, they are not affiliated with national Greek organizations.) Service is an important part of campus life, and the college has a Civic Engagement Office to connect students to service opportunities. Although students frequently venture into Mount Vernon and beyond, most make their home on campus. Housing is guaranteed all four years and 92% of seniors live on campus.
According to Erika Pepmeyer, Senior Assistant Director of Admission and a Cornell graduate, the college is a good fit for students who are motivated, like to learn in interactive ways, and are curious about the world. If that sounds like you, you definitely should explore Cornell College.