Why Cornell? Ambassador Vishal Answers…

With the regular decision deadline fast approaching, the A&S Ambassadors hope to make the application decision a bit easier for prospective students. Every Cornell student has a story. This week, Vishal tells us why he chose Cornell.

By Vishal Sundaram ’21, Chemistry and Chemical Biology major

By the spring of my final year of high school, I had envisioned many different lives for myself on many different college campuses. Such fantasies are standard practice for high school seniors – a student can’t help but think about how pivotal the next few months will be in directing the course of their future. With each college visit comes a flurry of what-ifs. What if this is my dorm? What if I have class here? What if I one day join the student group that runs this very information session for prospective students? (Update: I did!) Though these fantasies of mine ranged far and wide, not one of them accurately captured the route that I would eventually take – for, as crazy as it sounds, none of them included Cornell.

I took this photo of the slope from the top of the McGraw Clock Tower, during a Chimes Concert.

My application to Cornell was largely an after thought, a last-ditch “you-never-know” attempt to cover my bases and open my options. I assure you this was not because Cornell was lacking in any traits that I desired. Quite the contrary. It was a prestigious institution with a reputation for academic rigor located on a beautiful campus that was not too far from my home (Cleveland, OH). I lacked enthusiasm for the school because I’d never visited! I had not made the effort to visit Cornell before I applied. When decision time rolled around in March, however, it grew clearer to my family and me that Cornell could be my best fit school. Desperate to spark some excitement, my dad and I finally drove up to Ithaca to see what Cornell was all about. The Ithaca campus did not disappoint.

Photographs on websites and in brochures cannot begin to capture the beauty of this campus. Waterfalls, rolling hills, gorges, and greenery abound in such a way that helps students maintain sight of the big picture – a desirable quality in an academically rigorous university with busy and ambitious students.

My friends and I took a trip down to Ithaca Falls, in the fall of my freshman year.

I stayed the night with a friend from high school during my visit; and I was lucky enough to meet some of his friends and dorm-mates. In these peers I found friendly, genuine people who were passionate about what they did. Void of any “Ivy League snobbery” that one might expect to find, these people were humble and helpful. Some of these acquaintances became my friends and mentors.

During freshman orientation, my dad took this classic photo near the entrance to campus from Collegetown.

Having fallen in love with the campus and community spirit, my questions turned to the classes. While I knew about Cornell’s academic rigor, I was concerned about inflexibility in my coursework. But after talking to some students and doing some research of my own, I realized that my concerns were largely unfounded. My desired chemistry major offered plenty of room for elective coursework. I was told that the A&S distribution requirements are seldom burdensome and often very naturally fulfilled simply by taking classes you like!

All in all, I am very happy with the decision that I made and cannot imagine myself anywhere else. A beautiful campus, a fantastic community of friends and peers, and excellent academic flexibility have made for a complete package that is both fulfilling and inspiring.